So! You’ve got an intellectual property about magical world-saving that was at least moderately successful. You like money, and you want to make more of it. What’re you gonna do? Make a sequel, of course! But the last part of your series was released a good few years ago, and its story was seemingly fully concluded. How do you continue the series in a way that stays true to its origins so you can use the events and characters of your world to their fullest, but also in a fresh, new direction to draw the attention of a new audience?
Why, make the new story all about the children of the original story’s heroes, of course!
Yes, in Golden Sun 3, Nintendo makes the bold decision to follow in the footsteps of adolescent fanfiction writers and Disney direct-to-video sequels, and fills the roles of Protagonist and most of the major cast with the children of the main characters of Golden Sun 1 and 2. I could criticize this for being a pretty standard and cheap way to go about things, but I’m not really going to harp on it, for a couple reasons. First, this trope is, though certainly not foreign to the genre, actually a lot less common in RPG sequels than one could reasonably expect. Second, the entire primary cast of GS1 and 2 are all very bland and unremarkable characters anyway, so if a sequel’s gonna offer me a chance for a re-roll on character personalities, I’m all for it.* So normally, I’d just let this one pass, no need for a rant.
Except that this game does something with this lazy plot direction that nothing else does. In an astounding show of creativity and stupidity, GS3’s writers actually went out of their way to invalidate the entire premise of the Heroes’ Kids Take Over World Saving idea they went with. I was gonna give them a free pass on it, and they went and screwed it up. See, the reason from a writing perspective for starring the kids of the previous heroes I have gone into, but there’s really only one surface reason for passing the hero mantle on to the next generation: the previous generation is too old/too dead to keep up the do-gooding themselves. If the kids are going to be allowed to do the world-saving thing, the parents must be incapable of doing so themselves or else they, as the experienced warriors and ones presumably burdened with an instinctual need to keep their offspring safe, would be out vanquishing bad guys themselves.
Well, the heroes of Golden Sun 1 and 2 are not dead. And they haven’t all been captured or put into magical comas or anything. So the natural reason for them all to be minor side characters instead of the game’s stars is obvious, right? They’re too old now. GS3 takes place 30 years after GS1 and 2, after all, meaning these guys’d be in their mid-40s. In RPG terms, that’s 15 - 20 years too old (and at the same time 20 years too young; once you hit your mid-60s you become viable to fill the spot of Tough As Nails Geezer on a team) to be out adventuring. So no problem, right? Those strong, capable, sleek, experienced fighters of the past are now just a bunch of doughy, slovenly middle-aged chumps, right?
Yeah, not so much. See, according to Golden Sun 3, heroes of the previous games--all 8 of them--have barely aged at all since the end of Golden Sun 2, due to being at ground zero of the magical world-changing end event of GS2. This is a fact that the game takes care to mention more than once, and it’s obvious from looking at Isaac and Garret at the beginning of GS3, as they look like they’re in their late 20s, at oldest. And since you get to see them in action early in the game, while at the same time watch them try to teach their stupid kids the basics about battles and adventuring and such, you can’t even say that they’re too out of practice.
What in the world is Nintendo thinking here? If the heroes of the previous games are concretely established to be still physically fit and knowledgeable enough to be the ones leading the game’s adventure, then what the heck is the point of making the kids take over? Wouldn’t it make even a little more sense for at least a couple of all-powerful parents to join their kids in these world-saving ventures? At the very least, Isaac and Garret could have split forces at the beginning of the game, have one stay put to keep up their all-important plot business and have the other take a jaunt with some of the kids over to the next region or whatever to get the replacement glider machine thingy. That seems a lot more sensible than both parents just sending their sons off to do the errand alone and unsupervised, especially after all the concern the parents had about the kids’ ability to overcome the relatively minor ordeals that the game opens with. Maybe when Golden Sun 4 comes out and continues the story we’ll see the kids and hero parents team up, since the younger generation will then have some experience, but as it stands now, Golden Sun 3’s decision to clearly show the previous generation’s heroes as being more than physically fit to take up adventuring again is puzzling.
* Not that it did much good. Aside from Sveta, GS3’s characters are just as uninteresting as their predecessors, and even Sveta’s only barely noteworthy.