Review by jpark4evr
"The #1 RPG on the Dreamcast is also the #1 reason to buy one!"
Skies of Arcadia (SOA) made its American debut on the Dreamcast toward the end of 2000. Considering that the system didn't have too many RPGs to begin with, fans of the genre welcomed it with open arms. Since then, SOA has become somewhat of a cult classic among RPG fans and has even been ported to the Gamecube. But is this game really worth playing? Read on below to find out.
The plot in SOA is a welcome breath of fresh air (pardon the pun) and avoids the overused revenge theme. The game starts you off as Vyse, a young and ambitious air pirate who longs to be a great captain like his father. He and his friend Aika eventually find and befriend a mysterious girl. I'm going to stop discussing the story there, because I don't want to give away any spoilers. But I promise you there are plenty of exciting twists and turns that lie ahead.
The story is nothing less than epic and will take you all over vast world of Arcadia, where continents float in the sky and airships are the only means of going back and forth between them. Exploration is a big part of this game and with your progress you will be finding new lands just as an explorer would. The character development and dialog is wonderfully done as well, and you will also find a great mix of both dramatic and comedic moments that will make you want to keep on playing until the very end.
I also think it's important to mention the wonderful translation job Overworks did when bringing this game to America. It makes the story all the more better.
Like a Final Fantasy game, SOA features random battles and turn based combat, both of which are executed well in the game. Battles can get challenging but nothing too bad. And although they're pretty frequent, you can usually tell when a random battle is about to occur judging by the sound your Dreamcast makes, giving you enough time to bring up the menu and heal your characters if need be.
Unlike most turn based fantasy RPGs, SOA also features turned based airship battles, which are fantastic by the way. They're even more incredible when taking on an overwhelmingly huge boss. Eventually, you can also find crew members that affect your ship's attributes and abilities. Can you find any airship combat in Final Fantasy VII? I think not.
Another that makes this game great is the element of discovery. You have a little compass on your screen, and when your sailing around in your ship it'll spin around madly when you come across a discovery. You can even sell off information of your discovery, but you've got to be quick about it. As you progress through the story, you'll find that someone else is competing against you to find them, and if he gets there before you, your discovery will be worth less. It's not as difficult as it sounds though.
There's also a VMU minigame called Pinta's quest in which you can find items and money and then transfer them for use in your main game. While not as complex as SOA itself, it is still very fun and further adds to the depth of the game.
Everything controls perfectly, from moving your character around a town or dungeon to piloting your airship. And the menus, both in and outside of battle, aren't confusing and are very easy to get used to.
To put things simply, the visuals in SOA are amazing and hold up very well, even today. The graphics are lush and a treat to look at. You won't find any FMV cut scenes here like you do in most RPGs. Instead, Overworks opted to use in-game graphics for their cut scenes, and they work just as well, perhaps even better.
All the characters have that anime feel to them, such as distinctly large eyes, and are animated perfectly. Back when I got this game in 2001, I was impressed with the level of expression each character had in their face. If they were angry, happy, sad, or even laughing you could really feel it, not only in their dialogue but in the way there expression would change. This wasn't something you could find in very many console RPGs of the time.
The soundtrack for SOA is nearly perfect in every way. I can't think of a tune that I didn't like. Each piece of music used fits into the instance in which they are placed. If you're like me, you're going to want to buy the OST after playing this game.
The sound effects are fine for the most part. The only thing I didn't particularly care for was the occasional random shout in the middle of dialog. For example, Aika would yell "yay!" when she'd get really excited. It's sort of cheesy, but doesn't happen frequently enough to detract from the overall experience. Some of the phrases characters would say after a battle, however, were mildly entertaining.
Replay Value (7/10):
Like most RPGs, SOA's replay value isn't incredibly high. Once you've beaten it, you've beaten it. Going through it again will yield the same story. However, you can play it slightly differently the next time through. Throughout the game, you encounter several situations in which you are given choices to make, and depending on how you answer them either adds to or detracts from the way people view you.
This is the kind of game that you might not want to play again immediately after beating it, but within a few years you'll probably find yourself wanting to give it a second go. It's certainly worth hanging on to.
Skies of Arcadia is probably the best RPG the Dreamcast has to offer and is sure to provide you with countless hours of enjoyment. It's a game that no Dreamcast owner should be without.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/21/06
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