Review by Vyse_skies
"Skies of Arcadia or Final Fantasy???? I choose Skies of Arcadia."
I first noticed Skies when I read a few letters on a teletext page. The reviewers and gamers stood in unison and all sung songs that expressed their joy for Skies. A few months later I saw a copy of Skies in a small shop in the town center for only fifteen pound. I picked it up filled with happiness and bought it. When I got home I dashed to my bedroom, threw all jacket aside and popped Skies in my DC, booted it up and began playing.
This is the story of a young Air Pirate called Vyse and his best friend Aika. Vyse and co are a part of a section of air pirates called Blue Rouges. The Blue Rouges are sort of like a Robin Hood kind of sect, they steal from the rich and give spread it amongst the poor. During a raid on a Valuan airship, Vyse and Aika come across a young female called Fina. Fina is highly naive and is full of innocence. They bring Fina home to their home/base, a place called Pirate Isle (Windmill Island). After an interrogation Fina is welcomed with open arms when the BRs leader Dyne realises that she is not a threat to his crew. That night Vyse and Aika get to know Fina a little. During watching a sun set a Moon Stone (sources of power) falls from the moons on an island in the distance. The next day Vyse and Aika head out to retrieve the Stone. During their leave Pirate Isle is attacked by the Valuan Empire and all of the men are taken away as well as Fina. Upon arriving home Vyse and Aika have to head out again to save his fellow crew members. Upon arriving home, Fina confesses that she has a quest that she needs to complete or else the whole of Arcadia will suffer. She has to collect 6 moon crystals (crystals powerful enough to destroy the world) and bring them home. Vyse, Aika and Fina then head off on a large journey in search of the crystals, discovery and adventure across the vast skies of Arcadia.
Man, that took a lot longer than what I thought it would. Well anyway, Skies may seem predictable at first but as the story develops, it does have its fair share of twists, turns and surprises. Skies is masterclass story telling at its best and its story is so good, you'll always want to know what happens next. If there was a word better than Epic, the Skies would be worthy of this word.
Skies is gigantic with tons to do, see and play. The game is set out like a typical RPG fashion. You traverse areas like this: town, world map, dungeon, and so on, advancing the storyline as you do so. You control Vyse from a third person perspective and the camera is set behind him as he walks around. This view is perfect for this game and allows you to see everything clearly without any trouble. Vyse also handles very well and the camera angles are perfect, both providing gamers with a comfortable experience.
Skies dungeons are packed full of puzzles for you to solve so each area never seems dull. Battles in dungeons are randomly generated, you'll know when one's about to arrive because the DC makes some crazy loading noises. Battles are turned based, players attack based on their speed. There is a spirit bar at the top of the screen and as players select moves which deplete the bar. If a player tries to use a move that requires more spirit that they have, then the game will sound a noise to say that you can't use that move. Another interesting area of Skies battle system is the addition of Moon Stones. Your weapon is powered by the power of these moon stones, E.G. Yellow Moon stone gives your weapons the power of electricity, Red = Fire, Purple = Ice etc,.. These can affect the outcome of the battle because if you know an enemies weakness (An enemies weakness is Ice- Just change to the purple moon stone and attack) you just change the stone on your weapon and they will now cause more damage. Magic in battle though is on the poor side and is rather weak and not only do they waste MP (Magic), but also SP (Spirit). Characters can also use Special moves in battle, these just like magic use up the SP bar. Smoves are given by collecting moonberries. Use a berry and you'll be given a new move to use in battle. Better moves require more than one berry. For me random battles in dungeons were pretty cool. They were well spaced out and didn't harass the exploration of an area too much. Battles though can be on the slow side and can take well up and over a minute to complete, which at times can be a chore.
Next on the list are Ship Battles. Ship battles are also turn based but there is a bit more strategy involved. Players must predict the movement pattens of their enemies and place their movements on a colour-coded grid. The grid then plays out a turn with players exchanging fire, evading, using magic, healing. Each colour gives you a hint of what to place in each area of the grid, (e.g. Dark red means that the enemies power attack will most likely happen on that turn so it's best to evade, either that turn or the turn before) The game also gives players the opportunity to make such attacks and if you use the grid system right your attack accuracy and power will be dramatically improved.
Traversing the Skies of Arcadia (the world map) has plenty of pros and cons. As for the cons this includes a high encounter rate. So expect plenty of battles on the deck of your ship against an abundance of pesky enemies. As for the cons there is a nice exploration system that rewards the players. Hidden throughout Arcadia are a fortune of discoveries just waiting for you to find them. Find a discovery and you will be known, named and credited for your find and you'll get tons of money for your find, too, but you'd better be quick because there are other explorers just itching to make themselves famous and filthy rich.
Also in Skies' (told you there was a lot) is the crew system. Scattered throughout the world are tons of people just begging to serve you on your ship. Try finding and recruiting them and then they'll look after your ship, improve its stats and even help you out in battle. Try to recruit them all.
At the time Skies was and still is a gorgeous looking game. The sheer amount of detail, imagination and pure beauty is simply inspiring. The huge world in full 3d and I've never noticed any slowdown even in areas packed with detail. The game is full of vibrant colours that aren't afraid to scream out and touch the whole world and everything else small or large that surrounds it with is vividness. Characters are fantastically designed and are interesting to look at. Ships look even better with some truly wonderful designs. Battle animations and special effects are some of the best effects ever seen on a Dreamcast. Skies has no area that lacked detail and this was probably RPG visual perfection and used the DCs power nearly to the best of its potential.
The Soundtrack to Skies is simply mesmerising. Fully orchestrated masterpieces that are great to listen to even when you're not playing the game. The sound effects are pretty good as is the voice acting. My only problem is that they chose not to use voices throughout the game and they tend to only use them in battles, normally during a special attack or at the very end of battle. Each character has a certain amount of catchphrases each and after you hear them for the one millionth time you still wonder what in hell was the point of getting in voice actors for the battles only. But don't get me wrong Skies has perfect audio which is rare for a game. I would have just preferred it if they had the whole game voiced.
Replay Value 7/10
Most RPGs are only really playable once. After the first time the odds of you going back through it a 2nd, 3rd or even a 4th is probably never going to happen. I've completed it twice and that was a few years back and I still don't see myself going back to it anytime soon. But that aside Skies is so vast that it will take a long, long time to complete and that's not including the side quests and stuff. Skies does though deserve at least one more play-through.
Well as you can see I really love this game. It's what every RPG should play like. Skies looks good, sounds good, plays great and is absolutely huge. Skies should have gotten a sequel but as usual Sega misplaced their brains and left them somewhere squalid. Skies just like other classic Dreamcast games (Shenmue and Jet Set Radio) have been neglected which I think is simply scandalous. You can't call yourself an RPG enthusiast is you've never played Skies of Arcadia. Go out and buy this now.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/11/08, Updated 04/22/09
Game Release: Skies of Arcadia (EU, 04/27/01)
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