Review by LordShibas

"One of my favorite RPGs of all time"

As the gaming world continues to move forward, it's very common for gamers to lose site of the past and forget about the gems of yesteryear. The Dreamcast was home to a slew of wonderful games, yet many people skipped right over the Dreamcast and went straight to the PS2.

One of the best RPGs on the Dreamcast is a game called Skies of Arcadia. Skies of Arcadia is a Sega game that was developed by Overworks. Overworks was responsible for the development of Phantasy Star 1,2, and 4, which are commonly known to be the best 3 Phantasy Star games.

I played Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast many years ago, and I often hail it as being one of my favorite RPGs of all time. I recently decided to play Skies of Arcadia again, to see if the game was still able to captivate me nine years later. I remember swooning over Skies of Arcadia the first time I played it, and I can honestly say that nine years later the game is still as exquisite and radiant as ever. Not only is Skies of Arcadia still a fantastic game, but no other RPG to date has managed to emulate the atmosphere and creative nature of the game.

Skies of Arcadia follows the adventures of a capricious group of Air Pirates known as the Blue Rogues. As harrowing as it might sound, the Blue Rogues are not your typical air pirates. While most air pirates have evil intentions, the Blue Rogues help the needy by stealing from the rich. The leader of the Blue Rogues is a man named Dyne, who has an aspiring air pirate son named Vyse. Vyse will be the main character in the game and he is accompanied by his life long friend Aika, who is also a Blue Rogue. Vyse and Aika have always operated under the tutelage of Dyne, but their dreams lie with sailing the open skies on their own, with their own ship.

One day, Vyse and Aika are off on a mission to rob a lush battle cruiser from the Valuan Armada, and they come across a woman in a small skiff that is being attacked by the aforementioned ship. After saving her, they soon befriend her, and find out that the girl is much more than a simple traveler. This begins the somewhat colossal story that Skies of Arcadia tells.

The main theme of Skies of Arcadia is exploration, but unlike many RPGs that make similar claims, it's not just a pretense in Skies of Arcadia. Your main mode of traveling will be an assortment of airships. The size and capabilities of your ships will vary, but for the most part, you can fly around the world of Arcadia as you see fit. You will come across impassable barriers and sky rifts, but you will be able to pass through them as you acquire ships that are equipped to do so.

When you arrive at a location on the map, you are free to explore the areas on foot. This is how you navigate towns, dungeons, and any other areas of interest.

Skies of Arcadia is a turn based RPG, and during the game you will be fighting a lot of random battles. Random battles can be triggered while flying around on your ship or while in dungeons. The random battles are quite frequent when you are flying around the map, and this can sometimes make it a pain to search for areas or discoveries, but it didn't bother me too much. When you are in dungeons, the random encounters are toned down quite a bit, and they are not nearly as bad as when traveling in the air.

One thing that makes Skies of Arcadia unique is the ship battles. Instead of pushing the story forward with standard dungeons and boss fights, the game will often have you battle enemy ships. The ship battles are completely different than the normal battles. You will be given a grid of possible enemy actions, and you will need to guess and counter the enemy actions each turn. You will input your desired actions at the beginning of each round and then watch as each round of the ship battle commences.

The ship battles can sometimes drag on for quite a bit, but most of them are story driven and have a bigger purpose than simply fighting a ship that is in your way. I thought the ship battles did a wonderful job of breaking up the monotony of the regular battles, and once you get the hang of them they are incredibly easy.

There is much more to Skies of Arcadia than what I have explained, but I really can't comment on everything since there are so many enthralling aspects of the game. Just know that gameplay-wise, Skies of Arcadia is a boon amongst standard, cliche RPGs.

Graphics 10/10

Skies of Arcadia is a beautiful game to behold. The land of Arcadia is sculpted with awe inspiring 3D locations like giant floating continents, enormous waterfalls, and seemingly endless sky rifts. If you are a gamer that appreciates unique and abstract art styles, then Skies of Arcadia is a game you need to play. The entire world seems like it could be someone's dream.

As if the initial areas were not enough, the further on you get into the game, the more impressive the locations become. The South Ocean is my personal favorite area. It's a seemingly impassable stretch of land littered with large tornadoes, storms, and wind gusts which you must eventually navigate through.

The dungeons in the game look just as good. Each dungeon is completely unique and has its own little flare that differentiates it from the rest. I would often stop while I was in the dungeons and spin the camera around to admire the surrounding scenery.

Skies of Arcadia truly is a beautiful game, and in spite of the impressive visual effects, the game never slows down or has frame rate issues. It's a testament to what the Dreamcast is capable of graphically.

Skies of Arcadia also has VGA box support, in case you want the game to look even sharper.

Sounds and Music 10/10

An epic RPG isn't much without a stellar soundtrack to back the events of the game, and Skies of Arcadia does not disappoint. The beautifully composed soundtrack matches the game perfectly and really helps to enhance the mood of the game. I was especially impressed with the music in the towns. The jungle village of Horteka has some of the catchiest music I've ever come across in an RPG. The battle music is adequate, but I really liked the boss music, the music when you fought the enemy admirals, and the end game music was to die for.

There is a shortage of voice acting in the game, but that's okay considering how much text is in the game. The characters are reduced to a few lines of spoken text which often gets repeated and that's it. However, the super moves which can be pulled off in battle are accompanied by some nice voice acting. Watching Vyse fly forward and scream “Pirate's Wrath!!” just put a smile on my face every time. I also liked Gilder's Gunslinger attack. Before shooting a barrage of bullets at his enemies, he subtly says “…..Dance for me”, and then begins decimating his enemies.

The sounds and music seem to fit Skies of Arcadia perfectly, and while there are better RPG soundtracks out there, I don't see how they could have improved upon this aspect of the game.

Story 10/10

I'm pretty critical when it comes to RPG stories, and a game really has to suck me in for me to award a game top honors with its story, but for some reason I loved the story in Skies of Arcadia. Things can start off a bit slow, but once things ramp up, it's a hard game to put down for the story alone. It's also one of those rare games with a story that just gets better and better as the game goes on, until it peaks at the end for a mind boggling finale that will have your undivided attention for hours.

So what is it about the story that makes it so great to me? Well, first and foremost, I feel that I must comment on the well defined cast of villains. The major villains in the game are the elite admirals of the Valuan Armada. Each admiral has their own little quirks and personalities which make them completely different from the rest. Seeing them interact with each other is one of the highlights of the game. The villains are given plenty of time to shine in cut scenes, and you will almost always be seeing both sides of the large scale battles as they take place. By the time you face off against an enemy admiral, you will be well aware of their intentions and what they are capable of. If I had to equate it to anything, I would say that the admirals in Skies of Arcadia seem like they were ripped right from a story arc of One Piece (an anime series with incredibly well defined villains). That's quite a compliment coming from me, since One Piece has some of the best villain character development I have ever seen in any entertainment media.

While it's quite easy to focus on the knaves of the Valuan Armada, Vyse and his crew are no slouches either. Vyse is a chatty, optimistic protagonist that will win your heart over with his confidence and resilience. Vyse is supported with a great cast of characters that compliment him well, and together they become a cohesive fighting unit, whether it be on the ground or in the air.

It's really hard to get into the story without ruining anything, but just know that Skies of Arcadia has an incredibly gripping story, and it's probably the best reason to play the game.

On a side note, Skies of Arcadia contains my favorite RPG character of all time, Ramirez. He's such a great villain, and worth playing the game for by himself.

Gameplay 9/10

With so many things going for Skies of Arcadia it would be a shame if the gameplay did not hold up, but fortunately, it does.

The standard battles and ship battles strike a perfect balance in keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting. You can also break up the action by searching for discoveries or doing a few side quests.

Both the regular battles and ship battles are augmented by a Spirit Point (SP) gauge at the top of the screen. Each super move or magic attack requires a certain amount of SP to cast. You start out with a few SP in accordance with your character stats, but you will procedurally need to raise your SP meter by using the “Focus” command from the battle menu. I've seen other RPGs with similar systems, but Skies of Arcadia has a rather forgiving system that only requires focusing for a round before you can unleash your best super moves. It adds a bit of strategy to the battles, and makes sure that you can't simply spam your best attacks over and over.

The ship battles also have a spirit gauge and it functions in the same way, but in the ship battles you have special items that can boost your spirit gauge to high levels, making things a bit easy at times. Once you get your own ship in Skies of Arcadia, you can begin recruiting characters to help you out. Crew members can boost your damage output, protect you from canon fire for a round, and perform many other functions as well. Searching for crew members is similar to Suikoden. Once you find potential members, they will have certain stipulations that need to be met before they will join your crew. There's just under two dozen crew members to recruit.

If there is one downside of the battles, it would be the sometimes slow pace of the regular battles and ship battles. It didn't really bother me, but it can grate on you after a while. Luckily you get some screen clearing super moves which make them go a little faster.

The ship battles may be a bit confusing at first, but once you get the hang of them they are very easy. Some of them just take a long time to get through. I still enjoyed them though.

Longevity and Re-Playability 9/10

Skies of Arcadia has a very long main quest. The first time I played it, I beat it in 52 hours and the 2nd time I played through it, it took me 49 hours. There are a handful of side quests to partake in, but you can knock them out pretty quickly. You can pretty much see everything the game has to offer in the first play through, but the game still gets high marks for having such a long main quest.

Conclusion

My opinions on Skies of Arcadia may be a bit biased, but I loved almost everything about the game, and I can't recommend this game enough to any RPG fan. If you are looking for an RPG that strays from the norm, has a compelling story, some great characters, and an epic presentation, then look no further than Skies of Arcadia. It's without a doubt one of my favorite games of all time.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/03/09

Game Release: Skies of Arcadia (US, 11/13/00)


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