Review by Vman2001
"40+ hours of booty grabbing=Instant Win!"
If you could have only one game for your Dreamcast Skies of Arcadia should be the one you choose. Rarely have I ever found an RPG that I became attached to as much as this game. Elements such as battles, storyline, visuals, and sound come together to create the perfect experience for veteran and rookie RPG players. There are plenty of side quests, fights, and characters that make you come back for more.
The adventure begins when a mysterious girl is followed and attacked by a Valuan airship. Once the girl is taken, a group of air pirates known as the Blue Rogues decide to loot the ship and save the girl. After Vyse, the main character, and Aika, his hot-headed sidekick/friend, save the captive girl known as Fina, a whole new adventure unfolds. The story for Skies is generic at first but as the crew finds out more about Moon Crystals and the legend behind them, the story becomes immersive and sets itself apart from most other attempts at great RPGs. I won't spoil anything for you, but note that after every dungeon I just wanted to this game even more and find out what exactly lies beyond the horizon.
Gameplay is an essential ingredient of RPGs, and Skies of Arcadia doesn't fall short in this department. The battle system for Skies is actually quite impressive despite what many people think. The basic options of Run, Items, Guard, Magic and Attack appear in Normal Battles, but this game sets itself apart from other RPGs through its Spirit System.
The Spirit System limits the actions that your party members can take during their respective turns. The utilization of Magic or Super Moves (S-Moves) will deplete the amount of Spirit Points (SP) displayed at the top of the screen in the Spirit Gauge. The rule of thumb is the stronger the Magic or S-Move you use, the more SP you consume. Using the focus command allows you to receive more SP for the next turn, so there is always a way to build enough SP for that Pirates' Wrath you want to use next turn. The amount of SP your party receives each turn of a battle depends on the level of your party members, so be sure to level up if you want the extra SP when beginning a battle.
The six elements of the different moons play a huge role in Skies . The party's weapons have elemental attributes depending on which Moon Stone color(s) they are using. As you progress through the game you will accumulate different colored Moon Stones to link to your weapons. Depending on the location of the battle, some elements will grant an advantage over enemies of the area because they are weak to that element. For example, equipping weapons with the yellow Moon Stone will allow for greater damage against monsters that carry the attributes of the Green Moon.
The magic system is also based off of the elements. Using a spell always costs 1 MP, but the cost of SP always varies depending upon how powerful the spell is. Magic Experience points are distributed at the end of battle, but the points are given based on which color attribute your weapon has. If each person on the team has the green attribute on their weapon then they will receive experience for only green; however, if the colors are mixed up then the party members will receive experience for all the colors that the party used for that battle. The first time I played this game I realized that I wasn't learning my blue magic because I had never given anybody's weapon the blue attribute, so I quickly learned that damage dealt wasn't the most important aspect of my battling.
S-Moves are similar to Limit Break system of the Final Fantasy series. They are moves that either deal more damage than regular attacks, or have some sort of special effect such as protecting the party from status changes. S-Moves can be learned by collecting and consuming items called Moonberries, which can be found through treasure chests and random battles. Each successive S-Move will cost more Moonberries than the one before it, but in the end it is worth the cost. These moves are accompanied by unique animations---some rather impressive---that can be skipped by hitting the start button if you get tired of seeing it.
The only problems with Normal Battles are that they can become a little boring because of the high frequency of random battles, and the fact that the battles last longer than they probably should. You will often be faced with a random battle every few feet from your last encounter with enemies. When you're in battle you may have to wait for enemies to move closer to perform a physical attack, and some of these enemies move very, very slowly. These frequent battles are tedious until you learn S-Moves that take out multiple enemies at once.
To counter some of the monotonous battles, Overworks decided to add a little something called Ship Battles to the gameplay. Simply put Ship Battles are AMAZING. While sailing the skies your compass may start beeping and show two exclamation marks just above it. When this event occurs it means that you're approaching a Ship Battle. During these battles your team will be forced to defend their ship and take out the attacker. A grid will appear at the top of your screen showing the icons of your party members, your advantages/disadvantages against the enemy, your enemy's advantages/disadvantages against you, and spaces for what action you will taking during your turn. You'll be forced to use the Spirit System during a Ship Battle too, so you'll usually have to plan out your attacks better in these battles than in Normal Battles. A green square translates to a turn in which you're going to be "Safe" or not take much damage. A yellow square means that your enemy will have a chance to do a little more damage than usual, and a red square means that you'll probably be taking a lot of damage during that turn.
You'll be able to attack your enemies by utilizing main cannons, secondary cannons, torpedoes, or Special Cannon (S-Cannon). Each type of attack uses SP, but each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Main cannons fire on the turn you choose and do a nice amount of damage, but they cost a bit of SP too. Secondary cannons don't do much damage, but they can attack in successive turns and don't cost much SP. Torpedoes fire and hit your target on the turn you designate, but they can often miss. S-Cannons are the most reliable and most fun when it comes to attacking. They'll use up a lot of SP, but they pack a wallop and never miss.
Ship Battles play a main part in the storyline as well. You'll be forced to fight Valuan Admirals throughout the game, and because you fight the best of Valuan officials you'll be forced to become a strategist. I always enjoy these battles because get me excited about using my big guns and finding items to upgrade my ship after I win. These fights are usually long and intense, but they are fun and bring out the little thinker in you.
In the game you will be able to create a crew for your ship. Crew members add a whole new dimension to the game. There are 22 members in all, and they are scattered across the skies in many different lands. However, you can only have 11 active members at one time, so you'll have to have a good idea as to what the crew members do before selecting which ones you want active. Most of them have some sort of prerequisite to acquire them, but a good portion of them can be obtained as soon as you meet them.
One of the best parts of having a crew is that the active members will be able to assist you during your fights. In Ship Battles crew members can be used for some sort of effect, such as maxing out your SP for that turn. In Normal Battles you'll be given two options once you max out your Spirit Gauge to call upon your Crew Team Special: the first option is called Prophecy, in which you'll do massive damage to all your enemies depending upon Vyse's level; the second option is Blue Rogues, in which all your active crew members will either attack your enemies or heal your party. Crew Team Specials use up all of your SP, but are always fun to use and can give you the upper hand when taking on your foes.
An interesting part of this game is something called Vyse's Swashbuckler Rating. This rating system affects how people treat and trust Vyse. His rating can rise or fall depending on your actions in battle, events of the game, and Vyse's replies during conversations. If you've made the correct decisions in all of these circumstances then you may eventually earn the highest title, Vyse the Legend.
An often overlooked part of Skies of Arcadia is the Journal, in which you can view the events of the game through the eyes of different characters in the game. The Journal updates automatically after important events, and are entertaining because you get to see how one character views the others. Another part of the Journal is a list of Discoveries you have made throughout your journey. While you are sailing the open skies you may come across a Discovery. Once you have found a Discovery, the Journal will automatically update with a description of the finding, and you will be able to sell it for money as well as increase your Swashbuckler Rating.
Another overlooked part of this game is the mini-game known as Pinta's Quest. This game is played on your VMU, and you can obtain various goodies such as Moonberries, gold, or weapons. I'll be honest and tell you that I didn't get much of a chance to play Pinta's Quest because the VMU's batteries don't keep on going like the Energizer Bunny (lucky bastard). The little bit I played of this game was fun though.
The visual experience is enjoyable for the most part. Characters are modeled nicely, and animations can be breathtaking. The S-Cannon on your ship looks great as do your enemies' S-Cannons. The only problem is that the joints of the characters suffer from looking too polygonal. Aside from that minor detail you won't have a problem playing this game because of its looks.
One thing I truly enjoy about Skies is the music. You'll be hearing great tracks such as boss battle themes, character themes, final battle, and---my favorite---end credits. I believe that Skies has one of the best soundtracks that you and I have ever heard from a game. The only problem with the overall sound of the game is that the only sounds that come from the characters tend to be little snippets like "Uh huh" or other simple phrases. Voice acting would be a great addition, but sadly there isn't anything satisfying in that division within Skies.
This game generally lasts 40 hours if you do the bare minimum, and it can last up to 60 hours if you do all the side quests and find all the final weapons. The best part about the game is that it's so good you'll probably want to play it more than once. I know I've played it about three times through with a different team each time. The truly impressive part about Skies is that it's one of the only games that can make you cry . After your adventure is over and the ending credits roll through, you'll hear some very emotional music. With the music in your head and the idea that you won't be playing with Vyse or sailing the skies, you might become a little misty eyed. But you can always play the game over again, which is always a good idea.
I love this game. Overworks has put together one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and Sega should be honored to have the Dreamcast as its home. Everybody should play this game so they know what a true RPG is all about. Now go out and buy yourself a copy Skies of Arcadia and let the booty grabbing begin!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/05/05
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