Review by twinstick

"After waiting 14 months, Im a little disappointed"

I think I speak for most gamers when I say that the first 14 months of DC rpgs have been severely lackluster (I dont consider Shenmue a RPG). That is why I, and many others awaited Skies of Arcadia with baited breath. While it is worth your 50 bucks,and time;if you are as starved as I was, I still walked away very disappointed.
The main draw in any RPG (should be) is the story. Unfortunately, SOA fails to deliver. Under the Gamefaqs rules (and an unwritten code of conduct among gamers), I will give no spoilers, but will only say a few things. The story is cliched, and is told through a very whimsical, non-serious manner. This in itself isnt a terrible thing, but when a story revolves around the typical end of the world scenerio, I expect it to at LEAST hint at the gravity of the subject matter. STORY: 5
The second most important thing I have come to expect in a good RPG is the writing. Given the already mentioned childish tone, you know what to expect. Nothing intellectually stimulating here. Most conversations are mundane,and feel tacked on,as if the writers felt obligated to have the characters interact more. The decent conversations, those which try to show how citizens in a particular city feel, get drowned out when the basic point (they are poor and oppressed) are beaten over your head like a ''piece of blackened bread''. WRITING: 3
A RPG staple since the beginning,has been well-rounded characters that you grow to care about. Here's your lineup: Vyse,the main character,is a 17-year old air pirate,who steals from well guarded imperial ships,and supposedly shares his wealth with the unfortunates.(I never saw anything that would support that,though) Aika, his long time friend,who plays the tom boy character,and Fina, the obligatory mysterious female counterpart,who's missions is slowly revelaed through play time. There are 3 minor characters, who believe it or not, are not evolved at all. drachma,the captain Ahab rip off, Gilder, the womanizing gunsman,and a character that i will not comment on,since it is a spoiler (although it is obvious very early into the game) Then you have your villians,and despite the fact that there are many,none of them are very memorable. Some standouts include the creatively named DeLoco,who looks (and acts) absolutely rediculous, Galacian,the power hungry leader of the armada, and his henchman, Ramirez. They are so underwhelming as bosses,and the games consistant pushing them as harbingers of the apocalypse, is laughable. CHARACTERS: 4
The next thing to look at is the gameplay. In its defense,it is very difficult to advance the genre in this regard. The man to man fighting is average. You have the option to equip your parties' weapons with 1 of 6 different elements, such as fire,ice, ect. Of course, some enemies are more succeptible to certain types of elements. As a fight progresses,your team will accumulate ''spirit points'',which determine the power of your attacks/spells. Save enough up,and you can do super moves. Some of them look really nice, some do not. Although there is a large variety,you will most likely not use (or need) most of them.(the same can be said of spells. outside of ''revive'' spells, i only tried each once,just to see the graphical display) A neat feature is the ship battles. You enter moves onto a grid, and trade blows with an enemy vessel. There isnt very much to it,but at least its different,and the battles look nice. Dont expect deep gameplay here, though. Once you realize your ''heal'' spells work on your ship,its smooth sailing) forgive the pun. GAMEPLAY: 6
Now lets tie up the loose ends. As you travel on your airship, you will get into random battles,and yes it is as annoying as it sounds. Every 4 seconds or so, your entire party will have to run out to the deck,and fight creatures such as killer pineapples,or different colored bats. At first it isnt so bad, but when you have leveled up to the point where they give you next to no gold or experience,it will drive you mad. Expect this to happen for approximately 3/4 the game,when you will finally have the ability to avoid them. ( I might add the game moves very quickly from here. It seems to me at least,that the developers just did the random ship battles to prolong the game,and i would estimate that added at least 15 hours to the game) The there is the voice acting. In this day and age, i would like to think that the days of mandatory text reading would be phased out.(2 gd roms,and they couldnt fit voices in?)you DO hear voices occationally,but its limited to when you cast a spell(expect to hear a lot of sailor moon references) and sometimes your characters will speak a little during text,but they dont match up.(ex. ''sure i would like that'' might be heard as ''yes'' or ''horray'')what little is there,is done very badly,especially since this will be compared to Grandia 2,which has the voiice actors from metal gear solid. The difficulty of the game is questionable too. Outside of my first airship battle, I NEVER LOST A BOSS FIGHT. (I am a casual rpg player at best) the most basic of stretgies will carry you the distance in this one, my friends. Thats not to say that the bosses arent cool LOOKING at least. Some are downright spectacular. The Gigas (color coordinated giant robots,although I liked them better the first time,when they were called WEAPONS,heh) are pretty neat. The graphics (yes,i didnt devote a whole paragraph,since they arent that important in a game like this) are a mixed bag. The airship battles,which you have no real control over,look great,while the characters themselves look too angular. This is too bad,since like many rpgs,you only see the main character move around a town, and dont have more than a couple of townsfolk on the screen at the same time. The spells/super moves are great tech demos,and are filled to the brim in pyrotechnics. (Like i said,its too bad you dont need almost any of them) The music is also quite good. (although not comparable to the FF series).One neat innovation is the discovery and the swashbucler systems. The former is a list of things to locate (such as a hidden statue) while exploring the world. Too bad that the only way to find them is to wait for your compass to spin wildly,and fly around pushing the A button repeatedly. I would have enjoyed it more if you could just discover them by flying close and actually seeing them. The swashbuckler system determines what title others give you. Such as ''Vyse the determined'',ect.You lose points if you answer questions in a cowardly or dishonoralbe manner. You also lose points from running from battles,so if you want to make it to ''legend'' prepare for ALOT of on deck fights.
In closing, I will say despite the excessive negativity,that it is still MUCH better than the competition for top RPG on dreamcast. That is, until Grandia 2,which will be out within a month. You might want to hold out for that instead.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 11/25/00, Updated 11/25/00

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