Review by Arrawnt

"Enjoyable romp through an innovative new world"

The Dreamcast has long been plagued with an excess of mediocre RPGs. Fortunately, Sega and the Overworks Team have brought the gaming community an RPG to be treasured. Skies of Arcadia is a traditional RPG that will endear itself to you through its charming, if not imaginative story. The game sports the same common objective that will be found in most present RPGs, prevent an evil kingdom from gathering legendary artifacts that could destroy the world. You’ve heard it before, so what makes Skies of Arcadia stand apart? Sega has done a tremendous job with the localization. The story is coherent, there are no loopholes to be found here, and the characters are the most likable batch of heroes to appear in a game since Game Arts developed Lunar. Vyse’s courage of youth, Fina’s naïve outlook on the world, and Aika’s wisecracks will have you becoming more and more captivated in the world of Arcadia as the story progresses.

You’ll assume the role of Vyse, an air pirate of the Blue Rogues, and set sail around the world seeking the treasures so desperately needed to prevent the imminent destruction of the world. Because the world of Arcadia is composed of myriad floating continents, travel by airship will be necessary. The journey throughout the world places the camera angle behind the ship. The view can be altered with the mere press of a button, which is convenient for locating villages. Travel around the rather intimidating world is made even more complicated when altitude is taken into effect. Some locations will be on islands at the bottom of the sky, while others will require you to search at the loftiest islands in the air. The dungeons are presented with an innovative 3rd person perspective, your surroundings can be viewed by switching to a 1st person view. You’ll also be given an auto-map that should help your stalwart party out in times of crisis.

Character development plays a minor role here, Vyse is incredibly eager to risk his life for the world from start to finish, with other characters showing little if any personality changes. Insights into a character’s past are also excluded leaving you to forever wonder. Sega has also developed a Swashbuckler system that determines Vyse’s fame. Throughout the game you’ll be presented with choices, making the proper choice results in Vyse showing capable leadership qualities and an increase in rank. The wrong choice simply gives the other members an opportunity to scold you.

Skies also tries its hand at a new system of magic. All spells, regardless of their effectiveness, are reduced to a single magic point. Spirit points are the deciding factor between whether or not a character can cast a spell. Each character has their own pool of spirit points which is unified into one grouping. As battles drudge on, your meter will gradually accumulate points. A Focus option is also present to accrue additional spirit. Once the necessary spirit is there, you can select the spell of your choosing and fire away. New magic is learned through magic experience and your weapon’s attribute. There are six different elements to choose from in Skies, and depending on which you have selected for your character, assist in learning new spells. Say, for instance, if Vyse has the Red attribute, his magic experience points will be used to acquire fire magic. Attributes can be switched at any times, also, if other characters in the party use a different element, magic experience will also be gained in that attribute for all members.

A nice complement to the magic system is the super move system. As you crusade across Arcadia, you’ll no doubt discover a Moonberry or two. Using these on characters allows them to learn stronger super moves. Super moves require no permanent drain on characters, they simply require a set amount of spirit and can be used indefinitely during battle.

Because Arcadia is a world that must be traveled by airship, it seems almost trivial to mention that your ship will play an integral role. The enemy never passes a chance to engage your vessel in ship combat. These battles are presented in a gorgeous view that displays the cruisers circling each other. Each character can perform one action per turn, fire a cannon, restore damage, focus spirit and so on. As the story unfolds, you’ll receive your own ship. Now you’ll have the option to search the myriad ports of the world for crew members eager to join in the battle with the forces of oblivion. Recruiting members is of course, completely optional. However, the side benefits outweigh the amount of time it can take to find a willing participant. Having more members means your ship will gain status bonuses, new commands and so forth.

The graphics in this game, as with most Dreamcast games, reach levels of greatness once believed impossible. Vyse and company are presented in rich, vibrant colors that make the RPG much more pleasing to the eyes. There are some minor issues about monster design that need to be discussed here. I realize that since Arcadia is a world where the sky is a prevalent theme, the enemies need some method of flight. However, the random enemies you’ll encounter are lackluster and consist of little more than birds, floating slimes, and villainous vegetation. All of which are palette swapped a ridiculous number of times. These wretched designs will have you writhing in agony each time the party engages in combat. Luckily, the monster designs in the dungeons are much more acceptable.

Skies of Arcadia will present most fans of the genre with a reasonable genre, though the game can be unbalanced. Early in the game, enemies will possess instant kill spells, while at the same time, your party will lack an effective method of revival. As you get toward the end, a group attack is usually enough to annihilate any band of brave monsters. The random encounter rate is also a bit on the high side. This can become especially frustrating when searching for discoveries and towns.

Hardy adventures seeking something to do after finishing the game will also have an opportunity to make discoveries. Scattered throughout Arcadia are sixty-four locations that are waiting to be discovered. Finding these will gain you fame and money. The search isn’t a blind one as your compass spins madly when you near a location and you’ll also have the option to purchase hints, these can range from blatantly handing out the location to extreme obscurity.

The music in this game is appropriate, though it fails to make a lasting impression. As you speak with your comrades, you’ll occasionally hear a comment; these simple things don’t match the text, but serve to add to the charm of the characters. The voice acting in battle is acceptable, though their dialogue could have used some work.

Despite a few minor flaws, Skies of Arcadia is a true gem that belongs in any fan of the genre’s library. You’ll be well rewarded with a spectacular story that is complemented by outstanding visuals and melody.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/08/01, Updated 01/08/01

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