Review by CSalzman

"A throwback to days of old, and an isntant classic"

Not only is this the best RPG to be released on DC this year, its by far the best RPG released on any format this year.

Gameplay: Never before has a game so captivated me in terms of story, character or charm. This game just oozes personality through its beautifully crafted graphics and well written dialogue, whether it be talking to shop keepers or just exploring in your airship. This game is just flooded with style.

The game is set up and plays like a traditional RPG; take your characters and travel to the next area to advance the story along, while fighting monsters in random battles on the way. The combat system isn't the best, with a very vanilla turn based system. Magic is gained by getting magic experience points, which go to the magic corresponding to the color of your weapon. Its an interesting system because of the elemental effects the spell color puts on your weapon, but in the end it isn't used as much as it could have been. Another concept in the combat system is the sprit point gauge. Whenever you use spells or techniques (special moves unlocked by using Moonstones), you use some of the party’s spirit. Spirit is gained back every turn, but can also be boosted by using characters ''Focus'' ability. This is an interesting twist to the combat system, but again could have been used more effectively.

A second type of battle is done when you square your ship off against another Airship in a battle. For the most part it is much like normal combat, only you pick when you want your characters to perform their actions. Generally, Airship combat is preset for some bosses, or plot points, but there are a few encounters you can go out and find. Its nothing exceptionally innovative, but its a nice change of pace for the game. Random battles can be too frequent some times, however as the game goes on, you gain the ability to fly above the clouds, and nearly avoiding random combat on the world map altogether.

The main focus of an RPG is conveying a story in the best possible way, and Skies of Arcadia delivers big time. This game is all about the characters and their interaction between one another. The game centers around three main characters, the Blue Rogue Vyse and his two friends Aika and Fina. I won't spoil anything for the reader, but needless to say in the 50+ hour game, there is never a dull moment, something no RPG I've ever played before has managed to do. Don’t expect moving revelations, or huge characters twists, because that’s not what this game is about. The characters in this game are given clearly cast roles that they don’t sway from, but rather play perfectly from beginning to end.

There are so many memorable characters in this game, it seems every place you go a new one pops up to carry the story forward. The translation is top-notch and lighthearted, and the whole game has a very Nintendo-ish charm to it. The battle system isn't the greatest out there, but it never gets in the way of moving the story forward, especially later in the game. This game is so incredibly good, that as I write this review, I'm completed to go back and play it again. Awesome.
Final: 9.6

Graphics: Again, Skies of Arcadia is all about style, and the same holds true with the graphics. The camera view is primarily in a set perspective behind your character, but you can use the trigger buttons to rotate the camera. This allows the game to show off lots of detail, most of all the wonderful character models.

Not extraordinarily high in polygons, the characters have wonderful facial expressions that just ooze charm, more so than in any other RPG I've every played. When characters interact during the game, the facial expressions and changes of mood and posture convey more life and realism than mere dialogue possibly could, no matter the quality. Even non-essential characters like shopkeepers have cool expressions (the camera always zooms in on characters when you initiate a conversation; its a bit odd at first, but you'll miss it after you finish the game). This game is possibly one of the most stylistic games (at least RPG’s) that I’ve ever seen. This is one of the few games that simply has to have the graphics it does to work right. Without the facial expressions, and body movements of characters this game would only be partially complete.
Astonishing, is the level of detail in this game with concerns to the atmosphere and area construction. Since you have a fully moveable camera, everything must be rendered in 3-d (as opposed to a fixed camera view, where you only have to work with the camera can see), but still retains all the luscious detail of games like Final Fantasy that use fixed camera shots.

The world in this game is truly awe inspiring, as you traverse through the Skies in your Airship. Gorgeous textures and amazing lighting effects are abound, and they really must be witnessed to be truly appreciated. Because of the way you travel the world, it is seldom for textures in this game to be re-used, so the game always stays fresh graphically.

Battle graphics are nice, the special attacks are especially cool, with LOTS of insane lighting effects, and they can be easily skipped if you so desire. Monsters are well animated, and look great, but the spell graphics get repetive quickly. Airship battles look extremely good. Because of the way the camera works, it feels like your watching a movie; lots of panning and changing of view points as the two ships fly around, exchanging shots. Generally, the only negative is that the frame rate is a bit inconsistent when you’re flying through the skies, however it never hinders the game in any way.

Sound: Skies of Arcadia packs a great, varied soundtrack that’s nearly as memorable as the characters and the story. There are lots of styles of music, mainly because of the different regions and cultures that you visit in the game. One thing that is constant is that it’s well orchestrated. Sound effects are good too, but nothing really sticks out as being exceptional or terrible. Voice acting (no long dialogue, only some combat lines) should have been better as it can get annoying/bland quickly. Overall, the beautiful music composition of this game will make you listen.

Intangibles: This is simply the best RPG to be released on the Dreamcast this year, or any other system (a case could be made for Lunar 2). It has a level of charm that rivals Nintendo’s greatest games. Simply the most memorable characters in an RPG, period. Skies of Arcadia 2 is now my most anticipated game. Ever.

Worth buying: You're kidding right? In this writer’s opinion, this is the best RPG since the days of the Super Nintendo. An RPG is all about story and characters, and while the story isn’t the deepest, or most involved, the pure charm of the characters propels this game to an elite status few games ever reach; it deserves to be played by anyone and everyone who has access to a Dreamcast. Hell, it’s worth buying a Dreamcast for!

Reviewers Tilt: + 0.1

Final Score: 9.55

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/23/01, Updated 08/23/01

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