Review by Jyuza Of The Clouds
"Nowadays needs games like this."
It's really a shame that the DreamCast didn't get its fair share of RPG's. The list is very short already, as well as the fact that most of the RPG's weren't very successful and not liked by many people. There are only three RPG's on the Dreamcast that I can say are extremely good and Skies of Arcadia is the best of them all.
Lets start with the story. Starts off with a band of Air Pirates raiding an imperial vessel who have kidnapped a strange girl flying in the sky. It has got to be one of the best intro's I have seen in a game so far. The main three characters are Vyse, Aika (who are two of the Air Pirates at the start of t he game) and Fina (the strange girl). Many people say that the characters are too cliché. That may be so, but so what? Does that make it bad? I think not. Fina is one of the cutest and loveliest female leads I have seen in a game. Anyway, after rescuing Fina from the Imperial Vessel, she asks them for help in finding the six 'Moon Crystals' that the Valuan Nation (the baddy empire) are also looking for. The crystals are the keys to awakening powerful ancient monsters which they can use to control the world. Three other characters join our heroes along the way at separate points. The story isn't all that original but it is very well told and the characters (good and bad) add to its magic. I think its one of the best stories I've seen.
Gameplay, I have a number of mixed views on this aspect. One bad thing this game has is random encounters, and a lot of them as well. The battle system for these encounters is also rather slow and boring. Its basically a turn-based system (Lunar, Breath of Fire) except that the SP bar on top of the screen make it more original. SP is required to use S.Moves and magic. The SP bar is at a set number at the start of each battle and you gain more SP after each round, and by having a character 'focus' in battle. Magic in this game is learnt in a unique way. You change the element of your weapon in battle and by doing so, you will gain spells based on the colour of your weapon after gaining enough magic points (like exp). Six elements each with six spells. Some characters learn particular elements faster than other characters.
Magic costs only 1 MP to use (from the most powerful fire spell to the weakest cure spell). It's the SP in battle that varies for each spell. S.Moves in this game are unique special moves that each character has. They cost no MP, only SP. You learn them by using Moon Berries. These are rare items in this game and are mainly obtained in treasure chests in dungeons. Most encounters in this game also have a very slim chance of dropping a Moon Berry also. S.Moves can vary from 'attack one enemy for high damage', 'attack one line of enemies', 'heal all characters' and 'protect all characters'. There are a few more but you get the idea. S.Moves have their own amazing animations and can also be skipped by pressing the start button if you want to.
One excellent thing about this game is 'Air-Ship battles!!' A new kind of system in which your airship and another enemy airship battle one another in a turn-based combat using cannons and magic. It is a great fun system and appears very often throughout the game.
Music is next. This games score is extremely likeable. Apart from the airship hand-to-hand battle music (which I don't really like), the games music really fits in well. The normal battle music is very catchy and the boss music has something I have never seen before in an RPG. When the boss has the upper hand (it has high HP, and your characters are dead or close to dead) the music will change to a more crisis like music. But if it's the other way round and the boss is almost dead then the music is more victorious like. Other great music includes all the town music, the world sky map music and of course, the final boss music (I LOVE that one).
Graphics. Not a very important aspect of a game but nevertheless, this games graphics are of very high quality 3D (FF8 but without the ugly blocks) and the characters don't look deformed or out of shape (FF7), except maybe for Aika's hair ^_^. The characters facial expressions are also realistic so you can always tell what mood a characters in. This is a Dreamcast game after all, but the graphical qualities surpass Grandia 2 by quite a long shot I think.
That'll do for now. Skies of Arcadia is an extremely cool game with its own charm and is by far my favourite RPG on the Dreamcast, as well as favourite game ever. Only the random encounters and slow battles are its flaws.
Rent or buy? Don't be a fool and rent it because this game is very long and you most likely won't finish it in time. Buy it! Buy it now!!!
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/13/01, Updated 11/13/01
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