Review by jeffx
"Simply put: the BEST RPG available on Dreamcast"
I thought Grandia II couldn't be surpassed in terms of game quality on the Dreamcast but it looks like I was wrong. Not to diminish the beauty of Grandia II or anything, but Skies Of Arcadia offers so much more than your average RPG. Now I've been playing RPGs for over 10 years, starting with Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy in the 80s/early 90s. I'm pretty confident I've tried almost everything out there, so for me to spend 85 hours on one game (yes, 85 hours!) well you betcha it's cause I ruled out all of the other options. With SOA it was just automatic anyway. Let's see what makes this game so fabulous. I'm gonna warn the purists though, I think my review will include a couple of spoilers, especially as to what you do in the game.
Oh my god. Everything is just so smooth. Characters look great with their definite anime-ish traits, nicely shaped, just not as detailed as Shenmue II (which definitely takes the crown). The environment is great to navigate through, villages are just charming, even the deepest dungeon looks fantastic. It's just a non-stop feast for the eyes.
Sound is fitting. Characters do not speak (that would have taken like 5 GDs) but they let out some cute sounds effects every once in a while, like ''uh-huh'' and ''yeah'', it's a nice touch. Music is pretty good, again, fitting, orchestrated tracks for the Valuan empire, nice heroic music for your village, it's all good. Like all games that don't make you depend on the music (for example Silent Hill or whatever survival horror game) I usually put my own music on after a while, otherwise it can get really boring. More than one battle theme would have been nice (Grandia 1 style), especially for the second CD.
This is the main dish, this is where the game really shines. First of all, Skies Of Arcadia does everything your average RPG usually offers. OK, like Items, Equipment, leveling up, magic, everything pretty standard. So that right there makes the player pretty comfortable right off. Magic is slightly different in that you'll learn different type of spells depending on what element you imbue your weapons with. It gets very natural too, don't need an explanation here. The combat system also features SP, Spirit Points, which are like regenerable MP shared by the party. In the end it works out perfectly. You just have to try to understand. But it's nice to be able to cast spells and attacks that don't cost anything other than ''battle points'' which you don't have to replace after every other fight.
Now outside of the fights and of the menu, there's the Arcadian world, heh. Which you will travel primarily by airship!! That's one of the most beautiful aspects, but also strangest, of SOA. There's almost no land, everything is just in suspension, so people live on floating islands. VERY Japanese by concept. Think Gunnm, think just about ANY Manga out there. So you get your own aircraft as you start out, and it gets upgraded a couple of times, to one of the most impressive ship ever seen in an RPG... seriously! Anyway flying around is great, it's even better later on when your range is extended.
Another great aspect is all the ''mini-games'' integrated into Skies Of Arcadia... remember building your own town/castle from Suikoden?? You'll find the same deal in SOA, although on a much smaller scale (20 something characters instead of 108) It's just as satisfying though, and your own island looks GREAT, maybe a little desert but still GREAT heh. Also you can collect different kinds of flying fish, and best of all, the discovery system. There's tons of discoveries to be made in the Skies of Arcadia some of them in the craziest spots. It's a very, very rewarding gameplay experience in the end.
Unlike the other reviewers on gamefaqs, I thought the story in SOA was fairly decent! It charmed me, and that usually takes quite the story line. Some of the aspects of the story flow too quickly (in the last few hours) and way too slowly (in the beginning). But overall there's always a sense of direction, like you know what you're doing and why. There's a lot of interaction between the characters, which totally makes them round and gives them very distinct personalities. I wish there could have been closer interaction if you know what I mean. (SPOILER) Vyse gets pretty close to the girls towards the end, but the game ends in a very unsatisfying manner.
Bah make it a ten. This game has everything to make every RPG gamer out there a happy person. It's not PERFECT, but considering the other Dreamcast RPGS, it's as close to perfection as it gets. Buy, buy, buy. Some of the best 80 hours I've spent playing a game, made me feel like when I was a kid skipping school to go play Final Fantasy 2 and 3. A definite recommendation from me.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 08/04/02, Updated 08/04/02
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