|I think every other review
of Skies of Arcadia has summarized the Dreamcast's lack of quality RPGs prior
to the release of this game. I'm assuming
you know that already. What you're really interested in reading about is whether
or not the game is worthy of all the praise it's received in other reviews,
right? In a word, the answer is "yes." Now, let me tell you why.
of Arcadia tells the story of Vyse, the son of the leader of a band
of Air Pirates called Blue Rogues. Vyse longs to own his own ship and sail
around the skies, fighting injustice wherever it may occur. When his father's
crew boards an enemy airship and rescues Fina, a beautiful girl from another
land, a chain of events is inadvertently set into motion that may lead to the
destruction of the entire world. It's up to Vyse and his friend, Aika, to save
the world and make everything right.
Ok, so the plot doesn't sound particularly new or innovative and my summarization
doesn't do it much justice, but that's the basic outline. The beauty of the
game is how the story plays out and how the individual pieces are put together.
Excellent graphics, wonderful characters and a great musical soundtrack are
all icing on the cake. Face it, if you're going to invest a lot of time into
playing an RPG, you'd rather not suffer through a game with boring characters
and uninteresting quests. Skies of Arcadia certainly does not suffer from this
problem. The characters are, in a word, delightful and that's an adjective
I'd be hard-pressed to use regarding any other RPG character that's come down
the pike in the last year or two. No self-absorbed loners in this bunch.
of Arcadia features two types
of combat. There's the usual "party
vs. opponents" combat and there's also a "ship vs. ship" combat
mode. The first type is turn-based, while the ship combat is more strategic,
requiring you to plan four moves ahead at each turn. The standard party combat
is unique in that each character in your party has the ability to cast magic,
so there's no set role for each member. (There's no reason Vyse can't heal
the party just as often as Fina, in other words.) Although each character's
abilities may lean towards his/her use in a particular role, you're not restricted
to do so. The party also has what are called "spirit points," which
are shared by the entire party. Use of magic spells and "super moves," which
range from strong offensive attacks to defensive magic or reviving a dead party
member, requires the use of these spirit points. At the beginning of each turn,
a small amount of spirit points is added to the party's total amount. If unused,
they accumulate throughout the battle, allowing for stronger moves and magic
to be used. Party members can also "focus" to generate additional
Spirit points are also used in the
ship-to-ship battles as well. However, the combat unfolds in four move sections.
At the beginning of each turn, the
player is presented with a grid that allows you to plot four moves in advance.
You choose what each party member will do and when but, after finalizing your
moves, you simply watch them play out. The trick is to try and predict what
your opponent will do and try to counteract it or take advantage of it. In
later battles, your ship will usually be equipped with a "super weapon" that
requires a large amount of spirit points to fire. Some players may find the
strategic aspects secondary to simply trying to generate the spirit points
needed to fire the big gun. Still, the ship battles are big part of the game's
One thing that's really enjoyable about Skies
of Arcadia is the amount of
detail put into each area you visit. From lush rainforests to desert sands,
each area, as well as its accompanying dungeons, are filled with small, but
significant details. The design of each area is logical and, if you pay attention
to the aforementioned details, you'll discover secrets hidden in each one.
I never found myself getting lost or frustrated trying to navigate through
a dungeon. Some of the dungeons contain some fairly difficult puzzles, but
there's nothing that will cause you to rack your brain too severely.
I make it sound like there's nothing wrong with Skies
of Arcadia, let
me point out the only major flaw in the game. There are simply too many
random battles. They become excruciatingly annoying in the middle section of
the game, when navigating through the world map is crucial to advancing the
plot. You will find your concentration broken by random battles nearly every
15 to 30 seconds while piloting your ship. While this does help your characters
level up, it also detracts from the game's atmosphere. Once you get your bearings
after one random battle and begin to make some progress towards your intended
destination, you'll find yourself in yet another random battle. Very aggravating.
Still, it does not ruin the game. It just stands out as a very bothersome problem
in an otherwise flawless game.
of Arcadia is a game that I really didn't want to end. Although my play
through lasted about 50 hours, I had a bittersweet feeling as I fought the
final boss battle. I'd miss the game's characters and the storyline. If that's
not an indication of a top-quality RPG, I don't know what would be. So, if
you're a Dreamcast owner and you like RPGs, there's absolutely no reason you
shouldn't get this game as soon as possible. Although there aren't many top-shelf
RPGs for the Dreamcast (and, with Sega pulling out of the hardware market,
there probably won't be many more), this game is quite possibly worth buying
a Dreamcast to play. It's that good.