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Added: 22 Apr 2012
"Square-Enix take note, this is how air ships SHOULD be used!!"
Skies of Arcadia
Replay Value: 8/10
In the world of gaming, there are companies that specialize making certain types of games. Square and Enix are good at RPGs, Bungie makes a great FPS, and Rare is exceptional at cartoony adventure games. Once in a while, a company comes a long that can make an awesome game in every genre imaginable, and even invent some along the way. Sega truly is a jack-of-all-trades. In this day and age, not many companies are willing to try a different genre, or pioneer something new. Sega isn't exactly new to the RPG genre. Many of you will remember Shining Force, Phantasy Star and Panzer Dragoon Saga as being great games. Add Skies of Arcadia to that list.
Skies follows the story of two young air pirates named Vyse (your male lead), and Aika (your female lead). Not unlike Final Fantasy people in the world of SoA travel around on air ships. Unlike FF, there isn't too much solid ground. Little islands float on a sea of air, which life revolves around. Think of it as being your basic swashbuckling adventure, except with air instead of water. The floating islands are divided into several main continents (and tons of tiny islands in between) on which many different people live. On one of these continents is an evil empire, which is conspiring to take over the world using ancient beasts known as Gigas. A Gigas lives on each continent, and in typical RPG fashion, it eventually becomes your job to stop the evil people and restore peace to the land. Of course the plot is much, much deeper than that, but I don't want to give away any spoilers.
The gameplay isn't too different from your standard RPG. You have up to four characters in your party at a time, and the battles against enemies are random. You have your basic attack, and item commands, and each character can use different types of magic and special moves. The main difference between SoA and other RPGs is how these moves are used. Each magic attack or special move takes a certain amount of Spirit Points to execute. In most RPGs, each character has his or her own SP and MP for casting moves. In Skies, every character draws from the same pool of Spirit Points. At the beginning of a battle, you start out with a little amount of points, but as the battle goes on, they rise. How quickly they rise are based on how many members are in your part, and what level you are. You can regain points more quickly by having a party member “focus” their energy instead of using an attack or item. As you progress in the game, you will come across different types of crystals. Characters can use these crystals to set their weapons and magic towards different elements (you only have to collect a crystal once for your entire party to use it). As the character levels up, points will go towards a certain element of magic, and different magic will be learned. Your character's element can be changed on the fly during battle, which is very useful since different enemies have weaknesses against different elements.
The next half of SoA's gameplay is the ship battles (you expected a pirate game without ship battles?). These are surprisingly a lot of fun to play, and really offer a nice change in the gameplay. Your ship is your main method of traveling about the world. As you go on in the game, you will get different upgrades for it and will eventually recruit a full crew of 22 people for it. Ships can get into random battles with regular enemies, which play out just like a random battle on land (your characters will fight the enemies on the bow of the ship). However, ships can also get into battles with other ships. These play much like a turn based strategy game. At the beginning of a turn, you must input four moves for your ship. You can tell when an enemy ship is attacking, so you must plan your attacks, guarding, and healing appropriately. You can also equip your ship with different weapons such as primary cannons, secondary cannons, and torpedoes that all have their advantages and disadvantages. This is a great idea to add to a game, and it really was a refreshing change to the normal humdrum gameplay found in most RPGs. Sega should consider making a turn based strategy game with just the ships!
The graphics are absolutely breath taking. This game really shows off just what the Dreamcast is capable of. The game was even recently ported to the Gamecube, so you know it is still able to hold it's own even against today's dazzling graphics. There is a little bit of pop up, but I suppose you can't expect to have crystal clear visibility in a ship! All of the characters look wonderful, and the towns and cities are excellently detailed. Sega has really done it again with the graphics. The world of Skies is brought to life though the vibrant colors, and impeccable detail that litters every scene. There is also little loading, which is a huge plus!
Sound is pretty good, but not terribly excellent. Most towns do have very catchy tunes that I enjoyed very much while I was playing the game. The battle and travel music is forgettable though. The game would have been nice with a little bit more voice acting, but I guess they had to scrap something to fit all of the wonderful graphics onto that tiny disc.
Replay Value is decent for an RPG. In addition to the main quest (which took me about 40 hours the first time through), there are several involving side quests. One of the main side quests is searching for a crew for your ship! As you travel about the lands, you must find 22 people to join the crew of your ship. Each person has special attributes that will help you in battle, but only 11 can be on active duty at a time, so you must choose wisely. Another main side quest is finding discoveries. There are tons of things to be discovered in the world of SoA, and it's up to Vyse to find them. As you're traveling about and see something strange while you're on your ship, you can press A to observe it. If it's anything special, you'll get a notice saying you've found a discovery. The game will then explain what you've found and give you a little bit of information on it. The information can then be sold to people in towns for money. Another nice part of the game that I enjoyed was the base customization. Once you get a crew, your ship gets a base on an island. You can build buildings and customize the look of it, which I found to be very fun!
If you have a Dreamcast, then this game is a must buy. It's the best RPG on the system, and it shows that Sega still has the magic in them. It'll rival any 3D Final Fantasy game out there, and can even hold it's own graphically against the PS2, Gamecube, and even some Xbox games! If you really want to experience what the Dreamcast had to offer in the RPG department, then there's no better start than Skies of Arcadia. Since the Dreamcast is currently down for the count in America, 40 hours of entertainment never came so cheap! Get out there and get this game while you still can!
Final Score (Not an average): 88%
Reviewer's Score: 9/10, Originally Posted: 08/07/04
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