Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast) review
"This is perhaps one of the best RPGs ever created. Excellent graphics, a moving, imaginative story, a simply amazing soundtrack, awesome gameplay, wonderful detail... They all add up for what is one of the best experiences in video game history. This game is brilliant."
Let me start this review saying this: I am not an enthusiastic RPG player. However, after playing OverWorks' Skies of Arcadia, I can honestly say that my opinions on the genre have changed, tremendously. Being my first true RPG , Skies of Arcadia has been one of the greatest gaming experiences that I have ever had. In fact, I cannot put into words just how good this game is. It is perhaps one of the best RPGs ever created. Excellent graphics, a moving, imaginative story, a simply amazing soundtrack, awesome gameplay, wonderful detail... They all add up for what is one of the best experiences in video game history. This game is brilliant.
First, let's begin by looking at the story. You are Vyse, a teenage Air Pirate, of the Blue Rogues, in the world of Arcadia. The world has reached an age of exploration, much like the 15-17th centuries on Earth. Vyse's companions are two sexy females named Aika and Fina. Aika, whom has a wonderful love for adventure, seems to admire Vyse, and her power comes from the fire of the red moon. Fina, a mysterious girl who refuses to reveal her past, plays a key part in the adventure, and also provides a love interest for the male gamers. The world of Arcadia consists of floating ''islands'' in the sky, as the pressure of the world below is so high that no person dares venture downward. So, the people must travel by ship, with the sky being their ocean. While there is only one sun, the planet has six moons, each of a different element. The population of the yellow moon's continent are ruled by the Valuans, an evil empire determined to gather the six Moon Crystals in order to reawaken the ''Gigas,'' powerful super-beings that are capable of destroying the world. So basically, it is up to Vyse to help Fina recover all of the Moon Crystals and keep Valua from harnessing their power. However, the Admirals of the Valuan Armada will do anything to prevent this from happening. The plot is very, very good, and although it may sound cheesy and cliché at first, it progresses into a series of twists and turns. The plot slowly develops into an amazingly original story, worthy of a blockbuster film, or a best-selling novel, and the climax is incredibly well-thought-out and masterly creative.
As we all know, the battle system is a very important element in an RPG game, and, while I think it could be better, the system in Skies is easy to learn, and has some very good innovations. Now, there are two different styles of fighting in Skies of Arcadia: the traditional hand-to-hand combat, and ship battles. I'll start by explaining the normal-style battle system.
For random battles, which happen either in dungeons or when exploring the overworld, your party and your enemies appear on the screen, ready to fight. When your turn comes, you input commands for each of your party members. Your options? Well, you can run, which lets you escape from the battle (this doesn't always work, and cannot be chosen for boss battles); you can use an Item; Guard, which decreases damage done by half; Attack; or you can use a ''Super Move,'' which is basically the current character's special offensive or defensive skill, which often contains very cool animation, from flashing lights to earthquakes. Each character has more than one Super Move, but you must use a rare item (called a Moonberry) to learn them. You can also use magic, where your character uses powers brought by one of the six moons, which either regain health, hurt the enemy, or offer a defensive advantage to you. And finally, you can use Focus, which lets you regain Spirit Points, which are the biggest innovation in the battle system. Spirit Points are gained at the beginning of each turn, and by Focusing. These points give you the ability to use magic and super moves. Each spell or move requires a certain amount of SP, and if you don't have enough, you simply cannot use the spell or attack. One other innovation is the use of the elements. During the course of your adventure, you will acquire things called ''moon stones,'' which contain the powers of their respective moons. For instance, using a blue moon stone will give your weapons the power of water, while using a yellow one will harness the ferocity of lightning. This becomes a key element (no pun intended) in your battle strategy, and you'll have to change your weapon's properties a lot. During the course of the battle, your enemies can do everything you can do, and many times they'll get to attack before your party, which you'll grow to hate.
As for the ship battles, it's pretty much the same thing, except 'Super Move' is replaced by 'Special Cannon,' which you can only use at certain points in the battle, and the 'Crew' option is available. If you have a crew, that is. The Crew command lets one of your crew members perform a certain action, and it does consume Spirit Points. There is a big difference in this kind of battle, however. Instead of attacking round-by-round, there is a 3x3 or 4x4 grid that appears on screen, where you have to choose your attacks in advance. Luckily, colored boxes above the grid help you decide a strategy, and determine whether to use a spell (either to heal or damage), attack, guard or focus. These boxes also tell you when you can use your Special Cannon, which is not very often. In addition, sometimes you may have to decide what basic strategy to use, whether it be ''Keep firing!'' or ''Go into defensive mode.'' These are presented through dialogue, and the choice usually affects what the enemy is going to do, not you. These battles are kind of hard to explain, but after your second or third battle you'll have no trouble with them.
When you're not battling, you're exploring, whether it be in the air, in a town, or in a dungeon. When in the air, you fly around in your ship, and look for Discoveries and such. In the towns, you just walk around and explore; that's it. And when in dungeons, you solve puzzles and fight monsters. The world is huge, and is full of so much detail it is amazing. Some pop-up does occur, but it is hardly noticable, and there are realistic fog effects and landscapes.
Skies of Arcadia is, hands-down, one of the most beautiful Dreamcast games to date. The animations in the battles are superb, and I often find myself wasting a lot of Spirit Points just to see some of the awesome effects. The towns are full of life and splendor, not to mention an incredible amount of detail. The characters look very sharp, and the bosses are well-designed. Graphics are an A+ in my opinion.
As for sound, the soundtrack is very well-done, and many of the music tracks are lively and imaginative. They are all fully orchestrated, and put together make one of the best game OSTs ever! Simply amazing. However, voices are limited. Occasionally you may hear something, but mostly it's just short clips and battle cries. I do not like the voice acting. However, for such a big game, it is no wonder that the developers opted for a text dialogue instead of voice acting. The sound effects are excellent, also.
I highly recommend using a VMU for Skies, as there are neat animations on the screen while playing, and a useful mini-game for your enjoyment when you're not playing in 3D on your Dreamcast. Also, if you don't have a Jump Pack, which I don't see why, I would get one. OverWorks did a great job using the Jump Pack to its advantage in Skies of Arcadia. Oh, and be sure to have a lot of free time!
And so, this review is concluded. Overall, I would say this game is perfect. At the risk of sounding biased, I would tell you that this game kicks Final Fantasy's ass, period. But, that may not be true. Ahem. What I'm trying to say, is that this game is a sheer masterpiece, and you'd have to be insane not to want to play it. I suggest you go and buy it now.
Staff review by Zack M (Date unavailable)
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