With the high profile Grandia 2 and Final Fantasy IX recently released, and the heavilty anticipated Phantasy Star Online on the horizon, any sleeper RPG or lackluster type can easily become lost in the mix. Fortunately, Skies of Arcadia doesn't fall into the trap of offering mediocrity and rises above its peers. Featuring all of the basic elements necessary to form a entertaining RPG, Skies of Arcadia from start to finish succeeds in delivering a captivating experience like no other.
Skies of Arcadia's story follows the standard RPG spectrum of protagonist vs. antagonist, along with the premise of saving the world from imminent doom. One of the games strongest points though is how it never takes itself seriously, which is a big bonus as it makes even boring parts at least a little entertaining. Always trying to stay light-hearted, Skies of Arcadia even manages to induce a periodic nuance of amusement. While the story is mainly a plain vanilla affair, it does have its moments and plot twists, however it still is chiefly just a point A to point B deal.
Fortunately, point A and point B happen to be some of the nicest looking environments and towns I've ever seen. While technically average for a Dreamcast game, artistically they look fantastic, and sport some very impressive texturing. The same can be said about the games cast, a group of typical anime designs that fit great with their surroundings. From jungles to ancient temples, each map is distinct and unique, which makes the long trips across the sea of air worth it. Skies of Arcadia takes place in a world where people live on island, floats through the air and use masterfully engineered sky-ships to travel from place to place. Players will take on the role of Vyse, a young boy born to the Dyne Family of the Noble Blue Rogues (think of the theme behind Robin Hood). Vyse's adversary, Garusian of the Valua Empire
who targets other sky-bound ships and floating island cities. Naturally, as the hero of the story (lucky you)...the Valuan Empire seeks to destroy the entire world, and as Vyse, it's up to you to thrwart their plans.
The most unsatisfying aspect for such extended trips are the battles. Random encounters with enemies will ensue even while your airborne and happen way too often; (how these monsters ascend to the air in the first place is beyond me). While Overworks tries adding in a few new wrinkles to the standard battle formula, in the end they still appear too often and the encounters are rather long. Spells are gained by fighting using the different elements in battle. So for instance if you want to learn fire-based spells, fight using the red crystal attached to your weapons. A noteworthy aspect is the elemental system in which at any time during enemy encounters, you possess the ability to alter the setup of your elemental attributes and presently equipped weapons. It's highly recommended that you use this feature to your advantage as it will make battles less of an aggrvation. Just don't be like me, by being unaware of how to interpret monsters classes until 10 hours have passed into the game.
Skies of Arcadia also features another battle engine for ship to ship combat. I found this engine to be very distinct from the typical combat format, adding a significant degree of strategy to the entire RPG experience. In essence, the battle system functions on a turn-based format in which both you and the CPU will alternate in commands and actions in order to win the battle. After getting smacked down a few times, you'll thankfully begin to learn the strategies and nuances of the battles, and in turn, become easier to win. What's more, SoA also allows features a exceptional customization system in order to outfit your vessel with a various firepower and defensive resources. Initially you'll probably (much like myself), opt for a full battery of the biggest guns you can obtain. However, in time, you will discover after a few battles that balance is key.
Skies of Arcadia features an assorted collection of musical themes that while not being overly to leave one awestruck, are always appropriate to the settings and action that ensues. Despite the game spanning two GD-ROMS, very little speech is present, with the exception of a few brief, albeit oft-expressed phrases. Overall, the dialogue is driven by the traditional text message system.
In the end, the sum of Skies of Arcadia's succeeds as being a grand RPG, but certainly not perfect. Graphic, character depth, and the battle system warrant as being a great package for newcomers and hardcore RPG fans alike, a great testimony to demonstrate Sega's future of will be teeming with RPG excellence. Players seeking a new RPG should opt to check into thit title as its quality and uniquness is quite refreshing amongst the lot of lackluster RPGs to play this game, as its basic nature is refreshing these days.
· · · piku