Whenever someone mentions the now deceased Dreamcast, fans of the console will think of their favorite game on the system. For some people, it’s Shenmue. For others, Jet Grind Radio. For me, and a whole lot of other people, it’s Skies of Arcadia. While not completely original, it was very unique in quite a few aspects. The battle system was unique in that you could change the elemental attribute of your weapons. When not in a town, dungeon or fighting, you were in an airship. And add in the battles you fight against other ships, and you have a nice, well-rounded RPG. Plus, well, it was just damn fun.
When Sega announced they were porting the game to the Gamecube, fans of the original rejoiced. When they announced that they would be adding new features to the game, including a new playable character and new discoveries, fans cried out in joy, thanking the heavens that their prayers had been answered. Well, maybe not, but let’s pretend they did. I’ll go over all aspects of the game, including what has stayed the same from the original (for the newcomers) and what has been added and subtracted (for the players of the original). Let’s examine all this in more detail, shall we?
In Skies of Arcadia, you play the role of Vyse, a Blue Rogue, or good air pirate (not to be confused with Black Rogue, or a bad air pirate). While helping his father (the captain of the Albatross and leader of this particular squad of Blue Rogues) capture an airship of the evil Valuan Empire, Vyse and his perky best friend Aika help rescue a strange girl named Fina, who hails from a very foreign land. This leads them on all sorts of adventures, meeting new friends and making new enemies. Will Vyse be able to fulfill his dreams of sailing around the world and experience untold adventure? Well, you have to play the game to find out.
The story itself is interesting, and has twists and turns, but for the most part is standard RPG fare. In a twist of fate, you find out about an evil plot to restore ancient weapons and use them to cause lots of boom-boom, so you go to stop them. Nothing too complex or unique, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Since the world you play in basically has no ground, the entire world map is navigated using an airship of some sort. You fight random battles on the deck of your ship as you traverse the skies. (Note: One of the changes in the Gamecube version is they decreased the amount of random battles you are in, but they didn’t increase it much.) Occasionally, you will run into battles where you actually fight against another ship. Ship battles are more tactical based than standard RPG battles, and it’s a lot of the allure to this game for me. So likewise, you can upgrade the weapons and attributes of your ship as you go along.
The battles where you fight as humans is standard turn based battles. The unique thing is the ability to change your elemental attribute of your weapons. Different elements effect enemies differently, as it is with many RPGs. Whichever element you use during battle gives you magic points in that element, and after enough magic points, you learn a new spell. There are 6 elements total, and everyone can learn all the different spells, but it’s easier to level up some people than others. In addition, every character has Special Moves that do different things, like attack all the enemies or cure all the status ailments on your party. To get new special moves, you have to collect Moonberries, which enemies will drop occasionally.
A new addition to the game is Moonfish. Early on, you meet a doctor and his daughter, who have a bird that needs to eat moonfish to grow. Every moonfish you feed him makes him grow, and causes him to spit out an item for you. To find moonfish, you get a moon lens, which notifies you of when a moonfish is near, and you have to go to first person mode to find it.
Another nice part about the original was the ability to find discoveries placed about on the world map. Finding discoveries and selling information about as soon as you can is a nice way to make money. New discoveries have been added to the new version. Another new addition is the Wanted List. As you go to the Guilds to sell discovery information, you can find pirates that are wanted, and if you find them and defeat them, you can get a bounty for them.
The last thing I’ll talk about here is the new characters. The main one is Piastol, the “Angel of Death” who challenges you to battles and will, at some point, join your party. There are also evil versions of the three main characters who want to start trouble. And with additions comes a subtraction. There is no Pinta’s Quest in this version. While they could have done some sort of GBA Connectivity, I guess they figured it wasn’t worth it.
So to sum it up, Skies of Arcadia Legends plays like standard RPGs, but at the same time is completely different. I mean, whenever I play a game like Final Fantasy, one of the biggest things in the game is when you get an airship of some sort. Well, in this game, you get it right off the bat! Cool, huh?
While the graphics were decent when the game originally came out on the Dreamcast, they are really lacking compared to the games that have been coming out recently. Since this is a direct port, I think there should be an exception made here. Plus, the graphics aren’t really that bad. There is quite a few different colors used, and nothing clashes. The different weapons you get are pretty cool looking.
Despite that, in some places, the graphics really show their age. Some of the shop keepers look very poorly created, almost as if they put some boxes together to make the body. The faces look pretty flat at times, but the expressions change at least, so it’s not so bad. So the graphics could have used a lot of work, but like I said, there should be an exception made since it’s a direct port. The graphics don’t look worse than on the Dreamcast version, but they don’t look much better either.
The music in this game is nice, but not outstanding. It’s pretty standard for RPGs. No particular music stands out above the rest. One nice thing though is that in boss battles, when the tide starts to turn one way or the other, the music seamlessly changes depending on what happens. For example, if you damage the boss enough that he has less than half of his life remaining, the music changes to a more upbeat, confident tone. But when one of your characters dies, the music becomes a more dark and depressing melody. It’s a nice touch that adds to the battles. One thing to note is that the music sounds a little different on the Gamecube version. Not too different, but it’s noticable. It’s just the difference between the sound hardware of the systems.
There is a small amount of voice acting in the game. When you do a special move or at the end of the battle, the characters say something. But for the most part, there is very little voice acting in the game. It’s typically just during the standard text dialogue that someone chuckles or says something. As for the quality, some of the voices are good, but some are just silly. In particular is the Admiral Alfonso. He says one phrase several times in the game that is very laughable. I don’t know why “Dispose of them!” is amusing, but I think it’s just the voice that was used. I think it was deliberate. Well, I hope it was, anyway.
This is just a damn fun game. There is no other way to put it. All of the different parts of the game are just fun, fun fun. As I said before, the ship battles are very enjoyable because they are so different than anything else I’ve played before, and all the side quests and discoveries and everything make this game worth playing.
Regarding replayability, there isn’t a whole lot in the traditional aspect. If you play through once, and get everything, then that’s it. No multiple endings, no differing plot lines. But the game is fun enough to be able to play it again after 3 or 6 months and enjoy it like it was your first time.
Fun Factor: 10
Overall Value: 10
Short Attention Span Summary
Innovative, yet familiar gameplay make this game stand out above so many other games, and made it one of the most popular games on the Dreamcast. If you liked the original version of Skies of Arcadia, you will like this one too. If you’ve never played it, but like RPGs, you will fall in love with the rest of us. If you like games in general, give it a rent, and you’ll see what’s so great about it. The game isn’t perfect, but they’re saving that for the sequel.