Arrr, shiver me timbers, and all that stuff since its time for me to review the pirate roleplaying game from the Overworks development team over at Sega. Released on the dreamcast in 2001 it is Skies of Arcadia. With the game being re-released soon for the Playstation 2 and the Gamecube, it seemed only fitting to review this game. So lets get on with it. The Details... Well as said up above its a roleplaying game, which means you get turn based battle, your normal kind of roleplaying game, but with a little difference. Instead of standing in a straight line, the characters move around the battle ground, and so do your enemies. Another innovation into this genre, and the most attractive invention, are the ship battles. Yes, you can take your own pirate ship into the skies and battle against the scourge of the skies. Apart from that though, its your normal RPG with your normal battles and your normal story, but talking about the story, lets get onto it. The Story... So it goes like this, it's an entirely different world you're on, but you're still human, there's no water, barely any land, and the world seemingly has no bottom. This adventure takes place above the clouds in the land called Arcadia (Hence the name, clever eh?). The world is covered in little islands floating in the sky and some rather big ones as well. But it's all like the world we live in, there are the jungles, there are the ice caps, there are the run down cities. You take control of a young pirate named Vyse, who has a patch over his eye (Creative) but this patch serves as a magnifying glass. He's joined with his childhood friend Aika, and they are aboard a pirate ship. They then run into a mysterious woman under the siege of the evil empire (Again, creative). The young girl is saved, then all three of them embark on a mystical quest to find crystals across the world, which control giant ancient monsters called the gigas, which the empire
want to control for themselves. So the rest of the game is a race against time between the three and the empire, with lots of characters being introduced and some plot twists. Now that you know about the game, here comes the criticism. Not enough actually happens. It really is just "Oh no, we have to find the crystals to save the world" and you go to a place, get the crystal, go to another place, get the crystal, etc etc etc. Then the plot twists, aren't they great, by acts of betrayal all the crystals are taken away, and you must get them back. It just reminded me too much of a child's cartoon, rather than a serious RPG. The story is just mediocre. The story though is helped along by the usual RPG script. It's all text based as usual and nothing really special to write home about. Unfortunately though the script is filled with one liners and is buzzing with meaningless optimism. Even if someone dies, they're only unhappy for one line then they've already forgotten about it and ready for the next task. It might be just the translation, but the script is just awful, again, it's like a childrens cartoon, but the game is intended for teenagers. Overall the story and the script don't really impress me, it just seems... weak, especially compared to more meaningful RPGs such as the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series. But on a brighter note, the story does have its highlights towards the end, and the optimism does create some great events. But describing these in detail would unfortunately give away some of the story. The Gameplay... As described earlier this game is the usual RPG. Turn based battles are the only real means of interaction. So yes, it's the same old thing, you run around with your character, exploring the surroundings and looking for those crystals. Really it is just run around, press a button, run around some more. But that's not exactly a bad thing, it never seems to get monotonous, due to
the lack of it when compared to the battles. So let's get onto the battles. First thing that will come into your mind is how different it looks. Your people actually move around, something that hasn't been done in an RPG since Chrono Trigger. It is good idea, really bringing the RPG genre forward, but it just feels like so much could have been done to the system, make it so that you could control where your person goes, instead of it all being random. And unfortunately, it doesn't really make much of a difference that your person runs around, which is disappointing. What will also strike you before the game is done, is how many battles you've actually been through. There are a lot of random battles in this game. When I say random battles for all you non-RPG fans, I mean this: You walk around minding your own business, then the screen goes funny, a funny sound is made and you're instantly transported into a battle, this is a random battle. But when I say there are a lot of random battles in this game, I mean, there are a LOT! of random battles in this game. It certainly does get tedious when you sometimes can't even go 3 footsteps without another random battle breaking out. But it's time to move on. Ship battles, the focus of the game, and which people will tell you is one of the highlights of the game. This is a great feature that's fun to play, works the same as the normal battles, but this time you can make 4 moves at one time, and the four turns play out. It incorporates a lot of strategy, and is always a treat to play. One problem though. The difficulty. You just can't seem to lose a ship battle, regardless of how hard the competition is supposed to be, even in the lowest of ships, you will always win. It is really disappointing that the enemies pose no danger. This leads to another problem though, repetition. Some of the enemies you face in the ship battles have a lot of health points, which will take you an hour to kill. I
t's not fun after that hour, trust me. Through all the faults though, the system tries to be innovative, and succeeds to a certain extent, but it fails at the same time due to careless mistakes in the programming, it is far too easy, and it is far too common, problems that could easily be countered. But it's fun to play, if somewhat tedious at times. The Graphics... This is where the game starts to shine. The graphics are clean, crisp, colourful, detailed, and the 60Hz mode comes as well, meaning the characters move brilliantly. The actual graphical style is hard to explain. The characters are normal size, yet have an anime look to them taken from a children's anime such as Pokemon. Also the faces of the characters are funny, after a line their faces change to meet the mood of the line, with some funny frowning and angry faces from Aika for example. The special effects in the battle are amazing, they're moves which are like the limit breaks in the final fantasy games. When they strike with the move, the entire screen fades out of the battle, and the background becomes just a fantastic light show, be warned though, those with epilepsy should take care into playing the game due to the effects. The ships graphics are also amazing, they just look like toy ships in their style, and come across graphically as clear and bright as the characters. There is one let down on the graphics though, they incorporate a graphics trick where the area around the person is clean and crisp, but the area outside of it is filled with slightly blurred visuals. This is only a little problem though, but if you're playing for a long time, it will just seem like a let down. But overall the graphics are just great, typical dreamcast graphics that rival most playstation 2 games. The Sound... Both good and bad points to come from this. The good part first. The sound effects, there might not be any speech, but the characters do say somethin
g in the form of the occassional sound effect with words such as "Yay", how can you not fall in love with such a cute yay? Also on the special moves and at the end of battles, the character makes a sentence, with such memorable phrases as "Come on, dance for me" and "There is light, there is darkness" all firmly remaining in your mind for weeks after you've finished the game. Now the bad, the music score, just can't help but imagine this sounds familiar. Kind of like Zelda. But it's nothing special, which is a shame, and it certainly doesn't emphasise the environment or the situation, and can get annoying at times. Overall though the sound is of a good quality, and the small bits of speech are fantastic. The Value... The game comes on two discs, and they seem to go pretty quickly, but in reality it's about 30-40 hours of gameplay. This is pretty good value, and certainly beats rental status, but the only problem is, like most RPGs, you won't want to play it after, so if you're like me who plays games religiously first time, you'll be done with it in a week and never touch it again. This is a bad point, definitely, but if you like to enjoy it in moderation, then it will last you a while. There are little extra features though, you can download a new island from the website, but isn't really worth it, and the sub quests in the game are pretty straight forward, but at the end of the day it all depends on how you play them, from my point of view, it doesn't hold good value. The End... Well that wraps it up. The game has nice graphics, nice sound, nice innovative battles, nice length, but is unfortunately let down by a mediocre storyline, shallow characters and too random battles that are far too easy. I would rate this game higher, but the faults are just too big. I really hope they sort out the battle system for the Ps2 and Gamecube versions, since that is what is
really stopping this game from getting anywhere near brilliant. So this game gets a 2 star, since an RPG relies on storyline and battles, but fails to deliver on either.
Pinta Quest is a mini-game for your VMU that you can download from Skies of Arcadia. Upon you VMU, 83 blocks would be taken from the space you already have. The map is of fair size and is bigger than the screen on your VMU. Some of the spaces on the map may contain land, air or land and air. You can choose which part of the map you want to fly above. When you are flying, a series of things could happen: 1) It could show a message that does nothing 2) You could find an item - either A,B or C, where A is the best and C is the worst 3) You could find a ship which can either be a pirate ship or a trading ship 4) You can get headwinds or strong winds where on headwinds you press A and B alternately and on strong winds you have to dodge a load of rocks To beat the pirate ship you have to fire your cannon. When you have beaten the ship, finish the headwinds or dodged the rocks, you gain gold and EXP, uploadable to Skies of Arcadia.
You looking for an RPG? Well firstly get you hands on Shenmue and if that does the trick go out and bu Skie of Arcadia! Unfortunately many people seem nobody seem to think it's that good, but it is definitely a game not to be overlooked. The role you play-a air pirate, and your mission is to rescue and save the "moon crystals"-powerful stones brought into the pirate world! Of course you will have bosses to fight along the way and you will have to gather a team of people together to save the world from domination! I found the story is a little OTT but the graphics and gameplay definitely make up for this. The game follows a "Final Fantasy" theme where you have to fight every 2 minutes but after you get use to the idea you realise that the moreyou fight the better and more powerful you become. A great game that the DC should be pround of, but be warned you need patience!
It takes AAGGGGEEEESSSS To get a decent RPG on a console and it is also true of the Dreamcast as we have ahd to wait a while to play this game one of the best Dreamcast games around. After playing Silver i believed the Dreamcast wouldn't get a decent RPG and although it has been long overdue. and after getting Grandia II we believe wee are getting ready for a smash hit in this but Skies of Arcadia completely destroys Granadia 2, an altogether superior experience; longer, gorgeous graphics, better characterised and more enjoyable than previously thought possible. this rules!!!!!!!! There is a massive and i mean hugggge world to explore and with the game being desperatly hard you will notice weeks and weeks of your life past by until you finally complete the game. Lots of interaction and immersion with mauch inter-play relationships and as it is made by ex- Phantasy Star Online producer and it being female it kind of makes sense The visuals are gorgeous the sands of Maramba is stuff to make Shenmue go green with envy.It is married with amazing artwork and is so detailed you will not believe with detailed and stunning carvings. The fighting system which is either in air or hand to hand is perfect and brilliant. Without it this RPG would fail and it is sooo good and overworks have done it so well that this game doesn't feel clumsy but makes it even better! Both combat systems are turned base, but the one in the air is slightly different giving you the opportunity to plot out three actions along a grid. So you canc hoose if it is bast to defend or attack. So musch more stratagy is required to be used! Huge bosses and a huge array of weapons and spells makes this game immense and indeed one of the greatest Dreamcast games around. Dringo
Sega enter the epic RPG war in style If you're a Spank! regular then you might just have noticed the general dislike of RPG's shown by the team. More often than not anything with a press release announcing a new RPG will be met with groans and moans of derision. "Oh God, another one for the beards and sandals brigade" is the general thing you'll hear Tick, Mork and 8Ace cry out on a Monday morning as we open up the post, only to find eight more games involving orcs, goblins and pixie princesses. Well, I hate to disappoint, so I'm gonna have to say that I have about as much time for your traditional PC Dungeons & Dragons RPG as I have for piles. The good thing about RPGs on console format is that they tend to have nothing to do with D&D, and plenty to do with some truly inspired and gorgeous Japanese game making genius. Basically if it looks anime style I'll give it a go, and the more kooky, wacky and generally Japanese it is, the better. So unlike the rest of the Spank! mob, who dismiss these sort of things out of hand along with the dull PC efforts, I like Grandia, Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star and so on. Right then now that my credentials are sorted, and you lot trust me to be fair on this one, on with the review. Skies Of Arcadia is set in a very different world from usual. Many years ago the moons rained down moon stones on the planet, breaking up the world and making hundreds of floating islands. The sky is in effect a vast ocean, and the only way to traverse these windy seas is by flying boat. With me so far? Good. And, as everyone knows where you get flying boats, you get flying pirates. And where you get flying pirates, you get good flying pirates, who rob from the rich to give to the poor. And where you get good flying pirates, you get an evil empire, intent on enslaving the free world and destroying the good flying pirates. And where you get an evil empire, you obviously get a kidnapped mysterious princess wit
h the secret to a lost civilisation, who desperately needs saving by a dashing young fellow. Which is pretty much where you come in.
Dreamcast is a console lucky enough to be graced by a huge number of Role Playing Games; Phantasy Star, Shenmue to name just a few. However these games are not true RPG's and cannot be compared to the Role palaying game daddies with Final Fantasy. They are excellent in their own right but do not stick to the foundations of RPGs. Shenmue is too realistic and gets monotonous and PSO centres arund the online modes which are not as hardcore as many true RPGS. Skies of Arcadia definately fills that gap. it fits perfectly into the RPG genre. As you travel around the vast and beautifully rendered skies with Vyse and his other pirate friends you engage in many amazing and action packed battles. you also are able to roam the skies exploring the vast word of Arcadia. The game also, unusually makes full use of the VMU with a mini game avaidiable from the end of the first level. With all of these great features, this is a game not to be missed!
Argh, Jim lad! This be a pirate game from Overworks, and I don't mean a copy of Sakura Taisen bought from that dodgy bloke down the market. Ooo argh! For those who don't speak Pirate (or haven't played the Monkey Island games), Skies of Arcadia is a pirate themed RPG developed by Sega group developer Overworks, who also handles Red Companies hugely successful, yet virtually unknown in the west, Sakura Taisen games. Set in a world consisting of islands suspended in the air, Arcadia sees people sailing the skies in flying ships. Divided into seven continents, under seven coloured different moons, the world of Arcadia is frequently showered with Moon Stones, each of which has its own specific properties. These stones are also refined to power the engines of the ships and weapons of the world and used as ammunition. In SoA you play Vyse, a young pirate who upholds the steal from the rich, give to themselves, and use the cash to help those in need. In his travels he meets Fina, a young girl from the mysterious Silver continents on a mission to collect the Moon Crystals, highly potent moon stones which were in the past used to power the Gigas, hugely powerful war machines created to fight a great war centuries earlier. Fearing the Gigas will be reawakened, Vyse - along with his best friend Aika - join Fina and set off to collect them. Of course, they have competition in the form of Valua - the powerful military statue residing under the yellow moon. Valua, of course, wishes to collect the moon crystals for their own purposes. Essentially, the plot to Skies of Arcadia is the same a Gamearts Dreamcast effort Grandia 2 - just replace Gigas and Moon Crystals with parts of Valmar. In execution, Skies of Arcadia comes out the clear victor in terms of story telling. The twistier and slightly more meandering of the game gives it more time to develop characters, and the villains do a better job of being, well, villainous. Whilst essentially
predictable in its overall nature, the amateur dramatics of SoA prove fairly charming and quite gripping. Characterization is fairly typical of this type of game, but is generally well done. The characters are the normal RPG stereotypes – a gallant, persistant here, a mysterious girl, the lovable womaniser and the dopey, bungling villians are all present and accounted for. Interestingly, there is also a character modeled after Moby Dicks Captain Ahab, a sailor whose sole purpose is life is to hut down and kill a gigantic whale. Character design is generally solid, with some fairly distinctive costume design. Good character work is backed up with a more anime-esque look to the characters than is evident in most 3D role playing games, some of Aika’s facial expressions proving to be particularly amusing. A solid, if unremarkable, translated script does a good job putting forward intent. Game play wise, Skies has some interesting dungeon designs proving a good mixture between the straight forward and the puzzle led stages. Combat, however, is rather mediocre. Arcadia uses the same random encounter style system as the Final Fantasy series, only encounters are frustratingly about twice as common (often more, depending on location). Combat itself is a traditional, sub-FF turn based affair. Choose your moves in advance and watch your party execute them. Repeat until either dead or victorious. Spicing this up is the usual selection of magic spells, and individual 'special techniques' for each character. Special and Magic attacks can only be executed if the party-wide 'spirit' gauge is high enough to support it. The spirit gauge increases at the end of every combat round, as well as when a character uses the 'focus' move. Combat against all but the bosses tends to consist of using a multiple-target attack in the second combat round once you have enough spirit points. Not good. Slightly more entertaining is the sh
ip battles which take place. You are given a grid showing the next eight rounds of combat. Each column represents a round, and in the top of the column is a colour or logo representing the inherent danger or advantage of attacking or defending in that round. For example, a red column is dangerous for you to remain undefended. For each round you determine the action to be taken for the first four columns of the grid (one for each character). An action can be firing your cannon, using an item, casting magic or Focusing. All actions in ship battles consume spirit points. Because of this ship battles later on into the game tend to revolve around focusing a lot and concentrating as much firepower as possible into one round. A little dull to be honest. In addition to the normal RPG town-trawling and shopping, Arcadia has a few nice diversions. Scattered across the world map are various hidden 'discoveries', sites of special interest. Finding these locations, signified by the compass rotating quickly, allows you to sell the information about them at the sailors guild. Finding discoveries is a pretty entertaining diversion. Later on into the game, you get the opportunity to recruit your own crew to man your ship (and base). Whilst the base building elements are sadly underdeveloped, finding all 30-ish possible crew members is diverting, if not as much as finding Suikodens 108. It also has a diverting VMU game called Pinta's Quest, which basically involves a set of mini-games which will see you gaining items and cash for use in the main game. Five minutes spent playing Pinta here and there will vastly improve your chances of making it through the game quickly. Visually Arcadia is a mixed bag. Ship battles, whilst minimalist, tend to look great. Many of the towns and dungeons, however, look like high-resolution n64 games rather than Dreamcast titles. That's not to say all of them do, but that only makes it all the more disappointing
. The animated cut-scenes - all rendered by the game engine - look great, but the characters movement proves to be stiff, especially in comparison to the Final Fantasy games. Normal combat reiterates the stiffness, with none of the dynamic camera swinging of Grandia 2 and rather rigid turns for character movement. Special moves - abundant with anime speed lines and fast cuts - look nicer and mercifully can be skipped once they become dull. Magic attacks, however, all look pretty much identical are prove dull. Opponents special moves are annoyingly unskippable, and often prove a little too long. Musically, the game is pretty good, if nothing special. Overall, this review is probably sounding a little negative. The game is well above average, being in a similar quality bracket to Final Fantasy 9 and Grandia 2, but not up there with likes of the original Grandia or Xenogears. Truth be told, I found this game much more entertaining than Squares latest FF installment. For all its flaws, Arcadia does a lot right. The story, whilst atypical, is executed well enough to be gripping and entertaining, cut sequences tend to look great and serve their purpose well, and the music fits the game as well as you could hope for. If only they had tightened the combat up the game would have been a classic.
Feel like Dreamcast has been left out of the quality RPG department? Well yo ho ho, you're in for a treat, matey. Have a few dozen hours to kill? Ever wanted to take a schooner into the sky? Looking for a way to further alienate yourself from the outside world? Fortunately for you, the great minds at Sega have heard your pleas (or cries for help), distilled some pure RPG goodness and bundled it all into a neat little package. Skies of Arcadia is one of those rare games that not only sucks you in, but pins you down and gives you noogies as time passes unmercifully. The usual "OK, one more level" rationalization used while playing action games until 3 a.m. morphs into a somewhat more dangerous "OK, one more gorgeous, beautifully designed dungeon." Suddenly it's four or five in the morning, your living room floor is littered with, ummm, "soda" bottles, your hands are cramping in the best possible way, and you still can't figure out why you're having so much fun. More than likely, it's because Skies manages to simultaneously evoke the glory days of old-school console RPGs while tweaking the formula just enough to keep it all from seeming stale. And, let's face it, there is a pretty rigid formula that RPGs somehow feel obligated to stick to. Convention dictates that your party has to have at least two of the following members: The impulse-driven young man (check); the beautiful, but headstrong woman (check); the gruff curmudgeon with a heart of gold (check) and the character with a mysterious quest of her own (check). You also need to have an overwrought story with a short-sighted civilization intent on awakening an ancient power that just so happens to have destroyed the last bunch of goons who tried the same exact thing. It's up to the player to intervene and prevent the forces of evil from acquiring the necessary jewels/stones/crystals used to get their wicked groove on. And Romeo a
nd Juliet is a story about a boy and girl who die. This is such a solid chunk of entertainment it's hard to even know where to start singing its praises. If you have even a fleeting interest in RPGs or like to explore, you need to buy this game. If you felt like Shenmue's characters were flat and undeveloped, this game will ease your pain. If you wasted your money on any of the first batch of Dreamcast RPGs, I'm sorry. Now get this freakin' game already! Console RPGs are a pretty risky investment. When a player is expected to follow characters through an extended story line, these elements had better be crafted well enough to make it all seem worthwhile. Otherwise, it's like an uninitiated viewer watching a soap opera - people you don't know doing a bunch of stuff you don't care about. A good RPG will keep you itching for more. More weapons. New people in your party. Flashier spells. You may even be compelled to (ugh) draw a map, which is quite possibly the worst thing a game can ask of someone. A great RPG will become a nearly unhealthy obsession. Must... get most powerful weapons. Can't... sleep until I finish off this boss. Why... do my eyelids no longer work? Worst of all, after beating it you may be compelled to start the whole damned thing over from scratch. Just in case you missed something. Skies parts company from the rest of the pack by combining the swashbuckling romance of the high-seas with elements of magic and technology. It's such a great idea that it's hard to believe that it hasn't been done a million times before. Let those other guys wallow around with medieval weaponry in the future. Sky piracy is the sport of the future. The premise is that Vyse, our young hero, is a member of the Blue Rogues. Imagine Errol Flynn in Robin Hood and mix in Errol Flynn circa Captain Blood. Or let's just say that they're pirates, but in a good way. They fly around in their winge
d ships (yup) and steal from the rich and help out those in need. Vyse is joined by Aika, his best friend. Without spoiling the story, let's just say that Vyse and his band or merry men (and women) get into trouble with some powerful people, and it's up to him to save to day. Sound like every other epic adventure you've played? Wrong. Sure, there are a lot of similarities between it and other well-known RPGs (*cough* Final Fantasy), like the interactions with people in towns and the turn-based combat, but the differences are notable. Combat, for instance, may seem like deja vu at first, but after a few fights its differences from other games become clear. You have the usual options when meeting an enemy, including running, blocking, attacking or using magic or items. The interesting part comes with S-Moves. During battle, an S-Meter appears at the top of the screen. Using magic consumes magic points as well as SPs or Spirit Points. Players have the option of focusing for a round, which fills the S-Meter up a little bit. After enough points have built up, players can use their S-Moves. S-Moves are both offensive, like the majority of Vyse's sword-based attacks, or defensive, like Fina's mass blessings. S-Moves can be gained by saving and consuming moonberries (there's a lot of moon talk in the game, get used to it), which are dropped by certain enemies or found in chests. Since there aren't usually enough moonberries to go around, players are forced to decide whether to build certain characters up or spread the wealth evenly. Another cool twist is the ability to change weapon types in order to increase damage and build up spell libraries. There are six different colors that weapons can be, representing the various types of Moon Stones. Red is fire, green are healing spells, purple are ice, etc. During battle, the colors of weapons can be switched, which increases the amount of points that color group
will get after a successful encounter. After a certain number of points are acquired, new and more-powerful spells are learned. Magic is impressive, but not to the point where each spell takes minutes to display. The usual repertoire of fire and ice spells are present, as well as the ever-popular heal and revive incantations. Enemy encounters are random and there isn't usually any warning, other than the Dreamcast's see-sawing sounds. Battles take place on foot, on the decks of ships, and between ships themselves. Ship battles are dramatic and drawn out, and it's almost a relief that they don't happen more frequently. The battle system with ship battles is somewhat different, with players plotting their moves on the Battle Grid, then watching the fights unfold. These altercations involve lots of swooping camera angles and massive amounts of damage, and can easily exceed 10 minutes in length. The Battle Grid is poorly explained, though it is easy to figure out after getting smeared a few times. Exploration is done by controlling Vyse or a ship through the world. The map is massive, and most of the towns require a significant amount of time to fully explore. It's all so much fun that flying halfway across the world for the next plot point is actually fun, instead of something to dread. As Vyse's knowledge of the world expands, so does his reputation. Feats of heroism will advance Vyse's stature in the world, while acting with cowardice will make his journey more difficult. Eventually, players will get their own ship and the ability to outfit a private hideout with special buildings and a crew. That's another place where Skies stands out: There's so much to do! There's a sailor's guild in each town that buys and sells information about landmarks. When players fly around, they'll occasionally notice unusual-looking sights. Keeping track of these finds becomes a mini-game of its own, giv
e the more-obsessive players one other thing to worry about. Yes, there's also a VMU game, where players can collect extra items. And Cupil, a strange little beast that must be fed Chams, which are hidden in levels. These can be found in towns and dungeons, and Cupil will start beeping wildly to alert players of their existence. All of these things are optional. Giving players the freedom and incentive to explore is something that not enough games do. While Skies is fairly linear, the numerous sidequests and detours make the experience something to savor. The dialogue is also a high point. Skies is funny. There are parts where you will probably laugh out loud. It's funny in a natural way, and the humor comes from great characterization rather than poorly translated text or fart jokes. Characters establish themselves early on, and everything they do is believable (if you believe in flying ships) and an extension of their personalities. Sega decided to go with a mix of text and voice acting, which works surprisingly well. Personally, I prefer text in RPGs. You aren't stuck with bad actors (only bad writing, usually) and you can zip through dialogue as quickly as you can read. The bulk of Skies' dialogue is written, but there are lots of little sound cues mixed in. For instance, a character might be see something amazing and while the text "Wow, this is really something else," pops up, you hear that character say "Wow!" It seems silly and gimmicky at first, but these little aural interludes happen just when they're needed, and add to a great narrative. The facial expressions and actions convey feeling well, and there aren't as many wild limb flailings as in other games. The designers give players the benefit of the doubt that they can figure out what's going on without having to turn characters into overacting caricatures. The writing is also sharp and witty, and there aren't a
ny glaring typos. Music is well-scored, and manages to convey emotion without being overly sentimental. The battle songs will make you want to rush off to the nearest Air Pirates recruiting office and enlist. There are also the standard chirping birds and barking dogs in the towns (when there are birds to chirp and dogs to bark), and the background sounds do an excellent job of maintaining the proper mood. The designers and developers loved this project, and it shows. Though the in-game camera (which is wonderfully unobtrusive, by the way) usually trails a few virtual yards behind, players can switch to a first-person perspective on the fly to get a better look at things. More often than not, this is just a great way to soak in all of the incredible sights. One dungeon is flooded and the moonstone (see jewels/stones/crystals) lies at the bottom. Vyse (he of the magnifying-glass "eyepatch" and gartered sleeves) finds doors that he can open to let the water escape. In most games, Vyse would find the door, drain the water, and be on his merry way. Not so with Skies. You can just barge on in, but if players look at the doors closely, they'll see tiny rivulets of water sneaking beneath the cracks. That's one of Skies' greatest points: There are hundreds upon hundreds of tiny little details like that. When ships are guided into Pirate's Island, a little guy stands near the entrance waving signal flags. When there aren't any ships around, he yawns and uses the flags to scratch his back. It's easy to take the graphic splendor for granted. Everything looks exactly as it should, so you hardly even notice how great it all is. You can almost feel the humidity in the forest levels, and the jungle actually looks like one, with its clearly defined trees, leaves and vines. The Egyptian-inspired temple actually feels as massive as it should, and the great lighting effects enhance the experience. And what an e
xperience it is. In conclusion- GO GET THIS GAME!
With the promise of a fantastic role-playing adventure, a huge game world and all of the brilliance you come to expect from Sega’s camp of developers, welcome Skies of Arcadia. This time it’s Overworks turn to treat Dreamcast owners to yet another AAA title. The game hasn’t arrived with quite the same bang as say, MSR or Shenmue, but it deserves as much, if not more attention than both. It looks set to follow the footsteps of Grandia 2, which also didn’t get the reception it deserved. This is a huge shame, the game is amazing, yes it maintains traditional RPG elements and requires patience and persistence, but the rewards are worth every hour you put into the game. Skies of Arcadia is, at heart, a traditional turn-based RPG, similar to the Final Fantasy series or Grandia if you like. At it's most basic, Skies of Arcadia involves you controlling your party of between 2 and 4 characters, exploring a vast game world and endulging in turn-based battles. I wont give away much of the story, but I will say while it’s not the most original, it’s told so well that you’ll be playing well into the night. This is mainly due to the characters and how they progress through the story. As Vyse, the main character and hero of the game, you begin working on your dad’s ship and are destined to leave your home island and eventually captain your own. Then there is Aika, your plucky young female companion, Fina, whom you rescue near the beginning and other characters that join and leave your party throughout the game. Because of the relationships between the characters and because each have their own individual quests and triumphs, it adds so much to the depth of the game and you will feel strongly about some characters and despise others. It’s this closeness you feel to each character that adds much to the emotional impact of the game and is why the story will grab you and refuse to let you go. The game prom
ises between 50-100 hours of exploring, talking, battling, buying, selling, discovering and best of all, flying, and I can safely say after finishing in just under 60 hours, Overworks have delivered an absolute monster of a game. I’ve yet to see all that there is to see and have many undiscovered, err, discoveries still to find. The battle system is one which has been met with some criticism, and after the joy that was Grandia 2’s time-based system, it is fair to say that it is a little disappointing. But it is by no means poor. You’ll come across random battles every 20-30 seconds, you’ll learn to live with it, and because of the tactical element of the battles, they are not just an obstruction. Each battle ends with the distribution of experience points (EXP) and magic points which build up your characters abilities. So it keeps with RPG traditions, but building up your characters is fun, learning new moves and magic spells is rewarding and overall there is a definite incentive to head into battle. Of course, you can run if you want. . . The games world is amazing, after the opening hour or so, you’ll begin to realise the sheer scale of Arcadia, and the game itself. The world of Arcadia is host to several continents of floating islands, there is Valua, the evil empire that are looking to control the world, Nasr, the desert based civilisation that appear to be in direct competition with Valua, the Ixi-Takan’s, a peaceful tribe that inhabit the grassy area of the south-west, and others that are discovered as you progress through the game. All the civilisations have their own distinct look, building architecture, weapons, armour and items. Exploring the huge game world can sometimes seem like a difficult task, which is often the case, but this makes it all the more rewarding when you uncover a new discovery or island that will guide you on your quest. Skies of Arcadia excels in the visuals department, wi
th everything maintaining a colourful, chunky look. The cartoony characters fit effortlessly into the vibrant backdrops, and everything from the special moves, magic spells, cut scenes and islands all look amazing. Sailing over some of the continents is a delight and once you land on an island, you'll be even more amazed. The scale of the islands is incredible, even your home town Pirate Isle initially seems huge until you sample the delights of Ixi-Taka and Nasrad. Best Bit - Ship Battles Something that I haven't mentioned yet is this stroke of genius as a slight variation from ordinary battling. As the game takes place in the skies, the obvious choice of transport for the inhabitants of Arcadia is floating ships, the early stages of the game involve you scrounging lifts off various ships until eventually, you get to captain your own. These ships are upgradable with new canons, torpedos, armour and items, but not for the sake of it. Regularly throughout the game, you are faced with a ship battle against enemy ships, ranging from basic troublemaking pirates to Valuan Armadas and Gigas (I wont spoil it for you). In a similar way to ordinary battling, each crew member selects his/her move before the 'round' and then the battle is set into motion. Attack is your main command, where you have a choice of 5 weopons (canons, torpedos etc) depending on how you upgraded your ship. There are also options to repair your ship, cast magic spells, evade enemy attacks and focus (this allows you to regain spirit points and perform more moves in the next turn). Because of the pre-planning involved, tactics are very important, you need to keep your ship's HP up, and guard enemy special attacks otherwise it's game over. The 'chance' bar helps determine when your attacks will be more effective and when enemy attacks are most destructive. This is certainly a fantastic idea, and one that is put to great effect, Overworks should be commended!
I find it hard to fault the game other than it's occasionly annoying random battles and sometimes baffling scale, and this is why it deserves any Dreamcast owners attention. It's the most fun and rewarding solo experience i've had on a console and I recommend it to anyone. If you never play this game you're missing out!
When the Dreamcast first arrived, people complained that there weren't any good RPGs. They kept on complaining until games such as PSO and Grandia II came out. Now the console is getting the games it deserves and the next fantastic title to soar across the DC skyline is Skies of Arcadia. The game starts with a dramatic attack on the evil empire, who have just kidnapped a strange girl (Fina) in their giant metal sky ship. Sounds familiar? Well it reminded me of the first few minutes of Star Wars and has that same epic feel to it. Pretty soon you'll find yourself, as sky pirates Vyse and Aika, attacking the imperial guards and making your way into the heart of their metal sky ship to confront the prince and rescue the girl. Your father, the captian of the pirate ship, helps you get aboard and after a short while you will be wondering around challenging all-comers to a battle. From this point on you can get used to the control system of both the players and the pirate ship as you sail a course for home and fight monsters that attack you on the way. Soon enough you'll find your way to the lovely Pirate Island and your mother, who welcomes you home with open arms. Of course, things don't go as planned and the Empire soon catches up with your friends and family on the island, as you return home from a mission to rescue a piece of moonrock, you find the place burnt down and your father missing. It's your job to rescue Fina and your father from the evil empire and find your fortune as a pirate on the high skies. The game plays magnificently, combat being similar to the Final Fantasy games, with magic and special attacks producing some wonderful graphical displays. Wondering around is straightforward and the clear graphics make finding things a doddle. Puzzles start of easy too, letting you slowly get into the game, then increase in difficulty at a nice steady pace. The whole game just oozes quality and you'll find yourself
immersed in the characters and storyline straight away, wanting to find out more and more as you progress through the game. The ships, which can be bought and customised, are your main form of transport in the game, letting you travel great distances and combat your foes in the air. The only problem you may find is that air travel can become repetative, especially if you haven't planned your journey well and get lost. Fighting lots and lots of monsters can get on your nerves after a while, but it's good practice and you often get new spells to learn or special moves from it. Travel to many lands and meet people who can help you out, while increasing your pirate status to Swashbuckler through a series of decisions. There are huge monsters to fight and lots of friends to meet and the whole scale of the game is just overwhelming at times. This is one truly epic game and will have you up to the small hours just finding out what happens next. There are some neat ideas and the whole game just oozes quality. Fantastic stuff.