Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia, originally for Dreamcast, is also available as a port for the Game Cube called Skies of Arcadia: Legends. I played Legends, but from what Ive been told, theyve changed very little, so this potentially doubles as a review for the original as well.
The game basically expands on tried and true aspects associated with nearly all fantasy RPGs: the airship, and floating islands. It has a new look and feel that I have yet to see duplicated, and doubt I will for awhile (excluding sequels).
The hero of the story is Vyse, a young Blue Rouge pirate out to etch his name into the history books. His energetic childhood friend Aika and a mysterious young woman named Fina are co-heroines. You meet a few other characters later in the game that join your party, but for the most part, the story focuses on these three.
Arcadia is a world of floating islands and boundless skies. Ships, powered by powerful fragments of any one of the six colored moons that orbit the planet, sail through these skies. The stones also add elemental properties to weapons, and allow users to learn spells of the element the stones color corrisponds with.
Among the sailors, there are two kinds of pirates. The Blue Rouges are pirates who only attack armed ships, especially warships of the tyrannical empire of Valua, and are known for helping ships in dire need, including fighting off the Black Pirates, vicious, greedy villains who ruthlessly attack unarmed merchant ships.
Much of Arcadia remains unexplored, including the surface of the world, known as "Deep Sky."
The battle system has a few innovative features. One that really stuck out for me was the ability to charge your weapons with the elemental moonstones, and the ability to change the element at will during battle. This held a lot of potential for strategy based battles, but falls through since elements tend to play a small part in damage determination. Another break from traditional battle systems is a shared SP meter. Each character charges the meter at the beginning of their turn, and they can sacrifice their attack to charge it even more. Once the proper amount of SP is gathered, you can cast spells (Which use one MP for every spell, regardless of potency. Stronger spells need more SP, however.) or use super moves (whichch deplete the meter quickly). However, since the characters are horribly unbalanced, I found myself having a few characters constantly charging so the strong characters (usually Vyse) could use their attacks more often.
The most innovative battle feature would have to be the ship battles. By making different choices between turns, you can maneuver your ship into advantageous positions and unleash more powerful attacks. However, the wrong decision usually results in a bad position, and extra firepower for the enemy. There was quite a bit of variety involved in ship battles, but once you get better equipment, you find yourself nearly invincible, regardless of your position.
And now, the most important part; scores:
Gameplay: 5.4, loses major points for monotony and a lack of challenge. I think myself to be really good at RPGs, and this was simply too easy. The ship battles had a lot of potential, but fell through because your ship was simply superior. There was also little variety in the normal battles. It was always the usual hacking on random monsters, and charging your spirit for Pirates Wrath or Hand of Fate against bosses. I literally fell asleep during one dungeon.
Story: 9.4, this is where the game really shines. A unique story that leaves a lot of room for expansion, but still covers everything directly relating to the game. I left this game satisfied that the story didnt have any plotholes, but open enough for sequels.
Controls: 9.3, very easy to handle. There was nothing really hard to figure out. I really didnt see a need for an instruction booklet, to be honest.
Graphics: 6.0, its a Dreamcast port, and in both sound and visual graphics, it definitely shows. Still, not terrible.
Replay value: 3.1, virtually non-existent. The only reason I can think of to re-play it would be to obtain the ultimate Swashbuckler rating or to complete the discovery quests. Good game, but not really worth a replay if you ask me.
Music: 6.5, nothing epic, but it wasnt grating. A whole lot more could have been done, but the same tracks tended to be used over and over again.
Pros: Unique plot and fairly well-developed characters. The game easily flows from one scene to the next. It also give a true sense of exploration; it feels like youre really exploring uncharted territory, something I have yet to get from another game.
Cons: IT WAS TOO EASY! A lack of challenge, for me at least, can really break a game, and the lack thereof here came really close. Also, the partial voicing was more annoying than anything else. They should have gone all out, removed them completely, or just have had voicing in battles.
Overall: 6.9, I definitely recommend giving this a play though, but whether or not it will hold your interest all the way is uncertain. It still belongs on ever die-hard RPG fans shelf, in my opinion.
Skies of Arcadia Reviews
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