RPG Review #90: Skies of Arcadia

NuMetalManiak
Two terms don't often come together, and those two terms are RPG and Sega. Well, we do have some franchises, like Langrisser, Shining, and Phantasy Star. What else? How about Skies of Arcadia! This is my first, and possibly only, Dreamcast RPG I've played, and it was enjoyable. The game was developed by Overworks, and was eventually remade into Skies of Arcadia: Legends for the Gamecube. I of course played only the Dreamcast version. And if there's anything more to say, it's that Skies of Arcadia is one of, if not the greatest, Dreamcast games of all time.

Gameplay: With the setting and premise being around Air Pirates, Skies of Arcadia follows a different form of navigation instead of your typical RPG. With airships being used, these are what you will be using to fly from place to place. The whole world is pretty nicely done in 3D, with discoveries, sky rifts, towns, dungeons, etc. being a focal point. So it even qualifies as exploration. Later on, the ability to fly above and below the clouds and avoid random encounters is also quite cool. Apart from that, navigation is fairly normal in towns and dungeons, and you get maps to help. The on-foot navigation is actually quite similar to Suikoden 3's navigation.

There's two types of battle systems. The first on-foot one happens with smaller encounters, which is most of the time. It's turn-based, and while I've been rather biased against turn-based games for a while now, this one stays quite fresh. Standard leveling up, standard status effects, special moves and magic, wait, why am I talking about mundane stuff? Look at the top for the spirit bar. It's somewhat akin to Legend of Legaia's spirit gauge, but it's shared for all characters in battle. Both magic and special moves use points from this bar. Special moves don't cost anything else and can be reused, but they have to be learned with the Moonberry item. Magic has a small magic system where each spell costs exactly 1 point and a number of spirit points, and there's separate magic experience, that's always fun.

The second battle system? It's a ship-based battle system, and it's pretty hard. Assigning roles to the characters via guarding during danger moments and attacking during critical moments is something the game teaches, but even then, these battles offer a TON of strategy to complete. And they last long too. A key thing to note is that items in both battle systems don't use up spirit, which can be key since many useful items are cheap. Oh yes, and when your main character gets his own ship, there are crew recruitments to find. It's a bit like Suikoden in that regard. There's plenty of sidequests too, like finding all crew members and discoveries, as well as Cham hunting. The Legends release adds quite a few more sidequests to the table, which I of course didn't get to, but what I experienced was fancy. Grade: A-

Characters:
Vyse: The lovable son of a Blue Rogue captain, Vyse is our Air Pirate hero, and the Blue Rogues are the Robin Hood-style pirates that are the good guys. Always determined, fights with two cutlasses, standard hero statistics apply.
Aika: The twintailed female Blue Rogue at Vyse's side. Speedy and wields a boomerang, good with magic.
Fina: A mysterious member of the Silvite race. She's obviously the token squishy mage character with a few healing moves but low defense. She has a unique weapon, Cupil, which morphs in battle and can grow stronger with finding Chams.
Drachma: Captain Drachma is an old man who lost an eye and an arm to a whale and seeks vengeance. Sounds an awful lot like Moby Dick's Captain Ahab. He's all over the place, amazing physically but bad magically.
Gilder: Another friendly pirate who is pretty much on par with Vyse. He wields guns.
Enrique: Prince of an enemy nation who defects to join the pirates. He uses a rapier.

And those six are the playables. Up to 22 can be recruited as crew members, each has some small tidbits of personality. Every playable character has LOTS of personality and to top it off, there are many villains, and not a single one is bad! I like that. Grade: A+

Plot: So Skies of Arcadia funnily enough is just rife with cliches, but it manages to pull each and every cliche perfectly off to the point where it's not possible to hate it. This game manages to have a positive onlook very often, and this was at a time when a lot of other companies were trying their hardest to cash in on the success Final Fantasy VII had. So Skies of Arcadia is seriously its own thing.

The game starts with Fina's ship getting shot down by Alfonso, one of the Imperial admirals of Valua, and captured. At the same time, Vyse, Aika, and Vyse's father Dyne raid Alfonso's ship, sending him scurrying. Fina, now safe, refuses to disclose anything to the pirates, and stays behind while Vyse and Aika do some stuff. But you know, when main characters go away from home, the imperials decide to show up and raze the homeland, also taking Fina and the home pirates hostage. Taking a small boat, they set out, only to nearly fall below once a giant whale, Rhaknam, appears. Drachma saves them, but forces them as crew members, as he seeks revenge on Rhaknam to find a juicy harpoon cannon. Vyse does steer him towards Valua where they have one, and everyone gets what they want, Vyse saves his pirates and dad, Drachma gets his cannon, and they all make it back home.

Fina then joins the heroes, talking about important things such as "Rains of Destruction" and Gigas, also talking about finding six Moon Crystals. Gee, a fetch quest in an RPG. The group uses the Little Jack (Drachma's ship) to find the Red Moon Crystal from desert lands (fighting Admiral Belleza and the red Gigas, Recumen) and the Green Moon Crystal from lush jungle lands (fighting Admiral De Loco and the green Gigas, Grendel) before moving north. It is there that they find out about the Yellow Moon Crystal and Rhaknam, but are ambushed by Ramirez, who's so intent on ending the Air Pirates that when Drachma abandons the crew, Ramirez fires on the lifeboats.

Vyse is separated and on a deserted island, fending for himself while Aika and Fina fend for themselves in a desert town. Gilder rescues Vyse and they journey for treasure before reuniting with the females. Around this time, Ramirez captures the whole crew, and while they break out, Aika almost gets aroused by one of the generals, Vigoro. Enrique defects from her mother Empress Teodora and lets Vyse onto a prototype ship, the Delphinus, which has a unique Moonstone Cannon. The ship eventually becomes Vyse's, and the island he was stranded on becomes his new base for a new crew. Fina mentions the oriental land of Yafutoma beyond a Dark Rift, and before getting there Vyse shows off the Delphinus against an admiral, Gregorio. After crossing the rift, the Delphinus reaches Yafutoma and eventually gets the Blue Moon Crystal, but not before fighting the Valuan fleet along with Vigoro's ship, plus the blue Gigas Bluheim. By saving the skies here, we end Disc 1.

On Disc 2, Vyse sails around the world! Cool. But they still need to get crystals, starting with the Purple Moon Crystal in an abandoned Ice land. It's here that they find out Drachma survives, and that Rhaknam was the purple Gigas. They then get to the Yellow Moon Crystal, awakening Yeligar, the associative Gigas. There's the matter of now finding Fina's old ship, which has the key to reaching the Silvite civilization. It's where several characters do several things. Head Admiral Galcian betrays the Valuan empire, while some admirals like Alfonso and Gregorio defect. The latter is killed in a standoff to protect Enrique and the pirates, and De Loco is eventually killed in what's known as the Deep Sky, where Fina's ship is found.

Disaster will naturally strike when you hold all but one of the crystals right? It does. The home base is destroyed by Ramirez and the crystals are stolen. An attempt is also made at Fina's life here too by Ramirez. Then we go to the Great Silvite Shrine, where the truth of Fina's mission naturally shocks her. Making matters worse is that Ramirez kills the great elder for a Silver Moon Crystal, and now Galcian and Ramirez command a new continent, Soltis, to rise from below, bringing on, you guessed it, the Rains of Destruction. This kills all the people left in Valua, including the Empress and Alfonso, while Belleza and Enrique survive.

With hope lost, a whole slew of allied characters return in order to bring some boost in confidence for Vyse, and as such a whole fleet fights off against Soltis, and of course Galcian is in his main base, the Hydra. Boarding it, he is finally fought and defeated, his escape attempt cut short once Belleza rams her ship into it. Galcian's death causes Ramirez to lose it, and run some more rains, except these are thwarted by the Silvite elders. So many hope spots. And then you finally fight Ramirez, even when he merges with the silver Gigas, Zelos, through three battles. The ending has Ramirez's crystal being given a sailor's farewell, while Fina officially joins as an Air Pirate. Love the epilogue things too. Grade: A+

Music: AND MY COMPLIMENTS DON'T END THERE! The music perfectly captures the many settings the game offers. The sailor/pirate life in the respective islands, the bleakness of the Valuan slums, the amazing jungle life of the town of Horteka, the Middle-Eastern like tunes for the towns in Nasr, the obviously oriental theme for Yafutoma, and the mostly quiet mood the tune in Esperanza offers. It's all highlights. Making matters better is the many battle themes. I always like it when there's more than one. And the final boss has a truly memorable tune. Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

Make this a Dreamcast must-have. Skies of Arcadia can do things that other RPGs do, but still manage to be fun to play, watch, and listen. I love almost everything in this game. Maybe the battle systems do get on my nerves sometimes, but at least it's fresh and the game itself isn't too difficult. Worth it.

Comments

Wait SEGA did a RPG - iliekpiez

It was published by SEGA but the company that made it was Overworks - NuMetalManiak

This will also be my last RPG for the year of 2018. Ten more to go till I reach 100, have done the numbers between #73 to #90, 27 this year - NuMetalManiak

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