May 6, 2001
Skies of Arcadia (DC) - Review
It's taken what seems like an eternity for a good traditionally styled RPG appear on the Dreamcast. After very average releases early in the systems life, including Evolution and Time Stalkers, Dreamcast owners have been patiently awaiting a trio of strong RPG's. These include Game Arts' Grandia II and Sonic Team's Phantasy Star Online as well as this game. Overworks, in conjunction with Sega, and including some members from the Phantasy Star team, have been working on Skies of Arcadia for well over 2 years now, and it has definately been worth the wait. This is one superb RPG which every Dreamcast owner, RPG fan or not, must consider for their collection.
|Time for more armour, and cannons.|
As with any RPG the most important part of the game is the storyline. It must be detailed, well paced, exciting and most of all, epic. Without this a RPG can be as boring as watching mould grow on cheese. Fortunately, Skies of Arcadia manages to pack in a lot of excitement and adventure into 2 GD-ROM's. The game is set on the world of Arcadia where you play a young man named Vyse. He is a member of the Blue Rogue pirates, which steal and plunder wealth from the rich. The lands of Arcadia are surrounded by six different coloured moons, which have showered the land with mystical Moon Stones. These Moon Stones are extremely powerful and can awaken the ancient Gigas which are extremely powerful god-like monsters powerful enough to destroy the planet and everyone on it. Your task is to collect the 6 powerful moonstones and stop them falling into the evil Valulan Empire who want to awaken the Gigas to control the world. It's a great storyline that is woven with plenty of twists and turns as well as a few surprises.
|The cities are wonderfully detailed.|
There is very little to fault with the actual gameplay. The world is travelled in flying ships and there are plenty of secrets to discover while travelling from place to place. Some of these secrets, such as the The Golden Man or The Great Bird (no, it has nothing to do with your fingers!) are critical to you completing a mission while others, such as Skull Rock and Guidestones are merely landmarks which when sold to the merchants earn you gold. This gold can be spent on new weapons, items or upgrades. By far the most enjoyable aspect of Skies of Arcadia is when you (and the other members of your party) are exploring a new land, dungeon or town. It's impossible to tell what is coming around the corner. Some of the areas such as Duccat's Island require your parties to (unknowingly) work together to make it to the treasure. It's an amazing experience that works extremely well.
The combat in Skies of Arcadia is one area where the game is very solid, but remains very faithful to most other traditional RPG games. Each character has his/her own hit points, items and spells to use during battles. Depending on the foes that you have faced you will earn experience to increase your hit points and spells learned. You will also increase your stats such as Quick, Strength or Magic. The actual combat is turn based and while you have no control over your characters movement they do move themselves around the screen. One interesting aspect to Skies of Arcadia is the spirit points. Characters can only use spells when you have enough spirit points for your entire party. Depending on the characters in your group and what they are wearing the maximum number of spirit points changes. It is possible for characters to give up an attack in order to Focus and build up more spirit points for the next round. Skies of Arcadia also includes combat between your flying ships. This also requires some thought with each character in your party taking turns to attack, defend or build up magic power.
|Taking on the armada is gruelling.|
Are there any problems? Very few really. Easily the biggest problem with the game is the constant random encounters with enemies while flying around the world. These can quite literally occur ever 5 seconds or so and when you are looking for a hidden object mean that there can be 20-30 battles before reaching the next destination. Sure, you can run away from the battle, but it's annoying to have to do it so often and you will begin to get pretty pissed off at times. Another problem is perhaps the slight lack of difficulty in the game. Yes, it will take you 50 hours or more to complete it, but even when fighting the bosses, and even the Gigas, you never really feel threatened. Another, mainly cosmetic, feature that I would like to have seen added was different appearances as you equip different clothing.
Graphically, Skies of Arcadia is yet another stunning game on the Dreamcast. The game world is rich in detail and even the battles take place on small maps of the areas currently being travelled. The frame rate is rock steady while the animation on the characters also adds a sense of realism to the game. The textures are quite possibly among the best yet seen on the Dreamcast although there is some very obvious texture swapping to a lower quality quite near to main characters as they walk around the worlds. It's also possible, using the shoulder buttons, to rotate the camera around the players while walking around the cities. Perhaps the most impressive visuals occur when casting spells or using weapons during battles. The lighting is superb and it actually looks like you are inflicting severe damage on the opposition.
|Vyse is one very cool dude.|
One thing constantly spring into mind while listening to the music in this game, Cliffhanger. You see there is one particular track that sounds almost identical to the music in that movie. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, just a little annoying. Apart from that one piece of background music almost everything else is simply stunning. The music, the special effects, everything just feels right. One neat touch which I enjoyed was the occasional laughter or phrase from the characters. It gives them a little bit more life and personality. Instead of simply reading "Ha Ha Ha" you can actually hear the characters say it. Nice.
Skies of Arcadia is a superbly crafted RPG. So impressive is the game that apart from Square's massive Final Fantasy it may well be one of the best RPG's in years. Overworks have packed in plenty of detail and a storyline detailed and emotional enough to keep you entertained for the 50+ hours that it takes to complete the game. Hardcore gamers will be pleased with the moderate difficulty level (especially when you reach the second disc) while the game still remains easy to get into for gamers new to RPG's. Skies of Arcadia is definitely one of the best games on any system this year and should be in every Dreamcast owners collection.
|A giant flying whale keeps you busy.|