Skies of Arcadia


Review by Sean Robinson



Graphics: 9

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 9

Skies of Arcadia (referenced hereafter as SOA) features the adventures of Air Pirate Vyse and his motley crew of fearless cohorts. Everything is going usual for Vyse and his right-hand (wo)man Aika when one day a mysterious girl comes under duress from the local no-goods of Valua, an empire seeking to rule the entire world.

Fina (the girl in question) turns out to be on an important mission to prevent the Gigas from destroying the world. The Gigas are powerful creations linked to each of the moons of the world. Vyse and company must prevent their awakening while contending with Valua's attempts to use the Gigas for its own desires.

The storyline in SOA is not very deep, but it is not meant to be. The entire premise seems to be "make it involving, yet fun." And to this end, SOA succeeds greatly. Don't misunderstand -- there is a good twist or two along the way to keep things interesting, and several scenes where one can't help but think, "This is so cool!"

The graphics are superb, and have held up well over time. Often, I found myself wondering if this game really is three years old at this point, as the visuals have really wonderful appeal to even a jaded gamer. A nice touch seen throughout the game is attention to detail in just about everything. Characters have a wide range of facial expressions that add to every cinema. When casting spells, characters weave slightly as they stand on tip-toe. Wildlife, islands, and ships are hidden throughout the towns and dungeons, imbuing personality into the locales. Every last one of the ships is immaculate in detail. A great marketing opportunity was missed when they decided not to release models of the ships for purchase.

The music is simply euphoric. Even the battle themes, the most recurring music in any role-playing game, never seem to grow old. Much of the symphonic audio is so appealing that it could easily be listened to outside of the gaming environment.

The sound effects are up-there as well. The environments are alive with the sounds of footsteps on different terrain, the slicing of swords through the air, the booms of battle cannons, and the fabric-ripping of spell-casting. Each character has a multitude of battle-cries and cinema "reaction sounds" to enhance gameplay and emotional involvement. Overworks, the developer of SOA, opted to go with reactionary vocals (such as gasps, cheers, uh-huhs, and so forth) instead of voiced lines of dialog to save on time and to leave the cinema work to interpretation. For speed-readers (and those who loath redubbing) that choice is a God-send.

The gameplay is nicely balanced as well. Instead of focusing solely on turn-based battles with characters and enemies, ship battles are also available.

In a normal battle, the player selects all the actions he wants the characters to take before the turn commences, and each character reacts according to her speed and the speed of the enemy. At the player's disposal are Attack, Defend, Item, Run, Magic, Focus, Special Moves, and the hidden Crew Specials. The team has a pool of Spirit Point which are required to cast magic and use special moves. Each magic uses one Magic Point and several Spirit Points, while each Special uses only Spirit Points. As SP is received when focusing and additionally automatically every round, SM have the potential to be cast limitlessly while Magic (at least in the beginning of the game) must be used reservedly as MP can only effectively be regained through staying overnight in a safe haven.

Ship battles involve your vessel taking on another in a fight in the high skies. All the moves of your ship are selected before the round and executed turn-for-turn alongside your opponent's moves. Ship battles are basically the same as ship battles, but more decision-making and preemptive thinking are needed. Also, Special Moves are dropped in favor of one-time use (per battle) Crew Moves.

SOA's replay value is significantly high, as it's a big world out there and many Discoveries are waiting to be made. That's right, the age of exploration is upon Arcadia and treasure hunters, adventures, rogues and pirates are all on the lookout for fabled landmarks. Information about the location of these rare sights earn big rewards from the Guild and it's every man for himself! Throw in a multitude of side quests, such as the hunt for Abiriks and Chams to upgrade Fina's pet (and protector) Cupil, the creation of your own base and crew, the seeking of the rare treasures of Zivilan Bane, and the Dreamcast VMU game Pinta's Quest, where crew member Pinta seeks out on his own to discover the world and the riches within, and some downloadable additions for good measure, and you have a recipe for much further enjoyment outside the main quest.

There are only few real downsides to Skies of Arcadia. Present is quite infrequent pop-up in the far background, but this is unnoticeable unless one is searching for it. Also, some Discoveries can be too hard to find -- let me just say, there are few things more vile than the Flutterflies. Games wouldn't be fun without challenge though, and since the search for Discoveries is an optional side-quest unneccessary to finish the game, this is easily overlooked. To some, the reactionary vocals can prove disrupting, as a noise suddenly happening when one is concentrating on the text can take one aback. But all these are minor complaints of a fantastic game.

Skies of Arcadia is a game full of fun, personality, and great times, made all the better by the commitment of the game's staff to high-detail in both the development and believability of the game's characters and the world they inhabit. This game can only come as highly recommended.


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Last updated: Monday, May 02, 2005 06:13 PM