To go along with the mediocre sound and good graphics, Skies of Arcadia
delivers excellent gameplay. Although the random encounter rate is too frickiní high, the game is fun, engrossing, and did I mention fun?
Youíre Vyse, a budding Air Pirate out to get rich and save the world. There are two types of Air Pirates -- Blue Rogues, good guys who have something of a Robin Hood mentality, stealing from the rich and giving to the needy -- and the Black pirates, who are what youíd expect. They just steal for their own benefit. The game starts with you raiding an airship of the local evil Empire, along the way rescuing Fina, a girl from a mysterious civilization.
The game has oodles of plot, and plenty of twists to keep you interested. Much of the fun comes from finding out what happens next, and itís definitely a driving force in the game. And with the fantastic landscapes that you get to explore, itís never a chore going to the next place and continuing the exploits of Vyse and crew.
The battle system in Skies of Arcadia is both simple and complex, depending on how well you want to play it. There are six attributes that a weapon can have, and you can alter them in the middle of battle for optimum usage. Each attribute has strengths and weaknesses, and theyíre pretty convoluted, so keeping the instruction book nearby with the chart is a good idea. Any special moves use up Spirit Points, which exist in a sort of communal pool. This means that you canít cast all your powerful spells in one turn, as they drain SP like crazy. Each spell only costs one MP, though -- but you have minimal numbers of MP throughout the game.
There are also ship battles, which use a different style of play. Each character picks an action to do and a phase to do it in, and then the battle commences. Proper planning of when to attack, when to defend, and when to cast spells is very important, and can easily spell the difference between victory and defeat.
To be honest, thereís not much in Skies that hasnít been done before. But itís damn fun nonetheless.