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Skies of Arcadia

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Media: CD/2
Players: 1
Genre: RPG


Graphics & Sound:

As a general rule, the visuals in Skies of Arcadia are stunning. The various locations are busting with detail, although a few of the ďdungeonsĒ are a little drab. Characters are well-detailed, complete with goofy facial expressions. The character design is solid as well, with instantly recognizable people that you wonít get confused with. And the world ďmapĒ is a thing to see -- cruising around the massive floating islands and continents of Arcadia is truly a sight to behold. The monsters are usually quite cool as well, with some truly impressive bosses. Put simply, Skies is very nice-looking.

The sound doesnít quite match up to the graphics, but itís certainly passable. The music is decent, but there are a few songs that make it sound like your Dreamyís having disc-read issues rather than any real backbeat. Most of the music is pretty good, though, and there were no songs that had me reaching for the remote. The voice acting is... passable, but thankfully thereís not a lot of it so you donít have to hear whiny voices too often. ďAlpha Stoooorm!Ē Augh. The sound effects are your typical videogame fare, with whooshes and clangs and clinks and explosions. Itís not fantastic, but itís certainly passable.


Gameplay:

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.


Difficulty:

Continuing in the footsteps of the recently-released Final Fantasy IX, Skies of Arcadia has some genuinely difficult segments. Many boss fights are very challenging, requiring you to figure out just what weapons and spells you should use and how to keep your team in good health. And some of the random battles are plenty difficult as well. Itís frustrating at first, but once you get used to the challenge, itís quite invigorating; a pleasant change from the many walk-in-the-park RPGs of recent history, at least.

Game Mechanics:

Controlling Vyse and the crew is simple and intuitive as they walk or fly in full 3D. The controls are explained to you throughout the game as well, so itís simple enough to handle. Setting up character weapon affinities is trivial, as is equipping them with new weapons and items. The battle system is fun and robust, with lots of strategy for those who like to think about it and simple button-pressing for those who just want to skip through a battle. Of course, the former can get through relatively unscathed and the latter will get wailed on, so itís a matter of preference. The menus are easy to navigate and use, and there are save points often enough to keep you from getting frustrated. There are quite a few game sequences with more than one boss without saving, though, so be forewarned.

Itís traditional, and it rocks. Skies of Arcadia is a fantastic little (big) RPG for the Dreamcast, and something us RPG-starved Dreamy fans have been waiting for. The too-high random encounter rate is a bother, and a knock on the game, but it doesnít keep Skies of Arcadia from being an excellent role-playing game. Fans of the genre, or those looking to get into the genre, should buy this title immediately. Itís got more gameplay than you can shake a stick at, interesting characters, intriguing plot, and fantastic action. What more can you ask for?


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Sega Dreamcast Sonic Shuffle Sega Dreamcast Sonic Adventure

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated