Dreamcast RPGs have always been slow to be released, and most RPGs I've played on the Dreamcast before Skies of Arcadia have always strayed away from the traditional RPG; usually too far. Hence, Overworks
developed Skies of Arcadia, a game where air is the way to travel, and also where there are moons, which supply energy to the different areas of the world, rather than a sun.
Spanning 2 discs, Skies of Arcadia starts off fairly slow, and the plot throws things at you that make you wonder what's happening. The pacing of the game was fairly slow, but eventually after some tedious parts, you will start to enjoy the plot and will stay up late to figure out what will happen next. Skies of Arcadia is essentially a stereotypical good vs. evil game. But as for comparisons to other games, imagine candy. Sugar is the bases of the candy, but what they coat around the sugar is what the candy is all about. Skies has plenty of coating on top of the sugar that you will never notice the RPG clichés that this RPG has.
Before getting further, explanation of the story is necessary for the people who haven't played this game already. The player starts off assuming the identity of Vyse, who is an intern pirate looking forward to owning his own ship one day. His childhood friend, Aika, is a hyperactive girl who lost her parents when she was young. Vyse wields
cutlasses, and Aika uses Boomerangs.
In the very beginning, you are traveling with your dad and his crew raiding a ship (bad ship). Running around, you find a girl kidnapped for some reason, but you decide that she's probably not with the group so you take her away after beating the bad guys. The girl is oddly dressed and named after a gasoline company, Fina. You rescue Fina, and before you know it, something is happening with the kidnappers and why they tried to kidnap Fina. Basically, they don't like you and you don't like them. The plot begins there.
Most RPGs are somewhat boring to play through. Dialog with townspeople remains "I know nothing" throughout the game, and you never take time to talk to townspeople, as they are generally too boring to talk to. In
Skies of Arcadia, everybody lives in their own world, with their own worries. Of course, Overworks could've added some extra lines for more variety, but the dialog spoken to Vyse and co. is usually amusing and concise. The whole game presents a neat little package of spoken phrases, making this one of the best translated RPGs I have played in
awhile. Few grammatical mistakes are made, and the flow of every speech is well done.
Being somewhat a newbie to 3-D RPGs, I was amazed at how beautiful Overworks made the graphics. In your first dungeon (Shrine Island, which remains a mystery throughout the game), moss and stone-like textures are
presented, as well as clear floors that make you shudder at the thought of falling when you look down upon it. The textures only get better from there, although the overworld could've used some more graphical tweaks, like the clouds.
The polygonal structure of everything is also nothing short of amazing, even though Vyse and co. are rendered with low polygon counts. Facial expressions are used instead of vocal speech, and the expressions are shown nicely with good timing, although I always wished I could've seen different ones after awhile. Considering the graphical limits the Dreamcast has, this game is gorgeous.
Battles are the traditional turn based, with the usual commands in place. One major change was the introduction of the "Spirit Meter" or "Spirit Bar" (also applies to airship battles). This prevents players from using all of your characters in one turn, annihilating whatever lies before you.
The only gripe of the battles is the slow pacing, as you cannot skip through magic spells or enemy attacks. I also felt that magic (aside from healing) was unnecessary, as you can beat the game without noticing it (although I did use magic the second time I beat the game). People complained on the battle encounters and how often they occurred, but I never had those problems until later in "ship dungeons".
The most amazing feature of this game's battle system is the occasional airship battle. Much more strategic than normal battles, they are a looping attacking show that you will be happy to fight when you get the hang of the style. The most common description of these battles is a "Chess" game, although it is more of a strategy-sim than chess.
Another problem I had was the preset attacks the required enemy air battles had. If you're playing through the second time, the attacks of the airship bosses are always going to be the same, depending on some slight random factors, of course.
I haven't touched on the music because 89% of the time I was thoroughly impressed by the synthesized music presented. Even though I prefer orchestral music (at certain points, Skies of Arcadia has them), Skies of Arcadia really was a topnotch game in the musical department.
But nothing accompanies music better than sound effects, and the slashes and ship noises fit well, even with the BGM. Every noise, music and sound fits in the current mood of the game. If the game shows loneliness, music
of solitude plays softly. One of the most notable, unique musical enhancements is the transition between different lands. Different areas of the world sport different styles, and the overworld music adapts to their cultural differences. The ONLY song that didn't fit was the mini-boss theme. At least there wasn't punk music in sad scenes.
And there are obviously the little features. Pinta's Quest is an addictive VMU-only game (optional), where you can obtain free items, depending on the current state of you game. But the main feature that you will be praising about is the discoveries, little extras that you discover in the game by mashing "A" when you're in the vicinity of the
discovery. These range from easy, to cracking your GD-ROM because you can't find one. Most discoveries are, again, optional, but you will want to read the descriptions and see the pictures of your discoveries.
There are required discoveries, which slow the pace of the game down, but generally they're fun and add more replay value into an already lengthy quest. Also, learning magic in the game is fun and unique, as depending
on which moon stone attribute you use at the end of the battle, you will earn points that are similar to experience points, except you learn spells, rather than gain levels.
Skies of Arcadia is a game that is, overall, fun and easy to play. With its 30-hour story, not to mention countless things to do that will shove the hours to 50+, this game will be cherished forever. If you own a Dreamcast and enjoy RPGs, you should already have this game. Although it's been over a year since I beat it, twice, even, I will still play this game. It's that good.