- Developed by Overworks
- Published by Sega
- Released for:
- –Dreamcast– 2000(JP/NA), 2001(EU)
–Gamecube– 2002(JP), 2003(NA/EU)
“The age of exploration has dawned upon the world of Arcadia. Brave adventurers set sail across the vast skies in search of treasures untold. And, where there is treasure, there will be Air Pirates…” This is the text that greets you at the beginning of the opening cinematic for Skies of Arcadia, and it sets the tone for the rest of the game. Sega’s Skies of Arcadia ended up being one of the most memorable RPG experiences for the Dreamcast and the Gamecube, and it’s no wonder why. With great gameplay featuring Robin Hood-ing pirates, airships, skyward ship battles and the option to build a personal crew of characters for your own customizable ship. it’s no wonder that Skies of Arcadia is a charming adventure that sticks strong in your mind from start to finish.
The Game opens with an imperial ship ship abducting a mysterious girl, then being invaded by a band of air pirates bent on looting the ships cargo soon after. You control Vyse and Aika as they explore the ship and rescue Fina, the captured girl, as the cowardly admiral abandons ship. Upon returning home to your peaceful pirate village island, a series of small adventures set Vyse, and the girls off to explore Arcadia and stop the empire from awakening several ancient devices of dark and destructive power that were sealed away by the lost Silver Civilization.
The story itself isn’t the most original, and it seems to be heavily inspired by writers such as Jules Verne, but thanks to charming characters and engaging environments, it still manages to be a spirited and entertaining adventure. Once past the cliches on the surface, the world will pull you in tight.
The gameplay in Skies of Arcadia stays close to the standard J-RPG formula but tweaks and deviates from it enough to make things feel fresh and familiar at the same time. Yes there are turn based battles that pop up at random, but their emphasis on elements and character placement make fights a bit more unique. Your party shares a skill meter to use for special attacks and magic, so you have to plan your moves carefully. Different elements can alter your weapons for different attacks and can be powered up by their respective moon stones, (ex. Red moonstone for fire magic.) This makes exploring the various lunar territories more important and more fun.
Yes, most J-RPGs have some emphasis on exploration, but in Skies of Arcadia discovering islands and landmarks as you sail the skies can earn you all sorts of rewards and advantages. For example in most J-RPGs exploring a map might earn you a few treasure chests or something, but here, you can do things like find the barmaids stranded husband and unlock a new mini-quest. These little additions and quirks make exploring fun instead of a chore like some other games. I found myself spending extra time sailing around trying to find new secrets for rewards and elusive enemies that give prizes. These small bonuses make it much easier to ignore small faults like the slightly high random encounter rate or the occasional off balanced enemies.
For the Dreamcast release of Skies of Arcadia, the developers added Pinta’s Quest, a bonus game for the systems VMU (A Gameboy-like memory card) that lets you take a simple pocket sized adventure on the go. In Pinta’s Quest, you can explore charted areas of the map, find useful items. and gain exp for your ship. It’s sort of like a virtual pet with mini games. you guide the ship along the world and occasionally fiddle around with little mini game-like tasks, like dodging rock storms or traveling through harsh winds. it’s a great way to suck the player further into the game and earn bonuses on the go. Unfortunately, the Gamecube version lacks this feature, but makes up for it with new quests and characters not found in the original Dreamcast version.
While Skies of Arcadia doesn’t have the most gorgeous graphics, it is far from ugly. The graphical style still manages to be appealing and memorable. The islands that the player encounters through their travels have unique settings that rarely overlap. Everywhere you go has something different to offer visually, weather it is the crypts of the desert, or the green, lush, jungle island. The characters lack the level of detail that went into the environments, and characters can look a little blocky at times, but they are well animated in a way that adds a nice touch of personality. Overall, The games visuals are pretty good for the time when Skies of Arcadia was initially released.
Skies of Arcadia’s music is enjoyable and fits the various themes, environments, and situations quite well throughout the game. In the beginning when you fight the first boss, the music starts out grim and menacing. If you struggle and the outcome doesn’t look good, the mood of the music darkens. If you have the upper hand and are fighting well, the music takes an inspiring upward tone. Things like this are a nice touch. Aside from a few voice clips, there is no voice acting in either version of Skies of Arcadia which is a real shame. The few voice clips that are present are like a tease to the player. The sound for the Gamecube version was heavily compressed so that the game could fit on a a single disc, and the sound sometimes sounds funny, but it’s not bad enough to be truly irritating.
Replay/Difficulty/How it’s Aged
Due to the heavy emphasis on exploration, the number of side quests, and how customizable things are in the second half of the game, Skies of Arcadia has a higher replay value than most J-RPGs of the time. The difficulty overall isn’t too hard, but There are some sections where grinding is recommended. Sometimes the enemies feel a little off balance, but it’s not a big enough deal to be a game killer. Skies of Arcadia has aged well since the twelve years of it’s original release. While some players may struggle with the pacing and the frequency of the random battles, it’s rarely a major complaint. Skies of Arcadia has light hearted charm and attention to detail that is seen less and less these days, and I highly recommend any RPG fan to check it out.