Skies Of Arcadia - Review

Somewhere Over The Rainbow...


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 9
   Plot 7
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Moderate
   Time to Complete

35-55 hours


Title Screen

   With the praise and love of virtually everyone at RPGamer abounding about this game, I had to take a peek for myself. Although I wouldn't generally agree that it's the greatest RPG of 2000 (although it's close...) I would say that it has a charm and mystique all its' own that set it apart from the general RPG rabble. I would really love to see a sequel that didn't involve quite so predictable and linear of a basic battle system, but with the advent of two battle systems for one game, I can't be that picky.

   The basic combat system of SOA is remarkably like Dragon Warrior's. It is very much turn based and requires the player to think considerably ahead of themselves at times. It's a fairly simple menu system that presents you with all your options for each character at the beginning of each round of combat. Each of the one-to-four characters takes their turn in conjunction with each of the monsters based on everyone's agility rating.

   There is another side to the battle system. It involves ship-to-ship mid-air combat and decision making. Most of the really hard battles in the game revolve around this type of fighting. Again, each of the characters in your party can make commands based on your ship's capabilities, but you are given the added bonus of knowing what your enemy will be doing over that same period of time plus that number of turns in the next round of combat. Going to fast? Basically, you get to decide what you're going to do based on the knowledge of what your foe is doing for the next two rounds. You can heal, use the abilities of the ship's crew, cast magic, use bombs, fire torpedoes, or launch an all-out assault with your ultimate weapon. Or... Once you've deigned yourself powerful enough, you can try and do more than one thing in a turn by combining actions from previous rounds. One example would be that you can 'time' your torpedoes so that they will strike up to three rounds after firing. On that same round - with another character - you can fire off your main attack cannons and deal some serious damage to your enemies.

Island City Beyond The Rift
Island City Beyond The Rift 

   The interface isn't anything spectacular either way. It's simple and effective once you can figure out what all the types of items are and how they're separated by the menus.

   Music is sorta a mixed bag. It's either not memorable or just plain wonderful. The opening cutscene at the beginning of the game (if you let the game take its' course before the Start menu) is fantastic. Sound effects and voice samples are fairly good, even if they're not quite Shenmue quality.

   The plot is fairly cliché and overdone. But, like Final Fantasy VI, the cliché and overdone can be wonderful nonetheless. The sinister Valuan Empire is struggling to dominate the rest of Arcadia through the use of its' super powerful armada of airships. With the failure of that possibility, Empress Teodora and Lord Galcian, the armada's supreme commander, begin to search the world for the 'Moon Crystals' - mystical pieces fallen from each of the planet's satellites and condensed into mega-energy sources. By attaining them, they hope to summon the powers of the ancient Gigas' that so altered the shape of Arcadia as to make it seem a bottomless cloudy pit to all the current residents. And, with the arrival of the Silvite, Fina, the true intentions of Valua are about to be shown.

Remnant Of A Time Long Gone
Remnant Of A Time Long Gone 

   The game is well localized for a couple of reasons. First, the inflections of each character's voice - although not always believeable - is at least proper to their phraseology. Secondly, whenever you make decisions for Vyse that effect his status among the populace, what you choose isn't exactly what you say. Why is this good you ask? I don't know about you but I really don't like reading the same thing twice in a row. Even though it only varies slightly, that small change is more than enough not to make the system seem retarded or rushed.

   Just like every other RPG, SOA is a good once or twice a year venture but - overall - it's just not worth it to replay. Unless you buy a VMU between times... Or get an ISP compatible with the Dreamcast so that you can access the bonus materials online.

   Final Fantasy IX. What does that signify? That is SOA's only graphical competitor. The graphics in SOA are quite simply amazing. They are detailed in the extreme and varied just as much. Although a good many people might not think about it very much, the rendering involved in the clouds is astonishing. I am dumbstruck by the facets that these graphics bring to my eyes. Horteka Village and Rixis are without a doubt the single most beautiful landscape features in any game I've ever played. The character models could have been a bit more realistic but if it was perfect then there'd be no reason to play it.

She's Sinkin' Like A Rock Cap'n!
She's Sinkin' Like A Rock Cap'n! 

   Getting used to the ship-to-ship battle system and the surnaming system of magic are the two most difficult aspects to SOA. If you can master the former before you fight Revocon, and the latter before disc 2, you'll be made in the shade.

   Skies Of Arcadia is of average RPG length. It shouldn't take too horribly long and it certainly isn't 'The Legend Of Zelda'. Just take your time and make sure that you get everything and you should be set to fight the horrific final bosses. Good luck!

   SOA is a Dreamcast owner's RPG masterpiece. There is little if nothing else like it on the system and the only others to even speak of are entirely different in aspect and scope. Although I would tend to disagree with the suitably enlightened staff of RPGamer and their assessment of the games' intergalacticsupremeness, it does rank in the Top 20 RPGs of all time if because it's the sole survivor of its' native platform...

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