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1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine

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by Sega

VYSE.jpg (4601 bytes)So, you’ve been starving for an RPG release (at least a semi-decent one) for the Dreamcast. You’ve despised Silver. You’ve dealt with EGG. You were OK with Evolution. Finally, I must say, a semi (yep) decent one has hit the scene; granted, there are now a few more titles out there from which you can select, but, really, Skies of Arcadia was the first truly, decent title for the DC and it’s probably well worth a gander... Or maybe I’ve been so starved for a DC RPG I’m trying to convince myself that there’s something, anything there. Let’s decide.

EA_10.jpg (5410 bytes)Now, I’m sure all of you out there know of the Zelda series (about as famous, if not more, than the Final Fantasy epic) and are familiar with at least some of its key features, namely the structure of its quests. Mind you I really haven’t played Majora’s Mask or Ocarina of Time, but what we have here in Skies of Arcadia is what I refer to as the Zelda-complex except instead of one, key character (Link) we have a couple key characters (Vyse, Aika) who follow along that ol’ linear path of search out X amount of temples and acquire X item from each. Before the floating islands of Arcadia and the people who now inhabit the lands, there was an earlier, more advanced generation known as the Great Elders who created the massive weapons of destruction called Gigas which man has re-discovered and now searches for. To stop the destruction of the Gigas, moonstones mysteriously rained from each of the six moons to bring the Rapture down upon Arcadia. These moonstones produced the floating islands and give power to the airships throughout the game. Now, you see these Gigas are powered by different colored stones, one for each moon, which have been scattered across the lands, hidden deep within temples, dungeons, caves, etc. The handsome Vyse and his sprite of a friend Aika must discover and retrieve each of these moonstones to save man from themselves. This is the Zelda-complex.

EA_07.jpg (5115 bytes)If there is one thing this game excels at, it is the consistently great graphics. Bright colors. Excellent textures which span various terrain such as jungle, desert, water. Again, I’m pleased to see that the fog and lighting effects available on the DC are being used: we have drifting embers from flowing lava, thick and thin fog, smoke, etc., to build a complete world and environment. I was immersed by the graphics. Your characters are colorfully painted and their facial expressions are the best I’ve seen on any system. Along with the limited amount of voice acting, you are able to tell the mood, the excitement, the fear of your characters simply by their faces. It’s great to see well rounded characters in a video game.

BTL04.jpg (4315 bytes)Skies of Arcadia is built around two methods of combat: ground combat against various monsters and ship to ship battles that introduce an aspect of turn-based strategy to the game. The latter of the two can take place both randomly (though rare) or to move the storyline along. Also, you can expect to battle a few Gigas here and there in your ship. And much like your characters, you’re able to shop around and upgrade your vessel to scale to the type of enemies you’ll be expected to challenge and face. As for the ground combat, this is your standard turn-based, though very fast, system. You’re able to learn special moves which you can use depending on how many points you have left. You also have the aspect of increasingly powerful and beautiful magic spells. Granted, the enemies are not like the crazy ones you find in FF, but they’re still entertaining and clever; each area you go to has its own, uniquely catered enemies that seem to work well with the color and content of the scene you’re in. Excellent meshing, in my opinion.

BTL05-2.jpg (3297 bytes)Oh, another cool quality of this game is it offers a game for your VMU, Pinta Quest. Now, the game’s pretty basic: you fly around in an airship and explore different areas. Occasionally, you’ll find items, fight strong headwinds, or battle another ship—all of which will increase your coffers of gold and your item list when you insert the VMU and import the data to your game. Pinta Quest allows you to take the adventure with you and collect items, both special and standard, in the lands you discover. It comes in real handy when you’ve forgotten to stock up on some stuff and are in a section of the game where you have literally no items and you really, really need them to get through a boss or some such thing. Great for stuff like that. Trust me on that one.

ARCADIA5.jpg (5029 bytes)Somewhere in the code a mistake was made. I don’t know if it was done on purpose (probably) or by accident (unlikely), but the occurrence of random encounters was maddening. Oh man, there are sections of this game that you dread to go through again. Not because they’re difficult in any way, but that every inch you move you are attacked by creatures. Hey, I’m cool with random encounters. One of my favorite series (Final Fantasy) uses them, but it’s one thing to throw a monster at your party every now and then and it’s another to hinder the whole quest. There were points in the game I actually lost track of where I was going because I was stuck in battle most of the time. It is for this reason and this reason alone I had to give the damn thing four stars. I became too annoyed to move from point A to point B. For me this was a serious detraction for the game.

ARCADIA8.jpg (4780 bytes)Other than that I have nothing bad to say about this title. It’s a great entry into what I hope will be a long and steady wave of good RPGs on the Dreamcast. Also, Skies of Arcadia gives breaks from the more serious RPG and gives a fun game to play that seems more like a cartoon than something you’d find in the fantasy section at the supermarket. If I were you, I’d add this to your RPG catalog and play through it at least once. Replay value ain’t too great, but, hey, it’s an RPG.

Mathew Baldwin

Snapshot

Ups: Cool story; great graphics; nice gameplay; VMU mini-game is really useful; finally a decent RPG!

Downs: Way too many random monster encounters makes moving an absolute nightmare.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

 

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