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Skies of Arcadia
Review by: Mark Dillon

Oh great, another Dreamcast role playing game. Hang on... this one is different, it's actually good, really good!

January 11th, 2001
Gaming Platform
Until recently the last thing anyone ever expected to see on the Dreamcast was a great RPG experience. If you wanted to play a good RPG you would unhook your Dreamcast and plug in your Playstation. Fans of the DC know that most of what you will find is hardcore action titles that make you feel like you are at the arcade. Not that this is a bad thing, the pure action title experience is what attracted me to the system in the first place but I'm also a big fan of the console role playing titles and I've always wished for one that was at least worth renting, let alone purchasing. Well the time has finally come for great RPGs and Skies of Arcadia is one game you won't forget about any time soon.

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...

Arcadia is a world of boundless skies, where people live their lives under the glow of six moons. Floating islands provide a welcome oasis for those who navigate the vast expanse of sky. Imperial armies and Air Pirates alike set sail in search of new discoveries and artifacts from an ancient age. A young Air Pirate named Vyse sails the sky in search of treasure... and adventure. Accompanied by his childhood friend, Aika, and their mysterious partner Fina, he begins an epic journey to discover what lies beyond the sunset. Unbeknownst to him, Vyse is heading into a much darker sky than he could ever imagine.

And so begins the great story that you'll find within Skies of Arcadia (SoA). As you make your way through this massive game you will be a part of an exciting story that will draw you in right from the start. Characters are developed in enough depth to give each their own unique personality and you'll feel the good times and bad for all the members of your crew as you progress through the game. A great RPG needs a story to go along with it and SoA comes through with flying colors in that area, I found the story was quite involved and exciting leaving you wanting more. As the end of the game draws near you'll wish that it didn't have to come to an end because you will really feel like a part of the crew well before you get to the final game sequence.

The story is only the icing on the cake you see because the visuals are some of the best on the system and the best in any console RPG to date. Not because everything is true to life as with Shenmue but because everything is extremely well animated with more flashy colors than you'll ever see in any other game. The world of Arcadia is filled with so much visual eye candy that no matter how long I make this review I still wouldn't be able to tell you everything there is to see. Every town, port, and dungeon can be fully explored in 3D. Picture the Zelda games on the N64, add a true rpg element, and you have SoA. It's a great RPG with a bit of adventure packed into it. The game is so huge that it makes other RPG titles seem very tiny in comparison. The first real dungeon you will encounter will have you sailing to Shrine Island in the hopes of finding a fallen Moon Stone. You have to make your way through the level pushing buttons to drain the water. Just this level alone will make your jaw drop and have your mouth watering for more and this is only the first level, a sign of great things to come, and they get much better. Every dungeon is well thought out and comes to life with amazing visuals. The one that I recall as my favorite is the dungeon on Daccat's Island. Your party gets split up and both groups have to work together to complete the level and get the treasure, it's great how it all comes together perfectly. I never would have imagined such a great RPG title on any system and especially not on the Dreamcast.

Gameplay is great and not much different than other console role playing games. Most of the game involves flying an airship, which is extremely fun. As you travel the world of Arcadia you will often discover things that nobody else knows about. You can then sell this information to various guildmasters throughout the towns and ports and even buy information about other discoveries that have yet to be found. SoA is filled with random battles, that most RPG fans are already very familiar with. You'll travel a small distance and all of a sudden you'll be stopped and the next thing you know you will be on the deck of your ship with creatures just a few feet away. The battle system is slightly different in SoA, each character offers a certain amount of Spirit Points (SP) that get pooled together and can be used to pull off special moves, which all look spectacular I might add. SP are also used in conjunction with Magic Points (each spell requires one Magic Point) to cast spells. There are quite a few spells in the game that you will learn as you gain experience. Each moon stone offers a different power and ability. For example the green moon stone is the power of nature, which offers cure and poison spells. In each battle you can also change the attribute of your weapon using these moon stones. Certain color moon stones do more damage to a creature depending on their color attribute. For example, the red attribute does more damage to the blue one. Though the battle system is not overly new and exciting like the one found in Grandia II, it still works out fine in the end and offers a nice bit of strategy to each fight, especially the boss battles.

There is one really unique battle sequence in the game though, and that's the ship battles. There are many occasions later in the game when you will use your ship to do battle against other airships, I loved these battles the most. They involve a lot of strategy and are often very long and satisfying. And again the graphics here are spectacular as the camera swoops and dives in every direction during the battle. There's only one thing I found a little disappointing in the gameplay department and that is the amount of random battles. There are almost too many for the type of game it is, especially when it comes to making discoveries. I found that random battles during the dungeons were fine and for the most part they are fine when sailing through the sky. But there are times when you will just finish a long battle, and no more than 2 seconds after you start moving you are thrown into another random fight. It is one thing that could possibly turn off some people from this game, especially at the beginning when battles take much longer, but hold out because the game is worth seeing all the way through. For me personally it was a mixed bag, I disliked the frequency of the battles when I was out trying to make a discovery but didn't mind too much when I was heading to the next dungeon, town, etc.

The sounds in SoA are quite a mixed bag indeed. Sound effects in general are great. Explosions, attacks, etc. all sound excellent. But the voice-overs are pretty bad, thank god there aren't a lot of them. Basically you will hear a giggle, a laugh, or some small little phrase at certain points during the game from each character that are certainly not the best voices I have ever heard. Even though they aren't the best they still help add feeling to each character. You'll hear some war cries during special moves as well which are also not that well done. The voice-overs, while not totally awful, still leave a lot to be desired especially when considering just how sensational everything else looks and feels. Now music is a totally different story, it's excellent there's no better way to put it. Each musical score is professionally done and it shows. You won't need to worry about a few different themes being played over and over, each town and world has music of its own that adds so much to the overall feel of the game. It's just great.

So we come to the end of the review. After playing this game nearly non-stop for the past few weeks I walk away with the great feeling that I have played one of the best RPGs currently on the market for any console system. It's sad that a lot of people won't get to enjoy the game. Why? Because like I mentioned in the beginning, most people are attracted to the Dreamcast for action titles and very few are fans of the true RPG type. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play through this game and I will most definitely play through it again, there are more reasons then I can even list for you to buy this game. Don't bother renting it, if you like RPGs then I give you my guarantee that you won't be at all disappointed. The age of Dreamcast RPGs is here my friends, SoA, Grandia II, and Phantasy Star Online, it's a great time to own this system!

The good points: great story, some of the best visuals on the system and best in any RPG to date, massive game filled with lots of dungeons and boss battles, tons of discoveries and little things to find, great music

The bad points: too many random battles at times, voice-overs aren't very good

Graphics 10/10
Sound 8.5/10
Gameplay 9.0/10
Controls 10/10
Fun Factor 10/10

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