'Avast Ye Matey?' What The Hell Does That Mean?
Originally a Dreamcast title. Skies Of Arcadia, or Eternal Arcadia in Japan, was a traditional RPG. After the unfortunate death of the Dreamcast.(I still have nightmares about it.-MM-) The game was ported to the Gamecube, where it enjoyed further success.
Being billed as a “director’s cut” of the game, it features new quests, characters, and weapons. But is it actually worth it? Or just a cheap re-hash?(Like Final Fantasy Anthology-MM-)
In Skies Of Arcadia, you assume the role of Vyse. A young man who dreams of traveling the world. And being captain of his own ship. He along with his childhood friend, and cutie-pie, Aika(I love redheads, who doesn’t?-MM-) are Blue Rouges. One of two factions of pirates. The Blue Rouges are more Robin Hood types, they only steal from the empire, and never kill or harm innocents. There are also Black Pirates, these scurvy dogs will attack anyone, and have no problem with death killing.
Did I mention that these pirates are not the sea-faring variety? The world of Arcadia is actually a bunch of islands floating in the sky. And the sky serves as the sea.
On one fateful day, the Blue Rouges take on an Imperial vessel.(All fantasy worlds are inhabited by an evil empire, don’t you know!?!-MM-) And the find a beautiful girl, in strange clothing on board. This chance encounter will take them around the world and into epic adventures. And Vyse will realize his destiny.
The world of Arcadia is unique in more ways than in it’s sky ocean. It also takes place in a 16th century kind of setting. The age of discovery. So unlike most JRPGS it is more steam punk than cyberpunk. More Arcanum, and less Bladerunner. All the airships look like gallons and sloops and whatnot. Great design choice, I think.
Arcadia has many different regions as well. Each region differs as it is under a different moon. The Valuan Empire is reminiscent of 16th century Spain, and under the yellow moon. The lands of the blue moon are similar to Asia. Where as the green moon has an area not unlike the new world. It’s so refreshing after all the JRPGS with non-descript regions.
The weapons also have a 16th century look and feel. From the cutlasses to the flintlock pistols. And cannonballs and all that good stuff.
Each character in interesting as well. Vyse actually acts like a hero and is a natural leader. It is easy to see why so many people are willing to follow him.(Unlike most JRPGS of recent years.-MM) Fina, fills the role of the beautiful and mysterious woman. Gilder, is a skirt chasing rouge and a dead shot with his guns. And Drachma, is the grizzled old captain with a vendetta to settle.
And did I mention that in Skies of Arcadia, you have an airship at your disposal right from the start. No waiting till the end of the game, when you have already been everywhere and it is moot. And upgrades allow access to new areas. The only other JRPG with this kind of freedom is Panzer Dragoon Saga.(And if you do not like that game, I don’t want to know you.-MM-)
Eventually, you get your own, ship and base. You get to collect crew members all over the world. And upgrade you base and ship. Finding and recruiting all the potential crew members, unlocks special moves usable in battle.
Combat is turn-based. With attack, item, magic and skills all available. Fighters move on screen and stay in place, none of the jumping around crap found in some games. And when it is not their turn, fighters doge and wheeze attacks.
But the most unique thing of all is the spirit meter. As the battle rages your meter fills. You can also charge it manually. It is used to unleash spells, and special attacks. The special attacks are largely over the top but fun to watch. And can be skipped. Pirate’s Wrath, and Gunslinger, being just a few of my favorites. There are also combo or crew moves. These do mega amounts of damage and are interesting to look at.
Some claim that this game is not original, but these are shallow, bitter people. And besides if ship combat is not original, what games are they playing? Occasionally you fight in ship to ship combat. Or your ship must take on massive monsters.(Eat your heart out, Shadow Of The Colossus.-MM-) During these you can fire cannons, magic cannons, etc. There is also some strategy involved. As your choices will enable use of a special doomsday weapon. Beware however, as you opponents can do the same thing.
There are many side things to do. Aside from completing quests. You can find discoveries. And then sell them to the Sailors Guild. Beware, that there are others in Arcadia looking for these, and they can beat you to it! The discoveries also help sell the whole age of discovery thing. And provide little tidbits about the world of Arcadia.
The new content adds some 10 hours of game time. There are new quests. My favorite being the bounty quests. These are unique boss fights in which you play bounty hunter and take out criminals for an lot of cash. And these fights can be quite challenging. There is also new story content. This is hit or miss. And there is a new discovery. This one you can actually land on, and explore.
The graphics are improved over the Dreamcast original. And are generally smoother. And more crisp. Which is nice, considering that the original game still looks damn good.
I love the score in Skies. It sounds great, and is actually memorable. The addition of full voice acting would have been great, Alas, it is still limited.
Some of the new storyline is dubious. As it involves typical Jap-Crap, of mistaken identity. And really makes little sense. With out giving to much away, I will say, who is that goddamn stupid? Answer: Only people in Jap-Crap! Why can’t all the new content be as good as the new quests?
And why no full voice acting. As in Shenmue, another brilliant Dreamcast game. It mat have made the game multi disc, but it would have worth it. Or at least meet me halfway and have voice acting in the important scenes.
Standard battles can get old after a while. Especially if you are just looking for a town of discovery of something. In the latter stages of the game these can be largely avoided by flying above the clouds.
But what is worse is how battle can be drawn out. And a fight that should only tale a few minutes takes much longer.
The new quests could have better rewards. It is usually just a monetary one. When it could be new weapons of other cool shit.
The Bottom Line
Overall Skies of Arcadia is still a great game. And a must play for JRPG fans. It is one of the games that helped re-spark my love, in this genre which seemed to be going downhill fast.
While some may bitch and moan about it’s lack of originality, let’s remember that MOST if not ALL JRPGS lack originality. I mean it is all pretty much the same ideas being reused. But every once and a while they add and idea that is fresh. Whether, that be setting, or gameplay, or once in a great while story.
So put your predetermined ideas aside, and play this game. You will be glad you did.