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Skies of Arcadia Legends

Review By:  AJ Middleton

Developer:  Overworks
Publisher:  Sega
# of Players:  1
Genre:  RPG
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  12-7-03

This game makes me mad.  Steaming mad.  BOILING mad.  It makes me mad at Nintendo and Square.  Why?  Well, I’m mad at Nintendo for not having a GameCube game this excellent earlier, and I’m mad at Square for not making this excellent RPG.  Because those other two failed, Overworks and Sega had to bring us this epic adventure.  Looking for an awesome game for the ‘Cube?  Well, look to the skies!  Skies of Arcadia Legends is one of the best GameCube games out there.

Yes, I said an RPG.  And yes, this is a quality RPG.  Skies of Arcadia was originally released for the Dreamcast, and Legends is a slightly upgraded version.  You take the role of Vyse, a young air pirate in a world that exists in the air.  Continents float, all ships are airships, and the sea is actually made up of winds and clouds.  For this reason, be ready to see many twists in the lifestyles of these people.  For example, transportation consists of airships and flying boats, and fish “swim” around in the sky.  The world is also watched by six moons, each having their own attribute and watching over a certain section of the world.  The Arcadians use the power of these moons, sent to the planet in moonstones, as fuel and weaponry.  In short, the moons are a vital part of the lives of the people (hint hint.)

As I said, Vyse is an air pirate, or Blue Rouge, to be exact.  Under his father’s command, the Blue Rouges of Pirate Isle perform Robin Hood acts - they steal from the rich and give to the needy.  The game actually opens during one of these “kind” raids.  The pirates’ ship, the Albatross, attacks a vessel of the greedy Valuan Empire after they witness it shoot down an odd ship and capture its rider.  Vyse and his best friend Aika board the ship to save the girl and steal the gold, and here is where the plot goes into action.  Being an RPG, any more plot explanation would give something away.  But relax, for the game follows the basic RPG plot of a minor event ending up involving the whole world.

The three main characters are Vyse, Aika, and Fina.  Unfortunately, these characters are loveable but flat.  The only one who has any depth is Fina, the mysterious stranger.  Aika is the stereotypical tough heroine, watching over the hero as a sort of “big-sister” character.  Vyse is the everyday hero, a teenager thrown into some huge quest.  The problem with both Vyse and Aika is that they are always good.  Neither of them is ever negative, nor do they do anything remotely bad.  A perfect pair!  However, this lack of character only gets annoying occasionally, and it actually fits in with the mood of the game.

Skies takes you to a variety of places, from desert to forest.  You’ll discover a variety of terrain, peoples, and civilizations.  The cities are all designed very thoroughly, and the dungeons as well.  There is no form to where the dungeons are placed (like in Zelda,) and many are unique.  For example, one forces the team to split, and only through teamwork can both halves get through the giant puzzle.  Another isn’t linear at all, but has you run around to activate switches that will reveal the final area.  My only dungeon-related complaint is that a boss is at the end of each one, so things start getting predictable and mundane (especially when you see that save point.)  Nevertheless, every place in Arcadia has some new twist and turn to explore.

Now let’s talk battle engine - what can sometimes make or break an RPG.  Skies uses the traditional active-time battle system, used in many of the Final Fantasy games.  Naturally, you can fight, run, use magic, and use items (which also includes equipping.)  Yes, there are HP and MP.  But two new battle features are included in this game - Spirit Points and Super Moves.  In Skies, Spirit Points pretty much steal the spotlight from the usual magic points.  SP is required to use both magic and Super Moves (which will be discussed later.)  SP is recovered at the end of each turn by each character, but can also be replenished during a turn using the Focus command.

Magic is pretty much rendered obsolete due to the SP system and Super Moves.  First of all, all magic requires one MP AND a spell specific amount of SP.  The MP consumption becomes a very small price to pay, but the SP mix is what brings the magic system down.  Why?  Because of Super Moves- special signature attacks that each character learns throughout the game.  Each comes with its own very flashy visuals, but those who get sick of the same scene over and over again can just hit “start” to skip the animations.  Items called “Moonberries” are necessary to be able to learn these so creatively named attacks, so the more Moonberries you have, the more Super Moves you can unlock.  Every character has at least one offensive attack, and a few even have VERY important, and sometimes even cheap, defensive moves.  Also keep in mind that Super Moves will quickly surpass the power and abilities of magic.  When it comes to using SP to the fullest, Super Moves are the best choice.

Poor MP.  Not only is magic weaker and more expensive than the Super Moves, but most offensive attacks are too weak to be even bothered with, and the healing spells are better to use in their item forms, which cost no MP or SP.  Yes, the magic system was kindly kicked to the side and replaced by items and Super Moves.

Other than that, battles are executed in a unique way as well.  The characters and enemies will move around the battlefield, adding some diversity to a usually stationary sequence.  Sometimes they’ll even take swings at one another.  Whenever someone is attacked, that character’s HP meter is shown.  This has both its good and bad points.  Obviously, it’s good because you can see the enemies HP and strategize accordingly.  But it’s bad for that same reason - there is no mystery or suspense in battles.  You can’t hope that the next strike will kill ‘em off, because you can see how low the HP is.  A weak attack from a weak attacker will never be able to make that lucky hit, because you’ll know if that hit will win the battle or not.  Surprise is also taken away by the fact that a critical hit is announced before the attacker even makes their moves. Sometimes convenient, sometimes annoying.  But alas, both of those features make big battles a little too easy.

You can’t have a game that includes air pirates without having sky battles.  And yes, I mean battles on ships in the air.  Skies’ other sort of battle, the ship battle, is pretty interesting.  Certain battles, against enemy ships and big enemies, put you at the head of the vessel to attack head-on.  A ship battle round consists of 8 turns, 4 from each side.  A grid containing 4 rows and a column for each character is how actions are input.  During each turn, a character can choose to use an item, cast a spell, guard, focus, or fire a canon or torpedo.  But beware!  Accuracy is not 100% in the air!  Also, the attack rating of the character using a cannon may affect the firepower.  And of course, with the ship being in battles directly, it must also be equipped and maintained just like the characters...

The ship battle is an interesting concept, but it’s a little underdone.  Sometimes, Vyse will be faced with a decision that will turn the tide in a fight.  Although a decision may be to go behind an enemy ship, the animation won’t show it.  In fact, ship battle animations aren’t varied much at all.  Enemy attacks are usually big and grand, but the visuals get bothersome after the second or first uses.  Add this to the fact that the game takes over after all commands are entered, and you have what seems like a repetitive cinema.  In short, ship battles can turn into all video and little action.  If the programmers didn’t want to make things diverse, there should have been a way to skip animations and save time.

Game length.  Are you ready for this?  Over fifty hours.  This game is simply a MONSTER, and it’s what the Cube has been waiting for.  Aside from an awesome adventure, Skies has loads of side quests.  For example, a number of mysterious discoveries are hidden around the world, and finding them can bring you cash.  Notorious sky criminals who have bounties on their heads are flying around, and defeating them can mean a reward.  There are also hidden items, invisible creatures called moonfish, optional bosses, and even a sub-story.  And they say special prizes await those who have found and completed EVERYTHING in the game…

The graphics are a bit blocky for GameCube, but the flashy visual effects make up for that.  I wouldn’t say that Skies resembles something on the N64, but it’s not a Metroid Prime either. 

Now, if you didn’t know, the original Skies of Arcadia was 2 GD-ROMs.  What happened with the port?  What was sacrificed?  Sadly, the music quality.  Every music track has been compressed, making it all sound bland and dull.  Some parts are almost hidden, and dynamics are rarely heard.  Pushing the game to one CD was a VERY poor decision, being that the adventure has many diverse and intriguing musical pieces.  Unfortunately, if you can’t get past the quality, you’ll be missing a lot.

Highs:

  • One of the few quality RPGs on the 'Cube
  • Takes the adventure from the ground and into the sky
  • Unique locations and dungeons
  • Awesome animations for Super Moves
  • SP!  Cool!
  • A new ship battle system
  • Great music
  • Long!  50+ hours!
  • Tons of replay value

Lows:

  • The music is compressed, making it all sound bland
  • A standard basic plot
  • The characters are flat
  • Not the greatest graphics on 'Cube
  • Magic is somewhat neglected
  • Ship battles can get long and tedious
  • HP meters in battle make things a little too easy
  • The end of the game is a little lacking

Final Verdict:

I beat this game with a “wow.”  That wow stood for so many things- the adventure, the fun, the HOURS, the music, the world, the ending…the list goes on.  And in retrospect, that wow becomes WOW!!  I’m very mad at Nintendo for not pushing this game more; Skies of Arcadia Legends does not deserve to be one of those RPGs that only hardcore fans know about.  Heck, I would easily rate this higher than some of Square’s creations any day.  Yet, all I can do now is suggest that everyone looking for a superb GCN RPG go play it, and in the meantime, I’ll go off sailing again… 

Overall Score: 9.6

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