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Skies of Arcadia

Baldur's Gate IIThe Dreamcast library has long been criticized for its limited number of RPGs. There is no question about this but the Dreamcast in no way lacks a good RPG. Even if only 3 titles stand out (Phantasy Star Online, Grandia II and Skies of Arcadia) these 3 titles not only stand out but at times they soar as well.

Skies of Arcadia (SoA) is set in a world of sailors and pirates that sail the skies instead of oceans. It is a quirky idea but navigating one's winged ship across skies of floating islands is a breathtaking sight.

Unlike Square and Black Isle RPGs, SoA is a lighthearted adventure. Then ending though like other games in the genre, is dramatic and unforgettable. It is about Vyse a young pirate who just wants to see the world. In the process he gets to save it as well. The game does not reward cautiousness and guile but courage; Vyse reputation depends on being headstrong against insurmountable odds.

From start to finish SoA is a graphical gem. Everything is in full 3D. There are no static backgrounds. While the environments may be simplistic, the textures are bright, clean and convincing. Also a departure from a tradition established by Final Fantasy games, there are no FMV cut-scenes. Everything is rendered on the fly. While dialogue relies on captions, the facial expressions on character's faces are a joy to watch.

The music is inspiring and fitting to the whole adventure but nothing is memorable. The battle system is standard turn based with the addition f managing party spirit along with hit and mana points. There are also ship battles that are a break from the usual battles

Nothing is particularly groundbreaking with SoA; everything here has been done before. No Japanese console RPG however has reached this level of presentation before. The graphics and gameplay here is elevated way above the standard enough so that its lack of originality is soon forgotten.

With the genre however came also its problems. SoA has the more random battles than most RPGs making the task of exploration a tedious task. This is the game's only flaw. I expected to see enemies in real time so I could avoid them if I wanted to. The reason why games in the past didn't do this was because the hardware couldn't render the enemies in real time. The story, graphics and battle system, still, prodded me to go on and the reward of advancing through the game was well worth it.

Otherwise Skies of Arcadia is a near perfect game that would complete any Dreamcast library.

October 2001


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