Okay, okay, so I fibbed. I did say that Baten Kaitos would be the first RPG I give a review to, but considering how long it's taking me to get back into that game, and also looking at the dozens of Role-Playing Games I have on my shelf, it wouldn't be wise to wait much longer. So, I thought of kicking the genre off with a bang, and there ain't much better than this.
As mentioned before somewhere in this vast asteroid field of a website, my username mainly stems from Skies of Arcadia, and in particular one of the greatest moments in gaming, so you can understand that I have somewhat of an affinity for it.
Righto the, a little later than planned, but I'll be buggered if I don't get this bloody review up eventually.
Originally released upon the legendary Sega Dreamcast, Skies of Arcadia (or Eternal Arcadia if you reside in the Land of the Rising Sun) helped fill the Role-Playing gap quite nicely, alongside the great Grandia 2.
Developed by Overworks, a team otherwise known for Phantasy Star and Streets of Rage, and Published by Sega themselves, Skies saw critical acclaim, with many to this day deeming it one of, if not THE best games on the Dreamcast.
Unfortunately for gamers everywhere, the colossal foot-stomp of the Playstation 2 knocked Dreamcast into the aether, and not long after Skies' release, it's host console had snuffed it. So things weren't looking up for any possible continuation... Until Sega revealed that an upgraded version of the game was heading to Nintendo's Gamecube (PS2 was planned as well, but subsequently canceled).
In a rather striking irony, the newly formed Skies of Arcadia: Legends provided a solution to the Gamecube's lack of great RPGs, in much the same way as the Dreamcast.
So then Mr Professional-Reviewer-Wannabe, what is the game like?
One of the greatest strengths of any great Role-Playing Game is the story, and Skies has one of the best. You take control of Vyse, a young Blue Rouge Pirate that targets the evil Valuan Armada for looting purposes. On one mission, Vyse and his buddy Aika (filling the void of general freaky Anime-Hairstyle nicely) encounter a kidnapped and typically mysterious Fina, and the story really kicks off from there. You'll be sailing ships through the skies (yep, you read that right), engaging in spectacular battles with Giant Gigas', and exploring new and fascinating regions throughout the world.
So, you can tick off storyline on your checklist, this game has it covered in spades.
Skies is a traditional RPG, so it is of the turn-based battles variety. 'BOOOOOOO!', you might be chanting, but to be fair, the game has a decent stab at something a little different.
Battles can happen in one of two ways, through regular on-foot scrapping, on Airship vs Airship (more on that later). Standard battles are what you would expect, choose actions from a list of commands like Attack, Spells, Items, for the individual members of your Party, and see the drama unfold. Characters possess the tried-and-tested Hit Point Meter for health, and an Special Point Meter for Special Attacks. The whole group share this slowly-recharging meter, so there is an air of strategic thought needed on utilizing it.
Instead of remaining in a straight line, your party members also move in a pre-arranged pattern on the battle field. Whilst the player is not in direct control of this movement, careful consideration of techniques can help avoid enemy assaults.
The other part of battles, and the one that is less recurrent, is the Ship Battles. Early on in the game, your party acquires a ship for transport, and for taking out hostiles. Ship battles work in much the same way as the regular ones, although some spells have different effects, and each character on-board is allowed one attack option per turn.
Whilst regular battles feel much the same as any other RPG, the ship battles give a sense of new and uniqueness, despite the similarities.
In regards to graphics, Skies is, for lack of a more fitting word, functional. The game looked good on the Dreamcast, but there was no noticeable update for the Gamecube transition, so in comparison to say, Tales of Symphonia or Baten Kaitos, it does suffer. That said though, the world of Arcadia is brilliantly realized, and it all melds together like a completed Jigsaw.
I've always been one to compliment great music with the Role-Playing Genre, and Skies is absolutely no exception. The Overworld theme is divine, and the battle themes kick all manner of ass. Unfortunately on the transition from DC to GC, the sound has a lower quality, but it is no less memorable or great because of it.
There was an Official Soundtrack released for the game in Japan, and after hearing what Skies has to offer, you won't be surprised.
Aside from looks, another criticism that can be yelled at this game is the Randomly-encountered battles. Sometimes annoying, and at-times too frequent (although toned down from the original build), they can get on your nerves. Thankfully there are items in-game to combat this annoyance.
Legends is a pretty lengthy quest, building upon the 50 or so hours that the original release offered. There are Bounties to hunt, new Ship Members to recruit, Moonfish to capture, and a new Hard-as-Nails Boss to take down once in a while, so you'll get a lot out of this.
If you see this anywhere, do not hesitate, get it. On top of offering one of the most jaw-dropping moments of gaming history, Skies of Arcadia is one of the best of it's genre, and not an experience to be missed.
I for one hope that the rumour of a sequel to this brilliant game is not without truth.