Last Level Press


Are Nostalgia and Skies of Arcadia the Same Game?

By: Olen Bjorgo

*Warning! Contains spoilers for Skies of Arcadia and Nostalgia!*

As you might have noticed, I was less than pleasant when I wrote about Nostalgia and how it was inferior to Skies of Arcadia.  However, I had to wonder how much my preference to Skies was based on, for the lack of a better word, nostalgia. While I’m not going to back track on my words or ratings, I might have been just a bit kinder to Skies than I should have been. The game is a ten-plus year old port, and my rose-tinted glasses make me see it more fondly than I really should, but I still think it holds up, and it’s still fun. Nostalgia, on the other hand, is enjoyable in its own right, and I really didn’t hate it. I mean, I invested over forty hours of playtime into it, about twenty of which were devoted to beating the game. That said, I’m far more likely to recommend Skies of Arcadia, even though access to playing it is becoming more difficult as the years go by, while Nostalgia can be played in a current handheld console (for now, at least).

But why would I prefer one over the other? Both games are similar: a world that is dependent on airship technology and experiencing Westernized themes of expansion and exploration, main characters that fight with swords and protect mysterious looking pale women with special powers or abilities, a sinister group seeking an ancient power to rule the world, and the numerous genre tropes that you could come to expect. You could even say they are the same game at the end of the day, but are they really? No. No, they’re not. One executes their ideas and themes better.

And that statement can be taken two ways, mind you.

I do want to make it clear that I don’t see Skies of Arcadia as some pinnacle of what an RPG should be and what all games ought to strive for, and it’s by no means perfect. The game follows a relatively predictable story, just like Nostalgia does, but it still has twists you might not see coming, whereas Nostalgia maybe had one or two. There I go again, being mean to Nostalgia. I’m sorry, sweetie.

“You always say you’re sorry…”

Perhaps I should stop beating around the bush, and explain what I mean by Skies’ developers executing their ideas better than Nostalgia did. First off, the world we’re given to explore seems more whimsical and fun in Skies of Arcadia. While I do love the ideas that you can generate from imaging alternate timelines of our world, the limitless possibilities of history’s many “what if” questions, they are also open to being executed poorly, and in the case of Nostalgia, there’s nothing really explored. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, Atlantis, El Dorado, Lemuria; these mythical locations are simply a part of the world, and explained away as “Wow, these places aren’t myths! Let’s kill monsters, and get the McGuffin!”

“Quick! Before we empathize!”

The world of Arcadia, however, is a place that is similar to our world, but nothing like it: people live on floating rocks, fish and other normal marine creatures fly, chunks of the six moons fall down and are used as a source of fuel for everyday living, and we can identify cues or ideas from our world in Arcadia. You don’t go to Europe, you go to Valua. You don’t go to the Middle East, you go to Nasr. Arcadia has its own legends, its own history, events that affect people you encounter. There’s a larger sense of wonder, and Nostalgia never truly pulls this off effectively until the very end, when you find yourself literally in another world so unlike our own.

“Damn, when you put it like that…”

Then, we have the characters. Granted, neither game really explores in depth to their motivations, but Skies does it more than Nostalgia. Let’s compare, shall we? The leading protagonists of Skies of Arcadia and Nostalgia, Vyse and Edward respectively, are basically the same: both have famous fathers, they surpass their fathers by merit of being the heroes, they captain airships, they fight with swords, they have the same motivation to see the world, they both have the honor of discovering things in their world, and they’ve got some pretty cool outfits. Except for a few minor details, they’re essentially the same person.  That leaves the rest of the party, but since Skies of Arcadia has six playable characters, while Nostalgia only has four, that leaves a bit of a disadvantage, so I’m gonna have to stretch a bit.

As far as gunslingers go, Skies of Arcadia’s Gilder is so much better than Nostalgia’s Pad. Gilder is a womanizing Air Pirate with an obsessive stalker, an adventurous spirit, and tends to be a drifter who would love nothing more than to have one arm around a woman, a drink in the other, and enjoy a sunset. He has a suave but carefree style that can be charming but also despicable when you think of how he was before he met Vyse. Pad, on the other hand, is one note. He’s an orphan who grew up as a street urchin, and wants to find his parents. While Pad and Gilder only go along with the heroes because they happen to be dragged along, Gilder will come and go to do his own thing, while we’re stuck with Pad.

“I told you, bitchin’ pirate coat.  Bitches love pirate coats.  

You mad, bro?”

The mysterious silver women of Fina and Fiona are remarkably different. While Fiona has amnesia throughout most of Nostalgia, and her primary goal is to discover her past and why the Ancient Father’s Cabal wants her, we learn straight away that Fina is a descendant of the Silvites, one of six ancient civilizations that ruled under the Silver Moon during a hyper advanced technological lost age of Arcadia that was lucky to survive the apocalyptic event known as the Rains of Destruction, and her mission is to gather five ancient gems called Moon Crystals to prevent the Valuan Empire from misusing them like the ancients did. We’re given a backstory, a good motivation, and have Fina as a proxy to help us learn about the ancient history of Arcadia, as well as the present time, since she’s initially unaware of concepts like money and ghosts. Fiona doesn’t get any semblance of interesting until much later, when we learn that she’s actually a Princess of the White Order, from another world called Asgard, and was locked away in Pandora’s Box along with the three leaders of the opposing Black Order.

Melody and Aika are the last comparable couple, since the remaining two characters from Skies of Arcadia, Prince Enrique and Drachma, are both male and not known for their magic in combat. Both Aika and Melody can be egotistical and selfish, can show their softer side for their friends, both are powerful magic users, and both are orphans. Melody had no friends her own age growing up so she’s brash around the party and is shown to care for the equally brash Pad. Aika, however, grew up alongside Vyse, and was even adopted by his family after her parents were killed, and, after getting in danger during a rescue mission when they were ten years old, was indirectly responsible for Vyse’s signature crescent scar on his cheek. Aika, rather unsubtly, makes it clear that she has feelings for Vyse through showing extreme concern for his well-being, showing signs of jealousy when women flirt with him, and gives him a peck on the check (which is incidentally, the only kiss in the game) for good luck the night before a big battle against Valua.

Fade to black, and insert fan-fiction.

The addition of Enrique and Drachma possibly play an important role in why I prefer Skies of Arcadia. Drachma, an old fishing captain from the North Ocean near Valua, plays a Captain Ahab type of character who hunts for a giant arcwhale he calls Rhaknam, which destroyed his first ship, killed his crew and son, and made him lose his arm, and possibly his eye as well. Prior to this discovery, we only know that he finds the mission of finding Moon Crystals and fighting the Valuan Armada head-on is an “I’m too old for this” shtick, and simply wants to kill Rhaknam but slowly enjoys having people around after decades of sailing the skies in solitude. He’s not a deep character, but he has a moment that is without dialogue that shows that he has finally found peace and ready to move on with his life.

Enrique, Crown Prince and Heir to the Valuan Empire, is your typical male royalty character: he’s trained in the art of the rapier, is educated about the world and its workings, but not its day-to-day function in real life (book smart, not street smart), falls in love with a princess, and is honor and duty bound for the protection of his people. He opposes his mother, Empress Teodora, and the majority of Admirals in their pursuit of conquering the world by force; he knows that an empire that ignores the plight of the people won’t stand for long. The Empress, of course, dismisses this as the ramblings of a young idealist unaware of how the world truly works. Enrique’s foundation for his honorable nature is “Uncle” Gregorio, the oldest of the Admirals and a friend of his deceased father, and both are sad that they must be on opposing sides for fighting for what they believe in: a strong Valua for the sake of peace and prosperity. While he doesn’t sound that interesting, he does become stronger and more independent in his travels, and has the courage to stand against his homeland and its actions to become an honorable man in both mind as well as action.

If I had to say one glowing remark of praise in recommendation of Nostalgia, it’s that it’s an adventure in its simplest form that is free from any large pretense or thought-provoking ideas. However, I like to play adventures that don’t simply happen; I want an adventure where the characters don’t just accomplish their goals, personal or otherwise, but learn about themselves, change, and grow from their travels. People can travel, learn about new things, discover amazing sites, but good stories come from the experiences and changes that occur from that traveling, that knowledge, that discovery. Skies of Arcadia does this sublimely with not only our heroes changing and growing, but also with some of the villains as well: the only ones who are truly abhorrent are the ones who are too crazy to learn or too stupid to try. Stories that do this, regardless of their source, make the most profound impacts, and, if you take nothing else away from this, I hope you can tell that this game made one hell of an impact on me growing up.

Nostalgia, on the other hand…

Share this page:

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google Bookmarks
Share on Reddit
Share on Stumble Upon
Share on LiveJournal
Share on Digg
Share via e-mail

Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport  Est. 2013.   | Legal Notices

comments powered by Disqus