Last Level Press

Review: Skies of Arcadia Legends

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

September 7, 1999 saw the release of Final Fantasy VIII, a game that was a follow up to a long and beloved series, and helped set in stone the dark, angsty, emotional protagonist that has become synonymous with the J-RPG as gamers know and… acknowledge.  Then, on November 13, 2000, Sega and Overworks gave expectation a middle finger, and released Skies of Arcadia, a bright and amazing adventure with a happy-go-lucky and headstrong pirate as the hero, for the Dreamcast. But we’re not gonna talk about the original. No, we’re gonna look at the GameCube “director’s cut” of one of my favorite games of all time. Set the sails, and raise your Jolly Roger for Skies of Arcadia Legends!

Oh, she’ll raise something, alright.  

Okay, I’m sorry. I’ll keep the pirate puns to a minimum. Skies of Arcadia is a turn based RPG set on the world of Arcadia, a planet with six different colored moons and composed of floating land with the only means of travel being flying ships powered by Moon Stones. The world is entering its own Age of Exploration as sailors and pirates alike forge beyond the sunset to discover new lands and stake their claims. Of course, this wouldn’t be an Age of Exploration without a bit of empire building and, wouldn’t you know it, the Valuan Empire wants to claim domination of each land under the six moons so that it has the resources it needs to fuel its military might. That’s why it’s up to Vyse of the Blue Rogues to stop Valua at any cost… because a pale skinned woman in strange silver clothes is Valua’s number one target and the only one capable of stopping ancient horrors that brought the world of myth to its knees. But hey, adventure!

“I’ve got a bitchin’ pirate coat, come at me bro!”

This game, graphically speaking, was quite a sight to behold back in its day and, in an age where anything brown and dusty is the M.O. for anything outside of “games for kids”, still looks nice overall. However, the game is reaching that age where its edges are showing. It was at the high end back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but now it’s certainly dated. If you ignore the graphics and look at it aesthetically and stylistically though, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The setting alone is a unique premise that is rarely seen in games; each nation under one of the six moons has its own style that takes inspiration and cues from our world and makes for easy identification, and the visuals of just exploring this world can bring a sense of awe as you fly past islands and see the environments change.

The game is primarily text based, and, given what samples we get for the voices, that’s a blessing. The most talking you’ll ever hear from Vyse and the motley crew he assembles is during their battles, and gets the job done, but any time a character speaks outside of battle it’s less than great; forced gasps, wooden delivery, just random bits of noise that remind you that they have a certain way of sounding.

Editor: By the way, “motly” is putting it lightly.  

Pictured: Bionic Commando: The After Years.

This isn’t simply an attribute that didn’t age well, because there are examples of decent to great voice work in games that were Arcadia’s contemporaries. Thankfully, the music is scored better than the voice work, and is one of the few soundtracks I can listen to in its entirety. Although the audio quality had to be compressed in order to fit on the GameCube disc and most music you’ll find for the game is the Dreamcast version, it doesn’t really take away from the game and still sounds wonderful. Since it’s a global tour you take as Vyse, the music will change and fit to the area you find yourself in.

The controls are a bit rigid, but they aren’t affably bad: your movements in the overworld can be a bit wooden at times but you don’t do a lot of movement to begin with. This game, however, shines in its mechanics. You’ve got your standard turn-based combat where Vyse is your heavy hitter and the other members of your team have their specialized tactics, to which half of your four member team is relegated to support once you figure out the best strategy in going forward. However, because this game has such a large emphasis on airships right from the get-go, and you are an Air Pirate, Skies of Arcadia has ship to ship/large enemy combat that is also turn based. When you encounter another ship or a ship-sized enemy, each character’s turn is used to fire a cannon, use a spell, use items, or even call upon members of your crew to assist in the battle in a color coded grid system with green meaning no advantage or enemy attack, yellow meaning enemy attack, and red meaning enemy has an advantage or will use a strong attack. Both the character combat and ship combat use a pool of Spirit Points which serves as the cost of special attacks, firing cannons, or using magic. Magic also has MP, or Magic Points, which denote how many spells you can cast, with each spell costing one Magic Point. Be it land or air, there is strategy to be had! Also, just be glad this is Skies of Arcadia Legends, or you’d be facing random encounters so many times that the original Final Fantasy for the NES would feel sorry for you.

“Psh, nah I don’t.  Let’em burn.”

And, of course, there’s the experience of this game. While your typical RPG will either take place in a single land where you can see the culture and life you might expect or it takes place in a world where you go town to town and say “Yep, here’s this one town and its gimmick,” Skies of Arcadia feels like a world to explore. It’s a simple rendering of major world cultures from history and can border on stereotypical, but it’s still a world where you can see a noticeable culture and style. You can tell what nation or area a ship is from based on how it looks, such as a Valuan ship will always be metal and have yellow on it somewhere or a Nasrean ship will look ornate and have an Arabian look to it, and the music gives you cues to tell you where you are. I had mentioned previously that the overworld themes are my favorite because they fit the airspace you’re in, but I also love how they match the mood of where you are in the story: the first theme is light, airy, and brimming with adventure while the final overworld theme sounds more militaristic and determined to match the mission you’re on while still not being overbearing because you’re still seeing more of this world than most in that world ever have. And, lest I forget, there’s actual discovering to do! For every discovery you find you can sell the information to a Sailor’s Guild and since Skies of Arcadia Legends is chock full of ‘em, with an extra twenty four not found in the original, you’ve got your hands full. And, in a strange turn of events that would make Roronoa Zoro confused, you, an Air Pirate, can attack and defeat other wanted pirates and claim their bounties to make you even richer. Saving the world ain’t cheap.

I’ve made it clear that I love this game if for nothing else but the music and style it presents, but it’s so much more for me. However, I do question if people would enjoy this as much as I have now that it has been almost ten years since I first played this game. If you like turn-based strategy, a decent story, and simply missed out on this gem back when it first released, then I bid you good luck in finding the GameCube version for cheap, let alone the more elusive Dreamcast version. If you haven’t played a J-RPG before, this one might not be a good place to start since it can be hard to play for the first time if you don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s not an unforgiving title, either. If none of that sounds appealing, then away with ye, ya scurvy dog, and thanks for reading!

See? I kept my promise, and didn’t use many pirate jokes.  

Rating: 7.4

Visuals: 7
Audio: 8
Controls & Mechanics: 6
Atmosphere & Experience: 9
Entertainment Value: 7

Editor:  Yeah, that was ARRguably one of your better ARRticles, Atticus.  

Definitely set the bARR for yourself, there, mate!

  Consoles: Nintendo GameCube

  Developer: Overworks

  Publisher: Sega

  Release Date (U.S.):  Jan 27, 2003

  Release Date (U.K.):  May 23, 2003

  Release Date (JP):  Dec 26, 2002

Final Verdict:


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

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