In 2000 Skies of Arcadia was released by Sega for the Dreamcast. In 2002/2003 it rose from the ashes of that arguable failure of a console in the form of Skies of Arcadia: Legends, for the Gamecube. This new lease on life is fortunate for RPG fans who likely missed the original release of the game, and do not own a Dreamcast. The game embodies many of the cliches and stereotypes that fans of the genre thrive on.
In the game the player assumes the role of Vyse, the son of an Air Pirate, who dreams of following in his father’s footsteps and captaining his own ship, sailing unfamiliar skies, and aiding the innocent. He is joined by his childhood friend and fellow Air Pirate, Aika, and the mysterious traveler Fina whom he rescues from The Forces of Evil in the opening scenes of the game.
As anyone who has ever played an RPG could have guessed by now, Vyse spends the game foiling The Forces of Evil (in this game they are the Valuan Empire, but they are so two-dimensional that The Forces of Evil really will do), traveling the world, and pretending that he is not teetering on the edge of a love triangle with Aika and Fina. The story is very cliche, and extremely predictable, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The game is actually quite refreshing with its honesty and purity to the genre, a fact that will certainly endear it to some players, while boring and repulsing others.
The chief gimmick in Skies of Arcadia is its ship vs. ship battles, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the game amongst the more traditional dungeon exploration and party battles. The ships are customizable, with equipment slots for special items and weapons, similar to those of the playable characters. The only complaint that players regularly have regarding this gameplay mechanic is that the battles do seem to rely heavily upon special attacks. Essentially, the ship has one ultimate attack which requires a great deal of power, and can only be used when the ship is correctly positioned. Many times during ship battles the player will feel as if they are merely biding their time until they can use their special attack and end the fight.
Graphically, the game is quite underwhelming, even by Dreamcast standards. Its developers, Overworks, embraced a simpler, cartoon-like style. The environments and characters are very vibrant, and give off a distinctly childish vibe. The game is generally pleasant to the eye, but the lack of detail and realism certainly do date this nearly decade-old game. It should be mentioned that audio and visual elements for the game were not updated for the Gamecube release. The difference between Legends and the original is in the depth and breadth of its side content.
Overall, Skies of Arcadia is a charming game and is sure to please RPG fans who enjoy a bit of nostalgia and traditional story and gameplay elements. The characters and plot are typical, but are well-written, giving them a level of depth not found in many of the older games to which this one harkens back. There is also enough side content to keep the player busy and entertained for hours upon hours.