|Skies of Arcadia Legends|
|Genre||Mundane Sky-Pirate RPG|
|MtAMinutes to Action||5|
|Score||5 Gameplay: 4
Fun Factor: 4
|Buy from Amazon|
Skies of Arcadia Legends is a role-playing game developed by Overworks and released on the Gamecube. It is an enhanced port published by Sega in early 2003. The original game, simply Skies of Arcadia, was released on the Dreamcast in 2000. The game was pretty well received on the Dreamcast and has even ranked on some all time top 100 video game lists. The port to the Gamecube was an interesting decision considering the system was not known for RPGs, but Sega probably figured gamers would be eager to grab up a game when it stands nearly alone in the genre. They were also probably right (hey, even I own a copy).
Anyways, Skies of Arcadia follows a group of sky pirates who steal from the rich and give to the poor. The main pirate is Vyse, a young man who apparently wields a glass sword as some sort of useless forearm shield. He's joined by "up to 22 crew members" according to the back of the box, most of whom appear to be skinny, voluptuous women or tough looking pirate geezers. Not a bad combination there. The game also features ship-to-ship battles along with the typical RPG fights, so let's see how much Skies of Arcadia sets itself apart from those landlubbers in its first hour.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the timer starts. A cutscene starts with a view of the moon and the wind howling around us. A flying airship passes through the sky with a young woman in white on board. The ship is being chased by a much larger, intimidating airship! We cut to a man in a white cape named Alfonso who says (text, no voice acting) that he finally found her.
01 - Alfonso orders his crew to fire on the other ship and capture the woman. Her ship starts going down in a slew of smoke as it is hit By the way, ordering your men to take out a ship on the run usually means they're bad guys.
02 - The woman is knocked out, she kind of looks like Princess Zelda. Some text informs me that the woman has been taken aboard. All of a sudden the bad guy's ship is rocked by an explosion.
03 - Alfonso looks stunned! "Who would dare attack a vessel in the Imperial Armada?" Imperial always means bad guys, suspicion confirmed.
04 - It's Air Pirates! A similar sized ship throws grappling hooks onto the Imperial Ship and the pirates hop aboard. A kid named Vyse is to the rescue, but he's surrounded by armored Imperial Guards.
05 - A girl that looks exactly like Pippi Longstocking joins Vyse on deck, her name is Aika. They're members of the Blue Rogues and proud of it. Time for a battle! Battle options consist of the usual: Attack, Guard, Item, Run, and Magic. There's also two things called S-Move and Focus. Side note: what's up with all the red-headed characters lately looking exactly like some real-life counterpart. Just last week we had a bully in Psychonauts who looked like an even uglier Carrot Top as a child.
06 - I attempt to do an S-Move but it's grayed out. I just attack with Vyse and Aika instead. They totally destroy the guards with some nasty swipes of their weapons. Vyse was hit but barely hurt.
07 - A man named Dyne shoots another guard, Vyse yells "Dad!" A little family drama occurs and then Vyse and Aika run off in search of treasure. I'm now in full control, there's a mini-map in the lower map. Mini-maps are a good things.
08 - After jogging a bit down below, Alfonso calls to me. He blabs on a bit but makes the mistake of showing off the girl.
09 - Vyse is stunned he kidnapped someone, but before he can react, Alfonso sends four green soldiers at us!
10 - Aikia is using some kind of boomerang, but when she's in close range she just whacks them with it. Similar to the battle animations in Chrono Trigger. I win the battle easily enough and they both level up and gain some stats. Aika also ranks up and learns Sacri. No idea what that may be. Probably some sort of heal.
11 - Being a treasure hunter, I'm also on the lookout for chests, I find one with a Sacri Crystal 2 in it.
12 - Ugh, a random battle. This time the baddies get to hit me a few times first, but Vyse counters one of them and kills them. Poor sap. These guys are being killed by a boomerang... My characters also have 400-500 hit points and are getting hit for about 40. I'm basically invincible at this point.
13 - Alfonso is stunned we beat his soldiers. A baby could have beaten them.
14 - I find a switch that turns off the alarm, maybe that will stop the random battles? I also find a save point in the shape of an anchor, looks neat.
15 - I find a door and run outside, the pirate music has stopped and I'm climbing a ladder down the side of the craft! Pretty scary, but I'm an air pirate!
16 - The bastard Alfonso chucks one of his own men off the ship to frame him as a traitor. What a loser.
17 - Good thing Vyse is right behind him to deliver justice! Oh oh, Alfonso raises his arm and an armored bull charges into the room. Looks like it's boss time.
18 - I decide to focus with Vyse... The bull counters an attack from Aika with some thunder fury!
19 - I guessed correctly that Sacri is a healing spell, I need it as this bull is hitting harder than the typical guard. Vyse misses from point blank, lame.
20 - S-Move time! The bar on top of the screen says 8/8 so it's available, no idea how it got full but I'm not complaining! Vyse does some mean slashes and does a bit of damage, pretty nice.
21 - Meanwhile, Aika is getting beat up bad as the bull is focusing on her. I manage to heal in time, turns out the heal uses 2 points from that bar on top, and Vyse and Aika share the bar. Odd.
22 - The bull dies in a fiery explosion, yay! Level up for both. But more importantly the longer battle has given me a clue on how the battle system really works.
23 - Alfonso escapes on a personal craft, quite the coward. Our heroes turn back to the girl in white and the scene cuts away.
25 - The girl named Fina wakes up in a bed, Aika and Vyse introduce themselves and the Blue Rogues. I get the option to have Vyse say that Fina is weird name and Aika gets pissed at me. Well, it is kind of strange.
26 - In the following conversation, Vyse explains that there are two types of pirates, the Blue Rogues (the good guys of course) and the Black Pirates (the mean and dastardly pirates). Vyse basically says that the Blue Rogues rob from the rich and give to the poor. How original. Vyse and Aika are called out of the room by Dyne and I'm back in control.
28 - I explore the bottom level of the ship and then head up to the bridge.
29 - Dyne chews me out for being late and calling him "Dad" instead of "Captain." Bah.
30 - I speak with Briggs the Vice Captain, he tells me we're heading for Pirate Isle (obviously) and that it's southeast from here. Looks like I get to steer the ship!
31 - Steering is a little different than just wandering around on foot. The L and R buttons control altitude. Well, that's the only difference. Time to head out!
32 - What the frak? A random battle? Vyse and Aika appear on deck and are fighting three "Maroccas." No idea. I barely do any damage at all to them, this could become obnoxious quickly. I use Vyse's magic, Pyri, to do massive damage to these hitchhikers. That's the ticket.
34 - Our team levels up again and I'm back in control of the ship. I should note that there's islands floating in the sky and there appears to be giant waterfalls lining the sky to serve as walls. Weird. I arrive at Pirate Isle and a cutscene begins.
36 - Fina and Vyse chat on deck as they approach the village and we get a look at the inhabitants. They all look happy. A large piece of the island opens up to reveal a passage for the ship to enter. Sweet setup.
37 - We're inside the island now and the pirates are checking out their booty haul. Dyne yells down to Vyse and orders him and Fina to his office immediately.
38 - I'm back in control and save my game. Aika and Fina are no where to be seen even though they're supposedly with me. I always liked the caterpillar method of showing your party members running behind you, too bad.
40 - I find a door to the outside, but it's locked. Dyne doesn't want Fina wandering about in the sun I guess. I wish I could roll or jump or something as I'm running around. It's kind of boring. A double jump would be extra special.
41 - I enter Dyne's office with the ladies. Dad starts interrogating Fina as he doesn't recognize her clothing. I'm given the option to defend Fina but I choose not to. A happy sound is played, looks like I made the right decision this time!
42 - Aika defends her instead and is put in place be the boss. This is a heated conversation but without voice acting it's lacking in emotion. Sometimes there's a random "uh huh" or "hey" but that's about it. There's also no music right now... awkward.
43 - Fina won't tell where she's from and Dyne understands and decides to trust her. Now we have to give her a tour of topside. I head back to the door and out into the fresh air.
44 - Aika needs to head home to "freshen up," maybe she's got the hots for Fina.
45 - The environments really do not look that great. They're built like they're on the Nintendo 64, all blocky and polygonal, but the textures are a little higher quality, though bland. Also the island is just wide open with just a short fence lining it, anyone could fall down to who knows where at any time!
47 - I explore the town along with Fina, there's no load times and entering buildings is seamless, that's nice at least. Nothing of real interest though.
50 - I spend about a minute climbing a ladder. And much like the Bridge to Nowhere, it serves no purpose, time to climb back down...
52 - I enter a house and meet my mom. Quite the polygonal hottie. Okay, not really. Aika enters and says we should watch the sunset from Lookout Island. I really hope that's not up the ladder.
54 - Oh my Lord, it is.
55 - Our trio chill out high in the sky (it should be noted that Pirate Isle is already very high relatively to the unknown surface of the planet). They talk about what's "beyond the sky." A not-so-deep conversation ensues.
56 - All of a sudden a blue meteor streaks across the sky! It's a Moon Stone! For a second there I thought it was the bad guys coming to blow up the island village in true RPG fashion. The stone magically lands on Shrine Island, an island a bit off of Pirate Isle. Aika and Vyse hatch a plan to get the stone tomorrow.
57 - Mom calls for us and the game transports me down the ladder! Thank you game!
58 - A lullaby plays, signifying the end of a long day as the morning sun bursts through Vyse's window. Aika's texty voice breaks the silence though and it's time to head out.
59 - Dyne gives me a purple moon stone as my haul from the ship yesterday, it can power up my weapons and give them the power of ice!
60 - Doesn't look like Fina is accompanying us, good. She'd just get in the way anyway with her princess-like gracefulness. We head for a small island where a ship is waiting for us, and Aika and Vyse head out on another adventure as the first hour comes to a close.
Now for some scores out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 5
This is a 3D game but you might as well lay down the square 2D tiles for Vyse to walk on as that's how it feels when running around outside battle. Inside battle is not that much better, it's extremely basic combat with little variation in the first hour. I was able to pull off one super move but the battles just didn't seem exciting. I can't help compare this to my first hour review of Final Fantasy VII, there's just nothing special about either of them in terms of gameplay, but Final Fantasy VII is just a little more polished and the active time battles give it an advantage. Also don't make me climb a super tall ladder and not reward me at all for my patience.
Fun Factor: 4
Random battles are not fun. I used to defend random battles, I'm not sure why, but that was back in the day where there were not many alternatives. Now almost every RPG gets around random battles somehow so playing older ones are just painful. Especially random battles when I'm sailing an airship, I'm sorry but that doesn't make any sense. Some bad guys might hop on, but why does the guy behind the wheel have to clean them up? The whole airship sailing is fun, but walking around inside the ships and on land is awkward. I spent 30 seconds just trying to get Vyse to face a ladder in his bedroom. The game hinted at some cool potential in customizing and upgrading weapons which is typically interesting.
Graphics and Sound: 5
I can cut the game a little slack for being an enhanced port, but the Dreamcast was no slouch (see Soul Calibur) in terms of graphics. It's not really about how many polygons you have, it's how you use them. Skies of Arcadia does not use them very well, unfortunately. The environments are bland bland bland, the characters look okay, and the animations are mediocre at best. This is a very average looking Gamecube game. On the other hand, I enjoyed the music quite a bit, but the sound effects were cheesy and the lack of voice acting is seemingly inexcusable, but you have to remember that Skies of Arcadia originally came out in 2000, before voice acting in epic RPGs became the norm.
This was really the only satisfying category for me, and it was really only redeemed because there are pirates. Pirates and treasure hunters are like instant gold for me, and this is the third game I've reviewed to feature them (see The Curse of Monkey Island and Kirby Super Star). Those games scored well, but seriously, Skies of Arcadia is shaping up to be a extremely cookie cutter adventure. I think it did a good job though establishing the good guys (the Blue Rogue pirates), the bad guys (the Imperials), and even the potential other bad guys (the Black Pirates). There's also Fina who is seemingly from another world, which adds a sense of mystery to an otherwise basic first hour.
Skies of Arcadia Legends' first hour is mediocre. That's what a score of five means from me: average, bland. Neither rubbish nor special. Pirates are cool, crappy gameplay is not. I was just not impressed with the game but I feel that the RPG genre is kind of stacked against when just reviewing the first hour. The story can't be fleshed out, the characters can't be thoroughly introduced, and the battle mechanics can't be fully explored. However, the general gameplay can be appreciated, and Skies of Arcadia does not deliver. I simply do not want to play this game for 20 or 80 hours, whatever it may be. It is clunky and derivative and I can't honestly recommend it unless all you own is a Gamecube and you're desperate for your RPG sky pirate fix. Hey, there's gotta be someone out there, right?