Skies of Arcadia Legends - Reader Retroview  

Legends of the Mall – Oops, Wrong Arcadia!
by JuMeSyn

45-55 hours


Rating definitions 

   To make a good port of an extant game is not terribly difficult for game companies, but it nevertheless seems to escape the reach of some. The legions of games that are ported with unacceptable issues added to their controls, or their graphics, or their sound, make it clear that all too often a port is done under immense time constraints with the sole purpose of attaining extra dollars for a game company. Skies of Arcadia could have been shafted in this way – fortunately Overworks put in the extra effort required to make certain the game reached the Gamecube not only intact but with additional content. The GC is not known primarily for its RPG’s, but Skies of Arcadia Legends leads the pack for the machine.

   Visually SoAL doesn’t quite compare to what is possible on the GC, a legacy of its Dreamcast origin. Its look is hardly ugly, however. And one aspect that is very seldom achieved in an RPG is its possession of a different figure for every NPC. The ONLY NPCs who look the same are soldiers who are supposed to look the same anyway. Weapons look a bit different in battle when something new is equipped also. Magic and special attacks are not necessarily the best ever but certainly look impressive. And the characters look just right with the current graphical style.

This is what happens when a potato is left in the microwave, people. This is what happens when a potato is left in the microwave, people.

   It is in the audio that the only detriment of Skies’ move to Gamecube can be found, and even here it will only be unpleasant when a high-quality sound system is used. The music sounds less impressive in quality than it did on Dreamcast, which is most unfortunate. The quality decrease is more noticeable in a more impressive sound system, but a slight drop is detectable even through a standard television. Aside from this negative, the beautiful music in Skies of Arcadia shines through strongly. Plenty of tracks are in the game, with a few extra for the Legends version – and finding a true stinker among the selection is difficult. Voice acting is present but inconsequential outside of battle; the characters tend to utter brief clips now and again that really don’t add to the action and can get annoying when they don’t match the text onscreen, although what is said is said well. Sound effects are rather good, and frequently match what is being depicted onscreen.

   Skies of Arcadia features a trio of protagonists as its core. Vyse is a Blue Rogue, one of two variants on the pirate found in Skies of Arcadia; Blue Rogues are the chivalric version. Aika is a fellow Blue Rogue, and she has been Vyse’s friend since they were both very young. Fina is a stranger from the Silver civilization that has not dwelt on the surface of Arcadia for centuries, tasked to track down the Moon Crystals that can summon the Gigas of legend. Vyse and Aika are quite chipper, with nothing ever getting them depressed for long. Fina is at first very introverted but slowly responds to the ebullience of her new companions. A few other characters join this trio, and many others get involved in the quest. Naturally collecting the Moon Crystals is not easy when the Valuan Empire has an interest in collecting them as well, and all of its Admirals will at one point or another face off against Vyse and company. The story may not be the best in the world but is very well told and is certainly a lot of fun to see unfold.

   Battles in Skies of Arcadia are random, turn-based, and they happen frequently. With that said, there is a fair amount of strategizing to be done in them. Every weapon in the game can be changed at any time in color, corresponding to one of the six Moons. Each Moon has a different elemental affinity, and most enemies originate in one particular area, giving them an elemental weakness. The current weapon color also affects magic experience, which determines what magic system (also based on one of the six Moons) that character will receive experience in post-battle. If all four characters have a different color in place, each will receive some experience in each color, but putting more than one character into a purple mode means additional experience in the purple spell field. Spells are exclusively learned via this system. Regular experience is also awarded, with the standard effect.

Piastol boldly declares her intention to reap and to sow – but since there are no crops around, her choices are limited. Piastol boldly declares her intention to reap and to sow – but since there are no crops around, her choices are limited.

   There is also the Spirit meter to mention. Regular attacks and item usage have no cost, but super moves and magic require certain amounts of Spirit. Super moves are in themselves gained by finding Moonberries (these are rarely found in random battle spoils, but more often in chests while exploring). Each super move requires a certain amount of Spirit to use but has no other cost. Each character gains a set amount of Spirit per round, and one of the actions that can be taken gains extra Spirit at the cost of otherwise standing motionless. There is also a status ailment that prevents Spirit from being generated by a character. Spirit is also required for casting magic, which is otherwise quite cheap to use because every magic spell uses one magic point.

   Far less frequently in Skies of Arcadia there are airship battles. Due to the nature of Arcadia, travel between locations is accomplished via airship. When Vyse encounters other airships the result can be either a conversation with the occupant(s) or a battle. Ship-to-ship battles are simple strategy, with every round being either a good chance to attack, a good idea to defend, or varying degrees of danger. Getting a good grasp on how to fight these battles will not take long but they make a nice variation from the standard battle tactics.

   Skies of Arcadia’s interaction is impeccable. Shop menus are easy to navigate and quick to use. Battles go by very quickly (a good thing when fights are this frequent). Out-of-battle interaction is easy also. Navigation is easy to do (though a few areas that are malicious in their random battles are troublesome to wend through). There are no complaints to be made about this aspect.

   Changes made from Skies of Arcadia to Skies of Arcadia Legends are not pervasive, but definitely noticeable. The ability to switch to a first-person view was unnecessary in the original, thanks to movement in first-person mode being impossible. In Legends is it necessary to snare Moonfish, which can be fed to a strange bird encountered early on. The bird will puke items out in return for Moonfish, and very useful items at that, while also giving fascinating glimpses into the story of Admiral Ramirez. There is a woman named Piastol who Vyse can battle four times as the game progresses; she is a formidable opponent with an interesting story that can only be uncovered by taking her down. There are also Bounty battles, which are optional but garner quite a bit of prestige and profit in exchange for being very challenging. A small island and an extra airship battle that were downloadable in the original game are now in the game from the start. Some extra items are also scattered about. The Swashbuckler rating is also more temperamental now; Vyse is the one who has a Swashbuckler rating and it corresponds to how Vyse will be addressed when conversing with people, along with certain extra content that can now only be obtained when Vyse the Legend (which is much harder to obtain than it was in the original). Extra Discoveries are also present: while exploring the world the ship’s compass will sometimes go wild, denoting a Discovery that Vyse can report to the Sailor’s Guild in exchange for cash (but waiting means someone else may discover it first and usurp the best reward!)

   Skies is not a short game. 45 hours is a good time for completion, although getting lost from time to time is possible; and spending time on optional content will lengthen the game quite a bit. The main quest is well-paced and should not offer too much frustration while forcing constant attention to be paid, while optional battles are there for offering a challenge. There isn’t much reason to replay the game beyond unearthing things that were missed the first time, although in a game this pleasurable to play another run through it is welcomed.

   Skies of Arcadia was already a classic on the Dreamcast, and by arriving on a platform that met with wider success was granted the attention of more RPGamers who never owned a Dreamcast. The Gamecube may not have much RPG content, but when a part of that content is Skies of Arcadia Legends the system cannot be ignored. This game deserves to be remembered in the same breath as Final Fantasy titles, it is that good.

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