Skies of Arcadia Legends - Staff Retroview  

Airship Epic
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

35-60 hours


Rating definitions 

   Airships, floating islands, and the like have been popping up in quite a few RPGs lately, but Skies of Arcadia Legends takes them to the extreme. It features a massive world filled with dozens if not hundreds of floating islands, loads of airships, and a culture centered around them. A young and noble airship pirate, Vyse, quickly finds himself sailing through the skies of this massive world in order to defeat an evil empire.

   To help the war effort along, each party member can study a specific type of magic and use special items to unlock techniques. Though all spells require only one MP, they also draw from a shared pool of energy that grows each round: SP. SP determines how many abilities the party can use in one turn. This creates a few new strategies since every special move or spell the party uses detracts from the SP the rest of the party has at their disposal. This meter regenerates each turn and can grow to a rather large size before stopping. This is a very nice addition to the battle system, especially for boss fights. It's not all good though; battles are very slow and often include enemies that are virtually immune to magic and have incredibly high evasion. These enemies deal very little damage and seem to only be included to make random battles take even longer than they would otherwise.

   Speaking of long, drawn out battles, Skies of Arcadia also features another battle system for airships. These battles are fairly innovative and interesting at first, but they are also very slow. It's possible to input one round's worth of commands then walk away for a few minutes without missing much of anything. This can make some airship boss fights, despite only being a few dozen rounds in length, take well over thirty minutes to complete. Luckily there is also some strategy involved outside of battle where players can customize their ship with parts and the crew members that operate it. Each crew member has a special effect, so they should be chosen carefully.

Floating islands are cool Floating islands are cool

   Despite the fact that battles are usually on the long side, most are quite easy. Aside from optional bosses such as the Angel of Death, few enemies pose much of a threat provided someone knows healing spells. Even the final bosses are relatively easy. Airship battles also become ridiculously easy once enough upgrades are purchased or won, especially if the main cannon is used effectively.

   Battles also have a nice interface to accompany them. A small but detailed wheel allows players to quickly locate the action they want to take, which opens up smaller menus that are easy to traverse. While not quite as good out of battle, the setup is still nice enough to allow easy access to whatever the player is looking for. Another nice feature is the localization, which has very few errors despite the massive size of the world, hundreds of citizens, and landmark encyclopedia.

   If there's one thing Skies of Arcadia has, it's originality. While most of the basics are borrowed from other games, it still builds on them all in a number of innovative ways. Everything from the world's design and landmarks to the airship battle system is fairly unique. The most unoriginal part of the game is probably the normal battle system, and that still includes the SP system, which mixes things up quite a bit. Even the story deviates from the norm.

Long way down Long way down

   While it starts out like most RPGs that include wars against evil empires, the story evolves quite a bit as the game progresses. Dozens of characters appear and are developed to a large degree, especially if certain optional sidequests are completed. The slow pacing does get in the way a little, but the story eventually grows into something very good. There is even a lot of background history to go along with and support the primary storyline.

   Given the slow pace of the storyline and sluggish battle systems, it should come as little surprise that Skies of Arcadia can easily take thirty-five hours to complete if all sidequests are ignored. Given the size of the world, number of landmarks, possible crew members, and warriors with a bounty on their heads, a playtime of sixty hours wouldn't be unheard of should a player wish to do absolutely everything the game has to offer.

   Another great thing about the game is the fact that not only does it have an expansive world, it makes the world look good. It manages to include some incredibly beautiful scenery on the world map as Vyse and his crew fly alongside the clouds. Most dungeons also feature impressive backgrounds as well. Most special effects are pretty good, as are character and enemy models, but there are also quite a few recolored enemies present as well.

   Although it is not as aesthetically pleasing as the visuals are, the music isn't bad. Most of the tracks vary between average and above average in quality, but there are a handful of tracks that can be rather annoying too. An interesting feature that has been added to boss fights is music that changes depending on who is winning. While this would have been a nice addition, the tracks don't blend together very well and they can switch back and forth quite a bit if a lot of healing spells are cast in a round.

   Skies of Arcadia Legends is a massive adventure in an imaginative world complete with its own history, cultures, and landmarks. The battle system is a bit slow, but the story is pretty good and some of the visuals are amazing. The pace is rather slow so players who prefer fast-paced and action-packed games might want to hesitate a little, but the game itself is very good overall and they'll probably end up enjoying it anyway.

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