||Eternal Arcadia / Skies of Arcadia|
Oct. 5, 2000 (Japan)
Nov. 15, 2000 (USA)
> As it turned out, "Project Ares" is actually an entirely original RPG. The latest Phantasy game is being handled by Sonic Team, titled Phantasy Star Online. Anyway, you play the part of Vyse, an aspiring pirate ship captain with a good heart. You'll literally travel the "Skies of Arcadia" in search of treasure, fame, friendship, adventure, and your very own airship! As you'll soon find out (if you don't already know), Eternal Arcadia sets a new, high standard for RPGs -- one that may only be eclipsed by the sequel...
> The import game is all Japanese (speech and text) -- about the only thing in English is the "Press Start" message before you begin. The gameplay is easy to get into, but since you don't know exactly what you're objective is (it becomes a process of elimination), the importability is low. At least the game isn't bogged down by a massive menu system.
> Of course, you'll see plenty of airships, which are needed to travel in the sea of skies. The sheer number of different ships you'll come across is mind boggling. Everything from pirate ships to merchant ships, and cruisers to battleships! It's almost as interesting to watch these ships move in battle, as it is to partake in a battle. Airships aren't the only thing you'll fight in your ship. Each of the six moon crystals can power an immensely destructive "Gigas" creature!
> On to the characters. Again, the sheer variety is amazing. Overworks definitely over-worked on this game, and I'm glad they did. Each land has a unique culture, which is partially represented in the clothing they wear. In addition, the character movement is fluid and realistic. Top that off with numerous enemies and bosses (which have a surprising uniqueness in look, abilities, and animation).
> Next, you can't have have a good RPG without spellcasting. Again, the graphics are impressive. After playing both, I prefer the polygon generated magic effects of Arcadia to the FMV combination effects of Grandia II. I guess it's just because they look more seamless, when compared to the rest of the game. By the way, the magic relates to the six moons of the game (mainly elemental). Techniques (S-Moves) can also be learned. I found these to be impressive too, especially Vyse's "Cutlass Fury".
> Lastly, I'll go over the views of the game. When moving on foot, you'll get a third person view (perspective rotation is usually possible). You can also look around in first person mode, but you can't move simultaneously. While piloting an airship, you'll get the third person view again (with five perspectives). Finally, during hand-to-hand and ship-to-ship battles you get a cinematic third person view. Everything works quite well -- no complaints.
> Once you board a ship, you'll see the third person ship view. As captain of the ship, you'll be able to move forward, backward, up, and down. To make port, just move next to a suitable landing area and press the action button. Not all areas are immediately accessible though. You need various upgrades to take care of that. For instance, you'll need a really powerful ship to navigate the "Dark Rift" (which is dark and full of cyclones). While flying around, don't forget to look for various "Discoveries", which will earn you some extra dough and prestige.
> Hand-to-hand battles usually occur randomly. However, they're set to take place against bosses, once you reach a certain area. The main options presented are run, item, defend, attack, technique (S-Move), magic, and focus. Everything is self explanatory except for "focus". You use "focus" to build extra "spirit points", which are needed to wield techniques and magic. Your position on the battlefield is random, as is the initiative. For every round, you must select orders for all your party members. The computer takes over and executes your commands.
> Ship-to-ship battles work much like the above. The difference is in the options presented. You can't use techniques (S-Moves), but you can use an S-Cannon. This is a special weapon, which is very powerful, and can only be used under certain conditions (with a lot of spirit points too). Normal attacks utilize the various weapons you've equipped your ship with. The last difference is the addition of a "Crew" move (available once Vyse becomes a "Captain"). Using the "Crew" enables you to do lots of things, like max out your "spirit points", increase attack and defense, increase speed, etc. Actually, your ship could be considered a team member, since it requires repair, upgrades, crew members, and fuel. All I can say is... the gameplay is ingenious!
> My God, the Dreamcast sounds great. There are way too many effects to even think of listing. I assure you, though, everything makes a realistic sound. No matter where you are, or what gameplay mode you're in, the environmental effects will be there in convincing fashion too! One more thing -- the speech is sparse, but it sounds good nonetheless.