> When news came that Overworks (comprised of many Phantasy
Star programmers) was developing a large scale RPG for Dreamcast,
uberconsole owners everywhere were ecstatic. Next, news of a top
developer joining the team arrived. At the very least, this gave
Playstation-heads something to consider. Visions of a new Phantasy
Star adventure danced through the minds of many seasoned players.
Anyway, it was initially code named "Project Ares", then released as Eternal
Arcadia and Skies of Arcadia, in Japan and USA respectively.
> 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), Skies of 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 non Japanese understanding players won't
know exactly what the objective is, it becomes a process of elimination.
Therefore, the importability is low. At least the game isn't bogged
down by a massive menu system.
> Just when you read the Dreamcast has been tapped, another
benchmark game arrives. Overworks definitely put some
time and effort into this game, and it shows. As soon as you see
the opening sequence, it's apparent this game is something special.
The many continents you'll traverse are varied and sometimes stunning.
You can always see far away. And you'll see it all in standard Uberconsole
smoothness. The skies are referred to as oceans. Some are clear;
some have clouds; ...tornados; flying debris, etc. I really liked
the land to the east, which contains the capital city of Yafutoma.
Its multi level, Oriental styled, and waterfall laden areas are a sight
> 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.
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 Skies 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.
> Basically, you'll deal with search, talk, hand-to-hand battle, ship-to-ship
battle, and flight modes of gameplay. I know it sounds like a lot
(and it is), but it's not hard to learn and play. Everyone knows
how to search and talk, so I won't spend any more time on it. It's
the flight and battle modes which can use some description.
> 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
> 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!
> Music is important in all games, especially RPGs though. Skies
of Arcadia comes through with flying colors. It's a good
thing too, because this game is long, and you'll be listening to all the
songs a lot. As for the type involved -- it's a great mix of tempo
in mainly orchestral tunes. There's a song which is perfect for every
situation in the game.
> 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
> The level of involvement in Skies of Arcadia is amazing.
Not only do you walk places, you also have to sail to distant locales in
an airship! Buying items and weapons isn't reserved for people either.
Once you get a ship, items, weapons, upgrades, and crew need to be acquired.
Of course, winning battles, gaining experience, making discoveries, and
finding treasure is imperative. Top all that off with a great story
line, and you're in for a benchmark title. I haven't had this much
fun with a straight RPG since Panzer
Skies of Arcadia is (hands down) the number one straight
RPG for Dreamcast. If you consider yourself an RPG
fan, then don't deprive yourself the wonderful experience Sega
and Overworks have created. A sequel is already in
development -- hopefully it arrives by the end of 2001.
|Overall: 9.9 | Graphics:
9.9 | Control: 10 | Sound: 9.6 | Fun: 10