Retro-Review: Skies of Arcadia Legends

Written by Douglas

Editted by Julie

Originating on the Sega Dreamcast, Skies of Arcadia is a fun game. A vast world (that likely influenced Skyloft in Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword) opens slowly as you progress through the story. A varied cast fills your time throughout with development. It offers an open world you're encouraged to explore, an interesting cast and numerous events. This game stands out with a number of unique features: the ship to ship combat, elemental attributes, the Swashbuckling rating system, and the Spirit Points. It is something different for a JRPG with its varied elements.


Skies of Arcadia is focused on teen airship pirates Vyse and Aika, who roam the world of Arcadia. They are part of a collective of Air Pirates known as the Blue Rogues. The Blue Rogues are the Robin Hoods of the air pirate world; they make efforts not to kill anyone and to strictly rob military vessels (particularly those of the oppressive Valuan empire), or those of marauding Black Pirates. Blue Rogues will not attack an unarmed or merchant vessel. Often, they will aid a ship in distress. While out looting Valuan ships, they witness the Valuans sink a strange vessel and take its young female pilot captive. Vyse and Aika board the ship and rescue the girl. She will eventually introduce herself as Fina. We are also introduced to the first of the Valuan Admirals: the vain, cowardly Alphonso. This will begin the main story. Going past this point quickly treads into spoiler territory, and this game has an immersive story that should be experienced directly. The characters have personality and offer their own unique views on things.


Combat is turn-based, with a unique feature: The Spirit Points (SP) are a different take on a familiar concept. Normally, different characters have their own pool of resources for powerful attacks or spells. Spirit Points are used for Special Moves from each character, or to cast magic spells on their turn, but are in one pool that's shared with the whole party. This makes management of SP critical throughout any encounter. Plotting how to expend or build SP can be critical in boss battles to claim victory, especially as you fight through some of the larger bosses. Filling up the gauge completely will allow the party to perform an ultimate attack that does massive damage. This particular ability is not explained anywhere in the game, but is critical to know about. But those are unlocked later in. Standard attacks, using items, or defending do not use any SP. The “Focus” action grants additional SP at the cost of a character's turn. All these elements carry over to the ship to ship combat as well. You need to manage your SP to allow for attacking and saving up for using your powerful cannon.


Ship to Ship combat is not unheard of within gaming today, but it was still something new back in the day when Skies of Arcadia first came out. There are a lot of layers to this part of the game. Those front-line characters do better firing the main cannons, while support characters can use the secondary cannons or magic to great effect. The grid shown where you lay in the commands has a host of information, letting you know the best times to attack, evade, attempt healing or blast away with your mighty cannon.


Experience is gained after each fight, and has 2 categories: Character and Magic. Character is simple; the characters accrue experience until they gain enough to level up, increasing their stats. Magic Experience is gained based on the elemental attributes that the weapons have. The more of a single type of element is used by the party, the greater amount of Magic XP is gained by the party. By ranking up in magic, characters gain access to new spells. This is most of the grind, but only if you want to press for max level and max ranks of magic for everyone.


There are numerous secrets and side quests hidden throughout the game, with multiple collectibles that offer rewards. One weapon will evolve as you find and feed it a collectible called Chams. Another side quest involves finding and collecting almost invisible Moonfish that can only be seen with a special lens. There are also Discoveries hidden all over the map, which can be turned in at the Sailor's Guild for money. This is a great reason to really explore the open world in your ship, as well as a reliable way to earn some gold. Be sure to report your Discoveries soon after you find them; other people can find them, too, and they can lose their sell value if someone else reports them first. This is something unique and fun about finding things scattered around the world.


Time to talk one of my favorite things in any RPG: the Magic System and elemental effects. In this world, magic is controlled by Moonstones, and you can choose what element you're wielding by switching your weapon to that Moonstone's color. Most of the time it is easy to directly connect a color with basic elemental affinities: Red is Fire, Green is Healing, Yellow is Lightning, etc. This is mostly the case in Skies of Arcadia, but they also have a number of surprises in their ranks. Red magic offers fire spells as well as Strength and Defense boosts. All fire spells hit the whole group of enemies at once. Green is Healing and Poisons. Blue magic offers Air and Water spells. These have an expanding range as the spells rank. This attribute also has the useful Sleep spell. Purple is Ice with massive damage. It also has spells for Confusion/Panic and Silence. Yellow is Electricity. These are the only Line of attack spells in the game. This also has spells to lower ALL the stats of enemies when they are hit. Finally, the unique Silver element. This one has Revival and instant Death spells. It also has the only status removal spell. Each of these colors of magic have 6 ranks, each granting a new spell as new ranks are attained. Every character has a “magical affinity,” instead of an elemental one. Some characters are very adept at learning spells (like Fina and Aika), while others have a hard time (mostly Drachma). This shows in just how much magic experience the characters get after the fight.


Skies of Arcadia: Legends did make it onto the Gamecube without many changes from the original, though a number of Discoveries were added. Pinta, a young man interested in collecting rare items who joins your ship's crew, had a side quest in the original game that got cut from the Legends. Pinta still talks about collecting these items, and the items themselves are still collected by Vyse, but you can't give them to Pinta. The encounter rate also got a reduction (though there are still a LOT of random encounters), but Experience was increased. Overall, not much, but worth noting the most of the changes.


Finally, there is the music and voice work. It does have an electronic style to its symphonic score. This sweeping style of music is prefect for the game that it is with sky travel and the pirate theme. The music fits very well to the events and helps a lot to heighten what is happening on screen with the characters and their situation. The music for battle has 3 versions: The normal theme; when the boss is close to death; and when your party is close to death. The game will transition between the 3 dynamically as the situation in battle develops. The game is consistent about this feature throughout the whole experience. There is very minimal voice acting throughout the game. Most of it is tied to the characters using their special moves. Hearing it every time can get a little boring, but because of the effort, are mostly rewarding. It does help that every character is very defined in their role and what they can do.


“Is this game worth playing?” is the biggest question here when it comes to a review. The answer is “Yes, but bring a guide or you'll miss out on a ton of stuff.” There is an extensive cast of characters to discover, a fascinating world and some amazing twists along the way. The music is very enjoyable throughout the whole experience. There are a number of places that the development of the characters is plain to see as they all work toward their goals. This game has not gotten re-released since the Game Cube, so it can be a little expensive to track down. Just looking for the disc itself instead of disc + case can save you a lot of money.

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