Back in the early days of the Gamecube, SEGA was pretty persistent about bringing older (well, not so old) Dreamcast classics to the next generation. Iíd say it was for maximum exposure, but that canít be it. At any rate, Gamecube owners who hadnít had the chance to play some of these games on the Dreamcast received titles such as Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure, and Skies of Arcadia. Unfortunately, none of these titles received the polish they should have, Skies of Arcadia is fortunate in the fact that it was a stellar game with few flaws to begin with. Thatís not to say it isnít without its faults, however.
Skies of Arcadia begins as a large imperial flag ship belonging to the Valuan Armada shoots down a mysterious girl riding the clouds in an even more mysterious ship. Moments later the Armadaís ship is boarded by Vyse and Aika - who identify themselves as Air Pirates. After rescuing the girl, who identifies herself as ďFinaĒ, they return to the small Pirate Isle with the captain of their pirate ship - Dyne. It is here, from this small island, that a great adventure will be begin, and it wonít be over until youíve sailed beyond the sunset!
Arcadia is a great game with a fantastic sense of adventure and wonder. The player will visit exotic locations and meet all sorts of characters, though the former is stronger than the latter. Back in the days of the Dreamcast, Skies of Arcadia was a truly beautiful game, but things have changed, bars have been raised. Donít get me wrong - Arcadia still holds its own, but it wonít make your jaws drop like it would back then.
What will keep you interested, however, is the super-stellar soundtrack. Composed by Yutaka Minobe, Arcadia is a treat for your ears. Not only is the music fitting - but itís inspiring. At times, youíll feel with the characters as a melody melts you into the action.
I mentioned earlier that Skies of Arcadia is not without its faults - and this canít be more correct. The random encounters are set far too high, which was not fixed in the updated version ďLegendsĒ, and the battle system is completely broken. While it seems like a balanced and fun system in the beginning, it doesnít take long (in part due to the random encounter frequency) for the player to catch on and abuse the system for easy boss victories. These, combined with the lack of difficulty overall, donít really hinder the game in its entirety, but are certainly equivalent to a dent on a shiny new car.
To further describe Arcadiaís battle system; itís a turn based setup. Everyone chooses their action and the turn ensues. What sets Arcadia apart from the rest, however, is the ďSpirit MeterĒ. Based on stat-driven factors, your party gains a certain amount of spirit each round. For example, you may start the battle with 4 spirit (out of, say, 20. This number also increases over time for the same reasons). Normal attacks donít require spirit - but special attacks and magical attacks do. A character can also devote their turn to raising the spirit meter - the amount is about 1 per 10 levels. The system seems fair initially, but it doesnít take long to spot that itís just waiting to be abused.
The OTHER portion of the battle system takes place in the skies. On a ship. Thatís right, you can experience ship battles in Skies of Arcadia - and while theyíre a bit on the slow and easy side, they can be a lot of fun. When the battle starts, you are presented with two 4X4 grids. One represents the current turn, and the other represents the next turn. On the top will be indicators dictating the enemyís likely action, and thus giving you insight on what to do. The ship battles are much more strategical than the foot battles, and thus a lot more fun. This is one of the unique aspects that make Skies of Arcadia such a great game.
As far as what SEGA added to the updated Legends Gamecube port? Not terribly much, Iím afraid. New ďwantedĒ battles, which feature rewards for fighting optional enemies, a new character, and a few other small changes donít warrant a purchase for owners of the Dreamcast version.
Skies of Arcadia Legends is a fun game from start to finish - though there are a few downs throughout the game, what title is without its own in that respect? As far as RPGs on the Gamecube go, itís definitely first class - both due to lack of competition and actual quality of the title in question. Thereís definitely not enough here to warrant a repurchase at full price - but for newcomers, youíll be hard pressed to find a better way to spend your dollar.
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