yi_orange's Skies of Arcadia: Legends (GameCube) review

Worth going back to


Skies of Arcadia is a game I originally became interested in because I used Vyse and Aika in my squad in Valkyria Chronicles. Thankfully, I was not dissappointed by my interest and curiosity. Skies Of Arcadia: Legends in it's simplest form is your average JRPG. Teenagers fight monsters and the evil of humanity. Only this time they're sky pirates.

Skies of Arcadia does a decent job of creating a world for you to explore by creating cities that are not similar to eachother in the slightest. They are all a different type of culture from middle-eastern, to tribal, to an industrialized snobbish caste system. Plenty of NPCs that serve no purpose other than adding a little bit of flavor to the game are generally worth interacting with when you first encounter them just to add a little flavor to your world. However, aside from the main plot, the main thing that adds flavor to the world is a side quest which I will go into more detail about later. I should note that the entire game takes place in the sky, yet the clouds take on waterlike properties in some cases in order to create sort of waterfalls.

 

*LIGHT SPOILERS IN THE NEXT SECTION*

 

The game opens with you raiding an imperial ship in order to help a stranger who was just shot down and captured. You take control of Vyse(the main character), and Aika, flying under Vyse's fathers flag. An important distinction is fairly quickly made between the types of pirates flying the skies. The first type is the Blue Rogues, which you are, which only attacks imperial ships and likes to help people and isn't too fond of killing. The other type is Black Pirates, basically the opposite. They will attack anyone for any reason and do what they please. They're natural enemies of the Blue Rogues. After rescuing the stranger you decide to bring her home and learn that her name is Fina and of her mission in arcadia. Naturally, Vyse and Aika decide that they would like to aid their new friend and set out to get themselves a ship. You spend the beginning of the game on a ship owned by Drachma, an old fisherman out for revenge against a whale(sounds familiar I bet). Eventually however, you get your own, significantly better ship. once you acquire this ship you are allowed to explore the world far more than you could before with a couple exceptions. Also with this ship, you're able to start recruiting people for your crew. There are 11 roles to fill in your active crew with 2 choices for each. You may recruit everybody, but only have 11 of them, 1 in each role, in your active crew at a time. Each crew member provides either a pssive bonus or a bonus ability to you in ship battles. Each crew member also has a different affect during one of your special attacks which I will talk more about later. Your basic mission in this game is to get the moonstones and prevent the evil military of Valua from getting them and destroying the world. A good way through the game you get your own island which you turn into your base. Here you can interact with your crew members, purchase things from certain crew memebers, and customize your island to an extent.

 

The combat in Skies of Arcadia is similar to that of most other JRPGs. However, instead of going on a turn based system where you give your order, an action is done, and repeat. You give orders to all 4 of your party memebers at once, regardless of what order they will actually execute them in. The game isn't too challenging, but in some cases where your party members can be instantly killed this can present a problem since any reactionary actions have to be on the next turn or anticipated. However, some spells or abilities will take priority and always be cast first, such as Aika's "Delta Shield" abilitiy which prevents any magic from connecting with your party. There is only one other ability in the game that I know takes this priority, but it can really help to alleviate some of the annoyances of the battle system, especially when instant kill spells are involved. There are also 6 colors, or elements, that all enemies and characters have attached to them. Unlike the enemies, you may change the color of your characters at any time. Their current color is represented by their weapon or a small border around their portrait. Each color has a relationship some of the other colors either doing more or less damage to them. All colors are completely neutral to somes colors. I found this not to make a huge impact and was actually unable to tell most of the time without the help of a guide. At the beginning I started using it, but decided against it later on in case I forgot to switch off before the end of the battle. When a battle is won, you get your usual experience and spoils, however, you also get magic experience. This is experience for the color you have equipped. Each person gets experience for the color as long as 1 party memeber has it equipped, however, the party member with that color equipped gets double the magic experience. Keeping each character on a different color the entire game I was able to master all 6 elements across every character and 3-4 on the 3 characters that are never switched out through the entire game. Skies of Arcadia forces you to use a specific party until literally almost the very end. The fighting cast is relatively small and none of the characters are bad so it's not a huge problem unless you really hate a character. The random encounter rate in Skies varies from location to location, but is relatively high throughout the entire game. Luckily, the random battles are not difficult and many can be defeated in one spell cast. I ended up doing this for a lot of battles and actually taking about 5 seconds to figure out the most efficient way to end a battle because the pacing of battles is rather slow and the animations can take a while. However, how quickly you're able to blow up an encounter is limited by a resource called "SP". This is a party wide resource that goes up as you gain levels, and also the amount you get per turn goes up based on level, I ended the game at I believe 65 SP and 13 per turn. Every magic spell or character specific ability has an SP cost attached to it. if a character is dead you will only gain 3/4ths the SP per turn, so it's important to have all your characters alive at pretty much all times. Most of the better spells and abilities are expensive, so sometimes you'll want to just do normal attacks in order to save up SP. You can also have a character use "Focus" to restore a small amount of SP. This game also contains MP, sort of. Each spell costs 1 MP but money and consumables are not scarce in the slightest so this likely won't present a problem. When you finally get to be captain of your own ship and can start recruiting crew members you gain 2 special abilities that can be used when you have full SP. One is Prophecy, which does a massive amount of damage to all enemies, but that's all I'll tell you. The other is "Blue Rogue Attack". This ability goes through a series of animations for each member of your active crew and will do damage to enemies and heal you depending on who you have in your active crew. After using one of these special abilities you will issue orders again, it's basically a free turn.

 

The other type of combat in Skies is ship battles. These battles are basically conducted the same way. Each person in your party is able to que an order on a 4X4 grid. Orders include, shooting a cannon, torpedo, special cannon, gurading, focusing, or magic. In these battles magic spells take on a slightly different effect to a degree, changing the turn duration of buffs or debuffs or modifying damage or healing numbers. You can not use character's special abilities during ship battles but once you have a crew they come with passive bonsuses or abilities that you can use once per battle. Many of these abilities will just buff you or help your SP efficiency for a turn or two. It's basically like a normal battle since only one action can be qued up in each vertical column. Though some cannons will fire multiple times and torpedos hit on a turn other than when they fire. The SP system remains the same. However, unlike normal battles there will be bonuses for each column on the grid. Green is normal, yellow is extra damage to you, red is massive damage to you, and S means you do extra damage, and a picture of your special cannon means that's when you are able to fire it. You can also see the bonuses for the following turn, but sometimes it will be flipping between 2 outcomes. Usually in this scenario you will be given a choice in how to manuver your ship that will determine the bonuses of the next turn. Unfortunately, ship battles also take on the pacing of normal battles and then slow it down a little bit. You may when to find something else to do during ship battles. On your first ship, sky battles can actually be kind of challenging and you might feel really underpowered. Once you get the Delphinus though, ship battles become a joke and are just more long than challenging.

Skies of Arcadia does not contain a lot of voice acting. Where it does is...interesting. They have the battle phrases and victory phrases, but also at points throughout cutscenes there will be the smallest bit of voice acting; usually a "yay" or a "what?!". This seemed really silly to me and was not acted well. It almost broke scenes and was just completely unnecessary. The voice acting in battle is generally fine except for a couple times where it sounds like they turned the sound too low or there's an odd delay on something.

 

Aside from the main plot there is plenty to do in Skies of Arcadia. Two of the sidequests can be easily completed while playing through the game normally. Cham's are something you collect to upgrade Fina's weapon, so while they are technically optional, I would reccomend getting them all. Including the special abirik chams which have special sidequests to acquire. The other easy to do sidequest is collecting "Moonfish" You find these throughout cities and dungeons and collect them to feed to a bird-thing in order to get special items and learn more about one of the game's important antagonists. There are also 8 bounties throughout the game given to you by the sailor's guild for you to hunt down, defeat, and collect. These are some of the toughest battles throughout the game but easily doable once you learn figure them, and the best ways to approach combat out. A small sidequest consists of nothing but optional boss battles, like the bounties, but with more backstory attached. You recieve an invitation for battle from a girl named Piastol who calls herself "The Angel of Death". These invitations are given to you at certain points throughout the game when you visit sailors guilds. These fights are the toughest in the game purely because of the faults of the combat system. It's very easy for your party members to die in these fights and having them all alive at the end of the battle is partially luck. Assembling your crew could also be considered a side-quest but most require nothing or little more than just finding and talking to them in order for them to join you. The final sidequest is exploration. There are over 80 discoveries throughout the game. At some points, the sailors guild will sell you hints to some discoveries, others you are completely on your own to find. This sidequest can be a huge nuisance because the sailors guild's usually vague hints is all you have to go off of for finding them. However, some, though very few, are visible before you actually discover them. In order to find them all you will spend a lot of time skimming surfaces. When you find a discovery your compass spins wildly, so that's something at least. Even with a guide to discoveries getting them all is something I didn't do. I got a little over half before I finished the game. Once your ship can go above and below the clouds, thus completely avoiding random encounters, finding discoveries is less of a chore, but still tedious. So, why would you do these sidequests if you don't get anything other than money which you already have plenty of?

 

Skies of Arcadia contains a title stystem called your "Swashbuckler Rating" this is basically a title for Vyse such as "Vyse the dashing" or "Vyse the bold". They don't affect anything other than people's opening sentence when you speak to them, the title displayed when you select Vyse in your character menu, and a requirement for one crew member. Throughout the game you are given speech options with two choices. One will go towards increasing your swashbuckler rating, one will not. If you pick the correct choice, you will hear a sound indicating that you did. You will likely quickly pick up on what the game wants you to pick in order to increase your rating, though I must commend them for not making the right choice always what is essentially "fight!" or "Argue with bad guy". Late in the game you can also get special titles for doing things such as turning in all bounties, discovering everything, defeating the 4 great beasts in the world, recruiting all the crew members, or 100%ing the game pre-final boss fight.

 

Finally, the characters. The characters of Skies are unique enough within the game, though some are somewhat predictable and familiar. However, I did enjoy my time with the cast and I feel there is a good chemistry between Vyse, Aika, and Fina. I would like to make a special mention of a choice this game made which is potentially a spoiler. I am not one who hates romance in games, but I am extremely glad there was no romantic interest for Vyse in this game. The fact that he was just friends with both Aika and Fina is not something I would expect from most games, especially a JRPG. I feel this decision worked out infinitely for the better and made the interactions among the three characters far more enjoyable than they would have been had one of the alternatives been pursued.

 

Despite all it's annoyances and JRPG tropes that may make many aspects of the game feel familiar, Skies of Arcadia is a solid game that managed to keep me entertained for the 50 hours it took me to beat it.    

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