Recently, I played a JRPG I’ve been interested in for quite a while: Skies of Arcadia (or to be more precise, Skies of Arcadia Legends on the GameCube).
Skies of Arcadia is set in a world of floating islands, with a strong emphasis on airship travel. In fact, you have an airship from the very beginning, and flying through the sky’s “oceans” essentially acts as the overworld.
You play as Vyse, a young air pirate who dreams of having his own ship. Now, there are two factions of air pirates in Skies of Arcadia: Blue Rogues and Black Pirates. Black Pirates are what you probably think of pirates as – criminals who attack other ships to steal from them, regardless of who they are or who might get hurt.
Blue Rogues, meanwhile, are basically what people think of when they romanticize pirates – daring heroes who search for treasure and adventure and fight for justice. The Blue Rogues never attacked unarmed ships or merchants, and they mainly fight the oppressive Valuan Empire (or Black Pirates).
Vyse and his close friend Aika are Blue Rogues. When they rescue a mysterious girl named Fina, they soon join her mission to find the powerful Moon Crystals before the Empire can use them to threaten the world.
The story is pretty straightforward, with nothing too unpredictable, but it’s well-told and I enjoyed it a lot. The main characters are likable and there’s a fair amount of humorous moments alongside the more serious scenes.
It’s a turn-based JRPG, with some interesting combat ideas that don’t quite meet their potential. Magic only costs 1 MP to use, along with an SP cost. SP (Spirit Points) is used for both magic and for S Moves, special skills each character has. That opens up a lot of options… but after a certain point, once you have more SP available, saving up SP to use your strongest S Moves is so much better than any other strategy that I almost never used magic or even regular attacks anymore.
Meanwhile, there is no traditional overworld as I mentioned earlier. Instead, you’ll fly your airship from one location to the next. I liked that, although the random encounters during flight annoyed me and made me explore less than I normally would.
(Every time I got annoyed with the frequency of random encounters, I reminded myself that the GameCube version improved the encounter rate from the original Dreamcast version.)
When you are exploring, there are numerous Discoveries for you to search for. I love this in concept, but I much preferred the Discoveries that you can actually see and go investigate, versus the ones that are invisible and you have to find by getting directions to.
There are also separate airship battles, which are a lot of fun aside from the animations taking a long, long time to get through. (I could leave the room to do something and come back to find the turn still playing out.)
Don’t let these little criticisms make it sound like I didn’t like it, however. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed Skies of Arcadia, and I really wish they had made a sequel to it… or at least a newer remaster/port, since it’s pretty hard to find nowadays.
Have you played Skies of Arcadia? Do you think we’ll ever see a sequel or spiritual successor, or even a remaster?---
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