Video Game Thoughts: Skies of Arcadia Legends

Skies of Arcadia Legends was a 2002 role-playing game for the Nintendo GameCube by Overworks and Eyeworks Gaming. This game was a re-release of the original Skies of Arcadia for the Dreamcast. While the Dreamcast had some initial success, Sega ran out of money. In order to salvage some of the money they spent, Sega over the years had many of their formerly Dreamcast-exclusive games ported to newer consoles like the GameCube.

When Skies of Arcadia Legends came out, I wasn’t too excited about it. I knew a guy at school that was really excited, but I hadn’t really gotten into role-playing games then. I pretty much stuck with Nintendo games. However, a few years later I took a chance with Tales of Symphonia and had an absolute blast playing it. I then went in search of other role-playing games. Skies of Arcadia Legends by this time was a few years old, so I was able to buy it for only $20.

Skies of Arcadia Legends turned out to be pretty good. It wasn’t as good as Tales of Symphonia, but it kept me entertained for many hours. The gameplay was nothing new really for a veteran of Japanese role-playing games, but I wasn’t a veteran. I had briefly experienced many of the things while trying out role-playing games at friends’ houses, but I didn’t have any solid time with them. So Skies of Arcadia Legends was a pretty fresh game to me. Because it was a port of an older game on the Dreamcast, the graphics weren’t the best, but I was able to ignore that.

The story was about a pirate named Vyse trying to save the world from an evil empire. He and his Blue Rogues were a Robin Hood-like band of friendly pirates, stealing from the rich empire and giving to the poor folk of the land. I shouldn’t say land because this story took place in the sky. The world somehow had no land. Several islands floated in the sky, the biggest ones being the heart of five unique civilizations. There were a lot of stereotypes here like indigenous people, Asian people, Arabian people, but it did keep things interesting.

The Blue Rogues’ efforts quickly became more serious when it was found out the empire was trying to rebuild ancient superweapons to forcibly conquer the whole world. Vyse and crew had to go to each main continent and stifle the empire’s efforts. It was a lot of fun exploring the world. There were the main islands, but there were also many smaller points of interest. Vyse was sort of an explorer because he many times discovered unknown islands. He could then share the island’s location with the world for a nice payoff in gold pieces.

I thought the overall story was just okay. It was just kind of weird sometimes. I liked the massive scope of the story, but sometimes the story went in strange directions. Like most role-playing games, there was a turn-based combat system. The special abilities the characters could use were really cool to see, but there wasn’t a whole lot of strategy there. The really original thing was ship combat.

The Blue Rogues had their own ship, so they could fight ships in special ship battles. They simulated a lot of what real ship battles are like in water. A special meter showed when each ship was vulnerable to attack and defended against attack. The player and enemy then took turns issuing commands to maximize their damage. It was a really cool back and forth system. I’d put in my orders and hope they were good. It took several turns later to see the results.

In addition to the ship combat, I also liked the characters. The overall story may not have been my favorite, but all the characters were unique and interesting to me. It was always fun when a new character joined the crew of the ship. I was excited to try them in combat. They also had non-combat characters that added certain features to the ship. By the end I grew to really like the crew we had formed.

One of my favorite things in Skies of Arcadia Legends was the music. It was mostly all synthesized, but it still sounded great. Almost every place I went had some catchy music in the background. Some of the music was epic, some was sad, others happy. The music covered the full breadth of human emotions, just as the scenes with those emotions played out in the story. Years after I played the game, I still sometimes listened to the music again online to relive old times.

Skies of Arcadia Legends was really a game of exploration and discovery. Very few games could match the amount of discovery this game had. I discovered bosses to fight, treasure chests to loot, foreign cultures to explore, remote islands to study, and many other fun things. I had never played a game with such a focus on exploration before. This was the real uniqueness of Skies of Arcadia. To facilitate this, the developers made sure there were very few time limits in the game. Many times I could just deviate from the storyline to go wherever I wanted for a few hours. I did wish there were more sidequests though. The bulk of the content was still the main story.

Because of all the exploration, I probably spent a hundred hours playing Skies of Arcadia, but it was really entertaining. I even played through it a second time after missing a few things the first time through. It was a great value for how much I payed. It probably wouldn’t have been as fun for a role-playing game veteran, but I was still new to this. I also liked knowing more about what a role-playing game was. It meant a long, story-heavy game with lots of exploration and enemies to defeat. Skies of Arcadia Legends made me more literate in the role-playing game genre.

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