⭐ Games that receive this star have a score of 95% or above. This is purely from a game design perspective and is not in any way related to our morality evaluation.
Skies of Arcadia: Legends is a game where you soar through the skies of the world with your sky pirate crew. But that doesn’t do it justice. It has chills, thrills, and joy of exploration – everywhere you go there’s always something new over the horizon to discover. The primary goal is winning your fight against Valua, a nation that is trying to strong arm their way into conquering the world. It’s a little generic when typed out like that, but the interactions between the characters and the world building are very immersive.
Characters will acknowledge your accomplishments, albeit somewhat minorly (this was originally a Dreamcast game, after all). The varied cast of support characters make the core cast come alive even more.
You play as the Blue Rogue (an air pirate) Vyse. Imagine, if you will, Robin Hood in the sky. His best friend since childhood, Aika, is along for the ride along with the mysterious girl Fina, whom you’ll learn more about as you continue through the game. There’s also a rotating 4th party member, typically chosen for the story requirements of the particular moment. A smaller piece of worldbuilding is the game mechanic known as “discoveries” which you… discover on the overworld. While the majority of discoveries are invisible (you find those when your compass keeps flipping continuously) they add a lot of information about the world itself, building it into a more complete experience.
The main characters themselves are a fun cast, with each of them growing over the course of the story and the minor ones just being fun. Some of the characters (like Vigoro and Gilder) start off very problematic, due to their fondness of the ladies. But overall the good (and even the bad) characters are well written with redeeming qualities. The villains have motivations that are somewhat cliche: they want to take over the world because they think they could run it better than secret reasons due to spoilers. The villains are still threatening, and the game does a very good job of portraying just how powerful they are. Anyone experienced with the game will be fine but new players can have it rough.
Speaking of rough times, combat can be tricky for new players to fully understand. Ground combat plays out pretty similarly to most RPGs of the time – you have your attack, guard, items, escape, focus, magic and super moves. Magic and super moves consume your SP bar so as to not make your team too overpowered as both are powerful, but the SP bar can be refilled by using focus, each turn of the battle, or special items. But you may be asking yourself, “What is an SP bar?” SP bar stands for Spirit Bar which powers the majority of non basic moves. (I’ll include a screenshot of the battle system here for a better emphasis) Super moves are just as they sound: special attacks or abilities that do considerable amounts of damage and have special effects. Magic consumes your SP bar AND uses 1 point of MP per spell – all magic costs one MP. 1 MP can initially be a lot but as the game goes along you’ll have more than enough. There are a handful of enemies that can either instantly kill you with spells or petrify you, and this can be very frustrating for the unprepared. Thankfully that isn’t super common and can be overcome fairly easily once you delve further into the combat system.
Then there are the ship battles. Ship battles are a lot of fun your first time through the game. They try to make them feel special with big attacks and interesting visuals. During ship battles you have access to the same commands you would on the ground, but there’s two substantial differences. You only have one super move (the tradeoff being that it is rather powerful). And you only have cannons or torpedoes to choose from. Eventually you can get crew members who help to increase the strength of your ship, and you can select your crew members depending on your play style, from more magic cannon focus to regular cannons, speed, torpedoes, etc. On subsequent visits the ship battles can feel a bit slow, but overall they still feel like a treat due in part to them not being overused.
The sound and music are rather nice. You’ll occasionally get a voice clip, but they’re not common as voice acting wasn’t super prominent at the time. Still, sound effects fit in pretty well everywhere and the music is just a treat. The ground boss music is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music in a game, but not because of how good it is (although it is rather good). No, unlike any other game I’ve played the boss music changes based on how you’re currently doing. Most of the team dead? Doom and gloom. Doing really well? Upbeat and confident tune like you’re about to win. And then there’s just a battle tune for doing mediocrely. The way music flows from one tone to another just works really well. The best way to experience it would be to hear a battle tune for yourself.
One or two things in terms of morality are pretty grimy. One example is Vigoro, who is essentially sexually assaulting Aika (thankfully it never actually happens as we get there in time, but is pretty uncomfortable). Vigoro is voiced by Charles Martinet, y’know, Mario. So that’s weird. Gilder also talks about how he likes to be free with girls but we never actually see anything like that on screen. There’s also a drink called loqua, which is obviously alcohol (and was named alcohol in the Japanese version), although I don’t remember anyone getting drunk in the game. Language is pretty tame with the occasional swear word here and there. Some of the characters smoke. The violence that the main party commits is pretty low, as they prefer to avoid killing anyone if possible. They seem to think pretty much anyone can be redeemed, which is rather refreshing and pretty favorable from a Catholic perspective. This is 100% true, of course, no matter how daunting it may seem sometimes. God does love us all, after all, and wants us to come home to Him.
Overall I would say that Skies of Arcadia is a great game. If you can hunt down the Dreamcast version or the Legends version for Gamecube, you’re in for a real treat. There are some minor differences between the two. Dreamcast has much more frequent enemy encounters. The Gamecube version has fewer, but gives you extra experience so you’re not missing out. Sound isn’t as good on the Gamecube version, as it is one disc instead of the two like on the Dreamcast, but the Gamecube version contains all the extra content you can’t get as easily in the Dreamcast version these days (due to requiring an online connection if you wanted access to the extras), and has a few other extras originally not available at all on the Dreamcast.
Scoring: 97% ⭐ (EXCELLENT RPG)
Gameplay: 4.5/5 Aside from a little bit of a learning curve for new players and ship battles taking a little to long for repeat performances (or if you failed them) this is one of the best controlling RPG’s, while there is recommendations for each character, you can set each one as you like and have no problems if you want to go against the mold.
Story: 4/5 While the story is a little predictable, the in the moment scenes are wonderful, the world is well written as are the characters. While the writing does differ between the original Japanese and English translation I’d say it worked out for the best.
Sound: 5/5 The soundtrack is absolutely amazing and well worth buying, I don’t think there’s a bad song among the bunch, the only slight complaint I’d have is the Gamecube version’s quality is a little lower, but if you didn’t know that it wouldn’t be a problem.
Replayability: 5/5 I just want to play this game each yeah to be honest, the characters, the world, the exploration, the sky. Just… everything makes me want to replay it.
As this is a game about pirates, it does involve stealing. However, as stated earlier, it is more like Robin Hood “steal from the rich, give to the poor” (which is still stealing). As alluded to earlier, the villains are definitely more violent, but most of the violence takes place off-screen/isn’t bloody. And there are a few scenes where cities get completely devastated. There is some sexual content. A few of the characters dress provocatively, and there are come-ons here and there, but overall it is fairly minor (aside from the aforementioned Vigoro scene). I would say that the Teen rating is accurate here. I could probably recommend the game to a 10 year old with adult supervision.