Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Skies of Arcadia | 9.5

Skies of Arcadia is great in so many ways, I don't think I can cover it all. This is the first excellent RPG of the next generation consoles, and it will be a hard act to follow. Almost everything is wonderful and fresh. The graphics, the story, the fighting system, the world of Arcadia - this is the stuff of gaming legend!

Naturally, the graphics are jaw-dropping. Just imagine the static backgrounds in Playstation RPGs, except that you can move about them in full 3D, and you'll get the idea. These textures are the most detailed I have every seen in a game - you'll stop just to study a mosaic in the floor. The towns and dungeons are impossible complex and detailed. Each seem to be more spectacular than the last. What impressed me the most, though, was how completely the graphics combined with the rest of the game to give you a great experience. For example, the character animation not only amazes you at how life-like it is, but draws you into the story and the characters.

The plot starts slow and predictable, but finishes incredibly strong. Everyone who's played this game agrees that somewhere in the first 3rd of the story, something grabs your attention and doesn't let go. Maybe it's the spectacular world of Arcadia, which basically combines the Age of Discovery and pirates with magic, and throws everything into the skies. People live on floating islands, with magic powered sailboats sailing to and from, clouds pouring down like waterfalls, and strange cultures sitting undiscovered by the Old World. Like in any good RPG, the story stirs emotion by taking you to new places and introducing new characters. I don't want to ruin anything for you, so I'll just say that Skies of Arcadia makes discovery *fun* again - you'll look forward to finding that new island, or meeting that new character, or challenging that new enemy. What a blast.

The combat system is actually broken into 2 seperate parts - your standard, run-of-the-mill random monster fights that any fan of Final Fantasy is familiar with and probably getting sick of. This type of battle is actually too frequent for my tastes, especially when exploring the world map. At least Sega has thrown in some new strategic elements to spice things up, like a group-shared spirit pool, or the most user-friendly elemental system on any RPG ever. The second type of combat is a more strategic battle between 2 seperate airships. These battles are very cinematic and a blast to play. They also require more thought and planning then your ordinary turn-based combat. You can spend a lot of time recruiting the perfect crew, or choosing the best combination of weapons and defense.

If you can only get 1 Dreamcast game this X-mas, definitely get Skies of Arcadia. Besides all of the above, this RPG had so many extras and hidden sights that you can easily spend an extra 10 hours finding it all. You can even download entire continents from the Sega web site! I don't want to tell you about all the neat stuff you get to do, so just trust me, and get this game.

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