Skies of Arcadia
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|Skies of Arcadia|
North American Dreamcast cover art
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Skies of Arcadia, released in Japan as Eternal Arcadia (エターナルアルカディア?), is a role-playing video game developed by Overworks for the Dreamcast and published by Sega in 2000. It was ported to the GameCube in 2002 as Skies of Arcadia Legends, featuring minor enhancements. The game's story focuses around Vyse, a young air pirate in a Jules Verne-inspired fantasy world, and his friends as they attempt to stop the Valuan Empire from reviving ancient weapons with the potential to destroy the world. The game was generally well-received by critics, but ultimately did not do well commercially.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Plot
- 3 Characters
- 4 Development and release
- 5 Reception
- 6 Legacy
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Gameplay in Skies of Arcadia chiefly takes place in dungeons. Controlling the protagonist, Vyse, from a third-person view, players must traverse and defeat these dungeons to advance the storyline. A dungeon is a network of pathways with treasure chests, puzzles, and ubiquitous monsters. Completing the dungeons is usually a matter of exploring each of the pathways presented to the player until the correct one is found. Treasure chests are commonplace and contain some of the most powerful items in the game. Throughout the dungeon gameplay players meet compulsory random encounters. If the entire player party is defeated, progress is reset to the beginning of the dungeon. In the Dreamcast version, it was possible to slightly foresee these encounters by noticing a loud spin-up of the console's GD-ROM drive. This gave the player time to open the start menu and prepare for the battle.
Travel between the many dungeons is accomplished by piloting an airship through the overworld, a three-dimensional sky with massive floating rocks forming islands and continents. Some islands are completely uninhabited, while others are filled with sprawling towns and cities. Dungeons are located on these islands and continents, with one exception: where a dungeon is traversed while piloting the airship. There are notable differences in this particular dungeon, such as treasure chests being replaced with floating, spherical objects. It also has vortex-like tunnels instead of corridors/doors in one case, and a single series of tunnels in the other.
Overworld travel takes place entirely on the player's airship. The world is at first divided by impassable "sky rifts" which bar the player's passage. Throughout overworld travel, unavoidable random encounters occur as in the dungeons. These battles take place on the deck of the airship and are otherwise identical to their dungeon-based counterparts. Later in the game, however, an advanced mechanism is discovered for the player's ship which allows it to rise above the upper cloud layer and sink below the lower cloud layer of Arcadia, presenting two ways to avoid these encounters and providing the player the means to pass through sky rifts. In addition, ship-to-ship combat can occur while traveling through the overworld; however, the majority of these are unavoidable boss fights which advance the storyline. Random ship-to-ship battles can occur, but they are rare and avoidable.
The player can find Discoveries hidden throughout the world while flying their airship. Information about discoveries can be sold at Sailor's Guilds located in cities throughout the game; the value of a discovery is determined by how well-hidden it is and how much time has elapsed since it was possible to find. When finding a new land, a discovery is recorded automatically, as these Discoveries are part of the storyline.
Combat occurs frequently, especially during the overworld travel. It is not until late in the game that it becomes possible to avoid combat during overworld travel. Combat comprises two vastly different settings: those encountered in ship-to-ship and character-to-monster combat. Ship-to-ship combat occurs relatively rarely compared to the common character-combat. This encounter rate was reduced for the GameCube re-release.
Character combat occurs between one and four player characters and one to eight monsters or NPCs. Combat comprises seven main options: Run, Items (which can be used to change the characters' equipment as well), Guard, Attack, S.Move (Super Move), Magic and Focus. An eighth option, Crew Special, becomes available later in the game by meeting certain criteria (which replaces the Run command). After an action has been chosen for each character, the round will commence.
Ship combat is used when battling other ships and the extremely powerful gigas that are summoned throughout the game. Ship combat follows the same framework as character combat, with a few distinct differences. Each round in ship combat is divided into either three or four turns depending on how many characters are currently in the party. During each round, neither team has more than a single turn advantage over the opposition. Ship battles use a color-coded grid system to show each turn in the following two rounds, and the amount of fire the ship will come under during each turn. The green means there is no advantage on either side or the enemy is not going to attack. Yellow means the enemy will fire a cannon. Red means the enemy will fire something strong or has an advantage. Finally, C! means critical hit chance.
The same actions used in character combat are used here, albeit with small differences. The 'Attack' option now has the player pick between four cannons that have been equipped to the ship. Cannons come in three types — powerful main cannons, multi-firing secondary cannons, and delayed-effect torpedoes — and each one can only be used once per round. This same stipulation carries over to the S. Move command, which now uses a large, front-mounted cannon. In addition to the standard actions, the ship's crew can be called upon by one of the characters in the party. While each of these can only be used once in each ship battle, the diversity and power of the crew's abilities can be very useful.
Pinta Quest: The VMU mini game
Skies of Arcadia included a mini-RPG for the VMU, called Pinta Quest. The game can be downloaded after the player reaches Sailor's Isle and talks to Pinta, a boy who expresses a wish to sail all over the world and discover things.
Pinta Quest is essentially a miniature RPG based entirely on random encounters, and any items and money gained within the minigame can be loaded into the main game inventory. Due to the lack of a similar device available for the GameCube, Pinta Quest was not included in Skies of Arcadia Legends.
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Thousands of years ago, six civilizations coexisted on floating continents in the titular skies of Arcadia, a world with no apparent surface that is orbited by six moons of different colors. The civilizations, one of which existed for each moon, developed technologically to the point where each created a Gigas, a colossal living weapon of mass destruction, as well as the Moon Crystals that could be used to control them. Using the Gigas, the civilizations warred with one another, which caused enormous environmental harm and threatened the extinction of all six. The most advanced, the Silver Civilization, used their Gigas to summon the Rains of Destruction, which pulled meteors from the orbiting moons and crashed them down onto the planet's surface. The catastrophic destruction stopped the rampage of the Gigas, as well as nearly destroyed the other five civilizations, thus ending the war. A seal was placed on the Silver Gigas to prevent the Rains from being used again, and the Moon Crystals were hidden away.
In present time, the militant and tyrannical Valuan Empire, led by Empress Teodora, seeks the Moon Crystals to awaken the Gigas and take over the world. Valua's will is enforced through the Valuan Armada, a fleet of iron-clad warships led by senior admiral Galcian and vice admiral Ramirez under the authority of the Empress. They are primarily opposed by the Blue Rogues, a faction of air pirates who make it a point to harass the Armada as much as possible. Fina, a girl from the Silver Civilization, is sent to find the Moon Crystals before the Valuans and bring them to a safe place. She is quickly captured by an admiral of the Armada, then rescued by a group of Blue Rogues, among them fellow protagonists Vyse and Aika. Although the shy and withdrawn Fina is initially reluctant to trust Vyse and Aika, she opens up to them after she is recaptured by the Armada, but again rescued. Vyse and Aika agree to join Fina on her mission to gather the Moon Crystals.
Accompanied by an initially uninterested old fisherman and ship's captain named Drachma, the trio recover the Red Moon Crystal from a temple in the desert nation of Nasr and, shortly afterward, find the Green Moon Crystal high above Ixa'taka, a continent of lush forests. In both lands, the Blue Rogues foil Valuan operations. Vyse is separated from Aika and Fina when Drachma's ship, the Little Jack, is severely damaged in a Valuan attack. Vyse ends up stranded on a small island, named Crescent Island, where he manages to uncover letters and a map left behind by another pirate who was seeking a great treasure. Vyse is later found by a fellow Blue Rogue named Gilder, who takes him aboard to help him search for his friends. Meanwhile, Aika and Fina end up in the care of another Blue Rogue, the lady pirate Clara, who takes them to Nasr to help them find clues as to where to find Vyse. In Nasr, Aika and Fina find out about the same treasure Vyse read up on, and leave to pursue it. The three soon reunite, along with Gilder, but are then captured by vice admiral Ramirez and brought to the Valuans' impenetrable prison fortress. By enlisting the aid of the Valuan prince Enrique, who has lost patience with his government's tyranny, and stealing a powerful Valuan warship named the Delphinus, the Blue Rogues are able to escape. Vyse brings everyone back to Crescent Island, upon which he formally establishes a base of operations and living quarters for he and his fellow shipmates.
Using the Delphinus's advanced technology to reach previously inaccessible areas of the world, Vyse and crew recover the Blue Moon Crystal from the eastern Oriental land of Yafutoma, as well as the Purple Moon Crystal from the southern glacial content of Glacia. After obtaining the Yellow Moon Crystal from the Valuan continent, Vyse and crew retrieve Fina's personal ship, which was lost upon her initial capture by the Valuans, and which she needs to bring the Moon Crystals to the Silver Civilization, which exists in an immense shrine that orbits Arcadia. However, Ramirez's fleet assaults the Blue Rogues and he steals all of their Moon Crystals. Vyse, Aika, Fina, and Gilder travel to the Great Silver Shrine in orbit to confer with the elders; they are followed by Galcian and Ramirez, who assassinate the leader of the Silvite elders and from his body extract the final Moon Crystal.
Galcian and Ramirez use the six Moon Crystals to raise the lost Silver continent of Soltis and break the seal on the Silver Gigas. They then use the Rains of Destruction to annihilate the Valuan capital, killing Empress Teodora and seizing control of the Valuan Armada in a bid to dominate the world. Vyse rallies a fleet of Blue Rogues, as well as Yafutoman warships and ships from other regions of the world, to battle the Valuan Armada. In the ensuing struggle, the crew of the Delphinus disables Galcian's capital ship, an armored floating fortress known as the Hydra. Vyse and his friends board the ship and defeat Galcian; however, Galician attempts to escape, but is stopped by Admiral Belleza, who has had a change of heart and sacrifies her ship and her life to kill them both. Ramirez, who has retreated into Soltis, grows enraged at Galcian's death, and prepares to use the Rains of Destruction to wipe out the Blue Rogue fleet. Before he can do so, he is stopped by the Silvites, who sacrifice their lives to take down the protective shield around Soltis. Vyse and his friends enter Soltis and battle Ramirez, who then merges with the Silver Gigas, Zelos, allowing it to awaken. Returning to the Delphinus, Vyse and his crew do battle with Zelos and manage to defeat the Gigas before it gains its full strength. Vyse and his crew rush to the outer deck, where a chunk of Zelos, merged with Ramirez and controlling him, slams onto the Delphinus's deck. Vyse and his crew battle Ramirez-Zelos one final time, a fight which ultimately results in Ramirez's death and the complete defeat of the Valuan Armada. Vyse, Aika, and Fina, in a showing of honor and respect of all pirates, takes the Silvite piece left from Ramirez's body and bury it out at sea; a code of respect all pirates follow.
Enrique, the prince of Valua, marries his love interest, a princess of Yafutoma, and becomes emperor of Valua. With a promise of benevolent rule, he and his wife oversee the reconstruction of the Valuan capital. Vyse and Aika formally inaugurate Fina as a Blue Rogue, and together the three friends sail their own ship into the sunset. As the post-game credits roll, an epilogue briefly details the fates and further adventures of each member of the Delphinus's crew.
Throughout the game the protagonist, Vyse, is the character that is controlled by the player. Vyse and Aika, the female lead, are permanent members of a four character party. At various stages, the player can pick up one, and only one, of the secondary characters. At some points the player has a choice which of these to use, but often it is compulsory for the party to contain a certain secondary character. A short way through the game, Fina changes from a storyline-only role to a playable character and a permanent member.
At one point in the game the four character party is split in two, with Vyse and Gilder, and Aika and Fina being the pairs. This part presents an unusual challenge as the strengths and weaknesses of the characters are unable to complement each other. The two primary damage dealing characters (Vyse and Gilder) are paired together, with little magical ability, and the two primary magic characters (Aika and Fina) are paired, with little damage ability.
At stages in the game Gilder, Drachma and Enrique are added and removed from the character pool. This is usually done for narrative purposes; near the end of the game the player can choose which of the three characters to use for the final moments.
Main player characters
- Vyse: A 17-year-old Blue Rogue (air pirates that only attack armed vessels larger than their own ships, in particular those of the Valuan Armada). Vyse has an upbeat, optimistic and determined personality, making him a natural leader. Often, he is the one who keeps the entire party's spirit up in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds. He is also the character the player controls when not in battle. Vyse fights with twin cutlasses, one used for offense and one used for defense.
- Aika: Vyse's close friend since childhood and fellow Blue Rogue. She is 17 years old, like Vyse. Aika has a strong and energetic personality; she is deeply and fiercely loyal to those around her, and has a bit of a fiery temper, yet has weaknesses such as obsession with treasure and unable to swim. She was orphaned at an early age, and was cared for by Vyse's family. Aika fights using an oversized boomerang. She is left-handed.
- Fina: Fina is a "Silvite", one of the few survivors of the ancient, defunct Silver Civilization. She is 17, like Vyse and Aika. Fina is beautiful, sweet natured and demure, but hides an iron will. She is initially naive of customs and the Arcadian way of life, but proves to be a quick learner. She forms a strong bond with Vyse and an even stronger, almost sisterly bond, with Aika. Fina's pet, a silver ball-like creature named Cupil, fights for her. Cupil can morph into various shapes and gains power by eating Chams, Moon Stone shards that are hidden throughout the game. His most powerful form is Final Cupil, although it required a download in the Dreamcast version to get the final cham. When not in battle, Cupil takes the form of a bracelet that Fina wears.
Secondary player characters
- Drachma: A 55-year-old maimed man, Drachma lost his right arm, right eye, and only son while fighting the giant arcwhale Rhaknam. He has a mechanical right arm which he uses as a weapon during battle. His obsession with hunting Rhaknam leads him to search the skies. Drachma is the captain of the small fishing airship, Little Jack. He travels with Vyse and the others for part of the game, and pretends not to care about them, but he shows up just in time to save them quite a few times. With his artificial limb and vendetta against a strangely colored, deformed whale, he seems to be based on Captain Ahab in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick.
- Gilder: A rakishly handsome 32-year-old man, Gilder wears a pince-nez and uses pistols as his weapons. He found and rescued Vyse from Crescent Island when Vyse was stranded, and joined him in his travels. Gilder is the captain of the light, swift pirate vessel Claudia. He has a parrot named Willy, who can be helpful when Gilder needs to break out of jail cells. He is a very laid-back, adventurous, and flirtatious individual, as he dreads nothing more than being tied down by marriage. As such, he seems to be constantly looking over his shoulder and running away from Clara, a Blue Rogue obsessed with him. Despite his carefree nature, Gilder is a highly experienced and capable air pirate, and his expertise proves useful to Vyse several times throughout the story.
- Enrique: At 25 years old, Enrique is the Crown prince of the Valuan Empire but disagrees strongly with the imperialist policies of his mother, Empress Teodora I. The name of his father is unknown. Enrique uses rapiers as his weapon in battle. Unable to change or even influence the totalitarian ways of the empire, he joins the air pirates later on and gives Vyse his flagship, the Delphinus, when the party tries to escape the Grand Fortress for the second time. His frank nobility and chivalry are in direct opposition to the attitudes of most of the higher Valuans, and it is his infectious goodness that ends up saving the entire party later on.
The Blue Rogues' sworn enemy, the Valuan Empire, continually hunts Vyse and Aika throughout the game. The Valuan Empire is ruled politically by the Empress Teodora I, but the real military power lies with the Lord Admiral Galcian. Galcian's five deputies — Alfonso (First Admiral), Gregorio, Vigoro, Belleza, and De Loco (Fifth Admiral) - each have a distinct personality, personified by their highly unique flagships. Amongst themselves they are each silently competing for promotion at the expense of the others, especially Alfonso, who thinks he should be Lord Admiral instead of Galcian. Galcian's Vice-Captain Ramirez later becomes the Sixth Admiral of the Valuan Armada and has a mysterious connection to Fina.
In addition, a significant number of lesser adversaries confront the player throughout the game. These are mostly 'Black Pirates,' a faction of unscrupulous criminals who lack the Blue Rogues' self-restraint and hence have earned the Rogues' ire. Notable Black Pirates include Captain Baltor, a bandit from Nasr airspace who pursues a small vendetta against Vyse, and Gordo the Round, an obese pirate whose plundering is driven by his lust for unique food. In the Gamecube rerelease, several more of these Black Pirates appear and can be hunted for bounty rewards, including a trio of criminals who resemble Vyse, Aika and Fina (named Vyze, Anita, and Faina) in appearance and poison Vyse's reputation unless defeated during an optional sidequest.
Development and release
Skies of Arcadia Legends
On December 26, 2002, an enhanced port, Skies of Arcadia Legends was released in Japan for the GameCube. It was subsequently released in North America on January 27, 2003, and in Europe on May 23, 2003. Legends was in development for the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Windows, but both ports were canceled shortly before the GameCube version's release. Legends features slightly enhanced graphics, shorter loading times and some additional content. The game includes the Dreamcast's downloadable add-ons, and some new scenes, some of which tell stories of events that happened before the game.
While the game is largely a direct port of the Dreamcast version, Legends does have some changes due to the differences in hardware. Since the Gamecube is incompatible with the Dreamcast's VMU, content displayed from it is moved to corner of the game's screen. There are not many significant graphical differences between the two versions; even the texture level of detail bias remains the same despite the GameCube's more powerful texturing abilities. The majority of character models have gained some additional polygon counts, which are especially apparent on most characters' hands, heads, and torsos. In addition, framerate drops that occurred on the Dreamcast while sailing in certain areas or performing certain super moves or magic have been largely reduced or eliminated. The GameCube makes use of its improved hardware to reduce game saving and loading times as well as battle sequence loading times. The GameCube version does not require the use of a second disc, whereas the Dreamcast version does. However, to fit on the single GameCube disc, the music in Legends is lower quality than in the Dreamcast version.
Legends, as well as the original English-language Dreamcast version, has stronger censorship of mature content. All traces of cigarettes are removed, shops serve Loqua juice instead of alcohol, and one female character's attire is altered to be less revealing. Additionally, the rate of random encounters is slightly lower in the GameCube version but experience points earned are higher per battle to make up for this.
In regards to game content, Legends features twenty-four new discoveries to be found, and act as a larger source of income for the player. Additionally, inclusion of a subplot involving collecting Moonfish for a Doctor and a girl named Maria was added. Moonfish, invisible to the naked eye, are placed throughout the game for the player to collect. When prompted by the distinctive sound Moonfish make, Vyse is able to see Moonfish with a special adjustment to his headgear. When returning these Moonfish to the Doc, Maria's bird begins to grow, and is eventually is added to the journal as a Discovery. Feeding Maria's bird also unlocks cutscenes showing the pasts of several characters related to Doc and Maria, including the antagonists. Another added subplot involving Piastol, a woman who hunts air pirates under the nom de guerre "Angel of Death". Piastol is after Vyse because she mistakenly believes that he killed her father seven years before the story began. She calls for Vyse several times throughout the game, leading to optional, difficult boss battles. Defeating her unlocks additional cutscenes explaining her past and relations to the other characters.
A "Wanted List" of enemies to locate while exploring has been added as well, most of them being entirely new to the GameCube version. These enemies are markedly more difficult than the rest of the game (including other boss battles), partly because they level up simultaneously as the player's party does, meaning that they will be consistently difficult regardless of the player's current level. Legends also contains a new in-game secret, music tracks for both Nasultan and post-attack Nasr, the best set of swords for Vyse, and a secret boss battle.
On October 5, 2000, the game's musical soundtrack was released on CD as a double album. Composed by Yutaka Minobe and Tatsuyuki Maeda, it features 67 original tracks from the game and has a runtime of over two hours and twenty minutes. The album is named after the Japanese version of the game, Eternal Arcadia. Five tracks from the game (Clara's Theme, De Loco’s Theme, Dark Rift music, Blue Moon Crystal tune, and the post-destruction Nasr theme) are omitted from the official soundtrack release. A small number of copies were imported into the US.
Skies of Arcadia received critical acclaim from game reviewers. IGN gave the game a 9.2, praising it for its "solid overall visuals, lively and appealing characters, excellent use of camera angles, and some of the coolest mechanical designs for the airships". GameSpot gave the game a 9.2 as well, praising the visuals, stating that they were "some of the most painstakingly detailed ever seen in a role-playing game". As a whole, GameSpot concluded that the game "lives up [to] the high expectations". Game Informer listed it as one of the top 10 Dreamcast games.
One major complaint about the game was the high rate of random encounter-based battles, which made traveling a test of the player's patience. This was fixed to a degree in Legends, the enhanced port for the GameCube. The game was successful enough that it was re-released in Q4 2002 in Japan, which vouched for a similar release in North America on January 27, 2003.
Despite the positive critical reception, the game generally was considered to not have sold very well.
A sequel to the game was considered by Sega in the early 2000s, but never began full production. Multiple characters from the game later appeared in Sega's 2008 video game Valkyria Chronicles. Two optional characters named "Vyse Inglebard" and "Aika Thompson" appear as members of Squad 7 and are listed on each other's "Like" list. Differences in uniforms and weaponry aside, their appearances are otherwise identical to their Skies of Arcadia counterparts. Some of the dialogue spoken by the two contains subtle references to Skies of Arcadia, such as Aika's line when rescuing a fallen comrade "If you die on me, then I'm taking all your treasure!", or the line for her Nocturnal ability "I ain't scared of the dark! ...just ghosts..." Fina appears as one of several identical sisters who serve as the squad's (unplayable) Medics. The characters' profiles in the game allude to Skies of Arcadia. Vyse's profile states he is from a far off land, and once the player completes the game, his profile is updated to indicate that he and Aika left Gallia to seek adventure and treasure, further alluding to the aforementioned game.
In the Valkyria Chronicles anime adaption, Vyse makes a cameo appearance as a member of Squad 5 during the Liberation of Fouzen (episode 13), and the medic who tends to Rosie (episode 18) and Alicia (episode 21) has the appearance of Fina and her "sisters". Aika has not appeared in the VC anime. In the 2nd OVA of Valkyria Chronicles 3, Vyse makes a cameo as a member of Squad 7.
Vyse also makes an appearance as a playable character in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. A racetrack based on Skies of Arcadia is also present in the game. Vyse also appears in the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book adaption of the game (Sonic Universe #45), and then again in the Sonic comics for the "World Unite" Sega character crossover story arc.
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