Something about human nature draws us to the sea - to ships. Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick once claimed that if you set any man’s feet walking, he would invariably lead you to water, if any water could be found. So I’m certain I don’t need to explain the appeal of ships, much less large ones, with massive crews for you to command, and an entire world to explore.
Naval battles, pirates, elegant sailing ships and attacks from massive "sea" creatures. I’d buy this game already. But here’s the twist; there’s no water. All these vessels sail the skies. The Skies of Arcadia.
Corny intro? Leave me alone.
But seriously, if you’ve ever fantasized about old school sailing, and exploring, or if you played (like you haven’t) Sid Meyer’s original Pirates, then you’ll want this game.
You play as up-and-coming pirate from the Blue Rogues (a kind of friendly pirate group) as you discover a strange girl, and disembark on a quest to define yourself. There are many different countries in the game to sail to, many different cultures, different characters, and the game NEVER gets stale.
The game play is almost exclusively done in the fashion of a standard RPG, which for me was a bit of a down point, since I’m not a big RPG fan. Which is really even MORE of a testament to the game, since I played all the way through and will one day do it again.
The most unique game play element is clearly the way the naval conflicts are handled. Rather than standard turn-based RPG battles, which are found throughout the game whenever characters get into fights, the naval battles let you choose 4 moves in advance, with an estimation of what your enemy will do. For example you’ll have 4 squares, and above them will be either red, to inform you that your enemy will likely attack you on that turn (in which case, you choose defend in that square), or yellow to say your enemy might attack, green to let you know that you’ll have the advantage, or blank, which is up to you. You chose what to do and when, then watch as the battle wages for 4 turns, as see how well you’ve chosen. Occasionally the battles will be interrupted by your crew asking for directions, such as whether or not to fall back to a safer distance, or to rush in with cannons blazing. The naval battles were the strong point of the game for me.
But since I’m NOT an RPG gamer, the random battles began to wear on my patience, as well as the standard turn-based RPG battles you’re forced into whenever you HAVE a random encounter. Most people reading this may think me a big baby, but I really wasn’t used to it.
Another excellent feature is how the game rewards exploration. Whilst sailing about, your compass my begin to spin randomly, if you notice it, and hit the A button, you’ll have made a discovery. A unique rock formation, a bizarre creature, or even a lost city! You can then take the information and sell it. But if you take too long, other explorers start to find the discoveries first, which drops the price you’ll receive for the information.
You receive ships in the game as well (obviously), which you later get to crew as you see fit, and even customize with different hull materials, and different cannons. You even get to build up a secret base and make it unique.
It’s clear the game was good enough to be ported to the GameCube following the collapse of the Dreamcast, and the Cube was even given a new side quest - the moonfish quest. But don’t despair Dreamcast owners, for your version is still unique in a fashion Cube owners will never know. It contains a VMU game. Pinta’s quest is kind of childish, but still fun. You send Pinta to places you’ve visited, and help him in mini-naval battles, and collecting items, which you can then transfer back into your game.
So, from its humble beginnings, across 2 disks, to its huge, heart pounding, planet-spanning fleet battle conclusion, Skies of Arcadia is a must have. Regardless of your affinity for RPGs.