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VIDEO GAME REVIEW

Not Another Role-Playing Game!

‘Skies of Arcadia Legends’ Lacks Innovation

By Chad Serrant

Staff Writer

Skies of Arcadia Legends

Published by Sega

Made for the Nintendo Gamecube

$49.99

The role-playing game (RPG) genre is pretty stuck-up. At the top of the heap are the obligatory high-profile RPGs. They don’t innovate much in between sequels, and they tend to rely on hordes of frothing fan boys (or fan girls). In the middle are the few innovative RPGs that introduce something new. But they’re not high profile, so they don’t sell. And at the bottom of the heap are the Final Fantasy clones made by Unknown Company X. Imagine a RPG that somehow is equidistant from those three tiers. Now, port it to the Nintendo Gamecube and BAM! Skies of Arcadia Legends!

Skies of Arcadia Legends was a relatively popular RPG on the Sega Dreamcast that was ported over to the Nintendo Gamecube. The plot is extremely cookie-cutter, so I’ll summarize: Spunky kids try to prevent evil empire and evil pretty boy from using ancient technology to take over the world. Vyse is the main character and is the typical “I have to explore everything” character I’ve seen in way too much anime. No wait, his partner Aika is loaded with more anime stereotypes because she a) is spunky, b) has a weird hairdo, and c) has a crush on Vyse and is unwilling to admit it.

Fina fulfills the “soft-spoken cute girl” role, along with her “pet that does all the fighting” named Cupil. The fourth character in the party switches between an old man, a thirty-something skirtchaser and a kind-hearted prince.

The world Vyse and crew live in is interesting. The world consists of several continents floating thousands of feet above the ground. Powerful storms, wind walls, and floating rocks separate the world into different regions. This idea is nice and innovative. But once Vyse lands on an island, it’s time to visit Stereotype City. The (evil) Imperial City of Valua has an upper class and a lower class. The lower class talk about how they are overworked while the upper class tries to shove as much gold into their toilets as possible. Somehow, Valua doesn’t have a middle class. The jungle kingdom of Ixa ’taka feels like the developers used a “Mayan Civilization for Dummies” as their reference. I won’t even talk about Asiatown -- wait, I’ve said too much already.

The core gameplay is standard: go to town, talk to people, buy weapons, kick butt in dungeons, and get experience and goldz0rs. Skies of Arcadia Legends tries to innovate each of those elements, but doesn’t do enough innovation to truly separate it from other RPGs. Vyse has a reputation that he needs to maintain. During the game, dialog choices can improve his reputation. It is a nice idea, but the choice that improves his rating is almost always the first choice the game presents. It is so easy that this feature is rendered useless.

The on-foot battle sequences have a few good ideas that weren’t implemented well enough. Characters can use ranged combat or close range combat. During the fight, the combatants will walk away, get in a better position, or close in on their target. This is important for some attacks that hit line or circular formations. The problem is the player has no control over where the characters go, so there is no potential for tactics more advanced than “attack, attack, attack, attack, attack.”

During the fight, the player can change the elemental attribute of the weapons so they can deal more damage against enemies weak against the element. Unfortunately, it isn’t obvious how to read enemy weaknesses. And it’s a bit hard to remember what element is weak against what other element. Suffice it to say that you should keep the instruction manual nearby at all times. Learning spells is a simple task; use a weapon of a certain element and you learn spells in that element. A good idea, except too many elements blend together. Purple and blue both use single-target spells combined with useless status spells that never work. Yellow attack spells are line-based and are thus hard to use efficiently.

Occasionally there are ship battles. Two ships fire cannons and torpedoes. The next turn is displayed and the player can choose four actions to perform during the turn. The player must successfully damage the enemy while preserving ammunition. Based on the player’s actions and dialog choices, the player can gain an advantage or be left vulnerable. This choice, unfortunately, makes the ship battles more plot-oriented rather than tactical. And the coup de grace is the ubercannon. With the correct plot choices, Vyse will whoop out his “biggunz” and blow the crap out of his opponent. Too many times has it resulted in one-shot kills. What’s the point of using cannons or spells if all I have to do is wait until I can fire the superweapon?

As for subgames, the player can discover hidden islands and landmarks for spare change. There is also food for Fina’s weapon/pet that strengthens it. And finally, the first person view can be used to find hidden creatures called moonfish that can be caught and traded for rare items. Feels like the bare minimum of games. Then again, it’s better to work on the main game than work on subgames, right?

The voice acting needs work. I said it for Zone of the Enders, and I’ll say it again: Good English, or good subtitles, please! How many times must I defend the acting from my friends when Vyse makes his wimpy attack yell? How many times must Fina rush her lines when she uses an item. (“Let’s try THIS!”) How many times do I have to cringe when Fina says something? WHY? At least give the option of switching languages! At least Aika is done well.

The graphics have “Dreamcast port” written all over them. Relatively low polygon models are everywhere, and the game suffers from low-resolution textures (look at the explosion textures when you beat a boss). Even worse: repetitive ground textures, and worst of all: Dreamcast hexagons. When you can’t do a circle, do a hexagon. When you see a hexagon, imagine if it would have looked better if it had more than six edges. Then, wonder why it wasn’t done on the Gamecube.

Gamecube fans starving for an RPG will be satisfied with Skies of Arcadia Legends, as it fulfills the requirements of a standard RPG. Unfortunately, it doesn’t innovate its innovation well enough to stand out as a truly unique title.