Skies of Arcadia is a game that made a huge impact on me as a fan of SEGA and Role-Playing games. Before it, I had very little exposure to RPGs. I had seen Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but very rarely did I play them. The only one I actually played was Phantasy Star IV. While I enjoyed it, I was a bit too young to really be able to understand or get into it. I still had fond memories of playing it with my neighbor, and when I got older and had the chance to finally play it again, it became one of my favorite games of all time. It never would have happened without Skies of Arcadia.
At the time the game came out on the Dreamcast, I was around 10 years old. Old enough to start wrapping my head around more complex games. However, I didn’t have a Dreamcast at the time, only a Nintendo 64. My cousin had the Dreamcast though, and I was super close with him. He was like an older brother to me. He picked on me a bit, but he also showed me lots of cool stuff, even stuff I probably wasn’t supposed to see or play at my age yet. He was also a huge RPG fan, and had always tried to get me into them, but I never did get engrossed with them that much. Then, one weekend when he came to visit, he brought Skies of Arcadia. We spent an entire night playing it, and I don’t remember how long we played it for, but it was almost sunrise before we finally had to give into sleep.
The first thing i knew had me glued to the TV was the characters. Vyse is one of the coolest video game characters ever. His upbeat, optimistic personality really spoke to me. I also liked the ideals of the Blue Rouges, a group known only to attack vessels larger then their own, mainly aimed at a tyrannical force known as the Valuan Armada, to help free the world of Arcadia. The plot followed the generic beat of having crystals that would awaken an ancient power that could destroy everything and the power-hungry dictator and his army want it, but that wasn’t the big hook for me. Of course, Vyse wouldn’t be nearly as fun of a character if his crew wasn’t great too, and between the spunky sidekick Aika, the mysterious and virtuous Fiona, grumpy old-man and total Captain Ahab homage Drachma, and the laid-back ladies man Gilder, there were a lot of fun and unique supporting characters. However, it wasn’t just the characters that made up your party, but everyone you encountered throughout your daring exploits. This was all backed by the game’s setting.
It was this giant, Jules Vernes-esque world, a big fantasy epic that had all these amazing locations, from the deserts of Nasr, to the icy Glacia, and the immense and of course just the open blue skies you could fly through on your airship. Nothing was more satisfying then exploring the skies, and even more so, when you would have to do battle with another ship.
See, the game’s normal RPG gameplay is pretty basic, no-frills stuff. Explore dungeons, fight in random encounters, the battles are turn-based, with the ability to perform long, flashy, and devastating super attacks. However, it was well-made, balanced, and besides the Dreamcast version’s frequency of random battles, it was an incredibly well-built system from there. However, it’s the ship battles that truly took me from being into the game, into falling in love with it.
During these battles, you would have a square grid that showed the actions of each party member and when their action would activate. Each turn would also be color-coded, which when yellow or red, meant you would be coming under heavy fire from the enemy ship. However, you could also get a turn with a C in it, which meant you would have a huge opening on your opponent. This meant, concentrate all your attacks in that particular turn. Not only that, but you could use your lower crew mates on your ship to help, and each had different abilities that could help change the tide of the fight, and made you feel far more like a real leader of a pirate gang.
Sadly, after that night, my cousin never brought it over again, though I slowly started playing other great games with him, and I slowly became more and more into RPGs. So much so, that I finally went back and truly experienced Phantasy Star IV, and I couldn’t have been happier. Sadly, as my cousin was about 6 years older then me, he was getting caught up in college and work, and we saw each other less and less. I kept bugging him to bring back Skies of Arcadia, but it never came to pass.
Then, i got an issue of EGM, and saw that the game was to get a 2nd chance after SEGA went to strictly software, with the GameCube re-release Skies Of Arcadia Legends. I was ecstatic, and I waited months to finally be able to play the game again, and this time, I’d get to finish it. However, it didn’t feel right without my cousin, who has shown me this amazing game to begin with. So, after a lot of planning, and having to wait longer to play it, we met up and had a whole weekend where we played through the game, in its entirety. From searching the world for Discoveries, one of the game’s many awesome sidequests, giggling at the fantastic writing and character interactions, getting super pumped on giant ship battles, or just running through a dungeon on little help, praying away the random encounters, it was an amazing weekend. Its something that’s stuck with me, even after a decade.
I rarely see my cousin now, but he was both a huge influence on my as a gamer, and as a person, but its these kind of memories that really stick with me. Having someone to have remembered the first time I took the Little Jack to the skies, and helping me find the most obscure secrets the game had to offer, it’s one of my favorite gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I loved it so much, I paid homage to my favorite character a little while back:
Skies of Arcadia is unlike any other RPG out there, with a charm and world that has never been matched since its release. It’s one of the games that truly defined my love for SEGA, and will always hold a super special place in my heart. Enough so that I paid homage to my favorite character a while back.
For now though, I’ll always have my memories of sailing with the Blue Rouges…