SEGA Sequel Saturdays: Skies of Arcadia

For Episode 23, I thought I’d go back to in-house SEGA: a fan favorite, and one of the many greats to come from the Dreamcast era. Of course, you can see from the picture that I’ve picked Skies of Arcadia. As an RPG it was, in many ways, as traditional as they get. It had turn-based combat, it had a lack of voice overs, it had chirpy characters, and it had a bright and colorful world much more reminiscent of Japanese RPGs out of the old days than the much darker turn they took with the likes of Final Fantasy VI and VII. That said, Skies of Arcadia also took place in a world in the sky, a truly incredible setting which remains one of the most impressive worlds created for a Japanese RPG that I’ve ever experienced.

Maybe it’s because nothing defines “the unknown” quite like the sky, a world in which humanity can’t survive outside of planes or space ships. Maybe it’s because this sky, with its collection of floating islands, mystical temples, bustling cities, strange lore, and great rifts, served as the perfect setting for a good old fashioned pirate story. The world established with Skies of Arcadia was not only huge and packed to the brim with things to do and places to explore, but it was the perfect world to grab hold of our imaginations and take them for a spin, something that only the best RPGs can manage to do.

I wanted to live in this world. I wanted to set sail on a floating ship with this crew as they explored the skies and stole from the evil empire’s ships… Or even simply searched the skies for moonfish. Skies of Arcadia was a pretty fantastic RPG in that sense. Truth be told, I’ve always given this game a bit of a hard time; as amazing as the world was to me, I thought the gameplay, most notably the combat system, not to mention the storyline itself, could have used a lot of work. A sequel would be great just for that purpose: to get to explore another amazing world, but maybe one without so many random battles or such a slow combat system. There were tons of things Skies of Arcadia did so well, and it was such a memorable and fun experience that I’d love the chance to relive it in the form of a sequel.

Here’s what I would not want to see happen: I would not want to see the developers abandon a traditional turn-based combat system, and I definitely wouldn’t want the game to lose its “old-school RPG” vibe. These are two of the things that helped make it so special. The changes I’d make to the combat system (and this is especially true in the ship battles) would be to cut down on the waiting time. Skies of Arcadia often pitted you against multiple enemies at once, with sometimes your entire ship deck filling with foes once you entered a random battle. The game required you to select everyone’s moves at once, then sit and watch them all play out. Then, you would have to watch the enemies’ moves all play out. It was slow, and not only did battles take longer than they should have, the amount of time spent waiting (or watching special moves once you broke those out) really killed the pace. A turn-based battle system that moved much faster would be welcome, and the ship battles would have the potential to be something so much more fun and exciting than they were in the original game. It’d be great to see something cooler done with them.

In regard to the story presentation, Skies of Arcadia was actually incredibly cinematic. A real accomplishment, considering the lack of voice acting. If you compare the cutscenes of Skies of Arcadia to other games of the time (Grandia II, for example) it doesn’t even compare. Skies was truly awesome in this area. A sequel adding (good) voice acting would make these cutscenes, chases, and other exciting moments even more thrilling. The sound quality of the music would be updated, but the music in the original was so good that I wouldn’t want to see the style changed too much. The corny facial expressions, though, could really be improved (see pic below).

Random battles are a thing of the past. The ability to see (and avoid) enemies when sailing the world would make exploration much more fun and less stressful. I know it was easier to avoid enemies later in the game, but I think the entire game would have been improved if this was possible earlier. Skies of Arcadia already featured a massive world, and thinking about what’s possible on next-gen hardware is almost mind-boggling. Even with such a big world and so much to explore, Skies told (for the most part) a well-paced story that was at times truly gripping, and I’d want a sequel to be the same way, albeit maybe with a slightly more original tale being told.

Does anybody want a new Skies of Arcadia game? That’s what I’m not totally sure about. The game was critically acclaimed and is regarded by some SEGA fans as a classic. Outside of that circle, I wonder if most people are even aware of the game’s existence, let alone played it. SEGA was never exactly willing to throw money into promoting it, and even though it got a Director’s Cut re-release of sorts on the GameCube, Skies of Arcadia remains one of those hidden gems; a game that’s talked about all the time in certain groups but that, overall, too few people have played. It may not have been a flawless RPG, but in a lot of ways, it’s one of the more memorable ones that I’ve played. I definitely encourage people to seek it out, whether on the Dreamcast or the GameCube, and I beg SEGA to consider doing a sequel on a high-definition console. I think with the right marketing, Skies of Arcadia could have become a pretty great RPG franchise… Or at least a trilogy. I’d love to see it given that chance.

You can read my original review for the game here, and while you’re at it, drop a comment or two in the section below. Thanks for reading, SEGA fans.

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17 responses to “SEGA Sequel Saturdays: Skies of Arcadia

  1. Sharky says:

    Simply one of the best games I have ever played. The characters, the storyline, the music and the world were just magical, this game is a masterpiece.

    This was one of the first games to stir emotion in me, it was a game that came out when I was a teenager and my friend and I played it nonstop.

    Drachmas story with the whale was amazing. The world felt full, It felt like I was exploring a real, beautifully imagined world, it felt like a full living breathing world where anything could happen.

    I'm absolutely saddened that this did not become a flagship series for Sega because it is a crime that it never got a sequel. Reiko Kodamas best work and along with Panzer Dragoon Saga my favourite RPG ever made.

  2. -nSega54- says:

    Yeah Drachma was such a great character. Definitely my favorite in the game. Gilder was cool too, haha. But in a different way.

  3. batfax says:

    Just HD-ing it would be fine for me. Mostly because with so much time that's been inbetween, I worry for how a sequel could possibly be handled.

  4. Sharky says:

    Gilder was a badass, His ship too, I'm pretty sure it was the most fun to fly and it was one of his special moves. Awesome character.

    @BatFax, I would love a HD remake for XBLA/PSN… Hell I'd buy it new. But damn do I want more Skies!

  5. ricerictwice says:

    Yes I love this game and played the hell out of it when it first came out, even after completing the game I went back and leveled up my characters to the max running around in a circle. I actually believe this is a game many Sega fans want badly. However, personally I feel that the story is complete as it is, not saying that I wouldn't want a new original standard J-RPG from the Skies/Valkyria team. I would love an HD-remake, but if need I will replay this game soon regardless, probably the Gamecube version this time because I sadly never gave that one a shot yet.

  6. VyseLegend says:

    A sequel would probably be horrible, and not sell very well in comparison to the costs of making it. I guess an HD-ized re-release would be a decent consolation prize.

    But after the hamfisted plots of Valkyrie Chronicles, its hard for me to believe SEGA is making any classic RPGs any time soon.

    And besides, there is little room in the market nowadays for optimistic, bright, and light hearted games. This game doesn't meet the quotient of babes, boobs, and 'mature' themes necessary for today's games to sell.

    Maybe a sequel could be done on a portable platform? But it would probably not be as epic as the original for that reason.

  7. upsidedown fuji says:

    Oh man, when I saw the image for this post my heart skipped a beat. I thought a sequil or port was announced.

    Skies of Arcadia is one of SEGA's best original RPGs. I hope they eventually revisit the Arcadia world. It sure is a great one.

  8. loempiavreter says:

    Ugh, I definately am glad SEGA ain't touching this again.

  9. Suzuki Yu says:

    @loempiavreter

    why!

  10. I bought Skies and Grandia II at the same time (2004?), but never finished either. After trying both, I wished I could play a game with everything Skies had, but with the battle system of Grandia II. That would be the best RPG ever.

    It wasn't until last summer that I sat down with Skies again for another go. I did horrible my first attempt, constantly dying and I became fed up with the aggressively-occurring random battles. Revisiting it allowed me to do SO much better, so I guess my RPG chops had evolved in the 6 years since I first played. I eventually hit a point where I didn't know where to go, so I still have yet to sit down and finish it.

    I'd love to try the Gamecube version, but I'd rather they just release that in "HD" on XBL/PSN.

  11. -G- says:

    -Sharky – "I’m absolutely saddened that this did not become a flagship series for Sega because it is a crime that it never got a sequel. Reiko Kodamas best work and along with Panzer Dragoon Saga my favourite RPG ever made."

    Totally agree with you Sharky.

    I have never been a huge fan of J-RPGs with their turn based combat. HOWEVER – my favourite game of all time is Panzer Dragoon Saga and Skies of Arcadia is the only game since that has come remotely close to recreating that experience.

    Yes the frquency of the random battles was annoying at points (in that Pyramid bit, I remember having battles that occurred 3 secs after the one before – and had about 5 of them in a row. I think it took me about 30 minutes to go through one room!

    – Again, however, I loved the actual combat system. I didn't find it too slow at all. I especially enjoyed that the characters actually moved around the screen into position, and you could see characters fighting each other in the background as the camera focused on the main fighters.

    – That might sound weird, but compared to games like Final Fantasy at the time – where the characters all stood in a line and jumped forward, attacked and jump back, one by one – this was awesome and actually fun to watch.

    And despite the ship battles not being fast-paced action moments, I still loved them. Building up the power and setting up attacks and praying that your actions would out trump your enemy's.

    The story I loved. It was cliche in areas – but I still think it was original enough to hold up on its own. And the world – well it's been said, that was amazing.

    As for a sequel? I want one, lord knows I do. But the current SEGA of today wouldn't be able to do it justice I fear.

    If they could somehow make an even bigger and more virbant world – while still retaining the same gameplay style and story progression, then it would be amazing.

    -For now, it would be just as amazing if SEGA released the original on XBL/PSN – like as part of the Dreamcast Collection or something.

  12. loempiavreter says:

    @Suzuki Yu

    So they can plunge their resources in interesting games.

  13. Suzuki Yu says:

    bad loempiavreter you are bad!

  14. -nSega54- says:

    To clarify, a sequel wouldn't need to feature the same characters. It could just take place in a sky world but be entirely new otherwise.

    VyseLegend, what's that avatar? It's pretty amazing. 0_o

  15. Colaya says:

    Skies of Arcadia is my favorite game ever… I've been wishing they'd make a sequel for the last 10 years.

    Pretty much given up hope on it actually happening though… ;_;

  16. CrazyTails says:

    Got so much to say about this game, but I think most has allready been said. I personally finished it on the gamecube. Never came that far on the DC and I can say that the gamecube version is really the superior one in every way.

    The game is just magical in every sense of the word. I really love it deeply and yeah I don't care if the story was finished. I'd be so up for a newgen skies of arcadia 2. Yup

  17. Karto says:

    I’d much rather see these ideas (and several others) be used in a re-make rather than a sequel. If they made a sequel loads of people would have no real idea what the original was and so would demand SEGA re-release it and as much as I love it, I know the gameplay would be very annoying to a lot of players who are used to the more modern styles of RPG.
    Re-making the game from scratch would allow them to fix the flaws of the original, let everyone see WHY people love these characters and maybe then build up enough interest in a sequel.

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