Skies of Arcadia Legends (GameCube)
Skies of Arcadia Legends is an enhanced port of a Dreamcast game. More content was added and the frequency of random encounters was reduced while the amount of experience points was increased to make up for it. Despite these improvements, this JRPG still plays shockingly slow. Enemies tend to appear in large groups of 5-8, so it can take over one minute until the game has processed a single turn. If you aren't a patient gamer, then Skies of Arcadia Legends clearly isn't for you. During battles, there is way too much time spent on moving the camera around to show off a 3D engine that really shouldn't be showed off by the developers. This goes even moreso for the airship battles where a single turn takes two minutes of your time.
But let's start at the beginning. The world of Arcadia consists of floating islands and a lot of uncharted territory. Basically, this is sailing in the sky with lots of opportunities to make discoveries. Some of these discoveries are in plain sight, others are invisible and can only be found via in-game hints, an online guide or trial and error. The story is built around the pirate Vyse, his childhood friend Aika and the mysterious Fina. On your long journey you meet characters of all kinds and not everyone who appears to be a foe is one. Story and setting are definitely the strong points in a game that not only looks dated, but also plays that way.
The unique element of the battle system is a shared pool of spirit points between the characters of your party. Anyone can draw from this pool to execute special attacks and a certain number of spirit points replenishes in every turn; the Focus command makes a character spend their turn on building the spirit gauge. There's also a magic system, but it comes at the cost of MP and spirit points, so I found myself rarely using it. It's definitely useful for buffs/debuffs, but when it comes to dealing damage, the specials are easily the better option. The airship battles use spirit points to fire the cannons of your ship. Said battles could have been a real highlight of the game, if only they weren't so damn slow. It's especially bad in one certain encounter that you can't win, but forces you to fight for several turns without any sort of reward anyway.
While the fourth member of your party shuffles throughout the game and is tied to your progress in the story, you can choose the active crew members for your powerful battleship later in the game. You also get your own island where you can invest money in the shops and buildings, but it's nothing complex. At various points in the story you get to make decisions in tough situations. While your answers do not change how the story plays out, they affect Vyse's renown and title. There are special rewards for achieving the highest rank, but there are missables, so completionists should absolutely consult a guide.
The world of Arcadia is great. If there had been more care in applying proper speed to all battles, then I'd have given this game an 8. But as it is, the whole thing gets dragged down by one of the slowest battle systems I've ever experienced in a JRPG.
|Controls||10||Nothing wrong with the menus, but actions in the field
are slow and sluggish.
|Gameplay||Turn-based JRPG with normal and airship battles that
move at a slow pace.
|Story||The setting with its floating islands is interesting and the cast
of characters is likeable and grows on you.
|Single-player||There is a lot to explore and do in the world of Arcadia.
If only it wasn't for the general slowness of everything.
|Graphics||This is a port of a Dreamcast game. Draw distance and effects
look dated, the questionable mip-mapping is hard on the eyes.
|Sound||A wonderful soundtrack that conveys heroism. It's a good thing
that the sparsely used voice acting is just that.
|Value||Even if the length of the game wasn't artificially extended by its
slowness, it would still comfortably clock in at over 30 hours.
|Replay Value||Patience is already pushed to its limits on the initial playthrough.
Not really a game to play repeatedly.
|Score||6||Skies of Arcadia Legends isn't one of those games that didn't age
well. Its problems were already clearly visible during its time.