Bring it Back | Skies of Arcadia
After a small delay, we’re back with another Bring it Back Sunday! Last week, we checked out Capcom’s pirate puzzler Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. This week, we have another swashbuckling pirate title, though this time in the RPG realm. In a world where air pirates reign supreme, sometimes you have to band together with your friends to prevent calamity. Of course, we’re talking about Sega’s Dreamcast classic, Skies of Arcadia! It’s been 18 years since the GameCube port, so we felt like giving this one some love.
In 1999, development started on a Sega Saturn game under the code name Project Ares. With several internal Sega teams forming to create Overworks, the ambition for the title was definitely bigger than many other Sega titles at the time. This included developers from the Phantasy Star, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Panzer Dragoon Saga teams. It also included Sakura Wars writer Shuntaro Tanaka and composers Yutaka Minobe and Tatsuyuki Maeda, the latter having worked on Sonic 3 & Knuckles. With such a strong team of talent, the expectations were high for what would eventually become Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast.
Skies of Arcadia tells a story of air pirates Vyse and Aika, as well as a woman named Fina, the latter coming from a civilization of technologically advanced people known as Silvites. From the start, Fina’s ship is being pursued by a ship from the Valuan Armada, led by Admiral Alfonso. As he attempts to capture her, a Blue Rogues pirate ship arrives to plunder the Valuan ship. This is when Vyse and Aika enter the picture, thwarting Alfonso’s plans and saving Fina. After taking Fina back to their home, Vyse and Aika set off for a rare Moonstone, a concentrated form of fuel, only to return home to devastation. With Fina and their crew captured by the Valuan empire, they set out for a rescue attempt.
Vyse and Aika, in an attempt to save their friends, get shipwrecked by a large whale known as Rhaknam. It’s through this event that the two meet Drachma, who helps the pirates on their journey to save Fina and their crew. When they manage to rescue Fina, she tells them of her importance to the Valuan Armada. As it turns out, Fina was on a quest to uncover the six Moon Crystals. With these pure Moonstones, one could summon powerful artificial beings known as Gigas. Her goal is to find these Moon Crystals before Valua can obtain them to use the Gigas for their own gain. From this point, Vyse and Aika decide to join her crusade to find the Moon Crystals and save the world. Along the way, they’ll make more friends and allies, occasionally having a fourth party member that can join them for the finale.
While the story was well written by Shuntaro Tanaka, the gameplay design gave fans a fantastic turn-based RPG. Taking things in a traditional route, players would jump into random enemy encounters to fight multiple foes. Players would decide commands for their whole party before the round would commence. All the commands would play out, as characters attack, guard, counter, and perform super moves. Various attacks would spend spirit, which would be displayed at the top of the screen. Aside from that, characters would be able to perform magic using their MP gauge. Of course, this wasn’t the only form of combat in Skies of Arcadia.
One of the unique battle features of the game comes with ship battles. These play out similar to the normal combat, but also utilize a grid system to give players a chance to determine the best results. This would allow players to take advantage of critical hits, avoid taking a ton of damage, and more. It really makes it play more like a turn-based strategy game, giving off chance statistics. Using various cannons, players will take up to four turns per round for attacks. They can even call in various crew members for assistance. This helped to give the combat some variety, making it feel different than your typical Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.
One thing that also helped to make Skies of Arcadia stand out is the anime style visuals. The developers at Overworks really wanted to provide expressive characters, which was made possible with this style. This was also something that would help to make a much lighter tone, as the team wanted something more cheerful. Characters would have short voice clips to make them stand out in combat even more. Overall, the team at Overworks made a fantastic RPG that fans hold dear to their hearts. When Sega discontinued the Dreamcast, it was announced that they would remake the game for the GameCube and PlayStation 2, though only the GameCube version would release.
With the name of Skies of Arcadia Legends, this port would included improvements to the visuals and performance. it would also have new quests, a wanted list of new enemies to fight, and even less random encounters. Adjustments were made to experience points to account for the change, but it made for an overall better experience. Due to changes between the hardware, the GameCube version also had the Dreamcast’s VMU mini-game, Pinta Quest, removed. The port would also include all the downloadable content from the original game. Fans would basically see Legends as the Director’s Cut of the original game. Unfortunately, the game was not a big seller for either version, which might have been the reason for no sequels.
A sequel was in the works for a while, but unfortunately, it didn’t properly begin development. With that in mind, many of the original developers still want to make a sequel. This includes producer Rieko Kodama, who would go on to produce games in the 7th Dragon series. There was even a time when a port was under consideration for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Unfortunately, this never came to be, disappointing fans of the original games. While these projects never came to fruition, Sega never forgot about the game. Another Shuntaro Tanaka game, Sega’s Valkyria Chronicles, includes Vyse and Aika as playable units, as well as Fina as a medic. They even have small cameos in the anime tie-in for the game. On top of that, Vyse appears as a playable racer alongside a Skies of Arcadia track in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed.
It’s nice to see Vyse and the crew appear in other games, but it’s not quite the same as a game of their own. The RPG genre has grown to be much bigger than it once was, especially with more ideas and inspiration floating around. Graphics are better, music is higher quality, and fuller voice acting adds to bigger presentations. Even though the original games didn’t achieve high sales, their high resell value shows there is definitely demand. Due to this, we feel like it’s about time that we Bring it Back!
The development team of Overworks has gone through some changes, but some of the key people are still with the company. Sega could have some of the original developers return to restart development of the sequel. Bring in some fresh talent, maybe even a co-developer like tri-Ace, and we’ll be in business. Of course, it would help if players had easy access to the original game. Sega can contract a port studio to remaster Skies of Arcadia Legends for a release on modern platforms. It’s a common practice these days, and giving the original a release would give opportunity for new fans. With new fans, this can easily make the excitement level grow for a true sequel. If anything, it can go the Final Fantasy route and use a different world and cast of characters.
Not much is available about the original sequel plans, so it can be anything at this point. Either way, there are many out there who would love to see a new Skies of Arcadia. Some would just like to see a port of the originals. Honestly, we can always use more of Vyse and the crew. What do you think? Would you want to see more Skies of Arcadia love? Let us know in the comments below! As for our Bring it Back feature, it will return in three weeks. We hope to see you then!