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Old 08-01-2009, 09:35 AM
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Default Beyond the sunset... Let's Play Skies of Arcadia Legends!



Welcome to the world of Arcadia!



Filled with airships!



Treasure!



And pirates!



Skies of Arcadia is an RPG that was originally released for the Dreamcast around the turn of the century. It was produced by Overworks, the company responsible for the Phantasy Star and Sakura Wars series, as well the recent Valkyria Chronicles. It is most notable for its setting and tone — at a time when most RPGs were ratcheting up the angst and character drama, Skies is lighthearted and adventurous. It is straightforward where its peers are Byzantine (or trying to be), fun-loving where they are serious, and it approaches the conventions of its genre with love and idealism instead of shame or sarcasm. Although it contains nothing much in the way of innovation, its sense of pure unbridled fun elevates the game beyond the mess of clichés it might have otherwise become.

The game is sometimes criticized for its unoriginality, but it's a criticism I just don't see the validity of. To many people say "It's derivative!" and then sit back as though they've made a killing point. But let's be honest: Chaucer was derivative, and so was Shakespeare. The value of any story lies in its presentation. When thinking about Skies, the important element of the story isn't the plot (which is indeed full of clichés, JRPG and otherwise), but rather the tone and mood, which the game handles as excellently as any RPG ever has.

For this LP, I’ll be playing the Gamecube port, Skies of Arcadia Legends, which was released in early 2003. The changes to Legends are mostly superficial — there are more Discoveries, more side-bosses, and an extra sidequest which gains you access to several items that were only available via farming for item drops in the original. It lessens the encounter rate, which was one of the biggest criticisms of the Dreamcast version, but grants your characters more experience from battles to compensate. On the downside, the original game’s online capabilities have been removed (most of the content has been integrated into the regular game, with one exception, which I’ll point out when it comes up), and the music is far inferior as a result of the original’s two discs being squeezed into one. Sega also said the graphics have been improved, but if so, it’s not anything noticeable.

I acquired the port back when it first came out and subsequently played it to death. It has all manner of stuff I like in a game — likeable characters, a big beautiful world to explore, and lots of hidden secrets and Easter eggs to uncover, if you’re diligent. As such, it quickly became one of my all-time favorite RPGs, and helped keep me occupied during the Gamecube’s many long dry spells.

I’ve never played the original Dreamcast version, however, so all my knowledge of it is secondhand. If you have played it and see something interesting, be sure to speak up, because I’m surely not going to notice it.

(Known issue: The quality of the images in this update is not up to snuff. I know this, and am still tinkering with the settings of my capture software. I expect future updates will look better. I recorded this one in a burst of enthusiasm and I’m not replaying anything, so you’re stuck with the default settings for this one.)

Introduction aside, let’s begin.



Space: The final frontier.



Eh?




Weird plastic ship piloted by a pale blond teenage girl…



…with a smoke-belching ironclad battleship in hot pursuit. Somehow I think I’ve figured out who I’m supposed to be cheering for here.



Inside said battleship’s bridge is this fruitcake, Admiral Alfonso of the Valuan Empire’s First Armada. Seems he’s been assigned to hunt down the girl we saw earlier. After a bit of primping, Alfonso gives his men the order to fire when ready…



…and they happily oblige.




Happily for the girl, the battleship was shooting to miss. They simply wanted to disable her ship so they could take her captive. As her ship sinks below the clouds, Alfonso’s men bring her aboard.



Alfonso is just beginning to gloat about his success in capturing a weak, defenseless, unarmed girl when suddenly an explosion rocks the ship.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:37 AM
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It seems a new player has entered the stage, someone who isn’t concerned about pissing off the world’s dominant superpower. And you know what that means…




Pirates, baby.



“Hiding in the clouds,” huh? That seems like a pretty neat trick.



The pirates begin to toss over grappling hooks to allow them to cross over for their daring nighttime raid.





Solid ground is for chumps.




Our hero, Vyse, takes the opportunity to get in some nice back-and-forth with the first vanguard of defenders.




You have to love Vyse. He’s not an idiot, but he’s got no fear and no doubts. He’s going to kick these guys’ asses because that’s his job, and when we start running into actual tough guys later in the game he’ll happily take them on as well. If you’re expecting a scene towards the end of the game where he pouts about how his life sucks or angsts about his daddy issues, I hasten to inform you of your error.




Of course this may be because he’s got his equally-fearless and anguish-free best friend Aika backing him up at all times.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:40 AM
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The Imperial soldiers get a little fed up with being sassed by teenagers dressed like J-Pop rejects, however, sending us into our first battle.



Okay… Skies has a fairly typical turn-based battle system, with a few twists. That green bar at the top of the screen is our “Spirit meter”. At the beginning of every turn, a number of Spirit Points (SP) equal to the combined Spirit stat of every active member of the party is added to the pool. (For example, right now both Vyse and Aika have a Spirit of 1, which means that every turn 2 SP are added to the total.) We can spend SP to cast spells and use Super Moves, but since SP don’t carry over from battle to battle, the best strategy is to use as much of it as you can.

From top to bottom, our battle options are Run, Items, Defend, Attack, Super Moves, Magic, and Focus. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory if you’re familiar with RPGs… about the only new command is Focus, which uses up the character’s turn to add more SP to the gauge. This is more useful than it sounds, but we’ll get into that later.

The way combat works is that we enter in all our commands for the turn at once, and then all actions, both ally and enemy, play out in order. Characters’ Quick stats are what determine the turn order, but only up to a point — Aika, for example, is the fastest party member for the entire game, but she’s not guaranteed to go first, no matter the Quick differential between her and the next-fastest character. A not-inconsequential number of times, she’ll even go last.

Skies also has area-of-effect moves a la Chrono Trigger, but since characters can move around freely in between you entering commands and the attacks actually triggering, you don’t actually have much control over what you’re attacking except for the actual target.



Not that any of this matters against these guys, who are so weak that even our level 1 chumps have no problems dispatching them. One cool thing to note… All of our characters have two animations for their regular attacks, depending on whether they’re up close or far away. Aika here is throwing her boomerang, but if the enemy is right in her face, she’ll wield it in a slashing motion like a sword. Vyse attacks with his cutlasses up close, but at a distance he’ll create a shockwave. Skies is full of little touches like this that aren’t, you know, revelations, but are enough to stop you in your tracks long enough to say “Huh, that’s pretty neat.” It’s one of the reasons I like it so much.



When we win, we get not only standard experience…



…But also Magic Experience, which goes towards learning spells. Each of the six playable characters has the same spell list, but each learns them at different rates. Here Aika has picked up the lowest level green spell, Sacri, which heals 500 HP. (All the healing spells and items restore set amounts of HP.)

Spells are divided into six schools based on color: Green, red, blue, yellow, purple, and silver. Each of the colors has four attack spells and two support spells, except green, which has four healing spells and two attack spells. Right now we have access to only green and red, which is fine for our purposes at the moment.

I’ll talk a little more about magic and how to learn in a minute, but it looks like our heroes have gotten themselves in a little over their heads…



Vyse still has the ball bearings to demand that the Valuans surrender, but he’s well and truly surrounded.



The bad guys get ready to charge, when suddenly…




Vyse’s father and captain, Dyne, steps in. I regret to inform you guys that Dyne will not be joining the party at any point. Shame.

Dyne tells Vyse and Aika to head to the engine room and disable the ship while he and the rest of the pirates deal with the crew. Oh, and one last thing…



This is a bit of a sore spot with Dyne, as we’ll see often enough.



Vyse is willing to put up with his dad’s eccentricities in exchange for, y’know, saving his miserable life, and heads down into the bowels of the ship with Aika at his heels.



“Do you read me, Colonel? I’m in.”



One of the great things about Skies is that you don’t have to feel guilty about robbing everyone you come across or looting like a madman. We’re pirates, after all.

Sacri Crystals, as the name suggests, are the Sacri spell in item form. Most of the items just replicate the effects of spells, actually — although since they don’t cost SP or MP, they’re much more efficient in battle. By the end of the game we’ll have accumulated more Sacri Crystals than we could ever use.



The ship is mostly deserted at first… there aren’t even any random encounters.



This changes, however, once we’re spotted by Alfonso himself.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:43 AM
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Alfonso takes the opportunity to stroke his own ego for a little bit, but Vyse is more interested in the girl Alfy’s lieutenant has slung over his shoulder.





Alfonso isn’t very forthcoming, though, and sics the guards on us as the alarm klaxons begin to sound.



These guys are even easier to kill than the ones outside… A single hit from either character, regardless of level, will finish them off as long as they don’t defend.

Incidentally, Critical Hit = Double damage + prevents counterattacking.



The experience from this fight kicks both our characters up to level 2.



As long as the alarms are on, we’ll be forced into a fight every few steps in this room. This isn’t such a bad thing, though. We need to gain a couple of levels before the impending boss fight, and, more importantly, learn a couple of spells. This isn’t really necessary, but the first boss can take a while to kill if you don’t do your preparations.



Occasionally, a character will respond to a physical attack with an attack of their own; this is a counterattack and is essentially free damage. They occur basically at random, although they seem to happen more often if the defending character has a large strength advantage on the attacking character. As we move into the midgame, Vyse will be counterattacking more or less constantly.



All right, here’s the skinny on magic. In battle, you can change the color of your weapon to any of the six elemental colors whenever you like. This theoretically allows you to play rock-paper-scissors with the enemies — they all have a hidden color of their own and you can score some extra damage by whacking them with a weapon of the color they’re weak to. (Note however that for the Gamecube version, the chart in the manual displaying the colors’ relations to one another is almost completely erroneous; go look up a real one at GameFAQs instead.) However, the extra damage is negligible most of the time, so it’s better to use your weapons’ color for its other purpose: Directing what spells you learn.

When you end a battle, the game multiplies the amount of Magic Experience you earn for each color by the number of members who ended their battle with their weapon that color. This means you get more experience the more members share a weapon color, thus learning spells in that color faster. This makes the optimal strategy to figure out what spells you want ahead of time and then focus relentlessly on learning them — trying to learn a bunch of different spells simultaneously is slow and inefficient.

In this shot, now that both Vyse and Aika have Sacri, I’m switching their weapons to red so that I can begin learning the useful low-level red spells.

In addition, all spells in this game cost exactly 1 MP to cast — they grow more expensive in terms of their SP cost instead. This element, combined with the set HP restoration mechanic, means that even your worst mages can serve as decent healers in a pinch, and that using healing spells outside of battle has little-to-no drawback.



One we make it up to the catwalks, Alfonso sneers at us and leaves. If you make your way over to where he was standing…




…You can shut off the alarms, ending the random battles in this area.



However, we kind of don’t want to do that until both characters have the first two red spells. We pick up Pyri after only a few fights, a cheap attack spell that hits all enemies. It’s extremely useful in the early portions of the game for clearing out crowds of weak goons.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:45 AM
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Here’s Pyri in action. All of the red attack spells are variations on this basic spell, but their extra power isn’t nearly as useful as Pyri’s low cost.



The second spell we need is Increm, which is the single most useful spell effect in the game, bar none. It increases a single character’s offensive and defensive capabilities by 50% for the rest of the battle, and it never goes away unless another condition overwrites it. Given how difficult it is to damage bosses in this game with conventional tactics, this spell is necessary for winning most boss fights with any speed. Against the bonus bosses, its defensive abilities are also handy. Later in the game we’ll be able to buy an item that replicates this spell’s effect but doesn’t require any SP to use; we’ll probably burn through at least 50 of those before we’re finished.

Increm works, and is damn near required, in the large-scale ship-to-ship battles as well. But more on that later.



Enough screwing around; let’s move along with this thing. Magic Droplets have the ability to restore 1 MP and are mostly useful in the early portions of the game when we don’t have much MP to work with… It won’t be long before we’ll have more MP than we can conceivably use, so don’t be shy about using these whenever necessary.



Rule #1: Save your game. I’ve probably got about a dozen or more save files for this game in various stages of completion scattered about my memory cards, all told. In fact, one of my cards has virtually nothing but Skies of Arcadia saves on it…



To get to the boss battle arena you have to climb down this ladder on the exterior of the ship. Hey… wasn’t it the dead of night just a few minutes ago? I know I spent a little time grinding, but it shouldn’t have taken that long. Then again, astronomy here on Arcadia is beyond bizarre, so perhaps I’m just overthinking it.




Elsewhere, preparations for Alfonso’s escape on a lifeboat have been completed. Rather than try to beat back the pirate menace, apparently our noble kidnappers have opted to leave the ship but take the girl. But Alfonso has one last piece of business to take care of before he goes…





All right, that’s more than a little prickish. Don’t worry, though; not all the villains in this game are this cartoonish.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:48 AM
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We’re not going to let him get away that easily, though.




Like any good villain, rather than fight us himself, Alfonso decides to leave us to one of his minions. All right, Joy-Boy, bring it!





Uhhh… erm.



Actually, that’s… a very good question.




I guess we have no choice; we’ll have to slay the freaky rhino-bull-elephant thing



All right. Antonio, like most of Skies’ bosses, has an extremely stout defense. Attack magic does virtually nothing to him, and regular attacks are nickel-and-dime damage at best. This is par for the course. We’ll have to fall back on alternate methods of dealing damage, which means we need SP.



That’s where Focusing comes in. Since our normal methods of attack are pretty much useless, it’s more productive to invest our turns in raising enough SP to enable a different means of offense.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:49 AM
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First, we’ll Increm up Vyse.





Here’s Antonio’s primary attack, Thunder of Fury. If we hadn’t leveled up outside, this would be just short of a one-hit-kill on an un-Incremed character.




Of course, Antonio isn’t the only one with special moves. Now that we’ve accumulated 7 SP, we can activate Vyse’s own: The single-target, boss-slaying attack Cutlass Fury.




”Haaaaaaa!”





”Cutlass Fury!”



Booyah. Just like that, we’ve knocked down Antonio’s HP by more than half. This is the battle strategy for bosses in Skies: With conventional attacks nigh-worthless, your best bet is to play defense until you’ve accumulated enough SP to unleash the most powerful Super Move available. Boss fights are won not by a bunch of little hits, but rather by three or four really huge ones.



Another “hey, that’s neat” element of Skies is the boss battle music. It actually changes as the battle progresses. When a bunch of characters take a heavy-ass blow or one is kayohed, the music shifts from the normal boss battle theme to a really tense and dramatic tune, and once you’ve got the boss near-death it becomes triumphant and uplifting. This dynamic music is something I’ve not often seen, and you have to wonder why it hasn’t been swiped more often, because it’s very effective.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:51 AM
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Anyway, after charging up another Cutlass Fury, we’re able to finish off Antonio for good, causing him to die in a fire.



Antonio drops our first Moonberry. These precious fruits are vital for learning more Super Moves. Although some bosses and chests are guaranteed to have them, the vast majority are dropped randomly by enemies. (Every single common enemy in the game has a small chance of dropping a Moonberry.) I’ll get into how they work after the next scene, but suffice it to say this is another reason to fight as often as you can — the more you do, the more chances you have to find Moonberries.




Alfonso gets in one last sneer before exiting stage left. Don’t worry, though, he gets demoted to comic relief from here on out.



Our heroes are annoyed at first, but they don’t let it get to them, instead turning their attention to the unconscious girl Alfonso seems to have forgotten in his haste to save his own skin.




“Where she’s from” is almost instantly revealed to us via disjointed flashback!




Helpfully, a series of copious ellipses prevents us from unraveling this particular plot thread too soon.



I know their intentions are good, but does anybody really want to wake up to this?




The girl introduces herself as Fina, but declines to give us any more information, other than numerous ellipses.



I don’t trust you cats with these choices. None of these questions will change the plot (they’re but-thou-musters, one and all), but they will affect Vyse’s “Swashbuckling Rating” (read: reputation). We’ll run into a lot of these questions over the course of the game, many of them more interesting than the typical “choose the good answer for goodness” system most RPGs use. But we’ll talk about that next update. In this case, though, the right answer is to compliment Fina.
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:55 AM
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Oh, Vyse!



Vyse and Aika give each other stupid looks of surprise, and then proceed to explain that Air Pirates are pirates, only in the air. Hence the name. They further proceed to explain that the Air Pirates are divided into two factions: Blue Rogues, who are rob-from-the-rich-and-give-to-the-poor goodie-goodies, and Black Pirates, who are, y’know, pirates. Fina is in the hands of Blue Rogues, so she’s got nothing to worry about.




See?



Enough chat; Vyse and Aika actually have to pull their weight around here, as Dyne calls them to the bridge.



First things first: We’ll use that Moonberry we picked up earlier to teach Aika her first Super Move: Alpha Storm, which for 4 SP hits all enemies on a rather wide line. (Remember my caution about relying too much on AOE moves from earlier, though.) Vyse, Aika, and — spoiler alert! — Fina can each learn five different Super Moves, while the others can learn three. The more powerful a Super Move is, the more Moonberries it takes to learn it, up to four for the final skills. You also can’t skip ahead in the sequence — you’ll need to have mastered the first four of Vyse’s Supers before you can learn his fifth, for example.

Supers aren’t just damage-dealers, either, as some of the most valuable ones are defensive in nature. Some of the Super Moves are vitally useful, while others blow, I’ll discuss which are which as they come up.



One of my favorite aspects of Skies is how examining certain objects in the field will prompt Vyse to give a little in-character one-or-two-sentence description of them. I always like these little no-effort methods of providing character and world-building. It’s easy to see that a lot of thought went into them — for example, there’s a sequence later in the game when Vyse and Aika are separated, and visit the same area at different times. Each of them has a different description for each object in the area, and they often relate back to one another — examine a fruit as Vyse, and Vyse will point out that he dislikes the smell and taste. Examine it as Aika, and Aika will mention that Vyse used to get in trouble for not cleaning his plate when they were served it as kids. You can examine almost anything, which makes the world seem much richer and more alive than it might otherwise be.

I won’t be pointing out these comments unless they’re particularly interesting for some reason, but if you’re following along I encourage you to look for all of them — I know I will. They really do add to the experience.

Rightly or wrongly, I always associate Skies in my mind with Tales of Symphonia, another Gamecube RPG that I played a lot in this era, during a period around 2004-2005 when my new game purchases were essentially nil. Tales was a lot sharper-looking graphically (which is only to be expected, as it was a new game at the time where Skies was a year-old port of a three-year-old game), but it suffered from “pretty box” syndrome — the areas looked nice and were very detailed visually, but ultimately this was only window-dressing; when all was said and done they were just empty space. When I started up a new playthrough of Tales after finishing up one of Skies, I would often begin trying to compulsively examine things, only to realize sadly that there was no point to it. Skies can look like a first-gen N64 game at times, but Vyse’s side-notes made the world feel a lot bigger and more interesting than it actually was.



Anyway, there’s not a lot to see on the Albatross; it’s simply a short hallway and a ladder leading up to the bridge.



Dyne has a little sand in his vagina regarding his son’s tardiness, and begins handing out the chores. Eventually, he lets us go, telling us to report to the helmsman, Briggs, to see if he needs us for anything.



Briggs informs us that we’re heading home, and puts Vyse behind the wheel. This puts us on the world map for the first time, which is where I’ll pick up the next update.

Next time: Indiana Vyse and The Last Crusade
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Old 08-01-2009, 09:59 AM
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This should be interesting...

Oh, if you're wondering, it's probably your video-in feed that's making the picture so fuzzy. You may want to invest in an S-Video cable if you haven't already and if your capture hardware can handle it, or (if you're exceptionally lucky enough to have the ability to capture from that kind of feed) a component video cable.

EDIT: Here's a shot I took real quick with my S-Video cable, just for comparison's sake:



The hashing is inevitable on any video cable setup, but otherwise, it looks pretty sharp.
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Old 08-01-2009, 10:59 AM
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Also, it looks like you're capturing as a movie and taking screens of that, judging by the compression artifacts. Turning your bitrate up should help.
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Old 08-01-2009, 11:06 AM
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Also: turn deinterlacing on. Please.

That said, the LP itself is doing great so far. I've played through the game twice and it's still interesting. Didn't know that bit about turning the alarm off, for instance.
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Old 08-01-2009, 11:27 AM
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Oh man, now I remember why I loved this game. Reading this LP is making me want to play... Valkyria Chronicles. I never got far enough to unlock Vyse.
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Old 08-01-2009, 12:06 PM
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Not ever getting this game is my Dreamcast's greatest shame.

I know the Gamecube port is in many ways superior thanks to the fidgeting with the encounter rates and whatnot, but it was born of Dreamcast.
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Old 08-01-2009, 12:11 PM
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I love this game something fierce, and pretty much for the reasons you've mentioned: Vyse, Aika, and all their friends are cool characters doing cool things. Even better are the thrills and rewards of exploration, of just going around to find things in the clouds... and I'm looking forward to exploring these skies once more. Have fun, Tanto!

(And I agree with you on the dialogue options: It's fun to screw with the dialogue system when you're playing as an angsty youth with a troubled past, but Vyse is at his best when he's acting like Vyse. Steer this ship as you see fit.)
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Old 08-01-2009, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VorpalEdge View Post
Also: turn deinterlacing on. Please.
Or at the very least, post-process in Photoshop with the Video>Deinterlace filter.
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Old 08-01-2009, 03:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aquadeo View Post
I love this game something fierce, and pretty much for the reasons you've mentioned: Vyse, Aika, and all their friends are cool characters doing cool things.
What he said.

My favorite parts of the game all involve the Delphinus though: picking fights with random pirates and armada ships to wandering around the world looking for discoveries rocking out to the sweet overworld theme. Not to mention the epic Gigas battles.
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Old 08-02-2009, 12:14 AM
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I've always heard good things about Skies of Arcadia, but never picked it up (maybe I should start looking for a DC version), but yeah this LP looks great. Interesting note about being to examine all kinds of things, I like that sort of thing as well.

It's great that it has different responses as well, it gets a little annoying when games just have the same kind of copied and pasted text for everything you examine, making it just boring and making me more likely to ignore objects, but it looks likes SoA doesn't do that.
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Old 08-02-2009, 12:24 AM
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I think that everything Skies of Arcadia lets you examine is unique. The corollary to this is that if you've seen it before, you probably can't examine it.

Skies of Arcadia is a delightful game, and it's also huge. Tanto, you're a madman for even attempting this.
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Old 08-02-2009, 09:50 PM
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Man I love this game. When my wife and I first got together she made me play Lunar with her, and I spent a long time looking for another "happy" RPG. I really like the battle system, and want nothing more than another game to use it. I always liked turn-based, but the simple addition off building up your spirit points adds so much to it, especially later on when you have to balance your healing with the need to save up for a big attack.

As you said, the boss music is amazing. I wish more RPGs would use dynamic music, since battle themes can get so grindy. And since I played this only on the Gamecube, I never noticed the "worse" music being bad at all.
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  #21  
Old 08-03-2009, 08:19 AM
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TheSL TheSL is offline
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Originally Posted by Lucas View Post
Oh man, now I remember why I loved this game. Reading this LP is making me want to play... Valkyria Chronicles. I never got far enough to unlock Vyse.
You get them at the very start? Or at least I did.
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  #22  
Old 08-03-2009, 08:30 AM
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Jeanie Jeanie is offline
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You get them at the very start? Or at least I did.
The initial recruits are random, so you may get Vyse and/or Aika, or neither at first.

Anyway, Tanto, good luck with this LP. I always enjoy your LPs, and this is one of my favorite RPGs, so I look forward to this a lot. Also I may have to play along on my game when you get to that part. Thankfully that's a long ways away.
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  #23  
Old 08-03-2009, 08:33 AM
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I know I'll be keeping an eye on this one. It's been a few years since I last played this game and it's one of my favorites.
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  #24  
Old 08-03-2009, 10:44 AM
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Yes!

I was a huge fan of this game on Dreamcast. I never did play the Gamecube port, but maybe I'll pick it up if I can find it for cheap. I've been in the mood to replay old games recently.
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  #25  
Old 08-03-2009, 11:56 AM
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The initial recruits are random, so you may get Vyse and/or Aika, or neither at first.
I actually did get them both at the start of chapter three. It just took me a long time to get to chapter three.
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  #26  
Old 08-03-2009, 12:05 PM
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Man, I love Skies of Arcadia. Whenever I get a chance to replay it I might have to buy the Gamecube port though: Reducing the encounter rate is down right necessary at times (curse you Tornado Alley!).
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  #27  
Old 08-03-2009, 03:48 PM
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Thraeg Thraeg is offline
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Such a wonderful game, and your commentary is great so far. Looking forward to the rest of the LP (though it may be hazardous to my backlog if it makes me start another playthrough).
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  #28  
Old 08-03-2009, 06:13 PM
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Man, I love Skies of Arcadia. Whenever I get a chance to replay it I might have to buy the Gamecube port though: Reducing the encounter rate is down right necessary at times (curse you Tornado Alley!).
Thank goodness I have both. I'm willing to listen to lesser quality sound just to make the encounter rate go down. As in, in the DC version encounters are literally every 5 seconds or less, until you get the Delphinus and can go above the clouds to be encounter-free. Which is after many, many hours of every-5-seconds-encounters.

I love this game so much. I don't want a sequel, I want a game with the same feel...
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  #29  
Old 08-13-2009, 01:45 PM
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Tanto Tanto is online now
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So it turns out that this…

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Originally Posted by Tanto View Post
I’m not replaying anything
…is actually bullshit, as I’ve played the section of this next update about four times trying to improve the image quality. I think I’ve succeeded; although it’s still not perfect, I think it’s as good as I can get it given the limitations of the tools with which I’m working. The first part is still kind of mediocre because I accidentally saved over the file before I could rerecord it, but the rest looks okay on my monitor.

Anyway.

When last we left off here at Let’s Play Skies of Arcadia Legends, we had just performed a daring daylight(?) robbery of a Valuan Armada flagship. Having made a clean break, we’re now heading home to Pirate Isle with mysterious waif Fina in tow. That said, let’s begin.



As you can see, Skies is nice enough to give us an airship right away instead of making us dick around on foot for thirty hours beforehand. And it’s a good thing, too: Due to the nature of the world, we wouldn’t be able to get out of the first town without transportation. In most games the airship is just a “get out of random encounters free” card, but here it’s the default mode of transportation.



No sooner do we begin to head north than we spot our first Discovery on a small patch of land.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pirate’s Grave
It appears that someone has scribbled onto the stone: “Here lies an unknown Blue Rogue.” The actual name has been worn away by the wind, but the first letter, “D”, can still be made out. No one remembers who rests here.
“Discoveries” are objects, places, and creatures hidden across the Skies of Arcadia overworld. The vast majority of them are invisible, and can only be detected by the fact that your compass begins spinning wildly whenever you draw near them. Others are visible, but move around the map, making actually pinning them down the difficult part. Discoveries can be sold at a specialized shop called the Sailors’ Guild for a tidy sum — if you make sure to always pick up Discoveries as soon as they come up, you’ll never want for money in this game. The Legends port adds about 25 new Discoveries, putting the total somewhere in the eighties.

Discoveries are thin on the ground until after the end of the first lengthy plot arc, at which point the world opens up somewhat and a whole gaggle of them become available at once. I’ll be finding all of them, because what kind of an LPer would I be if I didn’t go for hundred-percent completion?



Frequently in the overworld you’ll run across schools of flying fish, who can be caught by flying the ship into them (although any you miss tend to scatter once you do so). Fish can restore small amounts of health or be sold for small amounts of cash. The Sky Sardis and Red Sardis found in the opening areas are so common as to be nearly worthless (healing exactly 1 HP and selling for exactly 1 gold), but we need all the cash we can get at this point.



In addition, we’re not the only ship plying the skies. NPC ships can be found in every part of the world, giving information and the occasional item. There are also enemy ships, who will attack you on sight. (You can tell if a ship is hostile because your compass will begin making a sonar-like ping noise as they approach you.)



Hm? Oh, um, yeah, I’ll keep an eye out.

Incidentally, you can see in this shot a “sky rift,” that wall of clouds in the background. These are impassable in our current ship, but later ones will be able to power through them. Given that you start with an airship, the designers have to be a little more creative about the obstacles they use to keep you on track. These sky rifts are one such obstacle, as are the rocky stone reefs, and…



…uh, asking politely. Hey, they can’t all be winners. Yes, by far the most common broken bridge in this game is having someone tell you “No, don’t go that way,” at which point you’re forced to turn around. To be fair, the game mostly stops doing this once Vyse becomes the captain of his own ship.



Enough dicking around; to Pirate Isle with us. I always like the level detail in the overworld locations—you can usually pick out every single building in a town from the overworld.




As the Albatross approaches Pirate Isle, Fina is evidently feeling well enough to come out on deck and take a look around.




Vyse, meanwhile, has dropped everything to come down and talk to her. I hope he at least remembered to ask someone else to drive the ship before taking off.





Pirate Isle has all the trappings you’d expect from an idyllic starting town, including gossiping matrons, hyperactive children, and…



…the obligatory hidden underground pirate ship hangar.
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  #30  
Old 08-13-2009, 01:48 PM
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The pirates waste no time in unloading the FAT LEWT they liberated from Alfonso’s ship. As this is the best catch they’ve managed in quite some time, everyone seems to agree that it is party time. (I’m excited!)



Vyse and Aika proceed to explain that while the upper part of Pirate Isle is designed to look like a normal, peaceful village (it even appears on most maps as “Windmill Isle”), the underside is where the Blue Rogues conduct their shady piratical activities. They’re all jazzed to give Fina the tour, but…



Dyne crashes the party, ordering Vyse to bring Fina up to his office on the double.



Not that this is going to stop us from exploring around, or anything. On the first level is the tavern, where the pirates are celebrating their successful raid by pounding down the beverage known as “loqua” by the bucketful.



You heard it here first, people: Loqua =/= booze. Yes, people drink it in taverns, and yes, it knocks them on their ass, but it is just a juice, and I will hear no slander implying otherwise.



On the next level up is the shopping area, containing both a weapons and armor shop (headed by this shifty-looking guy) and an item shop.



It’s a good thing we ground a little earlier, because even after selling off all our fish and our old armor and weapons we still only have just enough cash to afford new weapons and armor for Vyse and Aika. If we hadn’t, one of them would have had to go without — we ended up with a grand total of 41 gold to our names after this shopping spree. This also means that we can’t afford any items at this time, but there are enough free ones lying around Pirate Isle to get us by for a while.



The game is also streamlines the interface slightly by allowing you to directly equip something after buying it, rather than making you sift through menus.



Finally, we do what we were asked to do ages ago and stroll into Dyne’s office on the top floor, Fina in tow. Dyne, as it turns out, has a few questions for his newest guest.





All right, I can tell what you’re thinking — Fina couldn’t be any more innocent if she had a sign with “Good guy” plastered all over it, so your first instinct is going to be to rush to her defense. That’s not the right play, though, because… well, I’ll let Dyne explain it.




This is what the Swashbuckling questions are all about. They’re not about being a good person (although there is an element of that involved); they’re about being a good leader, and the two are not one and the same. The point of these questions is to allow you to demonstrate how you have a good handle on the situation at hand, and can make the right call while on the clock. Yes, outside the story we can know that Fina is trustworthy, but internally the characters do not, and shouldn’t assume they can. As far as Swashbuckling goes, being a nice guy always comes second to knowing your priorities and protecting the people close to you.
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