You play as Vyse, a young renegade type pirate that is hunting for treasure. Along with Aika, his perky friend that reminds you of a really really optimistic Pippi Longstocking, a mysteriously soft spoken beauty named Fina, and a few others, you search the grand skies for adventure. In the process you encounter and make not so peace with other evil pirates, strange monsters, and a country named Valua filled with admirals and an armada coming out the yazoo. At first glance, this tried and true ''group of misguided characters that stumble upon an evil plan, then save the world'' routine may leave you with a dry taste in your mouth, but with a good number of plot twists and surprises, along with good character development, a good # of minigames and sidequests including a ''collect your own crewmembers'' experience, and a very immersible world, the story never slows down, even though you may feel like you have down this before. On the downside, the dialogue makes you feel like you are watching Saturday morning cartoons or a self help program. Everyone and their mother seems overly optimistic, especially Vyse. However, it doesn't detract from the story which is a very good thing.
The sound and music in Skies of Arcadia are genuinely good. Everything you would expect to hear with a typical rpg is hear, from soft ballads during emotional scenes, to mellow yet upbeat scores for towns and the like. The music really fits the scenarios as well, for example if you travel to a desert town, it sounds like you are sitting in Saudi Arabia(assuming they actually play that music over there). Sound effects and spell effects in the game come off crisp and clear, never making you wonder where that groan you just heard came from. However, there are no real voice overs, excluding the countless oh's and eh's coming from each of the characters, as well as one-liners spurted out at what seems like random and can at times throw you off, while at the same time not totally detracting from the experience. It's just plain annoying.Oh well, in the end its all easy on the ears.
This game truly is beautiful. Character models are large, although at times appear blocky during combat, with various facial expressions representing how they are feeling at the time. Each one is drawn out well, and creates a very distinct feel so that you aren't confusing them with some other character from some other play free online games. Everything in this game is stunning. Dungeons are very spacious, with gorgeous smooth textures and spectacular lighting effects scattered throughout. It seems, however, that just a little bit of everything, whether it be forests or a town or the sky itself, that the color scheme is a tad on the bland side.However, the spell effects are very impressive, especially some of the later bosses.Regardless, Skies of Arcadia is breathtaking.
In a role playing game, probably the most important aspect is the gameplay and battle system. Surprisingly enough, this is Skies of Arcadia's weakest point. Everything outside the battles are fine. Controls are responsive and the menu's are easy enough to figure out. Inside the battles, the controls are good. You use the tried and true turn based system, with special moves you can learn as the game progresses by collecting items called ''moonberries'', and a slew of magic spells.An interesting twist in Skies of Arcadia is that you can change the color of your weapon, thus giving it an elemental power such as fire or ice.Also, you gain magic for that specific element faster by using that colored weapon in battle. Although all of this seems great, there simply aren't that many special moves and spells to learn, thus forcing you to hear a character yell out the name of a move 10 or more times during a boss fight. Also, during the beginning, you get in a good amount of airship battles, but as the game goes on and you learn tougher spells and special moves, it seems like the enemies fly away for the winter cause you rarely get attacked. Also an interesting twist in Skies of Arcadia are airship battles. You basically take turns with a solo opponent doing a variety of things, such as using crew members to get special abilities during the fights, and shooting your ''super'' weapon, depending on the ship you have. This is all done on a four by four square, or three by three, depending on the # of party members you have. You then choose what you want to do and it goes from there. Although its a cool addition, its seriously slow moving and I found myself bored, especially when I fired my ''super'' weapon and it only took off a millimeter worth of life on the enemy's life bar and I then realized I had to sit for 30 minutes throughout the battle waiting and watching. Yet another addition in the game is searching for ''discoveries'', which are undiscovered artifacts in the world. It presents a cool little mini-quest, but can be very time consuming, especially with the random battles you deal with while searching. In the end, Skies of Arcadia's gameplay is good, but is too generic for some hardcore rpg'ers wanting a taste of something new.