Soapbox features allow our individual contributors and contributors to give their opinions on hot topics and random things they’ve discussed. Today, on the 20th anniversary of the GameCube port, Alana is desperate to see Skies of Arcadia Legends on modern consoles…
Sega isn’t really known as an RPG developer, but it was still secretly responsible for making some of the genre’s best games in the 90s. Both the Phantasy Star and Shining Force series have been at the helm of the Sega RPG. Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the most experimental (and expensive) games in the genre. Nowadays when you think of Sega and RPG, like a dragon (previously Yakuza) probably comes to mind. For me, my answer has always been and will remain the same – Skies of Arcadia.
Released on the Dreamcast in 2000, Skies of Arcadia has some of the most talented names in Sega history behind it. Created by legendary Phantasy Star IV producer and director Rieko Kodama (who sadly passed away earlier this year), the game is one of the few RPGs released worldwide for the Sega swansong console. Poor sales and a late release on the console meant that the game failed to meet sales expectations despite rave reviews from critics. Later ported to the GameCube as Skies of Arcadia Legends – exactly 20 years ago – it was never re-released.
Arcadian Skies was something like my Breath of the Wild. How can you have a BOTW moment before Does this game even exist, you ask? Because of how this game allows you to explore. These days, open worlds and exploration have become the norm. Vast landscapes the size of Skyrim, or huge, over-leveled monsters roaming the world of Xenoblade Chronicles. Skies of Arcadia, while not as open-ended as these games, captures the essence of the exploration perfectly.
It really makes sense given the history of the game. You are Weiss, a brave air pirate who is a member of the Blue Thieves, a gang of Robin Hood-style pirates who steal from the rich (also known as the Valuan Armada, essentially the Spanish Armada) and give the booty to the needy. Together with their best friend Aika, the couple rescue a mysterious girl named Fina, who is trying to find Moonstones, crystals capable of summoning weapons of mass destruction, throughout Arcadia. For Weiss, this is not only a chance to help the vulnerable and save the world, but also his opportunity to go out and discover the world.
… being a game where you actually play as pirates, exploration and discovery become two cornerstones of the game.
Indeed, much of Skies of Arcadia is pretty much a replica of other RPGs. Its turn-based combat is similar to others in the genre, and the characters – while all charming and lovable – are familiar RPG tropes, just executed to perfection. However, being a game where you actually play as pirates, exploration and discovery become two cornerstones of the game. When you’re not roaming cities and dungeons and engaging in turn-based combat, you’re floating through the sky. And as you advance in the game, you get a new ship, your own crew, and you can upgrade your ship to better cross the cloudy sea. You may start out with a tiny fishing boat, but eventually you’ll end up with an army-ready ship that can sail high above or below the surface of the clouds and crash on rocky reefs.
The game manages to tease the scale of the world so well. You end up becoming the same wild-eyed, excited teenager just like Weiss, ready to discover new things. You see the world the way Weiss sees it, from small things like new cities or enemies to entire continents and discovering that the world is round. Even the world map you have at the start of the game only shows you part of Arcadia, and as you progress through the game it expands like you’re drawing it yourself, revealing whole new areas.
The basis of Arcadia is quite simple – it is a world divided into six unique “kingdoms” living under a different colored moon. Do not ask me How there are six moons in stationary orbit, but here we are. Beneath the Red Moon lies Nasr, a desert kingdom based on the Ottoman Empire and Middle Eastern elements. Ixa’Taka bathes in the light of the Green Moon, inspired by Central and South America. Beneath the Blue Moon lies Yafutoma, which is a mix of Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures. The Valuan Empire is under the Yellow Moon and is based on the Spanish Empire. The Purple Moon civilization was destroyed thousands of years ago, and underneath the Silver Moon lies the humble Pirate Island, home of Weiss.
From a world that is a reimagining of our Earth’s past, to the airships of the Armada named after star constellations (Cygnus, Dolphin, Auriga, etc.), Skies of Arcadia ignites the flames of exploration, curiosity and wonder. Each continent counts as an exciting new discovery for Weiss, Aika and Fina, and the fun tone and humorous dynamics between the core group continue to entice you to absorb more. In a sea of RPGs where the modern world and dark themes have become more prominent, Skies of Arcadia is a breath of fresh air. The world is colorful and the characters are vibrant, and it feels like you’re leafing through a lost Jules Verne novel.
In a sea of RPGs where the modern world and dark themes have become more prominent, Skies of Arcadia is a breath of fresh air.
As exciting as it is to watch the world map unravel right before your eyes, it’s this detail that makes Arcadia as a fictional RPG world so magical to me. Like any decent sailor (and we’re ignoring the realities of true sea piracy here), you map and discover the world, and as you sail through the skies fighting your enemies, you stumble upon hidden landmarks called Discoveries. You’ll know you’re close to one o’clock because your compass will start spinning like crazy, and if you’re like me, it will kindle a childlike glee in you.
Discoveries are one of the best side quests in any RPG because nobody tells you to go and look for them – you can just leave them or try to hunt down as many creatures as you want. It starts as simple as an ancient pirate’s hidden tombstone or the ruins of an abandoned lighthouse, but eventually you’ll start to find things like a ghost ship above a deadly black sky rift or a sky train that follows a certain path. high above the clouds.
It’s like finding little pieces of Arcadian history, as when you open each one you get a tiny annotation of what you’ve found, along with an annotated sketch or two. There are 88 (89 if you complete another GameCube-exclusive side quest) of them to find, and each one sheds light on the world. The Black Moon Stone expands the Dark Rift and hints at the lost kingdom, while the Sorrowful Prince is a landmark representing one person’s grief. Cute animals like Dheerse are associated with myths and fairy tales, while the Valuan wreck reinforces the idea that Arcadia is a world that is still making history and creating mysteries.
You don’t just collect this information for your own enjoyment – although in fact I collect and try to find every discovery every time I play the game. You call and sell these little pieces of information to any Sailor’s Guild across the country. Some discoveries are worth more than others, and the more things you discover in this world, the higher your thug rating will be.
You are also in a “friendly competition” with another sailor, Domingo, to find Discoveries before him. If he finds them first, their value will decrease dramatically. Of course, you can solve this problem by finding 30 discoveries, after which he will join your motley crew once you become the captain of the Dolphin. If money, teammates, and reputation aren’t enough to find every discovery in the world, then I don’t know what else is.
There is nothing better than playing a game that takes you to places that even the main character doesn’t know about. Glacia is a complete mystery to both the player and Weiss, while Nasr – although he’s always in the sky thanks to the ongoing war with the Valois – is a lot more than you’d initially expect. And while Aika fantasizes wildly about the possibilities of what she can do in some of these areas, Arcadia defies your—and the group’s—expectations at every turn.
…who would want to buy a purple lunch box-shaped console? Well, I wish there were more people.
Skies of Arcadia Legends was fun for people like me who played the Dreamcast version, as well as for those back in 2002 (or 2003 when it was released in the West) who didn’t have the opportunity to open a really special RPG for yourself. The N64 had very few notable entries in the genre after Squaresoft jumped from Nintendo to Sony. last fantasy, and the GameCube also had a very limited supply. So, Skies of Arcadia Legends has already carved a niche – who would ever want to buy a purple lunch box-shaped console? Well, I wish there were more people.
What Legends brings to Skies of Arcadia fans are new discoveries, new side quests and superbosses. Rewards can be claimed to get money, strange creatures can be found in the sky and caught to feed a hungry little bird-like creature (which is no longer small by the end of the quest), and the bounty hunter is actually chasing your main. It has added additional challenges and riches for all, old and new, to come and discover.
So why is Skies of Arcadia still stuck on the GameCube? Former Skies of Arcadia developer Kenji Hiruta said “I really really want to develop a sequel” back in 2020, but also stated that it really “depends on Sega”. And Kodama herself said in 2019 interview with Kotaku that she believes that “The Heaven of Legends of Arcadia has completed the ‘director’s cut’ of the title.”
However, Sega acknowledges the existence of the game even today. Weiss, Aika, and Fina appeared in the 2008 Valkyria Chronicles (which you can purchase from the Switch eShop), while Weiss and the Arcadian skies-themed Rogue’s Landing track are available in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Weiss even has an icon in Sonic Colors Ultimate.
In addition to video games, the cast of Skies of Arcadia has also appeared in Worlds unite crossover from Archie, and if you’re really observant in Sonic the Hedgehog At the beginning of the movie, you can notice a small fragment of Skies of Arcadia in the Sega logo on the right (in the timestamp video below).
Admittedly, a lot would have to be done to polish Skies of Arcadia Legends – the quality of the music suffers and some of the textures are a bit rough. Frequency of random encounters very much high even for an RPG of that era, and the combat is rather slow. But Skies of Arcadia feels like lightning in a bottle – few other RPGs have managed to capture that sense of adventure the way Sega’s RPG (Grandia, Lunar).
With open-world RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles capturing the magic of offbeat worlds and dangerous discoveries, it seems like it’s time for Skies of Arcadia to come back and let everyone discover (and rediscover) the best – and my favorite – RPG world ever.