I own my fair share of Japanese role-playing games, many of which I've purchased and have gotten hours of enjoyment out of... watching them collect dust on my shelves. Even with my excessive back catalog of unplayed titles and the overall view of the genre these days, nothing really replaces the experience of a good ol' JRPG. As much as I'd like to think I want to replay some JRPGs, I've never found replayability to be their strong suits, with the exception Skies of Arcadia. I've beaten the Dreamcast classic two times in the past. Now, I'm working on my third effort, proving that despite my ever growing responsibilities as an “adult,” I'm still extremely successful at procrastination. So what makes Skies of Arcadia an exception?
Story plays a huge part in JRPGs. Many would argue that plot alone will make or break a title in the genre. At large, these stories are all about hitting one plot twist or revelation after the next. It's story telling for the sake of a plot to move the player forward. But once that story is finished, there's not much else to return to. On your second play through, you already know all the twists, turns and how each melodramatic character learns to stop slitting their wrists. What makes Skies of Arcadia so replayable is the fact that it's not just a story for the sake of being a story.
Skies of Arcadia is an adventure.
I wouldn't say Skies of Arcadia is a story telling master piece. There really isn't a huge intricate plot or some hidden statement about the real world. All Skies of Arcadia sets out to do is make sure that every second in the world of Arcadia is a joy. The colorful characters, exotic locales and playful dialog are integral for pulling you further into the adventure. Everything feels geared towards creating an experience that's like a trip through an unknown world where you meet people of different lands and cultures, while seeking out the world's mysteries. This is all reinforced by a largely upbeat soundtrack, colorful visuals, flashy battle animations, effects and more.
The main character, Vyse, falls into that typical young adult age group that most male JRPGs protagonists share, but he's the most loveable of the whole cast. He plays such a delightful role that you'd be hard pressed not to go gay for him. Although he's totally 17, so hands off unless you're playing Valkyria Chronicles. He's fair game in there (no homo). A lot of the situations Vyse is put in would cause any other JRPG protagonist to start vomiting all over their party's faces. Vyse, on the other hand, pretty much just goes, 'this is the problem. How do we fix it? The only reason people say it's impossible to do this is because I haven't tried it yet.' Oh, that lovable cocky bastard.
I don't want to completely discredit typical JRPG stories. It's a different style of story telling and, good heavens, fifty hours is more than enough to get your money's worth. But Skies of Arcadia, you're so unreal. Still, I keep loving you more and more each time. Vyse, what am I gonna do, because you blow my mind. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0I6mhZ5wMw