I hated RPG's in high school. Couldn't stand them. They were cryptic, esoteric, unapproachable things that, for god knows what reason, all of my friends adored. I tried my best to give RPG's a fair shake but nothing doing.
I was told that Final Fantasy 7 might be a good first step into the genre. The materia system alone was so utterly baffling to me, I immediately turned the game off at its introduction. Obscure magic systems aside, I also just couldn't get on board with the turn based fighting. I wanted the tactile, visceral pleasure of burying Cloud's sword into the skull of an enemy. Telling him to "fight" and watching him do all the fun stuff for me? Yawn.
Clearly these were games that were designed with a more sophisticated gamer in mind, one that was ok with reading and memorizing a laundry list of commands and configurations. I was not this gamer, and I was ok with that. You guys can keep your hours of level grinding, I thought; I'll stick to Super Smash and Goldeneye.
Then, when a friend of mine got a Dreamcast, he had me over and showed me Skies of Arcadia. There was definitely some cognitive dissonance going on as I watched him play through a dungeon. It' was still turn based fighting, but this game actually looked.....fun?!
I bought a dreamcast for Skies alone, and I quickly got over my hatred for RPG's. When the game was re-released on gamecube as Skies of Arcadia Legends, I bought this new iteration and played through it. Twice.
This game has so much going for it. Badass airship battles with some of the most cleverly designed enemy ships you've ever seen. Spirit attacks that are a sight to behold, and endlessly rewarding to administer to your foes (see: Pirate's Wrath). A small number of party members allows you to grow attached to all of them. Recruiting crew members that assist you in battle and out. Spectacular music that dynamically shifts through the course of the battle.
Then there are the "holy shit" moments. Like the first epic engagement with a Gigas
Do not want
Or when you finally realize that the island that Vyse has been trapped on has become your personal pirate base, and you can upgrade and fortify it to your heart's content. Or learning that your ship has been upgraded from this:
And then getting to see what this new ludicrously sized ship is actually capable of:
My pants just got tight.
Then there's Gilder. Easily the best 4th party member to use in the game, and also the best character in any RPG ever made. Don't believe me? Watch first, then apologize:
Did you hear that? Right before he blows the living shit out of that giant fish with two steampunk style pistols that fire exploding goddamned bullets, he shouts:"Dance for me!". This game destroys your face.
For the record: I don't actually think this game has been forgotten, as I'm sure there is a rabid fanbase that would lynch me by the scrotum for suggesting that. My aim with this post was to refresh the memories of those who already love the game of just why they love it, and maybe convince a few laggards that tracking down one of the multiple iterations of the game is a worthwhile endeavor.
I also wanted to add my voice to the existing demand for a sequel. Throwing Vyse, Aika and Fina into Valkyria Chronicles is a nice nod to fans, but it's not good enough. Sega needs to stop squandering man hours trying to recapture their bullshit mascot's glory days and focus on an intellectual property that actually matters. No. Yes, please
LOOK WHO CAME: