Skies of Arcadia
Sega - 2001
Machine: Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Gamecube
This classic RPG came straight out of the blue. While everyone was fussing over the sequel to the classic Grandia (big disappointment) and the revolutionary Phantasy Star Online, Skies slipped out with little in the way of previews. The tragedy was that Skies of Arcadia wiped the floor with both of them.
It plays like mix of all the great RPGs you've ever played all rolled into one with a big dollop of seconds piled on top. Sure the plot is in a straight line and it follows the tradition of village areas and dungeon areas with a boss at the end, so you may think that there's nothing new here but there is. Just when you think you've got into a routine the plot twists and throws you into something completely different. This keeps things moving at a blistering pace through the entire sixty hours worth of game.
The way you get between the villages and dungeons isn't just via a boring map system, in Skies you fly a boat. This is a great addition. Travelling in this manner is a fantastic way of exploring and it makes you really believe in the game world. It's the believability of the game world that makes this so enthralling, the details in the areas, the way the village characters are all different individuals. The fact that you're right in the action with the camera right behind the character you’re controlling (unlike the distant camera angles of the traditional RPG) really makes a big difference, it also gives you a great view of the incredible graphics and design. Despite being in an obviously unreal fantasy world, the game has such a sense of being real that makes it more akin to the ultra-real Shenmue than other RPGs.
Jakey 08 Apr '04
ebay - It's hard to come by for the Dreamcast but you could try hunting the Gamecube version instead which you can also run on the Wii.
Skies of Arcadia World - A great fansite and forum community.
Wikipedia's Skies of Arcadia page - Lots of great information.