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 The Final Word game review

Skies of Arcadia -- Sega

I have been waiting years for a really good RPG, and Sega has finally delivered the goods. Oh sure, Phantasy Star Online has its attraction of on-line based multi-player action, but it's Skies of Arcadia that wins with me in the end. In reality though, both games are significantly different enough that they each stand on their own merits.

Let me start by saying that SoA has some most lush environments and texture designs I have ever seen in an RPG. All of the environments (except for a few backdrops) are three-dimensional and grand in scale. The boss battles came the closest I've ever seen in a game to capturing what I imagine the feel of battle with a giant creature/mech would be... akin to what you see in many of anime films.

Music was of a mix of classical/cinematic style, and the sound effects were awesome. I loved the insertion of small noises in the game to offset the character's text dialog. Little things that sounded like gasps, or yells really added extra depth to the personalities of the characters.

Play control was really well done for both airship travel, and land/dungeon walking. I also really liked both of the the combat systems. Travel became mildly tedious at times, although the designers thankfully placed shortcuts in the title to reduce the amount of travel over old areas you may revisit as the game progresses. The airship combat was more of a strategy style of fighting and the hand-to-hand combat, while still being turn based like most RPGs, contained significant improvements to the style. For instance, the number one coolest part of fighting was how if you set up your character's attacks and an enemy died before one of your party got to execute their attack, they would then automatically redirect their attack to the next available enemy. Also, depending on how you had your characters configured, party members would execute defensive attacks that didn't count against your turn attacks. Some really good features, many of which are welcome solutions to what have been chief complaints of mine against RPGs for years. If for no other reason you should play this game to experience the combat systems.

Oh, and what would a great RPG be without a solid story? SoA has that as well... and an immense story at that. The basic premise is the standard coming of age story so common to the genre, which by its nature brings a certain tinge of predictability about what's next going to happen at times. Over all though, the story was compelling and kept me interested and involved with the characters. It moved along at a good pace, and I only found myself roaming from person to person to trigger the correct conversation just to advance the game in a few rare instances. I actually felt like most interactions in SoA actually developed the story.

The game spans two CDs, and from my guess it looks like two full CDs of material... the cinemas are well done. Everything appears to be rendered in-game, and I don't recall having noticed any jarring jumps back and forth between 2-D and 3-D imagery, or worse yet, badly compressed, pre-rendered video.

All in all, having had to sit through the most horrendous spell of terrible RPGs over the last few years, I have to say that this game, Paper Mario, and Panzer Dragoon Saga have restored my faith in myself that I still like this genre of video gaming... and have not (as I have been accused of on a couple of occasions) simply grown out of liking RPGs in general.

An absolute keeper and must have addition to any Dreamcast owners collection. A can't miss title for any RPG gamer out there... although, fortunately by the end of 2002, this game should also be out on the GameCube, so if you don't have a DC yet and don't plan on getting one, hold off for the GC release. Also, unless they do something significant to modify the future GC release, if you've already played it on the DC... replay factor is low following a complete solve. Be sure to check it out whatever system you play it on though.

>>>>> 24.0/25 <<<<< R.I.P.
Graphics 5.0
Sound 5.0
Gameplay/Control 4.5
Longevity/Playability 4.5
Overall 5.0
Total 24.0