These days, it feels like just about everything is getting a reboot or re-release – from Crash Bandicoot, to Yookah-Laylee, to Stardew Valley’s new spin on the classic Harvest Moon model. There have been murmurings of that legendary FFVII release since the blue balls-inducing teaser at E3 in 2015, and even Nintendo is jumping on the bandwagon, with the recent release of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.
Now, as a disclaimer, I completely understand that reboots are subject to all kinds of red tape, from copyright laws to franchise rights, and more, so rebooting a franchise or game is no simple feat. But we all have those precious gaming gems tucked away inside our hearts – those favorites you want to keep revisiting because man, it was just so good, but the old and broken gameplay makes it a wholly cringeworthy idea.
Topping my list for this? Skies of Arcadia (Skies of Arcadia Legends if you played the port and Eternal Arcadia in Japan) – a long, forgotten diamond in the rough that was the Sega Dreamcast. And, later, the Nintendo Gamecube. But its lackluster release platforms aside, if you don’t know this game, take a moment to educate yourself – you’re doing yourself a huge favor.
Skies of Arcadia Legends is the kind of game that pulled off everything we love about open world gaming today, albeit with some pitfalls. Back in the day, random battle encounters were the norm in most open-world games; Final Fantasy, Tales of Symphonia, Pokemon and many other open world games served up a medley of random monster encounters. Handy if you want to grind to level your characters – utterly infuriating if you’re just trying to get from point A to point B. The random encounters in Skies of Arcadia Legends plagued players in both the overworld and through the game’s many dungeons, and completely destroyed the desire to really explore this giant, beautiful world. Today, there are many other ways to introduce these kinds of battles, and better ways to incorporate the random encounter model, which could turn this game into an amazing exploration experience.
Another problem with Skies of Arcadia Legends is an overall clunkiness that could easily be fixed with a reboot – from the epic, yet too long ship battles to the awkward way your character model navigated terrain. The overall design felt great, but, at times, the way a camera was positioned or the animation of a character’s movements could break immersion. I’m not docking it too many points here, though – we are talking about a game that came out in 2000, and that was pretty par for the course in those days.
My final complaint with a game that, in my opinion, had very few damning flaws, is the dialogue. Blame it on porting issues, localization flaws, or just odd choices, the dialogue in this game reads like an over-exuberant children’s story, with the good characters always emphasizing their compassion and duty, and the bad characters coming off as laughably evil and maniacal. There are exceptions here – Captain Drachma, with his well-crafted yet not overly-explained backstory is a delight in this world, and his surly, gruff dialogue is a great foil to the main character’s overwhelming wholesomeness. Belleza, too, came with a well-fleshed out personality and backstory, despite some occasionally burdensome writing. Overall, clunky dialogue is the only thing that stood in these characters’ way – but it doesn’t prevent the good from shining through.
Why I Want a Reboot
This game offers more than just nostalgia, unlike most cries for reboots these days. It’s a genuinely great game that simply deserves a little updating, a graphics overhaul, and a combat system fix. The wide world of the game has so much to offer, from intriguing side quests to hidden exploration bonuses to a ship and home base customization sim. It weaves together a great overarching story peppered with quirky, amusing, and truly deep characters before delivering an epic and astonishing ending. Start to finish – if you can weather the random encounter battles – this game is an amazing experience within a vast world that provides no shortage of things to do.
The characters within this game are great – there are plenty of well-populated towns, quirky folks, interesting NPCs and great team members to acquire throughout the story. Even the villains have vivid and interesting personalities – although they can be a little comically evil at times. For example, the little guy with an affinity for fire burning down the jungle in Ixa’taka is a little too Fern Gully for my taste – but he’s still an amusing character. Another general loathes war – she lost her father to a war – so she prefers to deceive and utilize subterfuge to avoid fighting and loss of life. Each general with the Valuan Empire has a distinct personality that distinguishes them from one another and, ultimately, ties them in with the respective Gigas they’re hunting.
The main cast – Vyse, Aika, and Fina – leave a little to be desired in terms of depth, but with a buffet of other characters teeming with depth and interesting story lines, you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Vyse is your typical chipper frontman, full of moral integrity, despite being a pirate. Aika is the feisty redheaded companion who often looks before she leaps. Fina plays the part of the mysterious interloper who happens into the story and whose development is completely tied to the main plot. But when teamed up with the amusing yet grave Captain Drachma, or the goofy and lovesick Clara, the main characters’ lack of depth feels tolerable. However, a reboot could certainly bring a bit more complexity to the noble Blue Rogues, and enhance their character development beyond always being the good guys who do good.
The world is vast. I mean, it’s no Breath of the Wild or Skyrim – today’s standard for open world games has upped the ante since Skies of Arcadia came out. But by Gamecube standards? It’s massive. You’re rewarded for discovering wonders in the world, and you even get a bonus if you got there before the other explorers. There are NPCs with side stories hidden all around, from the little girl whose pet will only eat the Moonfish you hunt to Piastol, the glaive-wielding bounty hunter whose past is mysteriously tied to Vyse and Aika. Then there’s the list of wanted Black Pirates to hunt down, the side quests within each town, the quest to recruit NPCs to your crew, and a whole host of other features and interactions.
The main plot is great in and of itself, and I could triple the length of this article singing the praises of the ship battles – particularly the Gigas battles, which feel appropriately epic given the sheer scale created there. There’s a lot to love in this game, and only a little that would need fixing, aside from what it would take to overhaul the graphics. Then again, polygonal boobs can be nostalgic all on their own, so maybe it doesn’t even need that. Sega likely still owns the rights to this game – which means the onus would be on Nintendo to craft a reboot, and we all know they’re too busy making their billionth Mario game and capitalizing on the nostalgia of the NES to be bothered. Still, it’s a shame – a game like this could truly shock and awe if brought up to speed with today’s standards, and Nintendo could certainly use the boost this IP would get them.