E3: Eternal Arcadia impressions

[05.15.00] » I bet you were expecting some kind of "unfriendly skies" remark here, weren't you?

   Eternal Arcadia, quite possibly the most widely sought-after RPG on the horizon for Dreamcast owners, was playable in Sega's booth allowing players to view a few cutscenes, explore the overworld in the airship, or battle various foes in both hand-to-hand combat as well as in the skies with the aforementioned airship.

   The cutscenes shown were intended to give gamers an idea of what to expect from the storyline, as well as from the protagonists and antagonists which populate it. The three main characters, Aika, Fina, and Vyse, were joined by a new ally of the name Gilder. While their business practices as air pirates may not always be of the purest inclination, in every sequence shown they stood by one another's side and displayed bravery under the most trying circumstances. Also seen in the cutscenes were two villains -- Drachma and Alfonso.

   As for the exploration aspects on display, imagine navigating the three-dimensional world found in such titles as Final Fantasy VIII via an airship, encountering floating islands and towns along the way. The Dreamcast affords some pretty spectacular scenery, and the fact that the world's denizens aren't earthbound makes for some intruiging globe-trotting.

   The battle system in typical on-ground fights was nothing terribly out-of-the-ordinary, although it did sport a few unique aspects to separate it from traditional RPG fare. For one thing, both your team members and your opponents constantly reposition themselves for the optimal attack as the fight wears on. Vyse needs to get in close to make use of his broadsword, while Aika and Fina both carry weapons capable of long-range attacks, so they can stay further from the center of the melee. But be warned, as enemies also benefit from the same tactics. In addition to just standard attacks, each character can employ "S-Moves" which, while requiring a certain amount of "mana" to cast, deal out some heavy-duty damage. And, as would be expected, every character is able to cast magical spells in the vein of those found in most RPGs.

   As mentioned earlier, the airship itself can also be taken into battle. Rather than having turns for each character, the battle ship's offense is comprised of various cannons and torpedos which are managed by a grid of sorts. Each column represents a round of fire, and for every character currently in your party another row is added to the grid, so that every party member can operate a weapon or in some other way aid in the effort. Regular attacks, such as those of the 2 main cannons, will monopolize an entire column -- so if, say, Fina uses one of the main cannons in the second column as her turn, that second round will be devoted to the firing of the main cannon. However, other smaller weapons don't have such requirements, so it's possible to couple multiple blasts into a simultaneous barrage on the enemy.

   Eternal Arcadia looks to be a fairly standard RPG with enough spins of its own to spice things up to catch gamers' interest. If everything clicks into place, this could easily wind up being one of the year's must-have titles.

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