Skies of Arcadia Showdown: Dreamcast vs GameCube

One of the most critically acclaimed JRPGs to not come from a studio named Square, Enix or a combination of both…  This killer title from Sega continues to grow an audience of new gamers with its mix of simplicity and fun while turning a number of conventional JPRG gameplay elements on its ear.

If you’re considering giving Skies of Arcadia a go, which one do you start with? Do you want to play the original Sega Dreamcast version from 2000, or try the 2003 Nintendo Gamecube re-release?  The good news is this is a no lose proposition.  Skies of Arcadia (Skies of Arcadia Legends on Gamecube) is an incredibly fun and unique RPG experience on either platform. Nevertheless, let’s check out some of the key differences between the two versions to help you make a well-informed decision before dropping your hard earned cash on this increasingly pricey title.

Music and Sound:

Let’s start with the big one. If there’s one thing the original version has going for it over the Gamecube’s Legends entry, it’s the quality of its soundtrack.

Yutaka Minobe and Tatsuyuki Maeda’s  sweeping orchestral score is one of gaming’s best. The deep resonance of the music adds to the sense of adventure and tension on a level few soundtracks can lay claim to. Gamers who originally played Skies on Dreamcast were disappointed to find the Gamecube version lacking in the audio department, and with good reason. The original game was spread over two discs, which Nintendo successfully managed to not only cram the entirety of onto a single 1.5 GB game disc, but also added a wealth of new content as well. Something had to give due to storage constraints and audio lost out.

You can imagine the disappointment when the existing fan base got their hands on the new improved Skies of Arcadia Legends with streamlined gameplay and additional content, only to hear their beloved soundtrack reduced to something bordering 16 bit midi. Characters voices on the Cube seem muffled and simply don’t demand the same attention as they did on DC as well.

Take a listen to the short audio comparison video below and decide if this is a dealbreaker

This loss of quality is definitely noticeable.   Still unless you fancy yourself a gaming music purist, and I know you’re out there, this one factor alone should not be enough to make up for all of the pros that Gamecube’s Legends brings to the table.

Extra Missions and Content:

Gamecube’s Legends just has a lot more stuff to do. We’re talking all bonus content from the original DC version as well as the addition of Wanted bounties, Moonfish collecting, more discoveries to be found and the popular Piastol battles. All this additional content has been woven seamlessly into the game and make for a more variety of gameplay as you go about your quests.

The Dreamcast definitely does have one novelty worth mentioning, the VMU game Pinta’s Quest. A mini Tamagotchi-meets-RPG game where any gold or items you collect on your VMU can be transferred to your main game including some items only available through this method. While a fun idea, any items that were found exclusively through Pinta’s Quest were made available through other means in Gamecube’s Legends.

 

Additional Content in Skies of Arcadia Legends
None of these fun sidequests are present on the Dreamcast version.  *Cue The Price is Right Losing horn.*

Gameplay:

Legends on the Gamecube has a lower random encounter rate, which it makes up for with higher XP payouts after each battle. Both versions have pretty high encounter rates regardless, so any break you can get in that department is going to be welcomed. Load times across the board are much shorter on Legends than the original which can really add up due to the sheer number of encounters you’ll…uh…encounter. The battles also play out faster which keeps the game moving at a fun pace, especially notable during ship to ship combat which can definitely run long.

Skies of Arcadia Gamecube Disc
Faster gameplay, decreased load times and less random encounters add up to a more streamlined experience on the Gamecube.

Graphics:

Legends has higher poly models which makes for a softer look while adding more definition, like defined fingers for example. The OG Dreamcast version may have slightly crisper textures. This area is probably not going to be a make or break for either platform.

Modern TV Setup:

One last quick consideration is simply convenience with your gaming setup. While there are expensive component cables for Gamecube and VGA breakout boxes available for Dreamcast…one of the cheapest and easiest setups on a modern TV is to grab some $10 component cables for your Wii and play Legends on that. Plus if you have access to a Wavebird, the wireless Gamecube controller, even better. Gamecube’s Legends is also on one disc, which means no disc swap for the lazy but chances are you were going to have to get up at some point over the 35+ hours of gameplay. I hope.

TL;DR:

If the soundtrack to the Gamecube adaptation was the same quality as its earlier Dreamcast counterpart, this would be a no-contest.  Regardless, Legends’ additional content, faster gameplay and reduced loading times will likely be the quintessential version for most people’s needs.  Whichever you go with, rest assured you’re gonna have an enjoyable 30+ hours with Varys and his crew of wacky cartoon Air Pirates.

 

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