Skies of Arcadia Dreamcast and its prototypes, including the one shown at E3 2000. When the world discovered a majestic RPG
Released on October 8, 2000 in Japan, Eternal Arcadia quickly established itself as one of the most memorable RPGs of its time. Acclaimed by gamers and the press worldwide, the game soon became one of the Dreamcast's most memorable. Two decades later, gamers and developers alike are still talking about it. While it is far from perfect, it remains a fantastic experience and an ultimate classic.
For its release in Europe and the United States, the name of the game, but not only, changed to adapt to foreign markets. Eternal Arcadia became Skies of Arcadia, a more English-sounding name, for its Western release. Certain aspects of the original Japanese title were reworked to suit cultural differences from one continent to another. For example, references to alcohol and tobacco were removed from the NTSC and PAL versions.
Despite its many qualities and cult status, Skies of Arcadia suffered from average sales following the announcement of the Dreamcast's discontinuation. To make the game profitable, a GameCube edition, considered the complete and finished version of the project by its developers, was launched in 2003 under the name Skies of Arcadia Legends.
European pre-release cover
Skies of Arcadia was the fruit of a long-term project that began on the Saturn, and brought together an elite team of designers, programmers and producers who had previously worked on SEGA's greatest hits. Noriyoshi Ohba (executive producer) and Rieko Kodama who passed away in 2022, were at the helm of this major project. Developed with love and passion by a hundred or so employees of the Overworks studio, formerly a division of AM7, Eternal Arcadia, formerly codenamed Project Ares, became a video game masterpiece.
The story takes place in a heroic-fantasy universe. The entire game is located in the air or on flying islands. Numerous flying ships criss-cross the Skies of Arcadia. To get around the immensity of the game's scenery, to get to intriguing aerial dungeons and to explore the hostile territories of Skies of Arcadia, the boat is the ideal means of locomotion, but not the safest. In search of forgotten treasures, crossing paths with the wrong people, epic naval battles can happen at any moment. They are highly original and exhilarating.
The story's content and narration are not to be outdone. Skies of Arcadia's excellent storyline is rich in twists and turns, well-paced and full of surprises, and features the adventures of an energetic hero always ready for battle, who goes by the name of Vyse. He indulges in the joys of piracy, robbing the rich to help the poor. One day, during a raid, he and his companions manage to rescue a young woman from another planet, Fina. At first, Vyse is part of the crew of his father Dyne, the leader of the Blue Thieves. He must scrupulously obey his orders and follow his instructions. Later, when the pirate island is attacked by the Armada desperately seeking Fina, Vyse will become autonomous and command his own navy. This is just the beginning of a breathtaking epic lasting over fifty hours!
Vyse, Aika and Fina
The battle system
Battles are turn-based and occur randomly. They are very old school. Skies of Arcadia features an innovative weapon and magic system. Weapons are built from moon stones. They can be assigned different energies represented by colors (green, red, violet...). Each colored stone represents a category of magic. For example, red is assigned to fire spells. You'll have to juggle and choose between the different elements (fire, water...) to get the better of even the toughest enemies. This system lends a more strategic aspect to the title. In addition to magic, characters can perform traditional or special attacks.
The best way to travel
Like Shenmue before it, Skies of Arcadia was a showcase for the Dreamcast. A true technical feat in many ways, with very few loading times, Overworks' title is however unlikely to please everyone. Some will prefer Grandia II, its major rival in the 2000s.
The E3 2000 and the associated Skies of Arcadia prototype
E3 2000, the sixth edition, was one of the most impressive to date in many aspects. The Dreamcast was in full swing, Sony had just released the Playstation 2 in Japan, Nintendo was discussing its future with the announcement of the GameCube's release in autumn 2001, and finally Microsoft came to turn gaming upside down by announcing the marketing of their first console in 2001.
E3 2000 is here
The vibe at the SEGA stand
For this event, SEGA organized daily dance shows for Space Channel 5 and Jet Grind Radio (E3 2000 version downloadable here) on its stand. That year, the manufacturer with the blue hedgehog didn't come empty-handed, presenting no less than 20 of its own games, ranging in alphabetical order from 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker to World Series Baseball 2K1 (E3 2000 version downloadable here) with Samba de Amigo (E3 2000 version downloadable here) in the middle. Skies of Arcadia, or rather Eternal Arcadia, was one of them. It was this prototype that lucky visitors to the LA exhibition were able to discover!
Skies of Arcadia E3 prototype video
An analysis of the prototype's contents reveals that the build was created on May 09, 2000 at 17:49:36 (timestamp in the Debug Menu). This Japanese/American prototype of Skies of Arcadia would have been burned about 4 months before the final Japanese version being August 28, 2000.
This prototype dates from one day before the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2000, which took place between May 11 and 13, 2000. As this version of Eternal Arcadia is restricted, the game is shown as a demo. The differences are not significant. As this is a build which was used to present Overworks' future hit to E3 visitors, the prototype's main interest is historical.
After more than twenty years, you will also be able to experience, in your own living room, the same excitement the gaming press felt when they discovered this version of Skies of Arcadia during E3 2000 !
The build analysis
This demo is similar to the version of Skies of Arcadia Kuzokuban (Mar 06, 2000) released in Japan in early 2000. Presumably to save development time and resources, SEGA and Overworks recycled the Kuzokuban version and updated it especially for E3. Later, this same demo, with further progress in the game's development, was included in an American demo disc, Volume 9 of the official Dreamcast magazine (Aug 25, 2000).
This Skies of Arcadia prototype has several IP.BINs, one of which is located in the Single Density of the disc with the E3 nomintation. The different IP.BIN don't seem to influence the game by modifying the GDI, making the prototype start on this or that IP.BIN (to be confirmed). It should be noted that a Dreamcast GD-Rom is divided into 2 parts, the "Single Density" reacting like a normal CD-Rom (music, for PC, etc.) and the "High Density" which is specific to Dreamcast games. The Single Density usually contains only the .TXT files of the game's Copyright or bonuses to be downloaded from a computer (Artwork etc.).
The ship battles are probably the most interesting and the real novelty of the build compared to the Japanese demo. Everything still feels very unfinished and clunky. Data on playable ships, enemy ships and ship items were already included in the Japanese Kuzokuban, although no ship-to-ship clashes were playable at that time. However, MAXHP (life bar) was much closer to the final version. In this build, although it's a more recent version, MAXHP is again much lower. Either the developers were still experimenting, or they used an older version of the naval combat system. In fact, it was in one of the prototype's naval battles that a dialogue referred to E3.
The third naval battle against Roc did not exist in the DC Mag. Vol. 9. In addition, Gilder is in an unnamed group, whereas he is entirely localized in the game data. Apparently, the name is hidden here specifically for the demo (see photo). Little Jack vs. Roc did not exist in this way in the final product. Another interesting point is that, in this version, Roc's special move looks more like a cannon shot without cutscene. It still looks very unfinished.
Main menu of the E3 build
E3 mention in play
The E3 prototype features a preliminary version of the ship combat system. Damage is not yet multiplied by 10, so HP is still much lower than in the final version. The Guard is also completely different. On closer inspection, the symbol used for the Harpoon Cannon does not match the one finally chosen by the developers.
When comparing the CSV files between the E3 prototype and the Official Sega Dreamcast Magazine Vol. 9, SEGA completely missed the description of certain elements. The E3 version contains everything you need. For the US demo, it seems that the descriptions have been copied or converted incorrectly, resulting in the absence of certain words and phrases between commas and line breaks.
The missing Gilder name
CVS file comparisons (On the left the E3 version, on the right the American Demo from the official Sega Dreamcast Vol. 9 magazine)
There are still many differences in the SCT and binary files in many other places, as you can see in parts of the exported CSVs. There's probably more to discover and compare, but the community will take care of that!
SCT files (E3 version on the left, US Demo on the right)
A Debug Menu is present and active. To access it, hold down the left and right triggers of the joystick at the same time and press START several times when the game starts (it's not yet clear, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, you'll have to insist). A number of options will be displayed on a black screen, such as listening to the build's sounds and music, or choosing which level to play. As this is a demo, the Debug Menu is very limited compared with the American build (Sep 12, 2000) which also has one for the entire game. The level selector is the most interesting option (the first option in Japanese), and here are the possible entries:
Debug Menu and prototype date
Enjoy exploring this Skies of Arcadia prototype. Have fun while waiting for a complete but early version of Overworks' game.
You can download this build of Skies of Arcadia E3 Dreamcast below:
Important: The prototype could not be correctly dumped using the BBA method. It contained errors but was partially playable. It was sent to Ehw and Sazpaimon of the Hidden Palace site to test another, more efficient dumping technique currently under development. With this new technique, the disc was preserved 100% correctly.
Skies of Arcadia prototypes with a dedicated page
These Skies of Arcadia Dreamcast prototypes are very special. For this reason, a page is dedicated to them, explaining in detail their particularities (a build analysis).
The special feature of the September 12, 2001 NTSC prototype is its Debug Menu on the game title screen (opened with a button command).
Other Skies of Arcadia prototypes available for direct download
Skies of Arcadia (Feb 01, 2001 prototype) DISC 1
The September 18 prototype is very similar to that of September 12, 2000, except that the Debug Menu was removed in the 6 days between them.
I'm not in a position to offer the February 1, 2001 PAL build for download, but I can show it. Only one of the two discs has been discovered. This build precedes the final European version (Feb 18, 2001) by 17 days. There's nothing special about it.
Special thanks to:
Prototypes for special events (E3, Toy Faire etc.): Bomberman Online Dreamcast (Toy Fair) - Jet Set Radio Dreamcast (E3) - Metropolis Street Racer Dreamcast (E3) - Outtrigger Dreamcast (E3) - World Series Baseball 2K1 (E3) - Quake III : Arena Dreamcast (E3) - Agartha Dreamcast (E3) - Castlevania Resurrection Dreamcast (E3) - Shenmue 2 Dreamcast (Game Jam) - Scud Race Dreamcast Tech Demo (New Conference Challenge) - Tower of Babel Dreamcast Tech Demo (New Conference Challenge) - Sonic Adventure Tournament Disk Dreamcast (The Sega Dreamcat Mobile Assault Tour) - Samba de Amigo Dreamcast (E3)