Skies of Arcadia is one of the most criminally underplayed games of all-time. It’s well-known as a classic game from the Dreamcast era and I’d hesitate to call it undervalued or underrated, as most who has actually played it remember it fondly as one of the best JRPGs of its time.
However, because of its release on the ill-fated Dreamcast, and a somewhat low profile re-release exclusively on the GameCube, the number of people that have played or have even heard of Skies of Arcadia is likely way lower than it should be considering the quality of the game.
This is a shame because there’s so much to love about the cheerful swashbuckling adventure starring the charming sky pirates: Vyse, Aika, and Fina.
In a game loaded with things to praise and perhaps the feature most deserving of acclaim is its soundtrack. The music of Skies of Arcadia is a lovely mix of orchestrated melodies and themes that are not only a treat to listen to, they perfectly encapsulate the various moods and locales in the game. Just hearing a few seconds takes you right back to the moment you first experienced them.
Recently, we spoke to Wayo Records, a company known for creating special editions of some of the most iconic soundtracks in all of gaming. Skies of Arcadia is as worthy as anything else they have done, and this time around they have put together an attractive suite of options for fans of this incredible soundtrack.
If you just wanted to dip your toes in, there’s a CD edition which includes three discs (two of which contain the OST and a new original piano suite), 24-page art booklet with developer comments, and Skies-themed Mini-Shikishi.
A step up from that is the Vinyl Edition which as you may guess is a vinyl record version of the above complete with stylized vinyls and sleeves that contain classic art from the game including an all-new one by original character artist Itsuki Hoshi.
Perhaps most impressive is the music box which will play a snippet of the Main Theme which you can see in action below. Warning: Skies of Arcadia fans will get a heavy dose of the feels from the video below.
On top of all of that, which is already just lovely, the piano suite mentioned is performed by one of the acclaimed and accomplished young composers right now, Ramon van Engelenhoven.
You can check out all of the packages in the gallery at the end of the post.
As a massive fan of Skies of Arcadia, I can’t pass up an opportunity to discuss arguably my favorite game of all-time with anyone who shares my passion for it. Wayo Records, clearly has that in spades considering the effort and the length they are going to celebrate the OST in what is about the most beautiful and reverent way possible.
I recently spoke with Wayo Records about how this project came together and tried to pick their brain about what they found most memorable about the game’s OST. Check out the full Q&A below.
Editor’s Note: The responses in this interview were slightly edited for clarity.
Ed McGlone: Can you give us some background on how this collaboration came to be? Did SEGA approach you or was it the other way around?
Wayo Records: The project actually started in 2017. We were already working with Sega on another project and since Skies of Arcadia was one of our favorite RPGs ever, it was a natural choice to work on it. It took a lot of time because we were so excited that we couldn’t stop adding new ideas to make it better. At last, two years later, we are really proud to release it.
Ed: What was the motivation on each side to work on this project?
Wayo Records: As huge fans of the game and the soundtrack, it was a real pleasure to plan everything from scratch and work with the legendary team behind the development. Besides this, if this release could help in any way to revive the franchise in the future, it would be fantastic and Sega is now definitely even more aware of the massive love for this title.
Ed McGlone: Composer Ramon van Engelenhoven is also involved. Was he familiar with Skies of Arcadia prior to Wayo Records coming to him?
Wayo Records: Ramon is a good friend of ours, and he actually performed a unique Vagrant Story piano arrangement a few years ago during our special concert dedicated to Hitoshi Sakimoto. He knew the game but rediscovered the soundtrack when he started to be involved in the arrangement.
Ed: What in particular does he find inspiring about the soundtrack and what motivated his participation?
Wayo Records: Actually, we added a special request for this new arrangement. The piano suite had to feel like a “voyage” in the world of Arcadia. He spent a long time analyzing each track and searching for the best way to link them.
He’s not only a good performer, but he also understood how to transcribe the best emotion behind each track. He did an amazing job and we can’t wait to have everyone enjoy it!
Ed: There are lots of touching themes to choose from in Skies of Arcadia. Why was the Main Theme ultimately the song that was chosen for the music box?
Wayo Records: The main theme is one of the most expressive of the game, it was originally recorded with an orchestra and it’s also part of the ending theme. It was the perfect theme to use in a nostalgic item such as the music box. In only few seconds, it can trigger flashbacks of all the good memories you lived in the game.
Ed: I’m not a musical expert, but for those that are, could you go into some technical detail of why the Skies of Arcadia OST stands out and has developed such acclaim, attention, and sustained popularity despite it being a one-off game?
Wayo Records: The Skies of Arcadia soundtrack is both a musical and technical masterpiece. What makes a soundtrack unforgettable is, of course, the quality of the music but also the way it’s used in the game.
Composers made the world of Arcadia incredibly real and emotional. I remember idling on the world map just to listen to the Delphinus theme again and again.
The challenge was huge for composers as it’s also one of the very first soundtracks that was created to change real time depending on the environment (world map) or the situation (boss battles).
Ed: Developer commentary is going to be included in this collection. Can you share something from your experience in collecting these comments that hardcore fans of Skies of Arcadia might find most interesting?
Wayo Records: The booklet contains new comments from Rieko Kodama, Shuntarô Tanaka, and composers Yutaka Minobe and Tatsuyuki Maeda.
As they look back on the game development 20 years ago, they shed light on details and specific challenges that the team faced at the time. It’s always fascinating to hear how it was experienced by the developers and composers side.
Ed: You mention that Skies of Arcadia was special to the team. What are some of the team’s most memorable moments?
Wayo Records: We all played the game at release on Dreamcast. The game was inspired by our world’s locations and legends, so players strongly felt they were part of the journey and that’s probably what remained in many players’ memories.
Exploring the world map with the airship, visiting Ixa’Taka and Yafutoma, and the ending are also parts of our most memorable times.
Ed: What musical track do you/the team believe best encapsulates the area/moment/feeling that it is associated with?
Wayo Records: Linked to the above, the main theme, world map & airship themes, and specific locations such as Ixa’Taka and Yafutoma had a strong impact. The airship battle scenes were also memorable.
Ed: Are there other interesting informational tidbits about this collaboration that you would like to share that our readers might find interesting that I didn’t ask about?
Wayo Records: There is so much we could say about this project! Back in 2017, I had a chance to discuss with Itsuki Hoshi about the direction for the new illustration. When we received the rough design, I was amazed to see how perfectly it matched with the ideas I previously suggested, faithful to the original spirit, and at the same time, reviving Vyse, Aika, and Fina with a modern vision.
Special thanks to Wayo Records to sparing some time to share their thoughts and for putting together this project for long-time Skies of Arcadia fans dying for anything new related to the IP that they can get their hands-on.
The CD and Vinyl Editions should be shipping out sometime this month while the Music Box will begin shipping in September.