Is he who controls god a god himself, or is he merely a pawn in the grand scheme of things? While at first glance, the villains of Skies of Arcadia appear to be the Valuan Empire, it subverts this trope slowly as we’re introduced (as the player) to the motives of each character. The game does a great job at setting up Empress Teodora as the one pulling the strings during the early stages of the game, but savvy players will quickly realize that it’s actual the Lord Admiral Galcian who is actually in control. But what sets Galcian apart from every other “Star Scream” archetypal traitorous villain? Well, Galcian is nobody’s fool…
Lord Admiral Galcian is a man who only respects one thing: power. And he will do anything within his grasp to acquire more. It goes to show that Galcian is also extremely dangerous being an example of a true sociopath that can feign emotion and blend in with regular people almost seamlessly. His lack of remorse and empathy mean that once you’ve lost your use to him, you’ll become expendable and, as such, he’s not to be trifled with. Vyse and company learn this quickly, as even his presence makes them rush to escape him the first time they meet. It’s not hard to explain what makes him such a great villain, but it does go to show that such an elegant man can be one of the best enemies of an RPG.
Galcian wasn’t crazy per say, while his psychosis was obvious to anyone who played the game. He did his job well and even managed to seize the power from his home country by destroying it. Even better, his tactical mind allowed him to analyze the best way to gather the Moon Crystals: simply let Vyse finish his quest and then strike at them in their home. He chose to not waste his energy, and his pragmatic nature made him a force to be reckoned with. It’s rare to see villains that don’t fall into the idiot ball territory and become ineffective or simply perform evil deeds for its own sake. This is where Skies of Arcadia shined greatly as Galcian was even capable of outsmarting Vyse.
Yes, indeed, at one point in the game, Vyse watches Galcian escape in an emergency pod and says “Damn, I thought he’d be too arrogant to have an escape pod”. Galcian’s only downfall was his overconfidence, as at this point in the game, he had become nearly a literal god who was going to retreat into his new kingdom and call upon the Rains of Destruction to kill the unworthy. Which, at this point, were only him and his most loyal follower Ramirez. But thanks to some unexpected assistance from former villain, his plot is thwarted, and this isn’t even the ending of the game.
Ramirez takes the mantle of main villain and he’s quite similar, yet different, to Galcian. Ramirez is an impressionable young man who’s first encounter with Valua leaves him admiring the previous Lord Admiral Mendosa. His pedestal is broken when he discovers the abuse of the Ixa’takans, caused by Mendosa and he eventually murders him and sets the entire ship ablaze. Ramirez is truly terrifying for completely different reasons, he is unhinged, but displays an air of aloofness, matched only by Itachi Uchiha from Naruto. It is almost as if something is broken within Ramirez, and when Galcian died, whatever was left from Mendosa’s pedestal completely shattered.
Admiral Ramirez almost has a pathological co-dependency with whoever he chose to follow. He is unlike Fina, a fellow Silvite, who has a very strong inner strength and whose admiration of others came about in a much more healthier manner. Yet, Ramirez needs to follow someone at all times and this makes him flawed. Despite his incredible power and magical ability, Ramirez is merely the tool of those he serves. Whether those be the Silvite Elders, Mendosa, or Galcian, Ramirez is merely their sword, and would follow them to the end of the world. Especially after Galcian’s ideology infiltrated his very soul. He takes on the same meaning of power from Galcian and with his ultimately impressionable nature, Ramirez can find no better reason to exist than to follow the Lord Admiral.
Once Galcian is out of the picture, Ramirez decides to call forth the rains once more and destroy everything. Thanks to the intervention of the Silvite Elders his plans are thwarted, but he isn’t about to give up. Ramirez is willing to sacrifice his very consciousness to possess Zelos the silver gigas. Ultimately becoming an inhumane monstrosity, his very ego becomes his undoing as this sick man died thanks to the efforts of Vyse and company, along with a silence shell to prevent him from casting spells.
It might appear silly to psychoanalyze a couple of fictional characters, but perhaps this view into their psyche will help yield answers to those who’ve played the game, or even the ones who will play it some day in the future. But one thing is clear, the villains of Skies of Arcadia are fantastic forces to be reckoned with and will forever be some of the best enemies in any RPG to this date. While many haven’t had a chance to encounter them yet, it’s my hope that you’ll pick up a copy and try it out for yourself.