Cruising the Skies and Stars

When your adventuring requires going all over the planet, and even going between planets, you really need to be able to travel both in speed and in comfort. While personal vehicles are convenient, they don't quite have the full facilities that an airship or starship does, allowing the hero and their friends to use it as a mobile base of operations. Here are some of our favourite cruisers in the RPG scene.

The Ahab (Sakura Wars V)
Airships (Final Fantasy series)
Delphinus (Skies of Arcadia)
Dragon Calibur Lombardia (Wild ARMS 3)
Ebon Hawk (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
Talon (Final Fantasy Legend III)

The Ahab - Sakura Wars V

There are times in the heroic narrative when everyday reality falls away, replaced by the dreamer-logic of metaphor and hope. Symbols gain the power to cleave apart knotted riddles that seem insurmountable when view through the banal lens of workaday existence. Then there's the Ahab. The primary people-mover of Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love is a giant airship used to deliver power armor to demonic infiltration points around New York City. In the process, it demonstrates the overblown, beautifully gaudy Americanism that put a jazz band on the moon.

Super Telekinetic Assault Robots take a lot of lifting power, and the Ahab's exposed rotors do not disappoint. Even the demonic miasma of Oda Nobunaga falls away in the face of its Art Deco prow. A heady mélange of stars, stripes, eagles, blue, white, and red tell those demons just who's coming: America! (Also, a Mexican bounty hunter, a samurai cowgirl, and the Japanese master of combat fans.) Like any whale-shaped skyship named after a (spoiler) doomed sea captain, the Ahab does not go unarmed. In a pinch, any of its all-singing, all-dancing robotic payload can hop out, transform into a jet, and defend the heavy load lifter.

Only slightly less impressive than the Ahab is the journey to launch. First, the STAR pilot must suit up. Stage military gear is mandatory, as are white combat gloves. From there, it's a lengthy ride to the basement of a skyscraper in a single-seater elevator chair. The chair loads the pilot into the stocky assault robot, after which everyone has to pose, share a catch phrase, or rev an external throttle. Next, a crane loads each robot into a numbered pod on a flatbed truck. The truck delivers the pot to a nearby carousal, which sends the loaded pod up another elevator onto the Ahab. The Ahab emerges from a hanger hidden beneath its home theatre. From there, Broadway and its cross street form the arms of a giant slingshot, which is used to fling the ship into the air. - Zach Welhouse

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Airships - Final Fantasy series

The many entries in the Final Fantasy series showcase a wide range of different ways to get around, ranging from cute chocobos to fancy teleportation networks, but the best way to get around has always been via airship. Nothing else comes close. They carry you to distant lands at great speed, and often come with surprising levels of comfort. There are far too many good airships in the series to list them all here, but some are particularly noteworthy.

Naturally, the Lufenian Airship from the original Final Fantasy deserves mention, even just as a historical footnote. It pretty much established the entire archetype of the late-game flying vehicle that has become so popular in the years afterward. Without it, the tradition of adding fun transportation methods to RPGs might not have happened the way it did, so it deserves respect even if it is a bit boring compared to what followed.

Final Fantasy III was the first game in the series to feature multiple controllable airships, including two that live tragically short lives and another that offers high-speed travel and the ability to dive underwater. However, the real star is the Invincible, the fourth and by far largest of the game's airships. In fact, it is so large that it can't even land on the ground, and instead always floats. In addition to opening up new areas to explore, it features the first accessible interior in the series, which contains shops, an Inn, and a Fat Chocobo for storing items. It is also equipped with cannons that can bombard foes mid-batle. It is an impressive ship that is a notable departure from the traditional airship design seen before and after.

Still, as far as comfortable airship experiences go, it is hard to beat Final Fantasy VI's Blackjack. Previous airships were quite utilitarian in design, but Setzer's airship is essentially a flying casino featuring plush couches and several large rooms filled with card tables and roulette wheels. Sadly, these can't actually be played as minigames, but the Blackjack still has a staff able to assist the party in organizing team members and their items. It's hard to blame the party for using such a cozy airship as their main base, and this is the first time in the series where it serves such a role.

The last airship that really stands out in the series for me is the Ragnarok from Final Fantasy VIII. Abandoning the boat-like or blimp designs common in the previous games, it is instead resembles a mechanical red dragon, and it is as much a spaceship as it is an airship. Many later airships continue this trend of having very unconventional designs, but few do it anywhere near as well as the Ragnarok. In the final chapter of the game, the Ragnarok becomes the only real safe sanctuary available to the player, giving it a memorable role in both its game and the series. - Nathan Schlothan

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Delphinus - Skies of Arcadia

Skies of Arcadia portrayed an amazing world of floating islands, sky pirates, and heroes who explore vast uncharted lands, so it is natural to expect that it would have some nice airships for the player to use. After all, the player could only move around the game's three-dimensional overworld in an airship. Yet, for the first few chapters of the game, the main hero Vyse and his companions are stuck riding around on what is pretty much a heavily armed fishing boat. Since the game's opening cinematic shows Vyse sailing on a magnificent airship with large white sails, it's obvious that the heros would get an upgrade, but few could predict that the game's second airship is one of the greatest vehicle upgrades in any RPG.

About a third of the way through the game, Vyse and his companions are trapped in the territory of the evil empire they are fighting against. Stuck without an airship, they make the choice any band of do-gooder sky pirates would make, and steal the Delphinus, the newest and most advanced ship in the empire's fleet. Far from being a flying wooden boat like the one you see in the opening, it is a massive modern warship armed with heavy turreted cannons, thick steel armor, long-range torpedoes, and the latest and greatest in overpowered frontal energy cannons. With it, the heroes immediately go from being underdogs who have to win their battles through luck and desperate gambits to a mighty force that can fight entire imperial fleets and ancient superweapons on equal terms.

The Delphinus is a big improvement for both the heroes and the game in other ways, too. A big ship requires a big crew, so acquiring the Delphinus unlocks the ability to recruit from a large cast of colorful crew members, which also leads to the player developing an uninhabited island and turning it into a customizable pirate base. What's more, the Delphinus can eventually be upgraded to ascend high into the sky or deep into its dark depths, which both opens up new areas to explore and lets the player avoid the all too frequent random battles. Ultimately, the Delphinus carries its crew far into unknown lands and serves as the battleground for the final battle, and even manages to be the first airship to circumnavigate the globe in the process. - Nathan Schlothan

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Dragon Calibur Lombardia - Wild ARMS series

The arid world of Filgaia, the setting for the Wild ARMS series, is home to all kinds of strange creatures, advanced ancient technology, and unusual ways of getting around, but one of the most memorable is when it lets the heroes ride on the back of a dragon. Sure, fantasy heroes have been riding dragons since the dawn of the RPG genre, but few dragons are quite like Lombardia from Wild ARMS 2 and Wild ARMS 3. After all, the dragons of Filgaia aren't mere creatures of flesh and blood; they are cybernetic living weapons coated in heavy armor and armed with powerful weaponry. While a few other dragons appear as opponents, Lombardia is the only one to ally herself with the party and will carry them through the skies and even join them in some battles.

Originally appearing as the only survivor who fled from a devastated alternate reality, she joins the heroes of Wild ARMS 2 to help them stop the same evil force that destroyed her home, and later joins the heroes of 3 after they prove themselves to her. Lombardia has a humanoid form she uses when talking or waiting on the ground, but transforms into a jet fighter when she takes to the air, and even has a cockpit for the team to control her from. In 3, she even gets to engage in player-controlled dogfights against enemy dragons. While those fights are not very hard, they add a lot of excitement to the final battles of the game's third chapter.

Still, while Lombardia is one of the best modes of transport in the Wild Arms series, she does have some good competition. In particular, the giant mechanical golem Asgard is also worthy of note, serving as the best way of getting around in both the original Wild Arms and Wild Arms 5. He was created to protect Filgaia, and is equipped with a powerful energy shield that disintegrates any enemy that comes in contact with it. This means that while he carries the party they are completely protected from random enemy encounters, which is a great help while exploring Filgaia. In 5, Asgard can even be programmed, equipped with parts, and engage in battles against various bosses, which is a fun, optional diversion. He may be a machine, but he proves himself to be a valuable ally many times across the length of the series. - Nathan Schlothan

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Ebon Hawk - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Like a great many of my generation, I love Star Wars, but it is a love I inherited from older family around me. Everyone told my six year-old self about this great thing and made me watch it and so I grew up 'knowing' it was great and beloved. I never fully owned my thoughts or feelings about the movies. The games, however, were my domain. My older cousins got to watch Luke destroy the Death Star on a big Screen with THX quality sound and I got a literal second-hand VHS copy on a small battered television, but I also got to drop the torpedoes myself in six different game genres and seven console generations. The games and novels and comics that spun-out of the series during the nineties were something I could claim for myself. Later on, Star Wars in this medium became about telling its own stories, and that sense of ownership faded. Throw a few prequels into the mix and I got disillusioned with the franchise as a whole.

That's where the Ebon Hawk comes in. It's a souped-up smuggling ship with a saucer-shaped design and avian nomenclature, the grocery store brand take on the Millenium Falcon, right in between the Outrider and the Raven's Claw. But the difference is that the Hawk was mine, I had a galaxy to save and/or doom and I had just the boat to get me around to do it. It didn't matter when she returned in KotOR II, with a largely new crew and an entirely new captain, because there was nothing else that should be flown around saving the galaxy. - Scott Wachter

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Talon - Final Fantasy Legend III

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