While developing Skies of Arcadia, the employees of the Overworks game studio asked themselves, "How can we one-up all those RPGs with floating islands that came before us?" Their answer: a game where the entire world is so lousy with flying islands and airships that roughly half your game's population is made up of sky pirates. I don't know about you, but that's what I call a golden ratio.
The game centers around two young pirates named Vyse and Aika, who aid a girl named Fina in finding the six moon crystals that can awaken giant beings known as the 'Gigas.' While that story might follow the JRPG style guide to whatever the kanji equivalent of a "T" is, what sets this game apart is its lush and varied landscapes tied together by a sea of clouds. Also it features a giant purple flying whale, which as far as I'm concerned is plot shorthand for "play this game, NOW."
Looking for somewhere to get away from it all for a little while, and also be frozen in a block of Carbonite? Part luxury hotel, part mining city, all kickass, Cloud City is the site of one of the first appearances of Boba Fett (the first being the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special), and where [SPOILERS] Luke gets his hand cut off and learns that Darth Vader is his father. In the world of videogames, Cloud City has appeared as a level in Super Star Wars, The Force Unleashed, and the Battlefront series, where its combination of open-air spaceship landing platforms, gleaming corridors, and steam-filled lower bowels make for the epitome of the Star Wars aesthetic. And while it's satisfying enough to toss Stormtroopers against walls and into pits, it's way more more pleasurable to toss them off the edge of a platform knowing that they are going to fall all the way down to the center of the goddamn planet.
An ancient and mythical island powered by an enormous magical emerald and defended by anthropomorphic echidnas, Angel Island is that. The floating island is the setting for the majority of the pretty fantastic Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Its power source, the Master Emerald, has been targeted for heisting by the fiendish, apparently Polish Dr. Robotnik. While it's sort of hard to appreciate a landscape as it zips by you at ten billion miles per hour, Angel Island has enough loop-de-loops, spike pits, and weird and inexplicable minigame warp zones to support hours of mammalian hijinks.
Look, there's plenty of "lore" and "mythology" we could draw on to talk at length about Angel Island and its storied history in the Sonic canon, but if you're jonesing for that, then please: snap your Shadow the Hedgehog disc in half, go find a Genesis emulator and spend a couple of hours setting yourself right.