Jeanne d’Arc’s spin on historical events creates an entertaining experience on the PSP.
Ah, the first review of the site. And the first of the “Backlogging It” games on my list. Hooray! 😀 Today, we’re gonna get our gaming-on-the-go face on, as we bust out the PSP and look at Jeanne’ d’Arc.
Genre: Strategy Role-Playing Game
Devloper: Level 5
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.
Released: August 27, 2007
ESRB Rating: T for Teens (13 & up)
Reason for Rating: Alcohol Reference; Fantasy Violence; Mild Language
Many of you already know the story of Jeanne d’Arc: a peasant girl who, guided by God’s voice, lead the French army to many a miraculous victory against the English in 1429. She was eventually captured, tried, convicted of heresy and sentenced to burn at the stake. A review of the trial took place years later and she was cleared of all charges. She was eventually beautified and made a Saint.
What the history books didn’t tell you is that the English were actually in cahoots with an ancient demon and his evil minions.
Jeanne d’Arc is a Strategy RPG where you play as the titular heroine, as she leads her ragtag army of misfits and anthropomorphic strongmen across France an attempt to send the English back home with their tails between their legs. The story soon switches gears and becomes a race to prevent the revival of a great Evil and his loyal warriors (called Reapers) who lay dormant inside nobles.
If you think this plot sounds familiar, then you’d be right. It almost sounds like Final Fantasy Tactics, another SRPG: the protagonist runs around and performs some good deeds, gets labelled a heretic, and goes on to foil the resurrection of demons trapped in gems that some nobles are carrying around.
I can’t fault them too much on not following history all the way through, as taking that route would make it a short game. And given how they set things up at the beginning, the whole saving-the-world-from-a-demon story seems like the only possible option they have. I was kinda hoping that they would take a different approach instead of use this safety net plot of save-world-from-demon, but… oh well.
I know I just knocked the story, but I must admit that it’s well paced. The dialogue is great; you can tell that each character has a unique personality. The anime cut scenes sprinkled throughout the game also do a great job with pushing the story along (and look great!), though sometimes the voice acting can be hit-or-miss (like maybe they’re trying too hard to put on a French accent). The best part is that you can watch all the scenes whenever you want by going to the “Anime Theater” section of the Options menu. Nice.
Presentation’s good too. Graphics are colourful and look crisp on that tiny PSP screen. The stages you play in are varied, ranging from towns, to caves, to forests, to… er… demon.. hyper-dimension… fortress… thingy. Bah, the point is, they’re all pretty to look at. The characters all have that cutesy/super-deformed style to them. Sometimes I want to crush the enemies, other times I want to hug them… while they poke me in the back with a knife. The music’s okay, however it does tend to get a bit repetitive. As much as I appreciate how the music during the enemy’s turn on the battlefield becomes more dramatic as the game progresses, it still wasn’t anything memorable. Just average.
Combat is nice and simple. When you enter a stage, you’re given a Stage Objective which you must complete in order to advance and Lose Condition which results in an automatic Game Over. You have different units at your command, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You can’t change the type of weapon the unit uses: Archers will forever be Archers, Sword Users will always be Sword Users, etc. But you can customise them in other ways through the use of Skill Stones. These stones can give you boosts in your stats, special weapon attacks, and magic. So theoretically, you can turn your Mage into a Tank and have him lay the smackdown on foes with his staff (though… that’s probably not a good idea). Likewise, your Sword User can be a proficient Mage. You can equip up to 6 Stones, so choose wisely.
Another thing to be wary of when you’re equipping Stones is the Affinity System. It’s a sort of rock-paper-scissors approach to combat where you and the enemy are aligned with either the Sun, the Moon, or the Stars. As you can guess, there’s a 3-way dance going on here, with Sun winning out over Stars, Stars being strong against Moon, and Moon beating Sun. The stronger your Affinity, the more damage you can deal (or take). When you’re making preparations for battle, you can check the Affinities of the opposing side, so you can make the appropriate changes to your guys and get an advantage.
As for the actual fighting, it’s pretty fast-paced. Several party members will become the proud owners of magical Amulets that allow them to transform Sailor Moon style into super powerful killing machines with increased stats and super-special spells. The transformation only lasts 2 turns or so, but if you manage to kill an enemy while Transformed, you will get a Godspeed boost, and that character gets an extra turn. And that happens every time you kill an enemy, so one Transformed character can lay waste to a battlefield and really turn the tide if you’re losing.
In addition to Transforming, when you attack a foe, you’ll create a Burning Aura next to him. If an ally heads over to the Aura and attacks, they’ll do more damage. Also, if a bunch of your guys are standing close to each other when one of them is under attack, they’ll create a Unified Defence chain, which increases the defence of the character under siege (might also help them evade attack altogether).
Overall, Jeanne d’Arc is a solid game. It may lack a bit in terms of originality of story or memorable tunes, but it looks and plays well. It’s great for those who have a PSP but who’re new to Strategy RPGs, and there’s enough to keep you going: new stages become available to you when you finish the game, and foes in the old stages are much stronger. If you’re looking for something new to play on your PSP, you can’t go wrong with Jeanne d’Arc.
Final Score: 8/10
All For France!:
- + Simple gameplay makes it a good starter Strategy RPG (but vets of SRPGs will get a kick out of it, too)
- + Colourful visuals and nicely done anime cut scenes
- + Still have plenty of things to do after finishing, so ya got some replay value there
Damn Those Demons:
- – Story. It’s okay, but been told before many times
- – Music’s okay, but nothing to write home about.