Jeanne D'Arc Review

Jeanne D’Arc is set in 15th century France, and as you could guess it’s based off of the real story of Joan of Arc, but not the one listed in your history books. This is the Hundred Years War as reimagined by Tolkien on a mushroom binge. You still control a young French girl that hears the voice of god, but retaking France this time around involves defeating the legion of British orcs and others — like a spell-casting ratman lieutenant — in a series of progressively more difficult tactical turn-based battles.

At first, this cartoonization of history bothered me. Without the cookie-cutter fantasy enemy stereotypes thrown in, I already felt compelled to play a game dealing with the Joan of Arc story, but Jeanne D’Arc managed to prove itself by presenting a series of characters and a story with enough interesting plot elements to make the game enjoyable on its own merits. That being said, the story is not without issues.

Although this may be a matter of personal preference, at certain points in the story I was infuriated with the blind stupidity of some of the characters, who seemed wholly intent on choosing the exact wrong thing to do. That is, not within the course of play, but during the cutscenes. I found myself hating Liane with a passion, primarily due to her horrible judgment. Then again, at least the story can be said to be engaging.

The presentation of the cutscenes clash with the in-game depiction of the characters, as they transform from normally proportioned people into big-headed caricatures of themselves. Throughout play, I quickly learned to ignore this, but it still managed to bother me at times. The overall visual style of Jeanne D’Arc during gameplay is colorful and cartoony, so the big-headed characters fit within this context.

In fact, this is an example of some of the better graphics we’ve seen on the PSP so far. Everything runs smoothly, is free of any sort of glitching, and looks vibrant and visually pleasing. You can adjust the camera angle within limits to get the right angle on the action as it plays out, so walls or other obscuring architecture never get in the way. The effects of your attacks are also satisfyingly represented.

The attacks and special moves are what make the gameplay interesting. Each character can be developed and customized in compliance with the tactical-RPG bible as set forth by Final Fantasy: Tactics for the Playstation and, though we never saw it officially in the US, Ogre Tactics for the SNES. In Jeanne D’Arc you do it by equipping your troops with the jewels you find or create. The available customization allows you to construct your own stable of big-headed, 15th-century French killing machines. Equipped with all the best weapons and attack jewels, I nick-named my Bertrand "Destroyer of Worlds" about halfway through.

Jeanne D’Arc offers a few twists on the default tactics gameplay. The burning sites are locations that make your characters’ moves much more powerful. You or the enemy create burning sites by performing physical attacks. Say you use Jeanne to strike an orc that is facing you — the burning site will appear behind that orc afterwards. You could then place a character there and use it when you cast a spell to make it more powerful. Some of the characters can also transform, granting them heavily upgraded abilities and the awesome benefit of being able to attack again within the same turn following the defeat of an enemy. I told you this wasn’t your regular 15th century France.

The gameplay is enjoyable, but it doesn’t go to great lengths to distinguish itself from the ever-growing body of tactical-RPG’s out there. It’s certainly one of the better ones, and remains enjoyable throughout, but there is definitely room for more innovation in the genre. Jeanne D’Arc never really suffers for this, though. In fact, it’s nearly perfectly tuned for the PSP, presenting you with battles that proceed quickly, thanks to the inclusion of the transformation powers and a very high counter-attack rate, and are all set to end within a deadline of a given number of turns. At times I found this frustrating, as I would crush all the enemies but then be unable to reach a destination square with all of my characters in time. I found myself having to take some time out to level my characters at times as a result.

With a strong story, a main character that is actually pretty interesting, a very competent visual package, and gameplay that is enjoyable, Jeanne D’Arc is a solid tactical-RPG overall, and arguably the best RPG available for the PSP at this point.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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