Jeanne D’Arc kicks brings together the real world story of the Hundred Years war, and mixes in some supernatural elements with standard RPG action. The game details the travel of Jeanne and her companions as they attempt to save France from the invading English and the demonic army that they have brought. Many trials and tribulations await them, as well as five magical armlets.
Part of the reason that I’ve been having problems putting this title down is the way it looks. Level 5 has brought some of the same style that they did for Dragon Quest VII to the PSP and it makes the game look downright beautiful. The maps are of a decent size and still maintain lots of the detail, both in the textures used on the tiles, as well as water and other doo-dads placed around the map (like bushes and trees). In my play of the game, I’ve not yet seen a map that felt like it was constructed like a level. They felt like places I would have to face an enemy in the real world, such as various castles, towns, river crossings, and forest ambushes.
The various characters are also very well done. Each character is a 3-D model rather than being a sprite (like most strategy-rpgs have done up to this point). Even the monster characters have a fair amount of detail done on them. Each character (enemies included) is easily recognizable at all the zoom levels and angles and the game doesn’t suffer from as much detail loss at the highest zoom level as I feared. This title was expertly designed for the PSP from the start, and it shows.
The game will pause briefly on some actions done in battle (like spells cast or transforming) as it loads the info from the UMD. I never found this annoying as the pause is usually for less than a second. It never occurs when you are moving, only during special attacks and placing your team on the field. This is an issue that plagued other straegy RPGs on the PSP, but you won’t notice it after a time here.
Adding to all of this are the excellent animated cut-scenes throughout the story. At the various critical story points, you are provided with dubbed anime scenes telling more of the story. Even better, as soon as you see the scenes, they are available to re-watch from the main options screen. As a visual package, this title shines on the PSP.
The sound and music are solid for this title. Music is background for the most part, and doesn’t have any stand out pieces or themes. It does play its part in making each stage tense and exciting.
The sound is nice during battles, and only some of the special attacks require loading of data from the UMD. I have not heard any voice acting yet during the battles themselves, but the animated cutscenes are fully dubbed into english. The voice acting is well done, though some of the French accents seem to be a little over done. As I play in places where I cannot always listen to the sound, I wish they had provided a subtitle option.
I don’t have much to say on the controls other than you won’t be fighting them on this title. The game is menu driven for all of the out of battle sections, and uses simple map navigation to select the areas you need to travel to. In battle, the only use of the analog stick is to change your point of view on the battlefield.
By no means is Jeanne D’Arc a complex or deep strategy RPG. Basic combat has you moving about the field and attacking using normal attacks and skills equipped to the character. The game rewards you for attacking from the side or the back with more damage done or a lowered counter-attack percentage. Each non player character in the game has an affinity (Sol, Stella, Luna) and each affinity is weak to another (Sol weak to Luna, Luna weak to Stella, and Stella weak to Sol). Your characters can equip skill gems that provide an affinity (Sol +1, or Stella +2) to help their spell casting powers, and/or attack and defend better against other affinities.
After the previous paragraph summary of combat, I hope no-one ran off from this title. The affinities and positioning for attacking are the most complex part of combat in this title. I did find that every map has a limit to the number of turns that it can be played before failing. This keeps combat moving, and prevents the player from artificially levelling up characters through healing and other support abilities. The average limit on turns is about 13 turns (some maps are as short as 8, others as high as 20.) This kept action moving and I found a couple of maps that I had to replay as I took too long to try and finish it. This does not mean you will encounter many maps that punish you for playing ineffciently.
Each battle requires you to meet a ‘Win’ condition – Get to a specific point, defeat all enemeies, etc. As is the norm, a ‘Lose’ condition is also specified, usually the defeat of your troops or Jeanne. One condition came up often enough I was extremely frustrated. ‘Lose – One of your party is killed.’ That condition meant that if I lost ANY of my men to battle, the map was done and I had to retry. This was extremely frustrating on several maps (and is repeated as an escorting of an NPC in at least one case.) When you see this condition, plan well. You may end up playing the map several times.
As a replay title, I’d play it again in a heartbeat just for the story. As I have not seen the end of the title (I’m in the middle of Chapter 4, which would be past the halfway mark if they continue to follow the real world story of Jeanne (with their own twists included.) When the manual and promotional materials report that there are 40 hours of gameplay in this title, they ae right. I’m at the 25 hour mark from playing side battles and combining skill gems to get upgraded abilities for my troops. Even if a replay mode or such isn’t available at the end, I look forward to revisiting this title again in the future. Much like the well liked Final Fantasy Tactics, this is a solid strategy RPG with a well thought out story. I will be returning to this world!