Jeanne d’Arc takes the classic French story of Joan of Arc and gives it fantasy twist, complete with a magic armlet and of course, monsters. Level 5 has developed a strategy RPG that will keep gamers glued to their PSP screens because of rich, vibrant visuals, and over all high production values just not seen on the portable.
Jeanne d’Arc starts out by telling the tale of the War of the Reapers, in which the only way humanity was able to fight an evil demon lord was to forge five armlets. The battle was won, but the demon lord was never put to rest. We learn that the (obviously evil) Duke has plans for baby Henry, later who we find is Henry the VI.
It may seem a bit off-putting to throw in these magical elements to a very over told story, but it’s the correct formula as the story in this game is strong.
Turn-based strategy games are not the easiest games to grasp, but Jeanne d’Arc does a nice job of giving the player helpful tutorial screens, and even goes as far as reminding them to save a separate game file when heading into a major battle. The game has a quick save feature (which is good to have) but once in battle, you cannot bounce back to the over world.
In your travels to rid the land of the English, you will come across 14 very unique playable fighters. From the start you have two friends from your village, you then gain the help of two men fighting for the French. Each has their own weapons, abilities, and classes.
One different aspect of this game is the skill stones you find. These are magical stones and come in four colors: red, green, purple and blue. Each stone gives you different types of bonuses, and allows for some varied strategies through the adventure. Choices here are really infinite, and you can change the skill stones to your hearts content. You will not find the type cast white mage here.
There are also three elemental powers, Sol, Stella and Luna. As you might expect, one power is greater than the other power, and so on, in a circular fashion. It is the tried and true system; it just does not use your standard earth, wind, fire, etc.
To even further your almost limitless possibilities, you can combine items and make more, using over 100 skill stones. This is really the type of game you can play a zillion different ways.
The battle system in Jeanne d’Arc is brisk, and is anything but monotonous. You will have different types of objectives, from kill every monster to your standard escort missions. You are also tasked with objectives such as not allowing so-and-so die, and you must do this in a specific amount of turns. As with similar games, attacking from the flank is always the best bet, and your location, and elevation, on the map means everything. The battle system is Jeanne d’Arc is quite fun to play, and the game is well balanced in difficulty – never feeling cheap or too easy.
Once you clear a mission, you may return to it in free battle mode. This allows you to level up characters, and find more items, such as the above-mentioned skill stones. There is also a coliseum in the game, which will put you through a gauntlet of harder and harder foes.
Although strategy RPG games are not reliant on their graphics, there is no doubt that Jeanne d’Arc is a much better game because of stellar production values. Voice acting in the anime-inspired cut scenes is above par, sound effects and music sound as they should in an RPG, and the in-game graphics are vibrant and crisp. The standard dialog scenes have nicely drawn character artwork, too.
Jeanne d’Arc is a title not to be missed for the RPG fan. It scores high in all areas, the only nit-pick being repetitive musical themes, but you have that in any RPG (how many times have you heart the victory theme in the Final Fantasy franchise?) Level 5, who is also responsible for Dragon Quest VIII, and the lesser known but equally enjoyable Rogue Galaxy, has crafted another RPG gem – this time for the PSP.
Jeanne d’Arc is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language.