Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jeanne D'Arc

GENRE: Role-Playing Game / Turn-Based Strategy
Parental Guidance Recommended
2007 Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc., Level-5 Inc.
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Cover Description:
Step into a colorful world on your PSP where history meets fantasy. Take part in a mystical story inspired by the legendary Joan of Arc, where players will explore a fantasy setting filled with ogres, dragons, and magical powers. The game brings numerous animated in-game cutscenes that bring the world to life. The game's background story begins far in the past, during a long war where dark gods attempted to use their demon armies to enter the human world. Five brave heroes create armlets to restrain the demon gods. You play as Jeanne as a 17-year-old girl. Voices encourage you to defeat the monster and take up the legacy and emblem of the five heroes. Together with friends Lian and Roger, you take up the cause to lead France towards victory against attacking demons and the English army. With more than 40 hours of 3D turn-based RPG gameplay, you will acquire multiple characters during your adventure and use them within each battle, combining skills to create powerful combat strikes. An intricate grid-based tactical combat system and colorful characters are brought to life through animated in-game cut scenes, set in a detailed magical world. Each character is associated with a specific weapon type including swords, axes, bows, knives, shields, spears, wands and whips Each character has the ability to use special skills exclusive to their weapon type. Discover powerful weapons as you progress through the game. Customize characters with more than 150 different skills and abilities, including magic spells and special attacks to boost overall stats.

Leaves you wanting more... >>> by skysenshi (04.29.2009)
St. Joan has always been a childhood hero. My dad is a devout Catholic and I was raised through stories of martyred saints -- many of them died gruesome deaths -- but it was always St. Joan that stood out. I've read about her sharp intellect and incredible tactical prowess. Incredible because she was a simple farm girl, who could neither read nor write, and yet she managed to lead armies through battle after battle before she was injured and inevitably sold to the English.

One of my students, who saw how obsessive I can be when it came to Final Fantasy Tactics, figured that I'd love Jeanne D'Arc and suggested that I rent the game. I savored every minute of it. Here, at last, is an interactive account of my favorite saint's life. Of course, one can't expect the game to be totally loyal to history, what with the talking frog, lizard soldiers and man cats scattered all over your battle map. I was wondering how they were going to end the game; we all know that St. Joan died on the stake after being accused of witchcraft.

The nice thing about history is that it doesn't contain all the lurid details, just a general overview of important dates and events. This fact gives the writers a huge opportunity to play with what could have happened behind the scenes. As with many fantasy RPGs, a good dose of magic and other mystical beings are inserted. A pleasant twist did surface, as expected, although I wasn't quite happy as it meant sacrificing my most powerful (and balanced) character at that time. This augmented history, however, has its ups and downs.

The characters, apart from being astoundingly beautiful, are interesting. Yes, even the talking frog. I got attached to nearly all of them that I had a hard time assembling my main party and just decided to use the armlet-wielders by default -- there are five magic armlet owners. I would just add two archers when a stage allowed. While I loved the gameplay and wanted to level up often just so I could lengthen my game time, I was also excited to see what would happen next.

The downside? The story was much too short. I was aghast when I realized that I was nearing the end of the game. I didn't want to stop playing. The events also got more peculiar halfway through. The writers stopped being subtle near the final battle and did something that would've been obviously recorded in history books had it really taken place.

As for the battle system, there are two things I loved in Jeanne D'Arc: (1) you can choose which characters should take their turn in whatever order and (2) the turn limits. The fact that you can choose-who-to-move-when-to-move during your turn makes for a more flexible strategy. Jeanne D'Arc is also one of the easiest tactics RPG that I've ever played, even though the classes and jobs are fixed. It's not about tedious level grinding, since you level up for every 100 experience points. The skills are also very useful, even when they cost a lot of MP to use. Both you and the enemy also auto-counter for regular attacks, plus there's such a thing as "Unified Guard", making your battles go faster. I suppose the only way to add a bit of challenge is to put turn limits, which I appreciated because I like thinking about how I can defeat a stage with as fewer moves as possible.

There are also end-game activities to do, once you're done toppling the evil force behind the war. I just wish I could do more than just harvest a few more armlet gems and, encountering powerful hidden bosses and such.

COMPLETION TIME: 40 hours (and more)
RATINGS: Gameplay 10; Battle 10; Story 7; Visuals 10; Characters 9; Sounds 8; Replay Value 9

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