After having so much delicious and headache-inducing Type-Moon material thrown at me, it was only a matter of time before I got Jeanne D’Arc for the PSP. Loosely based off of the story of Joan of Arc and developed by Level-5, the game follows Jeanne, a young woman whose village is ransacked by monsters and knights, the dastardly English! Well, technically a force of darkness that threatens the world. The plot starts out simple enough, but has a lot of twists for members of your party and the world that keeps you on your toes, and this obviously has an effect in battle too, from adding new enemies, to adding obstacles that try to prevent you from finishing your goal.
That said though, the plot twists can also slow down the game and kinda ruins the quick flow, but the damage is minimal at best, and I didn’t find myself hating the game.. Rather, I felt the story suffered from its side characters, the other members of your group who lack development and resolution. After the main game is done, most of them aren’t even mentioned again. But the main cast does do the story some justice too. Both factors tore my enjoyment a bit, though not by a whole lot and I was able to enjoy it all. Certainly was helped that Level-5 developed this, the same people who helped create Dragon Quest VIII and the Dark Cloud series.
Gameplay is your usual square-by-square gameplay. However, aside from buying items and equipment, skills are handled different. Each character has a limited number of slots saved for spells, extra passive abilities, et. There is also a rock-paper-scissors system with most enemies all over the map, adding new elements of strategy. Failing to take advantage of this element can make things harder or easier in the long run, considering that if you keep one element focused with the entire group to focus on a boss, its minions will easily pick off your group, so it’s meant for more crucial moments. Still, while the system is interesting, when you are over-leveled or facing against neutral foes, it doesn’t really matter and becomes a waste of a slot. However, there are other ways to balance this system, as magic also has separate elements of the system with them, and they also come into different types, so you can have your mages as one element while attacking with another, making them more effective, though the number of useful magic users is incredibly low.
Then there’s one of the main features of the game: the armor transformations. This actually serves as a plot point, as you go through the story, there are a total of five characters that can transform and boost their stats for a limited time, while also gaining new attacks that can help turn the tide of a battle. They can also breeze through the battlefield, for when they kill an enemy, they gain another extra turn, and this can be repeated until they only damage and not defeat a foe. There are even numerous gems you can gather to transform into stronger forms as well. And while it seem there is a very large arsenal of tools you can gain to gain an advantage, there is another thing to consider aside from leveling: a turn limit. Should you fail to clear the stage in a certain amount of turns, you will lose the battle, so while you might find yourself trying to level up or find hidden gear, you also run the risk of losing the game as well. And the AI isn’t too bad, attacking at good opportunities, though can easily rush to their death by attacking uselessly against super strong enemies. Combine all of this with many abilities and the ability to fuse and create powers, you have some addictive gameplay and numerous strategies on how to approach a situation. But while you can customize passive and magic abilities, you cannot really customize gear, usually only equipping a weapon, armor, and maybe a shield for some characters.
The game doesn’t lack extras here either, and can span to about 30 hours of gameplay or more, and that was without the end game content. While the game is linear with the story, there are side-quests to be found with stages that can grant more experience, challenge, gems, and even weapons. You can even go back to old areas to grind, in which everyone gains some, but not much, experience. There is even an unlockable coliseum for further challenge, especially by end game. However, the amount of content ends there, so if you were hoping for expansive quests that helped explain certain characters, you are out of luck.
Overall, Jeanne D’Arc is one of those games that is simply fun, and one I enjoyed more for gameplay rather than story. The story has some problems and pales in comparison to other stories I have enjoyed in tactics games, in that it didn’t quite engage me as much. Music and sound was fine, as were the voice actors and animated cut-scenes, but like I said before, it’s mainly the gameplay aspect that interests me here, and there are some enjoyable characters. It’s not the 5 out of 5 material I thought it would be, but it is definitely a solid 4 out of 5, definitely worth looking up on Amazon for a cheap price. The Playstation Network and Gamestop have priced the game for $25 though for download to your PSP, so a physical copy might be best to get the full experience at a cheaper price. I mean my UMD wasn’t in the best condition and it worked just fine.
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