Jeanne D'Arc
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-09-18 PSP Strategy/RPG T (Teen) Level 5 / SCEA

RPGs with tactical components are quite fun, or at least I think so. Ever since Shining Force, having little armies with different characters, each with their own special abilities and weaknesses, makes my delights.

Jeanne D'Arc caught my eye for its similarities with Final Fantasy Tactics, a game that pretty much consumed me over a summer a while back. Jeanne went with me on a trip to Europe, and I can honestly say that I didn't feel like playing anything else while I tackled it, regardless of the work load piling up.

The game is based on the events surrounding the famous tale of Joan of Arc and her efforts to lead the French to victory, but with a fantasy twist where monsters and beastmen exist. It seems that little Henry VI is possessed by a demon, and his counsellor is conjuring the dark forces to fight for the English. In the middle of the turmoil, Jeanne's village is burned to the ground. She finds a mystic bracelet with divine powers, and with two companions she sets off to save France and meet others who will join her cause along the way.

Presented in a mix of anime cutscenes, text dialogs and battles, the story will unveil itself little by little, presenting historical names and places, but also plenty of fictitious elements and plot twists.

The cast of characters contains everything from knights to elves with a thing for alliteration, archers, swordsmen and beastmen. They are all easy to spot in the battlefield, since each has a unique look.

The battles allow you to use only a certain number of party members, so you must pick what you think will fit best for the fight. You can look around the battlefield to see your surroundings and how many enemies you have. Each character and enemy has a health meter floating above their heads, and you also have a function that shows you your characters' movement range and attack range.

Basically, you move, approach the enemy and strike. But there is more strategy to it than combining close and long-range attacks, and since you have a limited number of moves, you must use them to your advantage. There is a Unified Guard system that happens when your characters are in adjacent squares, giving them a defense boost when under attack. The more people together, the better. Obstacles on the battlefield maps, such as houses, walls, trees and hills can give you a strategic advantage (or disadvantage) as well, changing your way of attacking. Striking from behind and the sides also gives you a tactical advantage.

Another combat feature that comes in very handy is the Burning Aura. Burning Auras show as shining yellow circles and give you a good attack boost for either physical or magical attacks. When you attack an enemy, the square directly behind it will turn into a Burning Aura. This also happens when an enemy hits you, even during counterattacks, so enemies too can take advantage of this feature.

Jeanne's divine powers come from her bracelet, which can be activated once per gem, per battle. Each gem allows for one transformation. While transformed, she can run around doing some serious damage, and every time she kills an enemy, she gets another turn. You can seriously turn the tides in your favor in what seem to be impossible odds by transforming characters wearing these special armlets. Yes, because aside from Jeanne, there will be more heroes.

Character customization is available through armor, weapons and skills. Skill slots increase every five levels and you can combine physical attacks, magic spells and passive skills (MP, HP, defense, attack, accuracy and more). There is also an elemental component (Sol, Stella and Luna) that dictates which element has more power over another. You can also find items and skills from loot and shops (not all stages have shops though), but you will be able to experiment combining skills together to create new ones.

I took too long to write this review, because I like the game so much that I didn't know what else to say except "I love it". Everything from the colorful presentation, the anime cutscenes, the chibi-style character sprites, the battle elements and even the somewhat fake French accents in the voice acting drew me in right from the start.

Jeanne D'Arc is a great take on a great piece of history, resulting in a great game and a must-have for any PSP owner.

Special thanks to Tania Kingsrud and SCEA for providing a copy of this game.