Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware

Jeanne D'Arc: History Not Included

Jeanne D'Arc is a new turn-based strategy game coming for the PSP from Level 5, the developers behind Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest VIII and masters of everything cel-shaded. The game is loosely (and I mean loosely) based on the story of Joan of Arc, who galvanized the French army and helped to repel the English during the Hundred Year's War.

About the only aspects of the story that hold any ties to the history or mythology of Joan of Arc is that she's French, receives a mandate from God and rallies the French against the British. Where it parts is that the British have allied with a group of demons and Jeanne (along with a few other characters) has the ability to summon magical armor using a special armlet that has fused itself to her arm.

Visuals are the first thing that really pops out about Jeanne D'Arc. The game opens with a beautifully animated sequence that fills you in on the game's backstory and introduces you to Jeanne and other supporting characters. This transitions to cel-shaded in-game visuals that come really close to matching the animated intro. Though they aren't a perfect match, the use of color and general style flow and work together really nicely.

Though Jeanne D'Arc is a Strategy RPG, it isn't as complex as other games in the genre. The grid-based movement and battles, special moves and other hallmarks of the genre are here in full-force, though the gameplay isn't nearly as daunting as other games in the genre, playing into the developer's goal of making a game that is accessible to a larger audience. However, long-time Strategy RPG fans shouldn't worry about the game being "dumbed down" in any way since it is still a challenging game. The only differences are in the approach and new battle tactics.

One of the simpler ones is that characters receive a defensive bonus whenever they are near an ally on the battlefield. The ability is very useful, though it leaves you wide open for attacks with a wide area-of-affect. Another addition is the "Aura" system that leaves an "echo" of an attack behind an enemy. If one of your characters is standing in the aura (which only lasts until the end of your turn), they receive an attack bonus.

Several of your characters are able to summon armor that grants them special abilities, as well as a major attack bonus. Armor can only be summoned after a character has earned enough points on the battlefield and only lasts for a limited time, but when it is on, the character is a force to be reckoned with. Not only are their attacks incredibly powerful, but if they kill a character with their attack, they automatically earn another chance to move and attack again. A number of strategies can come out of using their abilities, especially when combined with auras.

For players looking for more depth, Jeanne D'Arc features a skill stone system for upgrading your troops. All characters have a set of slots that you can equip with skill stones. These include passive abilities like stat and weapon bonuses to special attacks as well granting the use of spells and special moves. Skills can be plugged in to create characters that fill specific roles, though you can also experiment with how they relate to each other and create some powerful combos.

For as much grief as I tend to give the PSP, I have to give credit when it is due. It is great to see an original title hit the system that delivers a fun experience. Look for Jeanne D'Arc in late August.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.