"Historically accurate? No, but who cares. This is one of the best SRPGs on the market today." True Score=8.4

User Rating: 8.5 | Jeanne d'Arc PSP
Portable gaming systems have always been known to have lots of quality RPGs and the PS1 was arguably the best system for RPGs ever. So you can imagine the pressure the PSP is under to deliver quality RPGs. Upon release, Jeanne D'Arc was the highest profile RPG for the system that isn't a port and garnered high expectations from gamers. As with any game carrying a lot of hype, some people will love Jeanne D'Arc while others might be disappointed. I personally enjoyed my experience with Jeanne D'Arc very much and am glad I decided to play it.

Jeanne D'Arc is not a game that is going to transcend its genre, but fans of SRPGs will find a lot to like here. Everything is well executed and there is just enough innovation to keep the formula feeling fresh. I also found the story and the characters contained within to be very charming with some surprisingly ominous moments. Jeanne D'Arc definitely has its quirks that can get old real quickly. I found them easy to endure though, considering the overall quality of the rest of the game.

If you're a sucker for SRPGs, you should definitely pick up Jeanne D'Arc, it is one of the better ones out there. However, if you are still undecided, read on and see if this game is right for you.

***Extensive Review, skip to the Conclusion for an overview of the game***

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Game Play 8.5
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Peripherals (Great)

>> As soon as you enter combat you will see one of the many colorful tutorials of Jeanne D'Arc pop up. They contain pictures that are aesthetically pleasing for the visual learners out there and are worded in a simple straightforward manner. These tutorials will pop up throughout the game as you encounter new gaming mechanics. I enjoyed the way these tutorials caressed you into the game baby step style; they told you what you need to know while not being overwhelming.

The camera is able to rotate in all necessary directions and zoom in and out. Thus, I never had an issue with it. Navigating the menus in Jeanne D'Arc is intuitive and thankfully you can save your game at any time. Mid battle saves (called quicksaves) work more like breaks as you are forced to quit when you take one and the data disappears once loaded. It is still a nice option to have though, as the battles in this game (and most SRPGs for that matter) can be quite long.

Exploring the world map in Jeanne D'Arc is handled in the same manner as most other SRPGs. You don't actually control your characters movements, you just move from location to location on the world map in straight lines. At each location you can enter to manage your party, shop, and/or save. While this method does work, there is a short loading time you have to endure when entering or exiting a location. I would have preferred it if you were able access a pop-up menu on the main map or something like that. However, this is only a minor nuisance and can be avoided with careful planning and pre-battle preparation.

Customization (Great)

>> Throughout Jeanne D'Arc you will acquire many different playable characters. These characters will each have inherent strengths and weaknesses and different skill types that are generally governed by what type of weapon they wield. For instance, sword users offer a balanced build, while as axe users are stronger and have more hit points; they are also very slow, and though staff users have increased magic power and magic points; they are weak to physical attacks and don't have much life. This makes each weapon wielder feel like a different job class, which adds a lot of depth to party development.

There are a few select characters who have the special ability to transform (more on this later) which makes said characters much more powerful than everyone else. And unless you are looking for more of a challenge, you'll probably be using all of these characters no matter what weapon they have equipped. While using the power these characters wield is fun, it also reduces the customization in party building. This is because near the end of the game there are enough of these characters to fill up most of your battle party. Fortunately, the customization is deeper than that and gives you a ton of options no matter how you decide to build your party.

At the center of Jeanne D'Arc's customization are gems (similar to materia in FF7 or runes in Suikoden), which grant spells, skills, and stat boosts. Each character will gain more gem slots as they level and by the end of the game will have quite a few of them. Combining this with all of the different gems you will acquire in Jeanne D'Arc gives you the power to build each character in a number of effective ways. You could use this to compensate for a character's weaknesses, enhance their strengths, or even grant them a plethora of skills/spells preparing them for any situation presented; the choice is yours.

There is an element triangle in Jeanne D'arc that functions in a rock/paper/scissors type format. Luna (water/ice) beats sol (fire), sol beats stella (lighting), and stella beats luna. You can boost a characters affinity to a certain element by equipping gems. This increases magic power of said element, but can also make you vulnerable to the opposing element and visa versa. All in all, there is a lot of customization in Jeanne D'arc and though it becomes more limited near the end of the game, it kept me thinking throughout. And that is the goal.

Battle System (Great)

>> For the most part, battles in SRPGs are extremely similar from one game to the next. At its core, Jeanne D'arc isn't much different, but it institutes some subtle (yet brilliant) battle mechanics that changes the SRPG blue print just enough to make it feel different. But before I get to that, I'll give you a quick rundown of the basics.

Attacks are executed in phases, so your team will take their turn and then the enemy will take theirs. With the exception of larger enemies (enemies that take up multiple squares such as dragons or some bosses) all characters will counter attack after being physically attacked. You can execute an action after moving, but cannot move after executing an action (this was quite annoying at times, but every SRPG seems to have some quirk when it comes to this that you just have to work around). Attacking enemies from the sides and from behind increases damage and accuracy, but differences in elevation has no effect. Now that we got that out of the way, let's move on.

When progressing through a battle in Jeanne D'arc, it is best to stick together. Aside from protecting your comrade's backs, there is another reason this is advantageous. If a member of your party gets attacked, but is one within 1 space of a teammate this will activate what is called "unified guard," which increases said allies defense and chance to dodge the attack. Unified guards will be stronger when more allies are involved. I found this idea to be really cool and more indicatory of how real battles would go down. It makes sense that having allies at your side should increase your ability to defend yourself.

Another innovative idea Jeanne D'Arc implements is "burning auras." Burning auras appear on the opposite side of an enemy whenever you attack them. If an ally is inside a burning aura they receive a significant boost to the power any action they execute. Manipulating the placement and usage of burning auras adds quite a bit of strategy to every battle in this game, another brilliant idea.

As I mentioned earlier, a few characters will receive the ability to transform. Each transformation (characters can learn multiple transformations) can only be used once per battle and only lasts a few turns, but they grant some spectacular powers. Most notably is "god speed," a power all transformations receive. What god speed does is awards the transformed character an extra turn every time they defeat an enemy. This is a devastating ability, and if used correctly can take down almost a whole enemy's squad in one attack phase.

There is a catch when experimenting with new ideas, sometimes they don't work out. I would say that this is the case with Jeanne D'Arc's turn limit idea. That's right, you have to complete every single battle within a specified amount of turns and if you don't you'll get a game over screen. I think the reason they implemented this idea was to push the pace of battles. And while it does accomplish said purpose, it felt unnecessary and I don't want to be rushed when playing a SRPG. Fortunately, you always have the power (via burning auras and transformations) to overcome this and it was rarely an issue. It is still very deflating to have to redo a battle because you failed to land the final blow within the time limit.

Variety (Adequate)

>> Being unable to explore maps and towns is common in SRPGs, but it always feels just as limiting. It restrains your ability to really experience the world you've been placed in. Despite this fact, Jeanne D'Arc does provide you with some outlets to escape the linear flow of the gameplay.

As you progress through the game various optional battles will arise. Optional battles sometimes yield very good rewards and are fun to do when you need a break from the story. Although it is just more combat, the variety present in these battles makes them feel quite refreshing. They range from the often-prevalent gladiator battles to having to help a dwarf catch his pet dragons that have escaped.

Part of the way through the game you gain the ability to create new gems by combining the old ones you have. I didn't find this extremely necessary for attaining new gems (you gain lots of them from defeating enemies), but it was a nice option to have if you are missing a gem you need. And it is always fun to play around with the system and see what combinations will produce what creations.

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Graphics 8.3
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Rendering (Decent)

>> The rendering for the environments is done quite well, but I can't really say the same thing for the character sprites. They are short and stocky with overly large heads, they all seem to have dark rings around their eyes as if they are severely sleep deprived, and are just generally ugly looking. Due to the smaller size of the PSP's screen this isn't as big of an issue, but it is still a significant blemish on an otherwise beautiful game.

Artistic (Excellent)

>> Jeanne D'Arc is a colorful game that is very aesthetically pleasing whether it's with respect to the environments, maps, icons, or menu's. There are also anime portraits for every character present in this game. They depict a wide spectrum of emotions and make it easier to overlook the lower quality character models. You can tell a lot of attention to detail went into this part of the game.

Special Effects (Great)

>> All of the FMV cut scenes within Jeanne D'Arc are done in anime and top-notch anime at that. These sequences occur regularly throughout the game and look great on the PSP's crystal clear screen. The skill/spell graphics also look quite crisp and clear and usually involve some sort of explosion of light. This is also their biggest downside however, as most skill/spells look very similar and never felt very grand in scale. During attacks/counter attacks the game did not zoom-in or switch to a different animation screen like many other prevalent SRPGs do.

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Sound 8.7
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Music (Excellent)

>> I absolutely loved the music in Jeanne D'Arc. It was composed marvelously and utilized a lot of my favorite instrument, the violin. The game stuck with the same battle music throughout most of the game, but I didn't even care because it was so beautiful. The music in story sequences was also fantastic and always true to the moment.

Sound Effects (Great)

>> Ordinary noises such as footsteps sounded proper and more dramatic noises such as the clashing of iron and flashes of holy light were satisfying. All of the other background noises that go with menus and such sounded good as well and I never remember anything sticking out in an annoying manner. The sound effects did suffer from the same problem as the spell effects. That being that there were to many rehashed noises, but overall this was another job well done.

Voice Acting (Adequate)

>> The characters in Jeanne D'Arc are all French, and thus so are their accents. Similar to a children's book, each character also has some little distinction in the way they speak. The voice actors did a great job of pulling this off and making each character feel unique. Some of the voices were plain annoying though and the flow of conversation didn't always seem natural.

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Story 8.0
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Plot (Great)

>> Jeanne D'Arc is based loosely off of the story of Jeanne of Arc, the heroine of the French Revolution. And when I say loosely, I mean really loosely. The story starts off with Prince Henry (the prince of France) being possessed by a demon. Shortly thereafter, the rural town that Jeanne lives in is attacked. In the fray Jeanne comes upon a horse carrying the corpse of a knight. In the knight's pack Jeanne finds a purple frog and an armlet, which instantly attaches itself to Jeanne's wrist. Using the power it has granted her, Jeanne is able to fend off the fiends which have attacked the town and sets off on the adventure to cement her legend.

First, let's get one thing straight, if you attempt to validate the story of this game juxtaposed to that of the actual tale of Jeanne of Arc you are going to be really unconvinced and disappointed. If you take Jeanne D'Arc for what is though, you'll find this to be a very charming fantasy adventure with a lot of heartfelt moments. And though it seems straightforward and lighthearted, I was surprised to find that this story has some very unexpected and darker twists. By the end of the game I found myself pleasantly surprised and fulfilled, something I wasn't expecting given some negative things I had heard prior to playing this game. The moral of the story is to keep an open mind and you might enjoy the story as much as I did or maybe even more so.

Presentation (Good)

>> The story in Jeanne D'Arc is presented in the standard SRPG format; this being cut scenes and story sequences between encounters and the occasional battlefield banter. At some points the pure volume of story presented can become a bit overbearing, but for the most part a good balance is struck between the story and gameplay.

Characters (Good)

>> This is the subject of much controversy in the world of Jeanne D'Arc. I know people who have grown to resent this game primarily do to its characters, while others find the game to contain a terrific cast. I fall into the latter category, but I also see why others feel the way they do about the characters. Despite some superficial fabrications (such as a manner of speech or appearance), some of the characters in the games rather large supporting cast do not have a whole lot of depth.

I personally found the primary antagonists to be very deep though (Jeanne, Lianne, and Roger). They were all very tight and committed to each other, yet still had moments where they fell victim to their human emotions. By the end of the story I found myself very connected to the characters, especially Roger.

The greatest flaw in this game may be some of the reappearing mini bosses you have to fight, especially with respect to one enemy you have to deal with for what seems like most of the first quarter of the game. It doesn't help that this character, Talbot, is one of the most ridiculous enemies I've ever faced in a game. He doesn't seem to have any real rhyme or reason for being the way he is or having such a beef with you and constantly spouts out pointless lines of supposed wisdom that make no sense at all. It is really hard not to hate this guy and even worse you can't avoid him. Still, I didn't find enduring him that hard and once you get past him (which happens pretty early) the game definitely gets more enjoyable. There are some other reappearing mini bosses post Talbot, but I found them to be much more interesting.

Writing (Adequate)

>> As I mentioned earlier, the writers gave each character a unique twinge to the way they speak. For example, one character will have a lisp while another might talk in third person. This did succeed at lightening the mood and adding some extra charm to the characters, but in general I felt it was overdone and it got annoying relatively quickly. The games script was written at a standard reading level and read smoothly, though it wasn't extremely witty. The translation was done well and I don't recall any errors.

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Value 8.0
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Main Story (Great)

>> The primary story line in Jeanne D'Arc will last most about 25-30 hours. This is slightly above average for a SRPG, great when compared to games of other genres, and excellent when compared to other PSP games.

Extra Content (Adequate)

>> The sidequests in Jeanne D'Arc are pretty much limited to the optional battles the game offers you from time to time. As I touched on earlier though, these battles offer a good variety of situations, are fun to do, and rewarding. And each time you complete an optional battle you can do it again at an increased difficulty level, which is great if you are looking for an extra challenge. Unfortunately I did not find the optional battles to yield more rewards on successive runs.

Replay Value (Good)

>> You can experience most of what Jeanne D'Arc has to offer in one playthrough and I personally was not drawn to playing it again. However, there is a New Game+ option and it will take multiple playthroughs to unlock all the characters. So if you did find the game engaging enough to take it on again you will have some added incentive.

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Tilt 8.7
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Immersiveness (Great)

>> As a guy, it can be hard to get into playing the role of a woman, but the courage, bravery, and conviction Jeanne displays from the beginning of the game makes it a lot easier. It doesn't hurt that she is beast on the battlefield either. So while this was one of my major concerns entering the game, I actually found Jeanne's role as the main character to be a definite strength and it was easy to connect to with her.

The world in Jeanne D'Arc is a fantasy world containing your standard mix of talking animals, dwarves, elves, dragons, and demons. There is a lot of charm to be found here, but for a medieval world I found the cuteness of everything to be a little disgusting. I can definitely say this wasn't the case for most enemies though. The dragons were fearsome and greater demons looked formidable while still maintaining unique aesthetics. It is always more satisfying to defeat enemies that have some style and look the part.

Fun Factor (Great)

>> The aforementioned subtle changes made to the SRPG formula (such as burning auras, unified guards, and godspeed) in Jeanne D'Arc make playing this game feel fun and fresh throughout. These innovations cause you to think from a slightly different mindset than other SRPGs and push the pace of battle. The firepower you are provided with in this game makes it fairly easy, . You could increase the difficulty by not using all of the transformation wielding characters, but where's the fun it that?

Jeanne D'Arc also suffers from some pacing issues. Throughout the story of Jeanne D'Arc you will encounter several events that will leave your party fragmented. Meaning that your party will be split up or you'll simply loose certain characters for an extended period of time. Sometimes it is nice when games do this, because it causes you to explore the usefulness of other characters, but Jeanne D'Arc definitely took this idea too far. In about the second quarter of the game you will be stripped of almost ALL of your best characters due to how the story plays out. And your party is never fully complete until the last quarter of the game or so. This is really annoying and does affect the flow of the game significantly.

Feel (Good)

>> From a technical stand point Jeanne D'Arc is a sound game. I don't recall any glitches in the graphics or sound and there is never any slow down. The loading times were fairly fast as well. They only got annoying because you encounter them whenever you enter a town to view your character menu.

Jeanne D'Arc didn't really do anything special in terms of nuances or realism from what I recall. When characters changed equipment, it didn't show up in their character model and so on. There were a few things you could interact with in the environment throughout the game, but they were rare. This is an SRPG without environmental exploration (other than what goes on in battle) though and this is to be expected. It doesn't detract from the game too much.

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Conclusion
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Pros

+Innovative implementations to the battle system make encounters feel fun and fresh throughout
+Great customization with a lot of variety
+Charming story balanced perfectly with some surprising ominous twists
+Excellent musical score
+Colorful visuals

Cons

-Reappearing mini bosses, most significantly the infamously hate-able Talbot
-Disproportioned and generally ugly character models
-Story events cause your party to be fragmented for most of the game
-Lack of investigative exploration that always feels limiting in SRPGs
-Turn limit in battles is unnecessary and annoying

Gameplay (20%) – 8.5
Graphics (15%) – 8.3
Sound (15%) – 8.7
Story (20%) – 8.0
Value (15%) – 8.0
Tilt (15%) – 8.7

Total Score – 8.4

>> Jeanne D'Arc is not historically accurate…at all, but it is a very enjoyable game. Simple innovations made to the SRPG formula result in an experience that I can only describe as just plain fun. There were also some poor ideas implemented in this game, such as a turn limit in battles and reappearing mini bosses. However, these things were really only an issue early in the game and even then outweighed by everything this game does well. Similarly, Jeanne D'Arc's story got better as the game progressed and surprised me greatly with some cut throat twists. Predictably, everything got back to good eventually, but the way the story played out made me feel fulfilled once it was over and done with. In summary, I encourage you to play this game with an open mind and endure any frustrations you might encounter, because you will be rewarded handsomely.

My recommendation is to buy this game if you enjoy SRPGs; Jeanne D'Arc provides a fun and unique experience that you'll remember no matter how you feel about the game.

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