#713 Jeanne d’Arc

Posted: 1st May 2012 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

142nd played so far

Genre: Strategy/Role-Playing Game
Platform: Playstation Portable
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Sony

Right, this is a bit unfair isn’t it. Not only does this game cross the generation line compared to Advance Wars but it also incorporated RPG elements into its turn-based strategy framework. Still Jeanne d’Arc is one of those list games that I have found myself drawn towards playing for a reason I have yet to ascertain. Heralded as one of the best games released on the PSP it boggles the mind completely that this never made its way to the PAL region. 

Thanks be to the region-free capabilities of the PSP which meant that after a bit of eBay bargain on an import from Canada this game made its way to the UK making us in a happy minority of European gamers to have our hands on a good condition copy of this game.

Our Thoughts

Games enjoying playing around with history. We mentioned this in our look at Defender of the Crown and considering the liberties taken here this is something that warrants mentioning. I am not even going to take issue with the inclusion of magic or the recasting of a great warrior as an anthropomorphic lion character who takes pleasure in saying his own name. Since Joan of Arc was canonised as a saint then placing England as the villains also makes great sense (it was probably our fault anyway) but it is the casting of Gilles de Rais as a hero that really jars. Why? Well he was hung for the rape and murder of young boys… true he was one of the big names in the fight against the English but Level-5 surely could have done their research. Be that as it is… I liked the mental illness of the English king Henry VI as being due to demonic possession rather than years of inbreeding. In case you hadn’t noticed yet, for the past three hours, rather than starting this write-up, Peter instead did research on the characters in the game. Wikipedia strikes again.

Okay so that’s another time I have had to don my historian hat and then remove it. It pained me to read that a child murderer was cast as a hero since this is the best discovery I have yet to make using this book. There are games we have covered on here that I have been more addicted to or view as better but since neither of us had actually heard of this game due to it not being released in the EU this is a true discovery if there ever was one.

The first thing that this has going for it is the engrossing story. Japan regularly takes reference from French culture in their anime (a recent example being the marvellous La Croisée dans un Labyrinthe Étranger) and Joan of Arc is France’s greatest heroine of all time. Around her they built friends and supporters with their own complex back story and personalities. This is married up with some beautifully animated FMV (similar to those in Professor Layton and the Curious Village) and well written dialogue where you begin to really care about the characters. Although to be fair here – the story plays a lot with the usual tropes (mysterious power, village burning down, having to leave and deal with strange armies… Sounds familiar? They even both have lovely anime-style cutscenes)

The gameplay itself also has a surprising amount of depth. Just like Advance Wars this is a turn-based strategy based around a gaming board. However, unlike Advance Wars here the gaming boards are fully three-dimensional including buildings, ladders and giant pink demons where applicable. Each character is also customisable with skill stones which dictates cosmic alignment (which then works the same way as elemental types in Pokémon), special abilities (like fireballs or swordplay) as well as supplementing areas such as accuracy and evasion. In this way you really can craft an ultimate team to support Jeanne herself. While probably not the best RPG system around – we’ve seen similar things in other JRPGs – but considering the groups of people you’ll deal with in one go and the focus on tactical stuff and deployment over individual battles, it seems to offer a good balance between the two – in fact, I’m glad you don’t have to set up larger armies in one go, as that would take a horrendous amount of time.

This is not even getting to the central feature of the story which, as any fan of history or Milla Jovovich, is that she was sent by God and receives messages from him. In the game this manifests itself as a magical armulet which allows her to transform into a holy warrior with strong moves and the ability to gain an extra turn as long as you completely destroy an enemy. The rules are not too complex but there is the ability to have Free Combat campaigns as a way to try out new skill combinations or just to make sure you level up your team before a major battle. Of course, as we see in most any family-friendly game, this isn’t God saying this – just a voice from above. Still playing it safe here.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be surprised if Peter’s writeup, in a few week, will mention this as his favourite game of the lot. He has been – I am not exaggerating – absolutely addicted to this game. And who can blame him? It’s a good game – not as indepth as true RPG fans make like, but a lot of fun, with a major focus on the tactical and a brilliant story told in a brilliant way.

Not to be burnt at the stake.

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