Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jeanne d'Arc

Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Aug. 21, 2007
Systems: PSP
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: The totally, absolutely, completely accurate history of Joan of Arc, told through anime and turn-based strategy. Plus: demons.

0:01 The game opens to a simple menu screen set on an ornately prepared table in a cathedral of some sort. I'm loving the orchestral music already.

0:02 Lightning rends the sky over a castle. A small boy that looks like a girl asks his uncle for a bedtime story. "I wonder if you have heard this story yet..."

A demon set his sights on the human realm, and set reapers to take it. The humans forged five magical armlets to contain the demon. Lord of the Rings much? Some beautiful anime battle scenes here. Top notch production values.

The kid's out cold. "Much time has passed and now England finds itself embroiled with France in a war that has lasted nine centuries. What an irony then that I must call on the fiends immeasurable power to ensure young Henry has a future beyond these troubled times." NO,! DON'T DO IT, YOU FOOL!

An armored knight tries to stop the sorcerer/uncle, but all he does is cut a hole in the summoning pentagram. Also: why is this guy summoning the dark powers in Henry's room? Doesn't he have a secret lair or something. "You were one of the five. How can you tolerate selling your soul to a monster like that?" "You were a dear friend once, so I will not end your life." Good voice acting here.

The soldiers' armband glows and he throws his sword at a demon that threatened to take Henry. The sorcerer insists forcefully that Henry "not be kept from his destiny." What destiny? Life as a cursed prince? "I do this all for the good of young prince Henry. Now he shall rule over this world as it's true king... for all eternity." Henry lets out a demonic laugh. I'm hooked!

Suddenly, the game switches to cel-shaded polygons and text boxes instead of voice-acted anime. The transition is pretty jarring. Phoo. Anyway, Jacques flirts with young Jeanne and Lianne at a festival. Oh, Jacques is their dad. Never mind.

Jeanne and her sis Liane get sent off to deliver an herb to the church, and find their brother in the woods while they're at it. Nothing good can come of this...

Jeanne and Liane gossip about Roger, who was awkward when he first came but now everyone loves him. No time for that, an unconscious soldier falls off a horse. More anime.

A glowing bag ensnares Jeanne and make her wrist glow. It turns into an armlet (another armlet, eh?). The horse indicates there's something in the saddlebag. It's a large purple toad? Huh?

Some sort of pig demon emerges from the woods nearby. And we're back to cel-shaded blockiness. A voice from the darkness: "YOU MUST FIGHT... TAKE THE SWORD......" See, Joan of Arc heard the voice of god. It's historically accurate! Except for the purple toad, I imagine.

Time for the first battle. You can move and then perform one action: attack, skill or item. A combat forecast appears before you attack an enemy telling you expected damage and counterattack. Don't like it? Move and try again. Very Advance Wars.

Attacking from the side seems to do more damage, so that's what I do. The damage forecasts were off by one, so it seems you don't have totally perfect information going in.

Liane's turn... she attacks with a stick and kills another one of the pig beasts. 30 G for the trouble and lots of experience.

Oh, there's one more enemy I didn't see. I make sure to keep out of his range. Luckily he walks into mine next turn.

Man, this orc is tough, but I manage to kill him without having to heal. I level up already? That was easy.

"Where did you learn to wield a sword." "I didn't... the strength came from the armlet. And that voice..." Roger was too late to help, delayed by his own demons as he was.

Back to anime briefly. The village is burning. Note to RPG characters: NEVER LEAVE THE VILLAGE! IT WILL BURN DOWN IF YOU DO!

No time to mourn for the dead villagers... there's an English soldier leading some orcs nearby. Time for battle!1

So far Rogers has missed with his first two attacks. What a worthless addition!

Roger finally connects, and it's the killing blow. "Kill them" the English soldier helpfully commands from afar. What gripping dialogue...

Mid-battle cut-scene time. The voice tells Jeanne to hold the armlet aloft to unlock its powers. And if the voice told you to jump off a bridge... would you? A Sailor Moon style anime transformation commences. Jeanne is now a super-badass knight. "This...power. Where is it all coming from." Er, the PSP battery? Super-Jeanne can move again if she kills enemies and has other special skills, but you can only transform for a few turns and once per stage.

Holy crap, Super-Jeanne does four times the damage! She's tearing across the countryside killing enemy after enemy in one massive turn! Yeehaw!

Uh oh... back to normal Jeanne. Good thing the enemy is all but defeated anyway.

Shift to the throne room of little King Henry VI. He loves loves kittens despite being possessed. That is all.

Uncle sorcerer, who's now a duke, is a little put off by the evil demon king he created. "I suppose even the weak have a role to play. Perhaps wishing painful deaths upon them might be a bit hasty," he argues. YA THINK?!

That large purple toad saunters by and agrees to come on the journey with us. It's OK, though... it's a well known historical fact that Joan of Arc consorted with large purple toads at many points throughout her life.

"I can take care of everyone if I need to. I have the armlet." Yeah, you proved that pretty well last battle.

More anime. Jeanne might be a badass warrior, but she's not above crying and cutting her hair short. "I can not lie down when they have trampled our honor." Chapter I: A Legend Begins.

The controls for the menus and world map and such are explained extremely clearly. Navigating menus is a breeze.

The world map is massive. This is gonna be a long game. My objective is to "head to Vaucouleurs," though I'm not sure why. I guess any place is better than my burnt down hometown.

In Vaucouleurs, Jeanne tries to convince Captain Robert that she hears the voice of god and should be let in the army despite being a commoner. He's not receptive, to say the least. "I don't have time to haggle with men like him," she cries and they run off to Neufchateau, where there's a battle a-brewing and no spare soldiers to fight it.

For some reason, Jeanne can't get her super armor to work in a cut scene. Good thing Bertrand and Jean run in and save the day and join our party.

Lots of new stuff introduced in this battle, including initial troop placement, power granting "burning auras" that appear when you attack, and "unified guards" that form when your party is close together. "A pact with friends is they greatest Aegis!" Wha?

I have a limited number of turns to finish this battle, but something tells me it won't be too hard... at least not yet. Also: There's an enemy named Lizardman. Someone tell Namco!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Great interface, interesting, well-told story and strategy that shows some signs of depth.

This review based on a retail copy provided by Sony.


PsyGuy said...

good review. so its actually good? :D interesting.

Aimee said...


That made me laugh a lot. :)

I loved Jeanne D'Arc. Great game.

Cyril @ Defunct Games said...

RE: psyguy

Yes, Jeanne D'Arc is "actually good." In fact, I would argue that it's actually great. It's a great portable RPG, and the story is actually compelling. Not to mention that the combat is nice and fast and the whole thing is streamlined. It's a really great game. It's Level 5, was there any doubt that it would be a great game?