If you look through the pages of French History you’ll more than likely come across the story of Joan of Arc. She was a young girl who believed she heard the voice of God telling her that she must unite her country and force the invading English out of the country. Level 5 and Sony Entertainment take this story and add magical armlets, demon beasts, and evil englishmen in Jeanne D’Arc with surprisingly solid results for the Playstation Portable.
Most of the story is fleshed out in a well made anime style cartoon. A demon lord was wiping out the country of France until a group joined forces with the aid of five holy armlets and sacred gems to seal the monster and its army for good. Unfortunately, one of the group decides that France has become weak and decides to release the evil and place the spirit within the up and coming ruler, Henry the VI. This leads to the destruction of Jeanne d’Arc’s home village of Domremy where one of the armlets secures itself onto her wrist guiding her to unite France and wipe out the invading evil.
You start out with two of your friends from the village, but you quickly gain allies as you progress through each of the battlefields. Most of the allies are traditional warriors or villagers that want to join your plight, but there are also mystical creatures that offer their assistance in interesting ways. Each character has a specific advantage, for example, you’ll come across a charismatic archer that is great for distance kills, and a lancer that can attack from two grid squares as opposed to the traditional one. In addition, characters with the armlets have the ability to transform into a more powerful character, but this ability must be charged and can usually only be used once during battle.
Characters level up HP and stats like traditional RPGs; however, the special skills of each of the characters are dictated though the magical skill stones they acquire. There are four different skill stones: red, green, purple, and blue. Red stones allow you to gain attack abilities such as multiple strikes or finishing moves. Green stones give its wearer the ability to cast magic such as lightning or fire. Purple stones offer counter attack assistance. Finally, blue stones provide an overall stat boost for defense and attacks. Skills are customizable at the beginning of each battle, but cannot be changed once the battle begins. Once you learn each character’s natural abilities, you’ll be able to fully utilize them and place the stones appropriately for maximum results. For example, we tended to give the weaker allies the ability to cast magic and the stronger characters melee and defense attributes. As you progress in the game you’ll eventually come across 150 different stones that you can mix and match into different abilities, but the most your character can hold are six.
As the story unfolds through incredibly long cinemas, you’ll eventually come to battlefields in between the story elements. Like most tactical strategy games the battlefield is layed out in a grid-like pattern where your characters can only move a certain distance before executing an attack, item or spell. The basic strategy is to wipe out all the enemies on the field without losing Jeanne, but Level-5 made sure to mix up the objectives with escort missions or saving certain individuals. The level of difficulty is further expanded by the predetermined number of turns a player has in order to complete their objectives. This forced us to really think about where to place our characters and what abilities were necessary to complete the battle. This game is no cake walk.
When battles are initiated you’re given the opportunity to equip and set abilities. You’re allowed up to seven characters at a time on the battlefield, but the remaining characters still level up with an experience pool. So you don’t having an imbalanced team. Once you complete a battle area you can return to the same area to level up your characters in a free battle or move on to new areas to progress the storyline. The advantage of the free battles is leveling up your characters and picking up rare stones.
The engaging storyline is well crafted through an incredible anime-style cartoon. Characters are well drawn and have their own distinctive personalities. The animation and voice work is top notch and the writing is bar none the best we’ve seen from an RPG in a while. We literally wanted to plow through the battles just to see what happens next. Fortunately, the story still unfolds while you’re battling through comical conversations between the allies and banter between the opposing sides.
This is a must buy for anyone seeking a well balanced tactical strategy game with an excellent story, incredible graphics, fast paced action and plenty of customizable skill sets.
- Overall: 9.0
- Jeanne d’Arc mixes history with fantasy in one of the finest strategy RPGs to grace the PSP.
— Jason Thomas