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Jeanne d'Arc

For: PSP

Pure heroine

Product: Jeanne d'Arc | Developer: Level-5 | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, RPG, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: US
Jeanne d'Arc PSP, thumbnail 1
Racial slurs are an unavoidable part of life. Naughty jokes and political statements utilize these taboo words, often taken too seriously or, on the contrary, entirely too lightly. Never have they been taken as literally as in the case of Jeanne d'Arc, though. This dazzling tactical role-playing game brings to life the France of old and all the frogs which inhabited it.

No, really, the animal.

Presumably, developer Level-5 missed school on the day figures of speech and English history were taught because the game literally enlists talking frogs, along with a range of other creatures, in its reenactment of the Hundred Years' War.

But who cares when the gameplay that binds this work of historically muddled fiction together is this superb. Jeanne d'Arc may not rewrite the book on tactical role-playing, but it certainly shines as a quintessential example of the genre.

The game embellishes the events of the infamous aforementioned conflict, putting you in control of the titular heroine and her band of freedom fighters. Role-playing is the name of the game here, with the focus on developing 14 characters through the course of a lengthy campaign to rout the occupying English forces.

Hopefully the campaign will slake your role-playing thirst because it's the sole mode in the game – no multiplayer or additional single-player options exist. It's a sad note for an otherwise brilliant title, but the strength of the content that is offered more than makes up for this.

Like any role-playing game, you earn experience from battle and enhance your characters with new abilities and equipment, however, Jeanne d'Arc ditches traditional exploration elements in order to hone in on combat. To be clear, it's all about the battle system.

From the world map you can select from various stages and engage in battles, which occur on large grids superimposed on the environment. Each faction takes turns moving characters on the grid and attacking – more specifically, you move and attack with all of your characters in one turn. Once you've finished issuing commands to your party, your half of the turn ends and the enemy is then allowed to act with all of its characters.

Slow and methodical, the tactical battle system is a far cry from faster paced action role-playing games. Yet, it's surprisingly easy to learn, not least because the game packs in enough useful tool tips and tutorials to guide you through the basics of combat.

As you delve deeper into things, you're introduced to the more advanced elements of battle, such as customizable skill slots, and coordinating skill-binding system. Joining basic weapon attacks and magic are special transformation powers available to certain characters, the first of which is Jeanne herself, naturally. Transforming enables you to pull off extremely powerful attacks and take extra actions, although it only last two turns. Timing is important when transforming Jeanne or any of her allies, since it can sway the outcome of a battle.

The skill system, which consists of placing skill stones in specialized slots, adds necessary depth to character development. As characters gain levels, they earn additional slots in which to hold skills from any of four different categories: active weapon, latent weapon, magic, and status. In total, there are around 150 different skills, although the most powerful require binding two individual skills into a more powerful hybrid.

It's worth noting that compared to other tactical role-playing games, Jeanne d'Arc falls on the easier side of the spectrum. It's not a terribly difficult game and the core mechanics are pretty straightforward. But this is a good thing, especially when viewed alongside the heavy-handed rule-set of Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics or the needless complexity of Final Fantasy Tactics.

Other comparisons fare equally well. Judged against other games in the genre – or even the entirety of the PSP library, for that matter – Jeanne d'Arc emerges with one of the finest presentations yet seen. Gorgeously detailed environments, cute cel-shaded characters, and a consistently solid technical performance make it one of the most impressive titles for the handheld.

If there is an issue, it's with the game's frequent loading. Every time you access the character and save menus or enter battle you're forced to sit through a black loading screen.

Yet aside from this, Jeanne d'Arc doesn't suffer from any serious flaws. The lack of any multiplayer is a disappointment, yes, but it's easily countered by by the brilliance of the game's outstanding tactical gameplay.

Ultimately, even though it simply refines what other games have done before, Jeanne d'Arc does this with brilliant aplomb, warranting praise, demanding a play-through and gaining forgiveness for its misinterpretation of frogs.
Jeanne d'Arc
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 27 August 2007
Easily one of the best titles yet for PSP, Jeanne d'Arc triumphs not just in its fictional reenactment of the Hundred Years' War, but in refining the tactical role-playing genre with rock-solid gameplay
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