Jeanne d'Arc Review
As a game reviewer I've played a lot of RPGs. Save the princess, slay the demon, recover the ancient artifact, … I've done it all before. A few hundred times. RPG storylines have become so formulaic that you'd have a hard time telling some of them apart. Occasionally a game does make its way to my review pile that contains a spark of originality and doesn't have me searching for the button to skip cutscenes five minutes into the game. Jeanne D'Arc is one of those games.
Jeanne D'Arc is loosely based on the story of Joan of Arc, but you haven't seen Joan, I mean Jeanne, this way before. Sure, you've got the simple country girl who receives a higher calling to lead her people and a country teetering on collapse in the face of an invasion by a foreign power, but things diverge from history when you have orcs fighting on the side of the British and demonic powers manipulating the powers that be. However, Jeanne D'Arc is more than simply "Joan of Arc … with orcs!" A lot of care has gone into crafting a compelling story and in creating a world that's not the standard medieval fantasy kingdom of most RPGs, much to the benefit of beleaguered role-playing gamers out there.
The game's story is driven by some of the best produced cutscenes I've seen on the PSP. Colorful and vibrant anime animated sequences are interspersed with static conversational cuts and in-game animation to convey the events of a wider scope and then focus their impact on your characters and the inevitable next battle they must face. Some gamers may not appreciate the mix of styles, but I thought it worked well in this game.
All things related to the story aside, when it comes time to actually play the game you'll find that it is a battle-heavy, strategy RPG. Battles are fought on a grid overlaid on a 3D landscape and the opposing sides alternate turns until one or the other is eliminated. Factors such as facing, elevation, and direction of attack all have an effect on movement and combat and you'll need to approach each battle with sound tactics if you're to win the fight. Simply rushing to move your characters to engage the first enemy that you can reach is going to get you into trouble.
While the basics of the battles will be familiar to anyone who's spent some time with console strategy RPGs, there are a few things about the battles that are unique to Jeanne D'Arc. The first is a 3D camera that actually works well. You'll always be able to easily survey the battlefield and plan your moves because you can easily move the camera to give you any angle on the action that you need.