|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Level-5||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 21, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Jeanne D'Arc is a legend. Before the game, before the countless movie and TV adaptations, there was one girl that dared defy her place as a woman. She stood up for her country and was hailed as both a national hero and a saint. Jeanne D'Arc became the hero of France at 17 years old when she led a vigorous military campaign against the English invasion. However, at the young age of 19, Jeanne D'Arc was captured and eventually tried and burned at the stake. But almost 20 years later, her case was reopened. She was exonerated, declared a martyr, and eventually canonized into a saint.
This iconic woman, who has inspired millions, is now the subject of an RPG from Level-5. And while we've all seen our share of terrible adaptations of the Jeanne D'Arc story, this one really gets it right. Although it's important to point out that the story features several fantastical elements, the history behind the legend is also a big part of the game's story. The sweeping story, combined with the engaging gameplay and beautiful visuals, make this game one of the most engrossing PSP titles I've played to date.
From the moment the first animated scene began, I was instantly swept away by the visuals and the storyline. The game begins with a beautiful anime-type cutscene showing the coerced demon possession of the young French dauphin. The animation quality is suburb, and the sound quality matches the scene. Normally voice acting is a big snag for me, but not so here. Voice acting is above average quality, and I was overly impressed by the total package, and I was only 5 minutes into the game!
I then went through some more story elements until I was able to try out what I knew would make or break the game: the battle system. But the good news is that the battle system is a perfect blend of old-school RPG elements. Even in the beginning tutorial phases, the battle system was fun and conducive to strategy. You might say that the RPG genre lends itself to strategic gameplay, but unfortunately I've seen a host of RPGs that require no thought at all. Luckily, Jeanne D'Arc does not fall into this category. You use rotating character turns to move and attack, and then use magic and special abilities to increase your power. You can also use Jeanne's special heavenly power to increase your power for one turn and create a chain of uninterrupted battle. All of these factors make the battle system very complex and engaging.
I know I touched on the visuals before, but I really have to say again that they are really great. And this not only applies to the animated cutscenes, but the in-game animations as well. The graphics, if I'm honest, are some of the best graphics I have seen thus far on the PSP. Characters are smoothly modeled, and landscapes are surprisingly detailed. I was honestly amazed by the level of intricacy put into the various locations in the game. Each one is extremely distinct. And I was definitely pleasantly surprised by the overall look of the game.
Another arena that this game definitely gets right is the sound. Voice acting is, as I said before, excellent. Some of the accents are a little weird, but it's forgivable since the game is supposed to take place in France. The music is also excellent, and I really have to say that the score does extremely well in portraying the mood of the game. There are a lot of emotional parts to this game, and the music really helps to bring these parts to life. And the good thing is that there are no simplistic or monotonous tunes here. Instead, the score is made up of complex and varied orchestrations you will definitely look forward to hearing as you play through this epic.
Controls are what you might expect from an RPG and will have you moving around and making menu selections with the analog stick. You'll also use the X and O buttons primarily for making decisions and using magic. There is a little bit of interactivity when you're casting spells or doing special moves, but the good thing is the controls don't get in the way of the gameplay.
And though all of these facets of the game contribute to its success, I feel I must return to the subject of the game's story to really explain why this game captured me the way that it did. It begins with an action packed possession scene, and the action doesn't let up for a second. By the half-way point in the game, it's amazingly easy to find yourself attached to the characters in the game. You'll find it impossible to put down, simply because you'll need to know what happens next. And that's what makes this game so special.
Overall, I was thoroughly enraptured by Jeanne D'Arc. It's a sweeping epic that has both the mechanics and visuals to make it a must-play title. I went into this game expecting the generic thoroughfare, but I was so pleasantly surprised. There's so much depth and emotional connection during this game that it's truly a privilege to play. I would definitely recommend this title to anyone who owns a PSP.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer