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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Jeanne D'Arc
(Sony for PSP)

By Michael Palisano

Sony's Jeanne D'Arc for the PSP is a unique role playing title where players command the legendary heroine as she attempts to liberate France from the invading English army. Mixing history and fantasy, the game takes her story and adds fantasy elements such as demons and magic to create a unique experience. Jeanne D'arc's beautiful graphics are bright and colorful with a number of elaborate anime cut-scenes that bring players into the action. This is definitely one of the better PSP adventures we've seen on the system to date, so join us as we step back in time and relive her glorious adventure.

Set in the 11th century, Jeanne d'Arc puts players in the famous shoes of the famous French liberator as she embarks on her calling to liberate her country from the invading masses of a crazed English King. The storyline is loosely based on the historic events, but adds some history and magic to the proceedings to give things a kind of fantasy edge. All of the characters are loosely based on actual historic figures to a degree which helps to give the game's fantasy elements a bit more heft. After you finish the elaborate opening scenes, the game itself begins as a fairly standard RPG, with players commanding Jeanne and a group of her allies through a series of turn-based battles. Jeanne d'Arc is obviously the main character of the game, but there are other players you'll encounter who can become your allies and fight alongside you. As you go deeper into the game, you can command up to seven players in a single party, which gives you a great deal of flexibility during battles. This allows you to use different character for different functions. For example, you can send the stronger character out ahead to do battle and protect the weaker characters, or flank to use to smaller groups to attack different enemies on the battlefield at the same time. The controls and interface are fairly easy to use, and most of the menus and items are self-explanatory. There are also onscreen tutorials that appear early in the game so you can learn the basics easily.

Once you are in battle, you'll find that there are lots of options at your disposal. You can place individual characters at certain points on the field of battle, which gives the game an interesting strategic layer where you need to use command tactics to beat your foes. You have the usual selection of power-ups and extra items to use, such as herbs to power-up your character and magic spells. The gameplay is fairly standard RPG on the surface, but adds team-based attacks, special transformation abilities and tactical gameplay to give its gameplay an immediate appeal. One of the cooler aspects of Jeanne's play system is the ability to create force shields when multiple characters at close range. When this happens, enemy attacks inflict less damage, or they may even miss causing no damage to you at all. Another way you can dispatch enemies quickly is by using the break points, which means setting your character to the opponent's vulnerable side, where they can't defend themselves. Your attacks at these points of the game cause much greater damage. One of the coolest weapons you can use is Jeanne herself. Once per level, you can use her special divine powers to transform her into a stronger armor clad warrior. When she is in this mode, her attacks cause much greater damage. As an added bonus, when she destroys an enemy, she gains another turn, which allows her to take out multiple foes before they can have a chance to counter-attack. While this is generally used only once per round, and ends when Jeanne loses her transformation energy, she can do this multiple times if she earns enough energy. In addition, as she gains powers and levels up, the damage she can inflict in her super-powered mode increases dramatically as well. Players will find the individual stages follow the traditional turn based structure, where you alternate between your side and the opposing side, though some levels limit the number of turns per round. Each round also has a number of secondary objectives, such as getting through the level without losing a character or defeating all the foes that must be finished before the round has been beaten. In between battles, players can also go to the onscreen world map, where they can journey from city to city and also equip their parties with various weapons and items for the battles ahead. The game's structure and controls are fairly easy to understand and navigating the menus and selecting which options to use is a fairly simple task.

Joanne d'Arc is a fairly simple game to play and its difficulty is fairly average for the genre. Most of the intermediary foes won't pose much of a challenge, though the end of level characters and bosses put up more of a fight. The game unfolds at a fairly good pace with a good balance between battle sequences and narrative/cinematic sequences. Obviously, the later stages are more difficult, and this is where you'll need to strategize and figure out when its best to use Jeanne's transformation abilities - should you hold back and save them until you encounter a boss, or use them early on to rush to the boss battles. You also need to spend a lot of time learning to use the team effectively, balancing each member's strengths and weakness to create attacks while also using their unified stances to shield your party from attacks. Jeanne d'Arc gives players plenty of options and things to think about but this doesn't mean things are overly complicated. Like the best role-playing titles, Jeanne d'Arc offers a fast, somewhat breezy role playing experience that strikes a good balance between RPG conventions that won't alienate hardcore players by being too watered down or causal gamers with overly complex mechanics and obscure commands. There's just enough strategy overlaid on the battles that keeps this from becoming monotonous, which gives the game a tactical edge that makes for an appealing game overall.

The developers did an excellent job in creating the world of Jeanne D'arc which unfolds in a vivid, brightly colored world that is rich in detail and animation. Most of the action takes place in a top-down angled view and the game allows players to spin the viewpoint around and zoom in slightly in order to see a better view of the action. The default viewpoint isn't always the best, but being able to switch the angle helps when you are planning out your next move. The visuals themselves look very good and utilize cel-shading and elaborate backdrops to create a good looking title that mixes anime with more traditional styles to create a unique look for the game. There are a number of elaborate cinematic cut-scenes in the game as well, which are quite effective in bringing the game's story and plot to life. Jeanne d'Arc's soundtrack is excellent and the game's use of voice acting is excellent as well. Overall, the game offers a polished, aesthetically pleasing experience that makes it look and feel as good as you'd expect a title on PSP.

While some of the elements seem a bit odd when you look at them, such as mixing history and fantasy, Jeanne d'Arc successfully blends these different approaches to create a unique and interesting role playing adventure. The gameplay is fairly interesting and offers some interesting twists on the somewhat stale genre while not falling too far outside of the conventional expectations. It offers a decent mix of solid role-playing with some tactical strategies and an unconventional transformation system that keeps things from becoming too predictable. Jeanne d'Arc is a good and entertaining title that offers an interesting hybrid between historical and fantasy adventures. It's simple approach and interface makes for an engaging and enjoyable role playing game that stands out from the pack.


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