Jeanne D’Arc is a weird and bizarre mix but in a good way. I have never been big on turn based strategy games, the first final fantasy tactics sort of bored me to sleep. However I was 10 and my attention span could only last for button smashing galore and jump scare games like the first resident evil games. Looking back, I don’t understand why I got scared from atrocious acting and cheap scares. Back to the main point, Valkyria Chronicles the other turn based strategy game sort of got me hook on the genre with its unique WW2 inspired universe. Ever since then I have been looking for a turn based game similar to that. Lo and behold Jean D’Arc seem to be under the underrated list of PSP games, as I skim through the list of gaming websites recommendations of games to be played.
To a certain extent, Jeanne D’Arc has some similarities with Valkryia Chronicles only in the inspiration and preparations before battle department. Both games draw inspiration from real life events but it’s very and I mean very loosely based on those events. That is where the similarities end, as this Jean has much more in common with FF tactics. As the title states, you play as Jeanne a girl whose home gets burn and destroyed by the English. Soon you on your way, collecting a merry band on a battle that will save France from a certain doom in the 100th year war. There are some real life characters from history but it gets slightly weirder with elves and animal humanoid creatures called Therion that populate England and France. Its fantasy elements at times feel out of place in its historical setting. The story is somewhat entertaining but predictable. Where the game truly shines is in its graphics and gameplay. It has a cell shaded look and various environments look gorgeous with its castles, forest dotted with the occasional streams. It looks amazing on the small screen. The square grids brings back memories of my first time looking at FF tactics and it would definitely bring back a sense of nostalgia for fans of that genre.
Before each battle, there is preparation phase where you can equip weapons, armour, and skills. There are a huge varieties of skills ranging from recovery, offense, defence to boosting stats. As the game progresses, there is also the ability to bind skills which create new skills. An example would be combining two Luna spirits would produce a blizzard, an offensive spell. There is also the standard elemental gameplay feature of fire stronger than ice or rock, papers, scissors mechanic. In this case, Sol is weaker against Luna, but stronger against Stella. When battle starts, killing enemies is not the only way of earning experience but also attacking them as well. Even using potions earns you experience.
Other than that, it follows the same trajectory as FF tactics except with the inclusion of armlet wielder, unified guard and burning aura. Certain characters are bestow special armlets that give them unique abilities once transform. It’s like Power Rangers or kind of and if you managed to kill your enemies in your transform state, you have one more extra turned. The burning aura mechanic is a unique take and attacking enemies produce a burning aura behind them. If you managed to get to that space, the damage given on your enemies is higher. There is also the ability of the unified guard by placing your characters side by side thus offering more protection on the enemies turn. The unified guard basically reduces the amounts damage taken or even reduced the likelihood of being hit thus providing some interesting tactical depth in the game.
It would take roughly 30 odd hours to finish the game and there is the inclusion of additional free stages for replay value and acquiring rare loot. Overall the new additions such as the burning aura provides some fun tactical battles. The varieties of scenarios also keeps the game from being stale such as only one of your characters has the ability to pop out ladders or bridges for your to cross to engage the enemies. Where the game does somewhat fail, is in its story. Some characters are very well developed while others felt like it was shoehorned just because it needs it. Like the occasional eccentric dude. The story as mention earlier is somewhat predictable but has its moments when it is entertaining. Overall, if you are looking for a decent turn based game on the PSP or the Vita you can’t go wrong with Jeanne D’Arc.
Sadly its only on sale in the US PSN store