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Old 05-11-2009, 12:47 PM   #1
Daniel4802
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Allen, TX
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Daniel4802's Jeanne d'Arc review

I likely will not create another review, but this game prompted me to make one.

Story & Characters
Its very rare when a developer creates a title based on a historical event or person and mixes it up with fiction which results in a serious yet pleasantly enthralling story. I won't say much that already isn't known about the background but will add that for those who don't like whiny characters (who appear frequently as protagonists in many RPGs), you'll enjoy the mature theme in this SRPG. Lastly, the story portion of the game is above average in length compared to many portable RPGs.

In terms of characters, you can recruit 13 members, each of them providing a certain class role. Though boasting a small cast, they are all equally involved in the story to some degree. In regards to leveling a potent and diverse group, only 2 prove to become somewhat obsolete. Thus, Jeanne d'Arc does a very good job at giving purpose to characters both in the story and party. Overall, Rufus (high damage and HP) and Colet (high damage, evade, and critical rate) are arguably the best characters due to their high stats and effectiveness. Though, characters like Gilles and Rose are particularly nice considering they wield weapons that reach two units ahead, and thus, do not receive counterattacks from short-ranged opponents.

Graphics
If there was one game that reminded us how good hand-drawn art is, its Jeanne d'Arc. This is truly among the most visually attractive titles on any system. The highly detailed characters blend in beautifully with the rich, colorful landscapes that are uniquely designed. In addition, each character has their own animations as they run, attack, and interact with the environment differently. There are several anime cut scenes which are of high quality as well.

*Bad*If there was one area where character animation could have featured more variety was the "power-up" sequence prior to committing a technique or spell - each character had the same animation which was used over and over again. Additionally, one lack of character detail I noticed was that, when equipped, the shield for sword-wielders was not visually displayed.

Sound & Music
Although most of the game is text-based, you do hear character grunts and weapon sounds when performing an action, getting hit, or avoiding damage during battle. After each action, characters offer commentary via text messages unique to the situation. For instance, when an enemy does little to no damage to a party member, he or she may respond by saying, "Uh oh...things aren't looking good." This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the French voice acting is well done as each matches the respected personality perfectly. The music isn't stellar; however, each composition fits the theme well and, with countless samples, your ears are exposed to a good variety of songs.

Controls and Interface
As a turn-based game, everything is standard fare here with a few nice features. By tapping the O button under a unit in combat, you can see its movement and attack reach. Thus, you can plan your movement and organization accordingly. Hitting the Triangle button on a free square conveniently prompts an "End Turn" message for moments when you do not wish to issue further commands. Using the X button while selecting a unit will bring up its character information. This is not only useful in discovering an enemy's attributes, but also identifying which skill stones they possess. Lastly, the user-friendly menu allows quick access to move, basic attack, items, skills, transformations, and waiting. While in the world menu, the main points of interests are Shops available at key sites (where one can purchase anything from weapons, armor, shields, potions, and skills) and the Bind Skills option which is discussed later.

Battle Play
Three unique elements are featured in Jeanne d'Arc: Burning Auras, Unified Guard, and Transformation skills. After a successful basic attack, a Burning Aura will appear right behind the enemy. When a party member attacks in a tile with a Burning Aura, he or she will do tremendous damage. Thus, much of the strategy isn't simply getting behind a foe, but attacking from positions that allow a teammate to capitalize on these auras. Unified Guard occurs when a party member stands in proximity to one being attacked. Thus, the more members standing near the one being attacked greatly increases his or her chance to evade and slightly decreases damage received. Several characters, including Jeanne, bare a magical armlet which allows transformation into a powerful knight. During this state which lasts two rounds, your HP is renewed (if previously damaged), stats are increased, and you can perform special attack techniques.

*Bad*There were three noticeable and distinguishing features, one less impacting than the others. First, after performing an action, your character could not move. This may annoy some people, but on the other hand, it really made you strongly consider your tactics very carefully. Personally, this didn't impair my opinion of the game, but it was worth mentioning. Of the two that did bother me somewhat, was that after acting, you could not change the direction that your character faced which could make your member more prone to taking positional damage. Lastly, the Burning Auras really only benefited melee classes and not casters since the last place you'd want to place frail Richard or Claire is adjacent to an enemy unit.

Class Utility
In Jeanne d'Arc, each character assumes and maintains a specific class which - on the upside - makes the cast very unique and personable. With a small roster, and a limited number of class types, you will however know which characters to level as each will provide a certain crucial role dependent on the situation and map. For instance, tanks like Rufus will regularly use Skull Splitter to do high damage and temporarily debuff an enemy's armor. Other fantastic abilities include: Marcel's Sky Dart (targets any enemy on the map), Gilles' Sweep (targets a wide area), and Colet's Three Hits (hits an enemy 3 times in one attack) .

*Bad*If there was one aspect of Jeanne d'Arc that really drew criticism, it is that there is a significant imbalance between the usefulness of melee combat and offensive magic. In short, you really only need one caster whose main utility comes from the Mind Eater skill (which absorbs MP from an enemy) and the occasional Heal II (single target heal), Healing Winds II (group heal), and Revivify (resurrection). Magic damage, unfortunately doesn't scale well like melee damage. For this reason, the two strongest casters - Richard and Claire - are nothing more than support units who, compared to their melee-oriented associates, play very passive roles. Even healing spells at lvl 99 recover very little HP relative to a member's total HP. The most you can heal with Heal II is about 180 HP compared to the 322 regained from HP Recovery III when equipped on one of your tanks, Rufus. Thus, healing by your casters is merely supplemental, and only useful in very rare situations.

Next, many of the offensive AOE spells have a limited and bizarre target area which often times makes targeting multiple enemies impractical. For instance, Flame I has an area shaped like a 5-square diamond. Flame II, however, has the shape of a huge + sign. Meteor, despite its rather large area, rained down on random tiles making it pointless. For many AOE spells, unless multiple enemies coincidentally are lined up accordingly, you are simply wasting MP. Furthermore, the massive spells that target the entire screen, and require 260 MP to cast, do very little damage to warrant their use. Once considering all these shortcomings, offensive casting sadly doesn't have a role later in the game. The only real benefit of offensive spells is to use them for leveling your tanks against dragons, who occupy 9 tiles since you get XP credit for each tile attacked. Lastly, there aren't any AOE buffs or debuffs. Thus buffing several group members or debuffing multiple enemies in a single spell unfortunately isn't available.

Character Customization
Customization is very simple and upgrades are accomplished through obtaining skill stones in addition to new weapons and armor. It is important to note that you can only upgrade stones, and not weapons and armor. The vast majority of skill stones are class-specific, meaning that only sword-wielders can equip Counter II and, likewise, archers may use Range +2. In addition to random drops, the best way to acquire stones is through theft skills using the pair of rogues: Colet and Rose. You can either create a brand new skill stone, or further enhance one, by combining two stones. Some of the valuable skills that can be gathered are Exp Bonus IV (provides a 300% xp bonus), HP Recovery III (grants 30% max HP at the start of each round), Three Rounds ( provides a 50% chance to do 3 basic attacks per turn), and Godspeed (allows you to move and act again after landing the killing blow). Members can be insanely powerful, capable of disposing nearly an entire map with such skill stones, especially when making use of burning auras to do extra damage.

*Bad*I prefer and expect an immense degree of customization from console and portable RPGs these days simply because it adds a lot more depth beyond leveling, the story, and quests. In short, I like to be able to personalize members with a wide assortment of unique, utility-rich classes as well as weapons, armor, accessories, and skills through crafting. Although Jeanne d'Arc does a brilliant job with its simple customization approach, I simply desire a more extensive library.

Extras and Post-Game
Most of time spent after finishing the story is in the Coliseum as two new 10 rounds are available. In terms of side quests, there is really just one that you can do, and its only offered after completing the first round in the Coliseum. You can, however revisit every map in the world and, as a reward, receive numerous rare items such as weapons, equipment, and skill stones. If you are searching for the absolute best gear, doing the Coliseum multiple times is the place to be as the most powerful weapons, armor, and skill stones are available there.

*Bad*Although you can spend an awful lot of time redoing the Coliseum, I would have liked more side quests to extend the story and post-game portions of the game.

Challenge
Overall, the AI is very smart, and if you make poor decisions, expect the AI to provide a stiff challenge and go after your weakest member if given the chance. It balances the need for great items and strategy perfectly, IMO. Furthermore, the game allows you to revisit maps to level up and gain rare skill stones. Thus, you can set the difficulty according to your pace and degree of involvement. Also, since the game involves the vast majority of all members at some point, its advisable to level everyone. Although all my characters were lvl 99 (with the exception of two) well before I ventured to the final dungeon, you probably only need to be around lvl 45+ to complete the story if I recall as the main boss is under lvl 50. However, once you are lvl 40, and have at least one Exp Bonus III skill stone, getting to lvl 99 is easy since you can accomplish this feat at two certain maps. If you want to beat the final 10 rounds at the Coliseum, though, I would highly recommend that you do aim to reach at least lvl 90 as the last two rounds may give you trouble.

End thoughts
Anyone with a PSP should have this game in their collection. It will provide many hours through its engaging, mature story, colorful characters, gorgeous visuals and enjoyable gameplay mechanics with a decent degree of simple customization options. I bought mine off Ebay for under $10, factory sealed. If anyone doesn't possess this gem currently, I highly recommend picking up a copy. I give it an 8 out of 10.
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Anime:Ben-to, C3, Chihayafuru, Fate Zero, Guilty Crown, Last Exile 2, Persona 4, Shakugan no Shana 3 and Un Go.
Manga:Arachnid, Ayakashi Hisen, Beast 9, Crime Zone, Hitogatana, Kick no Oneesan, Gate 7, Last Game, Paladin, Taiyou no Ie and Uwakoi.
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