Jeanne d’Arc


Title: Jeanne d’Arc
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: SCE
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Genre: SRPG
ESRB: Teen (13+)
Release date: 2006 (JPN), 2007 (NA)

This game has won hands down right from the start. Why? Because, it has a female lead. Female leads are AWESOME. So there.

But to take things more professionally, I do suggest that there should be plenty of good reasons to dub Jeanne d’Arc a good game. Yes, I would object if people were to give it a ten, but I’d beg to differ if they rate it lower than six. If they do, I shall declare it perfectly rational to start questioning their sanity.

To begin with, I’ve always got a thing with SRPGs; these chess-emulating battle simulations can deliver battles and skirmishes in a far more epic manner than traditional console RPGs could ever dreamed of. There’s something sublime in those acts of moving your characters one by one slowly about a wide combat map… it is a sensation every gamer should savor. I take it that an average RPG gamer should have played Final Fantasy Tactics at least once. You don’t have to beat the game, but at least you’ve played it. If you haven’t, go do so now. Buy, rent, borrow, or steal. Whatever it takes.

Now, returning to the game we’re reviewing, Jeanne d’Arc offers you, as the name suggests, an exhilarating ride through French history. It is to present a dramaticized historical event: the rise and fall of Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431)—also known as Saint Joan of Arc—a Catholic saint that reportedly claimed that she’s been hearing the voices of God. She then went on to have this God guy guiding her into leading the French through the Hundred Years’ War, before (alas) the English captured and burned her at the stake. One of those “based on a true story” kind of thing.

But of course, this is no history class. Our friends at Level-5 twisted, spiced up, and toyed with the story a little.

A very late review, but after all, it’s not meant as a professional guide that aids game-purchasing considerations (seek professional reviews for those), but rather a post-game afterthoughts.



Contents

  1. Technical stuff
    1. Graphics
    2. Sounds
    3. Gameplay
    4. Replay value
  2. Plot
    1. Plot overview
    2. Characters overview
    3. Plot analysis (spoilers)
    4. Characters analysis (spoilers)
  3. Final verdict
    1. Scores
    2. Impressions
  4. Credits

Technical stuff


Graphics

I don’t think people take graphics seriously anymore; they don’t have to, and indeed they don’t. The influence of graphical presentation was at its pinnacle around late ’90s, where the then-novel 3D graphics were creeping about. Today it has grown so much to the point that high-end visuals in a game is no more a phenomenon. What, you’ve got a nigh-realistic graphical presentation in your game? Big fucking deal. Not to say graphics are unimportant, but it is now receiving the same treatment we’ve been giving to the a game’s sounds and music: enthusiasts may pay extra attention to it, but mostly it goes unnoticed. What’s more amusing is people tend to value 2D and stripped down visuals more these days—as an artistic choice rather than a sign of a game being low in budgets— elevating the status of graphics from polygon wars to pure aesthetics.


A fancy familiarity.

Jeanne d’Arc employs cel-shaded, anime-style graphics; so it counts as one of those games with minimalist graphical approach (in a sense that it does not pursue realism—cel-shading is very complex programming-wise). Also true to the cel-shaded, anime-style traditions, its characters are chibified and it provides anime sequences as its cinematic device (in which the characters are, true to traditions, not chibified).

The in-game world is colorful with just the right amount of details. One might say that it reached the level where the graphical area is virtually perfect for the purpose to which it is intended, and I’ll wholeheartedly agree. No complaints from the graphics area.

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Sounds

The baroque, medieval-esque music isn’t something memorable, but is solid enough so that you won’t hear any disappointed looks aside from gaming audiophiles. It does an excellent job to spice up the moments, despite not being able to draw the attention to itself. I personally hate the gloomy overworld map theme, but overally, good, but not great, for the music department.

The dub, however, is a different story. I’m not the type to complain about dubs—fact is I find Japanese dub purists to be quite a pain in the ass—but unfortunately I must suggest that Jeanne d’Arc‘s dub is rather below average. Well yes, it is understandable that since the Hundred Years’ War was about the French against the English, maybe someone would feel the need to thicken each side’s accent; i.e. giving Jeanne and her posse English dialogues with rather silly French accents. The developers felt that need, and they did so. Sadly, but not all that surprisingly, it turned out to be quite ridiculous. Sure it’s somehow cute to see a hotheaded teenage fox like Jeanne beating the crap out of the Englishmen with that accent of hers, but it’s still something that can be avoided. Plain American English would be fine. Not really detestable, but still.


“Fow de fweedom ofh Fghwance…!”

See, Jeanne is adorable.

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Gameplay

There exists some sort of a blueprint for SRPGs indeed, the results being games that adhere to such blueprint won’t be too different apart. It’s the familiar stuff; you have an overworld map that’s not physically explorable with options to pay a visit to towns and dungeons (for free battles), you get to access shops in the same fashion, you have the MOVE-ATTACK-SKILLS-ITEM thing for the battle system, and so on. But then again, the secret of a good work of art is the right mixture of familiarity and novelty; so a trope is not essentially a bad thing.

Thence the real fun is in the details: on how they invent their own battle mechanisms to accompany the big picture. Among those novelties are;

Limited turns
Each battle has a limited number of turns, so slacking off too much in warfares may result in a defeat. The limits are not something so alarming, however, since battles will be over before the time runs out anyway (unless you suck). But hey, it does add to the aesthetics.

Transformations
While there are no historical records that suggest that Jeanne d’Arc was transforming into an angelic creature during her tenure as the Pucelle of Warfare, Level-5 took the liberty of conjuring up such a fantastic trait for the good lady. Basically, with this special relic she has, she can transform to kick major ass. It’s not free, of course, since you need a certain value of points to transform, something that builds up by one point each turn. These transformations lasts 2-3 turns before you’d have to build it up again (several transformations are available and you can transform once per form). Jeanne is not alone, as a number of major characters are blessed with the same flair.

Automated MP mechanisms
MPs are filled by a certain value in the beginning of battles, and gradually increase each turn. So, unlike games with conventional MP systems, the best spells should (and would) be saved for the last minutes (like it or not).

No generics
This game does not have generic characters, i.e. you can’t make/recruit random characters and toy with the job system. The characters you’ll be using are all unique, and they have specific combat abilities. Not really a “novelty” but I don’t know a better place to put this section.

“Skill stones”
That’s a pretty lame name. But anyway, skill stones are at the heart of the character customization. There are four types of stones;

  • The ones that give you special moves. Based on class. (e.g. sword attacks, spear attacks)
  • The ones that give you special moves, but not based on class. (e.g. magic attacks)
  • The ones that give you support abilities. Based on class. (e.g. counter skills for swords)
  • The ones that give you support abilities, but not based on class. (e.g. stat ups, EXP bonuses)

So you equip those on the characters (in skill slots that increase with level), and that’s how you build up your army. You also get to combine stones to create new ones, which can help tremendously.

Merits of classes
Classes (or jobs) are sexy stuff. Here you’re also given the good old variety of skills; spearmen can attack from two squares away, bows can attack from afar, rogues can manipulate ladders and pathways (as well as treasure hunting), and so forth.

Burning auras
A feature unique to the game. When you attack an enemy from one side, a “burning aura” appears on the other. What’s this thing doing is, essentially, if you stand on it, it acts as an attack boost. So there’s the strategy: attack normally from one side, and attack with a burning aura from the other side. The best thing about it is that it only works for you, and not the enemy.

Unified guard
If a character is being attacked and s/he has an ally one square away, that ally’s defense will boost that of his/hers. This can be chained to the defenses of the entire troop, so contrary to other SRPGs (where being close to each other means asking for an area spell), you might want to keep your allies close for the entire battle scene.

Spirit affinities
Good old classical elements. But Jeanne d’Arc dared to stray from the conventional fire-water-wind-earth standards—they introduced Sol, Luna, and Stella, to be assigned to each character. These stand for, of course, sun, moon, and star respectively. It (still) works like RPS: Sol > Stella > Luna > Sol. Novelty? Yes. Good? Well personally, I think it’s bollocks. The reason is mainly because to assign an element to your character, you have to equip them with a stone. With a limited number of stone slots you have, you’d really rather going to a battle with neutral-element characters. Elements can be vital in some games (in Suikoden Tactics, for example, elemental affinity is at the very core of your strategy), but not in Jeanne d’Arc.

Overall, the game does give a satisfying experience. Indeed, it still can’t match the likes of Disgaea in terms of hardcore gaming potentials (where you get to level up to Level 9999, and that’s still not the best you can do)—in fact, it has some sort of a hole in the leveling-up department: the lowest EXP you can get by killing an enemy is 5 points. This means, when you’re at level 50, killing a Level 50 enemy and effortlessly slaughtering a Level 3 weakling give you the same EXP. I hereby confess to have trained my troop at the first battle map: One level up in 2-4 minutes if you use a good EXP Bonus stone. Why bother grinding in a snake pit if you can do this?

I personally beat the game, and accidentally played Wild Arms Crossfire afterwards. I felt a big gap between the sophistry of the games’ gameplay mechanisms—Jeanne d’Arc‘s too simple. But, like I said, unless you’re interested at doing really hardcore gaming, I say Jeanne d’Arc is decent. It provides you that satisfactory feel of completion when you clear a stage. The gameplay suffices to give you the RPG experience you’re looking for, while the plot and overall disposition adds up to form the game as a whole: a solid SRPG.

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Replay value

Will you replay Jeanne d’Arc? One thing for sure is that you’d want to do its post-game feature. When you beat the game, you’ll get to save, and when you load the said save, you can return to the overworld map for some extras.

As for actually starting over from scratch, you might do so on completionist grounds, since some things, though minor, are unavoidably missable due to plot branches. While it has nothing to do with the story as a whole (only some unimportant details), you might want to check it out. Besides, with its mild difficulty, it really is some game you’d want to replay some time in the future. Not really a high replay value, but a good score nevertheless.

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Plot


Plot overview

Jeanne d’Arc offers a tale based on the historical account of the real Saint Joan. The teenage Jeanne was raised in a family of peasants in Domrémy, a small village north-east of France. That is, until the fateful day where the village was reduced into piles of ashes by the forces of Henry VI of England. The young Jeanne and her two (fictional) friends, Liane and Roger, escaped, with the aid of the voice she’s suddenly hearing in the midst of the invasion.

Thus Jeanne went on a journey of guiding France into breaking free from the clutches of the Englishmen, accompanied by her two friends, her pet frog, and most famously, “the Voice of God”. So far not breaching terribly from the history. Except, well, that magical armlet God has bestowed upon her, blessing her with magical prowess. It has become something of a MacGuffin, since there are five armlets in total.

That, and the fact that the English was employing an army of demons (now that’s something). According to the game, prior to the game’s lifespan there existed a war between humans and demons, buried deep and unknown to history. Five heroes with five armlets came to the rescue and sealed the demon’s big boss (how overused is that, anyway?), before the Duke of Bedford set him free once more, casting a shadow looming over humanity.

But, overally, still a Saint Joan story with a twist—for now.

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Characters overview

An overview on the main characters in the first arcs of the game, without spoiling anything major.


Jeanne, Roger, Liane, Gilles,
La Hire, Richard, Henry, Bedford

Jeanne d’Arc [real-life]
Jeanne serves as a lead—and as I said, female leads are awesome. Overally, she’s a female version of your typical Japanese RPG protagonist: impulsive youth with cockeyed judgement, naïve disposition, reckless antics, an expectional gift of power, and basically all that is needed to be a perfect teenage annoyance. A rancid formula that doesn’t usually work for boys, but apparently it does for girls. Not an overly sophisticated character, but is simply lovely.

Roger [fictional]
Roger started out as a, somewhat, male lead. He’s in his 20s, and initially gave us the impresion of being quite a bland character. Also hinted that he’s got the hots for the Pucelle, though the said Pucelle doesn’t give a hoot about it. A good character in the first hours of the game, he could have done better if only he’s not acting so foolishly in one of the first battles where he screamed something like; “Get behind me! I’ll protect you!” to Jeanne, whose battle power exceeded his own. Shiro Emiya, anyone?

Liane [fictional]
You started playing, and you look at Liane. Well, Liane is… a friend of Jeanne. Gameplay-wise, she died every now and then in the battlefield, and story-wise she… accompanied Jeanne. Weak-willed, foolishly-dressed, Liane would be something you’d call the most minor of details in the first arcs of the game.

Gilles de Rais [real-life]
You know who the hell Gilles de Rais was? In case you’re unaware of the existence of this man, historically Gilles de Rais was the ancient icon of serial killing. This mad dude here slaughtered and raped children aged from 6 to 18—with the number’s estimation ranging from 80 to a whopping 600. Yes, Saint Joan fought side by side with a bloody murderer. But then again, he became quite the sadistic at the later part of his life anyway, far after the Saint’s death. He’s somehow a symbol of a pious man falling from his grace; initially a noble knight, but then was driven insane late in his short life (he was executed at 36). So what about the game’s version Gilles? Well in fact, despite his freaky makeup, he’s arguably one of the most gentlemanly of all your kin (and he holds a magic armlet too). The bomb was then yet to explode.

La Hire [real-life]
In the history class, they’ll teach you that La Hire was a military commander that fought alongside Saint Joan. In the game, however, La Hire is a lion. You heard me right, since traditionally there should be beastmen in RPGs, Level-5 chucked La Hire in to fit that role. And he’s insignificant, too—only occasionally showing up uttering idiotic lines to illustrate better the stupid tough guy role he’s playing.

Richard [fictional]
Richard serves the role of an old friar that holds yet another armlet. He does what the older folk do best: a central for inquiry and wisdom. His significance in the game is minor when compared to Gilles, but more or less the same with La Hire’s portion.

Henry VI [real-life]
The young King of England, so basically that means he’s the enemy of Jeanne’s forces. In the opening sequence, it was shown that the young lad had been possessed by an ancient demon (cheesy, yes), hence the antagonism.

Duke of Bedford [real-life]
In the first few hours, little is known of Bedford aside of him being an evil chancellor that plans, well, evil plans. Complete with the ecstatic grins and maniacal laughters. Also, Rita Repulsa!

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Plot analysis (spoilers)

I’d rather not going into details; just the major events. Because, after all, if you’re reading this section in spite of the spoiler warning, you’re either done with completing the game—then I’ll only need to explain my views on the big picture—or you simply don’t care much about the game, and you read this just for the hell of it—a case in which minor details are unimportant. Am I right? Even if I’m not, then it’s your problem. So let’s proceed.

So, while it is fairly a pleasure to indulge in, Jeanne d’Arc‘s plot is quite a wasted potential. It started as a fantasy-clad, alternate-history-laden version of the legendary life of the Catholic Saint. As the story progresses, however, I must admit that it provides quite praiseworthy plot twists and surprises; including some crowning moments of awesome later in the story.

What’s tragic is, that the awesomeness turned out to be ephemeral. Much later in the game, the plot would become predictable, clichéd, and sometimes enough to deliver me into a squirming position. The correlation between the story’s progress with its epicness can be illustrated by using a graph as follows;


It ROTS.

A rather dull start

It started off simple; Jeanne, as we know it, received a foul gift from the English as they annihilated her hometown. Sworn to a life of vengeance, Jeanne set off to aid her home country in warfare (and with her, the two friends and a pet frog). Even with the monster and transformation twists, we can still see the big picture very clearly. The Pucelle could do henshin and she fought against demons. Big deal.

As the story moves on (rather quickly and groggily at the first hours), Jeanne proved herself to be highly reliable in the battlefield, and then proceeded to do what the real Saint Joan did; leading the French to winning the famous Siege of Orléans. Now if you’ve been following history, then the next mission is clear: to secure the path into the coronation of Charles VII as King in Reims—arguably one of Saint Joan’s most famous accomplishments.

The rather juicy parts began here. I’ll even get into all the trouble of retelling the story;

Rather awesome middle portion

Apparently, after awhile, this good lady of ours, Jeanne, died. Yes, died; she fell from a god damn cliff after being assaulted by her fellow Frenchmen that’s being politically manipulated by the English. And that was before any kind of coronations or burnings at the stake. Worried that the Pucelle’s death might influence the army’s (and the people’s) spirit for rebellion, the army chose to install Liane, that battle maiden’s fragile childhood friend, as her replacement. That is, the French refused to publicly acknowledge their loss and listed that Jeanne d’Arc officially survived the siege. Then we have a new main character! A mightily amusing twist.

Despite a rough start, Liane rised to be just as fierce a commander than her friend was, and carried on to crown the King—suggesting the players that she is the real Saint Joan in the game. Then shit happened; Liane turned out to be growing more and more mental, as she became obsessed with victories and started caring less about her soldiers. Disturbed by her increasingly megalomaniacal nature, Roger (who had changed from an okay character to an annoyance since he started his emotic tenure), left the group. His departure contributed to Liane’s stresses, and finally the great Pucelle suffered defeat in battle. She was captured and set to be executed, as it is written in history. Upon learning the news, Roger rushed to the rescue, but did little and ended up being captured as well. It was decided; Jeanne d’Arc was to be burned at the stake. We’ve seen this coming, yes, but we expected Jeanne to be cooked, not Liane. Thumbs up for the twist.

The story then shifted back to Jeanne, the “real” one, who’s apparently still alive (no surprises). Apparently while her friend was crowning the King, she’s been following the Voice inside her head, and finally arrived in the depths of a forest east of Paris. There he met the Voice: not God, but rather the dying spirit of an elder knight that was once a wielder of the armlet (contradicting popular belief once more). Once she learned of the truth that’s whispering from the spirit’s last breaths, Jeanne decided to make her return. Gilles de Rais was the first that can (viscerally) feel Jeanne’s presence and hurriedly rushed there, accompanying her in her return.

Back to the main scene. Upon her return, Jeanne (the original one), Gilles, and their gang stormed Rouen, where the execution of Jeanne (the second) was to be carried out. Unfortunately, it was all too late, and the condemned was already reduced to ashes by the time of their arrival. There stood Roger (who’s also not quick enough), clearly in despair over Liane’s death. He’s blaming Jeanne responsible to the whole fiasco (“It should have been YOU at that stake, not her”). He even went into berserk mode and transformed temporarily into a demon (“Reaper”), a possessing greater demon which was the reason of all his nightmares (don’t really like this twist, but it happened). The poor kid then made his escape, vowing that he would dedicate his life to have his revenge against the Pucelle. In Liane’s name.

Still in shock over Liane’s death, Jeanne returned to the army, who commanded her to not using the Pucelle’s identity anymore—she’s officially dead at the stake—and the event ended with Jeanne changing her in-game outfit. As the dust settled, there’s another surprise: that pet frog I’ve spoken about suddenly can talk. And it can fight. Yes, it can fight and what’s even more surreal is that he’s pretty good at it.

This, I think, was the finest point of the story. Swiftly, in about one chapter, awesomeness happened;

  • It featured a lead character switch, a rare (and AWESOME) instance in RPGs.
  • It featured a military cover-up (the Pucelle’s identity).
  • It featured a yandere (Liane).
  • It suggests the fancy conspiracy theory of Saint Joan being two persons, while giving the surprising premise that the real Saint Joan is arguably not the lead character herself, but her decoy—unlike what the gamers would have expected. A rare instance where the lead is not dominating the spotlight (another example would be Final Fantasy XII‘s Vaan).
  • It revealed that what Jeanne had been hearing was not the Voice of God.
  • Roger’s revealed obsession of Liane suggests an interesting twist. Since it is natural to expect him to be all over Jeanne, it is amusing that he breached that standard. Wikipedia’s article on the game suggests that he is “in love with Jeanne”, but at this point it became confusing. Which Jeanne? The game suggests that it could be the latter Jeanne, which is novel.
  • Note that Jeanne changed her in-game outfit. That’s novel, rare, and AWESOME. From a Saber-like outfit, she switched to an attire that’s reminiscent to that of Dual Hearts‘ lead, Rumble. Jeanne became so bad ass; totally one of the higher points of the game.
  • And of course, the frog (Cuisses) now can talk. And is one hell of a fighter. Awesome or what? He also seems to be very much knowledgeable of the English’ insider informations.

It is not perfect, and it has some lame, overused tropes to which I squirm (Roger’s “Reaper” charade, Jeanne being trained by the spirit, etc.), but overall, it’s the shining moment of the game.

Then, as my graph suggested, the story gets lameified.

Rancidification

Afterwards, what remained of the story were Jeanne’s attempts to save the world (how original) from the clutches of the Demon King (how original) Gilvaroth, that had taken control over King Henry’s body. It became some sort of MacGuffin hunt (how original), involving collecting the gems of the armlets, asking for the aids of other tribes like the beastmen or the elves (those EXISTED in 15th century France?), and encountering four lesser demons (the Reapers) that were possessing some of France’s political top brass. It goes just like that; you meet this guy, s/he transforms into a mighty beast, you beat the crap out of the thing, and then Henry came to steal what’s supposedly yours for the taking.

Occasionally, Roger, now the Prince of Darkness with glowing eyes, a long cape, mascara, and dialogues full of aches, tortures and inner pain, interfered and recited vampiric poetries to you. This can get annoying over time. There are some other minor plot elements, from recurring enemies to insights of some characters’ past, but none of them are strong enough to make up for the mess—aside of the discovery that the frog is really the real Henry VI, whose soul was trapped inside the creature (which you would have predicted).

Then there’s this arc entirely devoted to Roger. I couldn’t stand this—we got to explore Roger’s “soul” to “understand his inner pain”. What’s up with all this? Where did all that mid-game awesomeness go? I mean, it spewed lines like “That is the source of Roger’s pain” and all that? What the fuck? Oh, and it turned out that Roger’s a guinea pig of some weird occult experiment, and was made to host the Reaper. And apparently his soul is “unusually strong” so that the Reaper never gained complete control of him. Suddenly it’s all akin to the familiar “chosen one” bullshit we’ve been hearing in RPGs for the past twenty years. What’s worse is that Roger jumped ships and rejoined us after we beat the Reaper inside of him—a really lame scenario that featured the presence of Liane’s ghost, fighting alongside us, and “forgiving” Jeanne (and Roger). Yes, he rejoined us. Just like that. He murdered people while being on that Prince of Darkness persona and he joined us just like that. The following sequences showed how Roger proposed the strategy of capturing Gilvaroth’s soul in a crystal (or something) to seal him completely. A really weak arc that, in my opinion, did a disservice to the characters of both Liane and Roger.

Bet what happens next. No brainer, really; the world was saved. Big deal. That’s how the story ended. I felt betrayed.

However I feel the need to credit two last-minute events that are worth noting. One is pretty cool and the other disappointing;

The cool: just after the very last battle, Gilvaroth’s soul was about to escape from the crystal. Richard suggested that it is sealed within the soul of one of them, whilst hoping it would not break free and will die with the bearer. Roger stood and was willing to take the risk (darkness was his thing, anyway), but Gilles de Rais ended up saving his ass by forcefully taking the dark soul. This explains Gilles’ destiny of being a serial killer later in history—it was his sacrifice. Another alternate history spell and it screamed a chant: Gilles da man!

The disappointing: so yes, the ending was really lame. While Gilles’ time bomb thing was awesomeness, Jeanne’s and Roger’s epilogues are something so corny you can almost give spoilers to yourself. They return to their village and helped with the rebuilding. Well, no, they don’t marry and all that (not even romantic hints, thank heavens for that), but it’s still something reminiscent of bedtime stories. I don’t mind happy endings, but it’s just so poorly-conceived. The game ended with the sight of Jeanne and Roger praying for Liane.

Fin.

What an immense pile of wasted potentials. The sequence is this: Bullshit – Conspiracy theory/alternate history goodness – Bullshit.

What went wrong

I can’t really explain what is wrong, but definitely something was screwed up in the latter hours of the game. Mostly because it failed to surprise me any further. Halfway, the game set the bar of our expectations quite high, so the poor finishing was just disappointing. Things like the blasphemy and the “in love with Jeanne” riddle were left untouched. I think it mainly has something to do with the vision we’re having; initially, it was a no-naïve, less bombastic mission. It was to save a country. And our knowledge of history suggested us a down-to-earth resolution—Jeanne’s death. It was relatively mature, heavy, and less fairy-tale-like.

Then the conspiracy theory thing kicked in—it was fresh, it provided mild surprises, and it worked. Actually this part served as a smokescreen for other aspects of the storyline that had begun to rot at that time (Roger started emulating Sasuke Uchiha, for example). When Liane’s arc was over (signaled with Jeanne’s return), the excitement died with her. The story became a poorly conceived quest to save the world, complete with MacGuffins and really really stupid teenage drama scenarios. The advent of Liane’s ghost as some sort of a deus ex machina proved this point: the game lost its maturity midway through the story, and proceeded to be a predictable, low-quality tale afterwards. I don’t suggest that it must be sad to be mature, and there’s no room for joyous resolutions, but the kind Jeanne d’Arc employed was just unimaginative.

It is sad, because it could have ended more gloriously.

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Characters analysis (spoilers)

My judgement on the final quality of the major characters, with an ascending rank system. I liked some minor characters like Colet and Rose, but I chose not to include them;

#8 – La Hire

Of all the real-life people associated with the tale of Saint Joan, I love La Hire the most—a seasoned veteran that came to the maiden’s side in the midst of raging warfare (most notably in the Battle of Patay). Thus, when I heard of a game that’s based on such a tale, he was the one character that I was looking forward to see. How would he look like? What’s his role?

And there stood the lion. He plays the archetypal role of a dense juggernaut: big brawn, no brain (complete with that antic of referring to oneself in third person). He played a minute role overall, and he’s not all that great in battle. In short, douchebag.

Such a waste, because La Hire can play the role of a wise senior that’s given to Richard. The game can even exploit his alleged reputation as an unbeliever—how about that? A heathen serving loyally to a saint that claims she’s been hearing the Voices of God? That’s dramatic, and even almost romantic. (Though since Jeanne is assumed to have really been hearing voices in the game, that can hardly work)

All in all, I like (the real) La Hire, but this game’s depiction of him is just shallow and unattractive.

#7 – Roger

Roger was okay—and that’s in past tense.

He started as the female lead’s main male companion, and initially acted low profile; less talk, more job done. He can fight well (although I have almost never used him), and overally was just a good plain guy behind the Pucelle that did no harm. He developed more and more annoying antics, however; with him beginning to have nightmares marked the starting point of his emotic parade. Turned out that he was really slated as the dark pretty warrior that moans left and right about inner struggle, “demon withing myself”, vengeance, and just plain existential angst. A.k.a. the Prince of Darkness.

When all of his charade ended, he rejoined the party as if nothing happened, and went on to have a happily-ever-after epilogue. What Roger did over the middle portion of the game was essentially being a rebel with barely any cause and did serious crimes in the process. Then he returned to our ranks, saved the world, and went back to his village with Jeanne. A perfect end, but we know something’s terribly wrong with the guy’s karma meter—unless our sophistry of understanding the world is comparable to kids (who think that the old farmer from their bedtime stories is the bad guy when he shooed away the Bunny that stole his carrots).

So, what Roger may call redemption, I call karma fail. What would come to his defense, anyway? Fangirls (assuming he’d attract some) may argue that when he did damages he was possessed by the Reaper, but I beg to differ. Roger was stone cold sober—why else would the Prince of Darkness lecture Jeanne about Liane? Was is the Reaper’s sense of humor? It’s not, and I have a better explanation.

Listen up: Roger’s the rule of cool on two legs. This is what the developers had in mind, I assure you: “A nice, kind pretty boy that’s good with swords is cool. A scarred youth that spent years being a lab rat and is having recurring nightmares is cool. An emotic, vengeful Prince of Darkness is cool. A male companion for the chick lead that serves as her partner to the end is cool. Why not combine them?

It seems to me that Roger’s purpose was to represent all things black and dark (what’s supposedly cool nowadays) while still maintaining that happily-ever-after privilege. It doesn’t work—you can’t have it both ways, at least not without being weird and awkward. A lollipop is tasty and so is a serving of meatballs, but we don’t mix them up. If Roger wants to be a good protagonist that reserves a happy end, he can drop the whole dark asshole gimmick—and if he wants to do the Prince of Darkness thing, don’t expect a painless end. I personally think they should have killed Roger mid-game (and somehow denying his happy end ticket in the process) to render him a full-fledged tragic character. Else it’s half baked.

So, quite frankly, I am not impressed, and neither should you.

#6 – Duke of Bedford

Duke of Bedford is what I’d call an efficient character. I personally have no substantial complaints on his performance other than his appearance being a bit too comical for my liking. On the other hand, I see no reason to praise him either; he does what an evil chancellor does, and that’s all. He does have some kind of noble motive behind it, but it’s not all that impressive, if not rather silly.

A very plain character, but the game’s plot isn’t so sophisticated in the first place. So let Bedford be, at least he doesn’t annoy you the way La Hire and Roger do.

#5 – Richard

A good company. Richard for me was more about disposition than anything else, it’s about his presence. Every Japanese RPG needs a matured, fatherlike figure like this, because the market has a pretty bad tendency of being too teenage-centric. Nevertheless, there’s nothing much to say about him, since unlike other major figures, his character did not evolve in the slightest way during the game.

#4 – Henry VI

When we speak of Henry VI post-game, we’d be referring to two related entities; Gilvaroth and Cuisses. Apparently through some bizarre plot twists, the demon Gilvaroth’s soul possessed Henry’s body, and Henry’s soul possessed a frog’s (which is then made as Liane’s pet, Cuisses). Now, while Gilvaroth (who’s been consistently referred to as “Henry VI” until very late in the game) had been just a plain good old villain with no sophistication whatsoever, Cuisses was an interesting character.

I mean, you get to play a frog. A pretty powerful one at that. How the hell is that even possible, anyway? I mean it’s the soul of a kid trapped in a frog. Well, suspending our disbelief for a moment, at the end of the day, Cuisses was a good buddy. God save the frog.

#3 – Jeanne

Jeanne scores pretty high, and for good reasons, too. First off, she’s a female lead—I can’t stress it enough, they’re awesome. No, really. Jeanne has a certain charisma of a lead character that conventional protagonists don’t possess. This was best presented in the latter half of the game, up to just before the ending. At this point, Jeanne is worth worshipping. Unfortunately, before that point she’s a bit too naïve, tribalist, and immature; and after the said point, she became too plain a character I can’t even begin to describe anything about her.

Overally I find her character development a good one, but they really flopped it around the end. All the same, she’s still easily the game’s more interesting characters. Maybe it’s the Saint Joan aura that’s emitting about her?

I’d describe Jeanne as somewhat fitting to my ideal blueprint of such a role—anything cooler than her wouldn’t be too good, since the coolest of characters, in my opinion, should instead be a secondary character.

#2 – Gilles

Gilles da man. Personally, Gilles is my favorite out of the bunch—he’s got a peculiar look which strayed from a conventional RPG design, he’s calm and composed (but, most importantly, not in the arrogant, pouting kind of way), and he managed to have a tragic past without us seeing him chirping left and right about how it sucked; basically he gives us the impression of a gentle, reliable major character. Or, if you like, he’s basically what Roger is not.

If you were to go to a deserted island and was asked to bring with you a partner, he’s the kind of man you’d choose. Gilles is a man worthy of reliance and trust.

And I personally think he’s one of few characters to leave the yucky ending with all his integrity intact. And he carries with him a curse, Gilvaroth’s spirit, that would later overtake him and force him to live a life of pure evil—Gilles de Rais the Killer, as we know it. It’s about the only badass thing in the whole last chapter fiasco. If Roger failed me by being a prick over the game and secured a joyous end, Gilles has my reverence of being the opposite. Gilles de Rais was given a time bomb as a medal of honor of all his services. The tragedy.

But what I don’t get is, if his freakiness was to be caused by Gilvaroth later on, why the fuck dressing him like an evil clown BEFORE such a thing happen? I can’t follow the logic in that at all! Play the game, read his lines, watch his moves, and you’d realize that this dude’s not the type you’d expect to dress so flamboyantly. Besides, other popular depictions of Gilles depicted him as not so extravagant a person. Like this;


Bladestorm‘s depiction
of Gilles de Rais

Indeed some other depictions of him were just as freaky (Fate Zero‘s, for example), but these outrageous depictions are meant to represent the already-insane Gilles, not the gentlemanly one Jeanne d’Arc stresses so much. So still Level-5 owes me an explanation.

#1 – Liane

As much as I love Gilles and Jeanne, Liane is by far the best character in the game. Hands down.

Liane is THE REAL Jeanne d’Arc—it was Jeanne who sieged Orléans, but it was Liane, her decoy, that crowned the King, got imprisoned (possibly sexually harassed there), and, most importantly, died at the stake. Liane started out as a nobody, before finally stole the show; her brief reign as the main character was magic. Surrounding her is the aura of a charming battle maiden that unexpectedly rose from the very bottom of swordsmanship.

Play the game, see how the story unfolds, and I dare you to tell me that Liane’s not the best thing that ever happened there. Heck, if you erase Liane from existence, then what would the game have to brag, story-wise? Without Liane, there’s no decoy twist. Anything epic left of the story? A resounding no.


Riot grrrl.

She stole the lead character position, did the yandere thing, and died a martyr. That’s a terribly rare instance in RPGs. So I hereby dub Liane the best character of the game. A richly deserved recognition!

^ back to top

Final verdict


Scores

Graphics


Techno value


While it’s nice, it’s anything but a phenomenon for something that’s made in 2006.


C


Aesthetics


Just the right thing: cel-shading.


A


Cameras


Rather goofy when automated, but you can rotate in 8 directions.


B


FMVs


Decent anime sequences.


B


GUI


Nothing special in the GUI department, sadly.


C

Sounds


BGMs


No complaints nor compliments.


C


Sound effects


Again, no complaints nor compliments.


C


Dubs


The French accent doesn’t work.


D

Gameplay


Difficulty


Easy as pie.


D


Duration


Slightly more longer than what I’d call the right amount. A bit of a drag for the kind of story it provides.


C


Originality


Mediocre—nothing too new.


D


Fun factor


Something for SRPG fans, though modifications are slightly too limited.


B


Replay value


Maybe two times at most. More if you feel nostalgic.


D

Visual design


Characters


While sometimes tends to be too outrageous, it’s A-OK.


B


Generics


Decent designs for the generics.


B


Environments


Lack in variations, but that’s to be expected from a game based on history.


B

Storyline


Premise


“Historical” RPGs are scarce in the markets.


A


Whole story


Rots over the course of the game, but some are memorable.


C


Complexity


Pseudo-complexity. You thought it’s complex, but in the end it’s not.


D


Aesop value


Nothing too deep.


C

^ back to top

Impressions

A pretty solid game. A must-have for PSP gamers—it’s far from perfect, and indeed it has major holes here and there, but a good game nonetheless. It might not appeal to those who pay attention to deeper storylines and/or seeking a challenging gameplay experience, as it is seemingly more geared towards the lighter entertainment area. Jeanne d’Arc employs a simple, stripped-down, and swift gameplay mechanisms with a linear story—good old RPG fashion.

I have this suggestion that the game would mostly attract RPG gamers with a strong dose of Japanophilia (even better if you happen to dig all things French). The game’s overall disposition was so very anime-like; specifically alike to those you’d find in the shonen demography. Add that to the relatively light gameplay, and there you have it; moderate depth in both story (it’s not something that would change your life) and gameplay (it’s not something worth a hundred hours of attention either).

Three and a half out of five.

^ back to top

Kgeddoe, now playing Crossfire

21 thoughts on “Jeanne d’Arc

  1. Lho, lho, lhoo. Masalahnya saya nggak punya PSP dan ini entry naudzubillah panjang banget.:mrgreen:

    *pembenaran*

    Halah, aselinya lebih mahal tuh, masbro.:mrgreen:

    *ngebet pengen dibelin buku juga*

    *siap-siap dimutilasi Nenda*

  2. Saya kok lebih suka legenda Arthurian yah? Kalo Joan of Arc ini agak gak nyambung…

    Betewe, saya pengen punya PSP..😦

  3. *grmbl2*
    Bukunya diskon kok, jadinya enggak semahal yang di Amazon.
    *mutilasi Goen, kubur Goen di halaman belakang rumah Ryan*

    Btw, saya enggak suka SRPG. Enggak pernah sukses mainnya dari dulu.😐
    Oh, ya yang kamu lagi mainin udah level 99 semua?

  4. @ Goenawan Lee

    Yo wis, BTW kapan-kapan coba mereview game atau anime dengan gaya bahasa pakde-pakde itu. Pasti menarik.😛

    @ ManusiaSuper

    Hanya menuliskan impresi.🙂

    @ Nazieb

    Saya lebih suka mitos-mitos Norse…😀

    @ Nenda Fadhilah

    Belum, masih level 20-an.

    @ gentole

    Apa kepanjangan, ya?

    @ Fikar

    Silakan; ukurannya kalau nggak salah sekitar 700-an MB.🙂

    @ Fajar GM | tria

    Ini ‘kan isinya pendapat pribadi, nggak mungkin lah masuk Wikipedia.🙂

  5. @ K. geddoe

    Apa kepanjangan, ya?

    IMO sih, iya. Agak kepanjangan di bagian plot & character overview-nya. ^^;;

    Lagipula, kalau buat memperkenalkan produk game sama pembaca, AFAIK guidelinenya cuma sbb…

    Technical stuffs
    – graphics
    – gameplay
    – sounds/music
    – replay value

    Storyline (kalau ada)
    – sinopsis sekadarnya

    Spoiler galore malah kurang penting. Lha, wong pembacanya pada belum main?😆

  6. Lagipula, kalau buat memperkenalkan produk game sama pembaca,

    Makanya ‘kan udah saya kasih disclaimer, ini cuma editorial dan katarsis saja, bukan untuk membantu memperkenalkan produk (paragraf 6).:mrgreen:

  7. @ K. geddoe

    Hoh, ternyata bukan review produk toh. =3

    Makanya ‘kan udah saya kasih disclaimer, ini cuma editorial dan katarsis saja, bukan untuk membantu memperkenalkan produk (paragraf 6).:mrgreen:

    Tapi tetep aja terlalu panjang, tidak ringkas, dan terlalu makan benwit, fumo. c|=3

    BTW, untuk game yang ratingnya dikasih 3.5/5… rasanya kok agak terlalu niat bikin review seekstensif di atas itu. Tapi ini pendapat pribadi sih. ^^;;

  8. @ sora9n

    Yaa, ente juga pasti pernah mengalami urge buat bikin katarsis panjang-panjang atas sesuatu yang aselinya ga terlalu penting ‘kan?:mrgreen:

    Awalnya sih cuma mau bikin rant soal ceritanya, tapi tanggung, jadi tak ulas semuanya.😕

    BTW, kalo kefakiran benwit ga jadi urusan saya lho.😆

    @ Disc-Co

    Mainin aja, gampang banget kok. Kalo main serius paling seminggu juga tamat.🙂

    @ Catshade

    Why pitting them against each other? There’s enough room in my heart for them both.:mrgreen:

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