Could this turn out to be Viva Piñata’s successor for the title of best game nobody played this year?
It’s not often that a game is a genuine surprise, least of all when it’s a strategy RPG – a subgenre which combines a genre that I dislike and one for which I’m largely ambivalent. Being that I’d read nothing about this game, I had visions of a grim, serious SRPG based on the real life heroine, probably drab and with lots of horses and archers, and maybe even some light immolation towards the end.
I’m only a few hours in and so can’t speak for the outcome (surely Joan of Arc without fiery death is like Titanic without an iceberg?), but nonetheless I implore you not to write this one off. It’s from Level-5 – those of Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy – and while it still takes place against the backdrop of war between France and the invading English, Henry VI is now a possessed child in cahoots with the forces of darkness. While the full extent (and source) of Jeanne’s supernatural abilities are yet to be revealed at the point that I’ve reached, it’s safe to say that there’s more to it than voices in her head.
The presentation here is stunning. Many of the significant cut scenes are told through anime, fully voiced and with excellent production values, and the main game is no slouch either. It maintains the look of DQVIII, and while it gets the most out of the PSP by limiting the scope of each location (one of the necessities of the genre), the characters and environments stand up well to being zoomed it for story scenes. Even on the small screen the towns have personality, and the characters remain as charming as any of Level-5’s creations as they trade quips and words of encouragement during battle.
Coming at the same time as BioShock and certain other games due in the next month, even at its budget price ($30 in the US) I can’t see Jeanne d’Arc being a hit. It’s unfortunate when it’s been out in Japan since last year and we’ve just had our usual summer with nothing to play but alas, this is the industry that we rely on to give us what we need. Don’t miss out on Halo 3 to play this, but if you have a flight (see? Another boat plane they missed with a late release) or just want something portable it seems worth a go. If you like SRPGs you should have no hesitation.