It seems that all I’ve been playing are SRPGs as of late. Jeanne D’Arc is the most recent that I’ve tackled. Like Final Fantasy Tactics before it, Jeanne benefits from a strong story that drives the gameplay ever upward and onward. It’s a good thing, too, because unlike Disgaea, there isn’t much post-game fun to mention.
The first thing you’ll notice about this game is that it is absolutely gorgeous! In a genre practically defined by blocky terrain and low-resolution 2D sprites, Jeanne D’Arc is championing a fresh new look with fully rendered stages and a rather enticing 3D cel-shaded character approach.
What this means is that the terrain looks better than you’ve probably seen in an SRPG to date. Raised terrain isn’t just a slightly taller cube of land that may or may not be slanted. Instead, a gathering of rocks might be the terrain in which you will climb for a better vantage point. Likewise, even more mundane terrain obstacles, such as decks surrounding a house or the multi-tiered defense structure of an army stronghold, are depicted as you might expect they would in such games as Breath of Fire or Gurumin.
The character sprites are quite good as well. Aside from their ridiculously large heads, I found them to be pleasant alternatives to the often two-dimensional characters that inhabit so many SRPGs out there. That’s not to say that they aren’t entirely polygonal. Their faces, like so many games to utilize a cel-shading technique, are hand-drawn and very expressive. To a point, I found their expressions adding more to the story than the animated poses the characters often pantomime.
Compared to the great depictions of the game itself, the special effects of the various spells and special abilities are rather lackluster. The majority of them all use the same colorful streaks that you’ve seen in so many games before this. I was slightly disappointed with this aspect of the game’s visuals, but nothing about the special effects make the game any less charming to look at.
Nine times out of ten, people will judge a game solely on how it looks, but a select few judge games based on how they sound. For them, Jeanne D’Arc would not a disappointment – at least not in terms of the voice acting. The voice acting present is on par with a good Saturday morning cartoon, where most of the actors use fake accents to make them seem French. While they may not all be French, they all sound believable.
Seeing that the voice acting only takes place during the well-animated cut-scenes, it’s missed when text boxes take its place in the middle of a battle. After playing a game like Disgaea, where most of the dialog is spoken, I really missed it in the pre/post battle dialog.
With a game like this, the musical score is always a do-or-die aspect and Jeanne D’Arc doesn’t disappoint in this area either. Each stage is accompanied by a fitting track that keeps the mood fresh and exciting. There are a lot of repeated tracks, but when you have a list of songs as good as this, who wouldn’t want people to hear them more than once?
Call me jaded or just plain lame, but I just never got down with the ultra-slow battle system in FFT. It had such a slow start and made me want to rip my hair out. Granted, it was improved significantly once it stopped holding your hand, the tactics are virtually unmatched in the genre. Jeanne D’Arc has a good deal of tactical goodness, but more importantly the game doesn’t move at such a slow pace. Right away, this game teaches you the ins and outs, while never making the process feel excruciating.
The basic idea that makes this game stand out from the rest is that Jeanne comes into a mystical armlet that speaks to her. Naturally, she believes this to be God speaking to her, giving her motivation to save France from its English invaders. As she sets out to fulfill her destiny, she runs into a bunch of people who will ultimately be instrumental in her success.
Aside from making her seem crazy, the armlet that she finds enables her to transform into a righteous champion with the ability to move very fast and dole out insane amounts of damage to her foes. Felling an enemy allows her to take another turn when in her holy armor. This aspect is key to getting through the game, as they’ll have you up against seemingly insurmountable odds. Using the armlet at the right time will prove to be your best friend.
Jeanne will also come across plenty of interesting enemies that all have their own stories and reason for fighting that are usually told in a good way. At one point, Jeanne even begins to doubt her own resolve and intentions.
The story is quite good and presented in a very gripping way. You start to feel for each of these characters as though they were real people, which really says a lot for the game’s writing staff. That’s a big thing, considering that there really isn’t a whole lot to do after you’ve finished the basic game. Disgaea is the pinnacle of SRPG endgame goodies and nothing, in this reviewer’s opinion, has been able to match up.
As such, the replay suffers a little bit, but the overall time it’ll take you to get through the game makes it more than worth your dollar. In the end, Jeanne D’Arc is just a good game, pure and simple.
-Originally Posted by Bloodspoor