Jeanne d'Arc - PSP - Preview
Not exactly the kind of story you really want to tell a boy-king when he is falling asleep at night, but then when you look at his ‘uncle’/advisor, you immediately know that he is up to no good. Might be that he has the sharp angular face familiar to fans of Disney animated features – you know, the kind of face that Hades had in Hercules. Maybe it is the long pale white fingers ending with long nails filed to a point and painted a deep blue.
In any regard, he tells Henry a story of long ago, when a demon was trying to overwhelm the land and was finally defeated by five heroes wielding heavenly might in the form of wristlets. But the uncle, once one of the five, has long ago given over to the powers of demonic magic. He has determined that the very demon he once helped defeat is the only way he can ‘protect’ the boy-king and ensure that he remains on the throne for a very long time. So he calls forth the demon, which wraps itself around the sleeping child. Another one of the five tries to stop the process but fails. When the boy-king opens his eyes, they are glowing red.
And while all this is going on, England is embroiled in the Hundred Years' War with France. In a small French village, a young girl and her friend (Liane) are asked to deliver herbs to a local church. They are almost there when a sound comes from the forest. A knight rides out of the woods, injured, and he falls to the ground at the foot of the church. Tied to his waist is a satchel, emitting a glow. The young woman, Jeanne, reaches her hand tentatively toward the satchel, drawn on by the glow. Something snakes from the bag and wraps around her wrist, glowing brightly. She is alarmed, naturally, but unhurt. When the glow stops, she finds that a wristlet has attached itself to her.
No time to admire it, foul creatures attack and a voice (which the young Jeanne calls the Voice of the Lord) tells her to grab the fallen knight’s sword and attack. She does and quite successfully, too. It is not until the next battle, in the burned-out village of her family, that the wristlet shows its power, transforming Jeanne’s humble clothes into a brilliant comely armor, bearing some resemblance to what one might suppose an avenging angel would wear. She is well protected and a formidable force, now set on the path to ruin the plans of the demon-imbued boy-king.
That is the set-up for Jeanne D’Arc, a PSP title from Level-5, the same company behind Rogue Galaxy and the Dark Cloud series, and published by SCEA.
The story is told through compelling cutscenes, which carry the anime-style cartoon look, but in this case, the cutscenes take a back seat to the look of the game itself. While there is a certain amount of big-head, big-eyes in the characters, they are well detailed, and the whole look is lush, bright and delightful. This is a game that is rendered out beautifully on the PSP.
The combat is turn-based, and what one would expect from a Japanese RPG-style game. You get a player phase and enemy phase, and during the player’s turn, you can move, attack, heal, cast or wait. However, when Jeanne dons the armor (which she can only done once in each stage), she can take multiple turns. Move, attack, destroy, get a Godspeed boost and repeat. In an early battle, if you plan it right, she can take out four enemies in quick succession.
But don’t expect this to be a walk in the Louvre (Ok, the phrase is walk in the park, but tried to give it a French twist in honor of the heroine). The control scheme has a bit of a learning curve in finding the keystrokes that actually work. For the first little while, all the player phase options seemed to give was end turn and some inventory functions. But something was, apparently, clicked correctly because the full range of options appeared and Jeanne, with her friends Liane and Roger, was on her way to becoming a legend.
Sure, Jeanne D’Arc blends fantasy with the tale of the young French hero, but that was for the sake of the gameplay, and it works well. This is a story worth diving into and spending the 40 hours it purports to have to work through. With up to 14 playable characters and a customization feature, coupled with the tactical combat, this title both a visual treat and an entertaining challenge.
Jeanne D’Arc releases to retail in August and, in the spirit of the thing – c’est bon.