Review by FeralBerserker
A very professionally done isometric tactical RPG
This is what I call a professional grade game. Sony went to town on this one, and I think it shows. From the cutscenes to the functionality you'll be having a blast. This game also integrates new actions into isometric tactical RPGs. My only real gripes with Jeanne d'Arc are the ones I always have: It's not nearly hard enough (or hard at all), and the gameplay goes downhill towards the end of the game (while I think it should get better as time goes on). Still, very impressive.
Gameplay - 9/10
This is one of those tactical RPGs where you'll move your entire team in a row, then the enemy will do the same. When using a character you can move, attack, special, item, or activate one of various environmental actions (climbing ladders, pushing buttons, etc.). Back attacks (as has become standard) do more damage, and even further attacking an enemy's flank will do added damage. When you hit an enemy an aura will appear on the opposite side you attacked from (i.e. if you hit his back an aura will appear on the square in front of him). Attacking while in an aura will increase your damage drastically.
Attacking is standard. There are weapons that will attack 1 square, 2 square (spear) and then bows (can't remember how many squares, it's plenty though).
Skills (I previously mentioned them as specials) are interesting in this game. First you either find them or create them (by combining skills you already possess), and then you can equip them on anyone you want. There are some requirements like character level, and your character must have the proper weapon if it's a weapon oriented skill (er, and they need to have enough mana to actually use the skill). You can equip magic skills on characters who aren't proficient with magic, obviously the disadvantage is that the spells won't be as powerful.
Now, skills come in a pretty good variety in this game. Moves for a dagger can hit a single target, or can hit a single target from 5 or 6 squares away. One spear move hits a big triangle in front of your character (it's like 9 squares total I think), and there is a sword skill that can hit 3 or 4 enemies at once. Spells can hit multiple squares as well. It's a pretty good variety when compared to any other tactical RPG I've ever played. Aside from attacking/support skills there are constant effect skills that can augment stats or do other various things. Some skills can only be made, and never found.
As you kill enemies you will build up a gauge for certain plot characters. When this gauge is full they can transform into a more powerful form. Some forms last several turns, some just last one. Some forms will be physically enhanced, others will benefit your magic abilities. All in all, there's at least one extremely good form for each person who can transform. Probably the best part of transforming is that when a transformed character kills an enemy they will get to take another turn (though they won't regenerate more mana each time). If you get everything set up properly you can clear an entire map of enemies during one turn of being transformed. It's most excellent when combined with being in an aura.
Character stats consist of attack, defense, accuracy, evasion, critical (%), magic attack, magic defense and movement. Stats go up regularly when characters level, except for critical and movement, which stay the same for the entire game. As characters level they will also unlock more skill slots every now and then, which is (obviously) awesome. During battle, a certain amount of mana will regenerate every turn (I think it was 25%), so you can use your skills often, or every turn depending on the cost of the skill vs. how much you regen.
Characters can equip a weapon and armor. A few characters can also equip a shield. You can obtain some legendary weapons in this game, though you won't need them. Most of these weapons will grant special bonuses such as higher critical rates or more HP/mana. Otherwise equipment is pretty much just damage or defense.
Up above I mentioned that you can perform actions sometimes. Depending on the map, you might be able to set up ladders to scale walls, which in turn might allow you to press a button in order to open a gate. Otherwise you can chop the gate down. Characters can climb a ladder for 1 movement, regardless of the height of the ladder. I thought this sort of thing was nice, but I didn't think they used it in enough maps.
Most map layouts are decent, but nothing spectacular. There are, however, several maps that were really fun to play simply because of the layout. Rarely, enemies will spawn as to ambush you or reinforce the enemy's position. Sadly, these situations are rare and scripted (same reinforcements, arrive on the same turn, facing the same direction). Since a whole team moves at once the reinforcements can be troublesome on occassion.
Gameplay is pretty fast paced and won't waste a lot of your time like older tactical RPGs (Shining Force, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics), and skills execute quickly as well. The only tactical RPG I played with faster gameplay was Stella Deus, which is an outrageously fast paced game.
In summary, the gameplay was fairly innovative and extremely fun compared to other tactical RPGs. While skills had a good variety, certain skills were far superior to others, so you'll eventually just use the same old skills for a very long period of the game. Also, some characters were way better than others, limiting your choices in who you'll bring to combat. Of course, you could always bring worse characters if you wanted to try and make the game challenging. I docked gameplay a point for it's downward spiral at the end, otherwise it would be a 10.
Story - 3/5
Jeanne d'Arc's story wasn't the best I've seen, but it was really good. The story as a whole is pretty much the same old rehashed crap, but many details of it were interesting and unique. It was pushed nicely along by anime style cutscenes that boasted pretty good voice acting. Sadly, nothing really 'tragic' ever happened, but it was a good story all the same.
Graphics/Sound - Nil
The graphics were impressive. Map and character textures were highly detailed and appealing. Character models were also nice, though not so detailed. Everything was pretty smooth, and the color schemes weren't an eyesore. Cutscenes were great. Skill animations were fast and looked average.
The sound effects were great, and the voice acting was above par, in my opinion. Everything was done very professionally.
Play Time/Replayability - 4/5
Considering the amount of battles (about average) the game flew past really quick. I think it's mainly due to the fast paced gameplay. Either way, it's a fun and quick playthrough that you can do several times without being bored to tears while waiting for your characters to do what you told them. Also, the AI never had to think for long periods of time (which can happen in other tactical RPGs). Though changing the way your crew is assembled can't happen much, I'd still say the game is good for a few play-throughs.
Final Recommendation - 8/10
A professionally done, fast paced and innovative tactical RPG. If you're a fan of the genre then definitely buy this game.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Jeanne d'Arc (US, 08/21/07)
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