JEANNE D'ARC / Sony / PSP
It dresses the story up in a Joan of Arc theme, but really, Jeanne D'Arc is a trip through Animu Clichesville from start to finish. Rather than an intriguing history-based re-telling of the Joan of Arc story with a strategy game twist, we get a fairly stock Final Fantasy Tactics clone full of monsters and black magic, with only the surface-level trappings of the use of Joan and the English-French war as the backdrop.
Really, artists? This is the best Ultimate Evil Being you could come up with?
As the very long introductory anime tells us, in the past some army of demon dickholes tried to invade Earth from another dimension, so Five Warriors with Five Magical Bracelets had to go forth and seal them all up in deus ex machina style. Only now, one of those warriors has taken to wearing a croissant on his head and has become advisor to the current King 'Enry of England, who is a little tyke at the moment. Dark Croissant feels the need to summon evil back into the world for some reason, so that little 'Enry can "rule forever." So he does that. Then we cut to France, where Jeanne's village is enjoying a happy festival, yet she gets sent out on some bogus errand for some reason. Which, of course, means the village will be set upon by monsters and burned while she's out. She stumbles across one of the Magical Bracelets, though, which temporarily lets her transform into some kind of heavily armed magical valkyrie warrior. And a cutesy magical frog companion comes with the bracelet for literally no reason whatsoever.
Care to play "Count the JRPG Cliches" here? Fans trumpet the game's story as one of its strengths, but really, it's not very good, and doesn't really get much better than what you get at the outset. For a game that spends such a heavy amount of time in non-interactive dialogue and anime cutscenes, it's not nearly good enough. What DOES work for the game is that it's a solidly executed strategy-RPG with a beautiful level of detail in the in-game graphics.
Setting the story aside, and sheerly as a strategy-RPG, Jeanne executes very well. But the package taken as a whole is disappointing. For a story and setting with such potential, the cliched anime-JRPG approach is the most disappointing aspect, and it's hard to brush aside when so much of the playtime centers around simply sitting and watching story unfold. And though the game executes the stock SRPG formula well, if you've played other games in the genre, it's got a very "samey" and not-so-fresh feel to it. I like old-school SRPGS that aren't full of flashy hyperactive shit, but this one frequently crosses the line into just being oversimplified and boring. If you want a pretty, simple and fairly easy SRPG to kill time on a commute or something, it's fine, but don't expect more than that.
* Gameplay Video
* This looks more fun than the actual game