Playing Lately: Jeanne d’Arc (PSP)

I don’t often talk about gaming here, but I might start coming back to it since my other site (Jaded’s Pub) is awfully quiet these days.

Normally I’m an MMO junkie but every so often I burn out on the endlessness of those games and need to take up something more finite. Lately I’ve been doing just that with Jeanne d’Arc on the PSP.

Last fall I splurged and bought the PSP-2000 (or PSP Lite) and it’s made the PSP more enjoyable to use. First it’s lighter, for standard handheld gaming. But curiously enough, I really like the TV-out feature. I know the whole idea of TV-out on a handheld seems silly to a lot of people, but there are times when my eyes are just too strained to peer at the PSP screen, and blowing things up to TV-size means I can continue to play in comfort.

Anyway back to the game. The genre here is turn-based strategy-rpg, a la Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s a genre I’ve always loved and as I get older I find I enjoy turn-based gaming more and more and action gaming less and less. The game follows, very loosely, the story of Joan of Arc…if France had been over-run by beastmen and wizards at the time.

There’s nothing really revolutionary here. Jeanne has a band of companions that keeps growing and growing, although battles are generally limited to 6 individuals at the max. You earn gold and skills during fights, and can spend the gold at shops to buy better arms and armor. Skills get equipped on your characters and offer either passive buffs or spells/actions that require Magic Points. After each battle, non-combatants get some exp too, so they don’t fall too far behind in levels.

I’m taking my time, trying to keep everyone leveled up. I don’t think this is really necessary, but the game is fun and relaxing and I’m in no hurry for it to be over. At any point you can backtrack and enter a “Free Combat” zone to get more experience, gold and skills, so I don’t have to worry about ending up gimped at the end of the game.

I can’t say the challenge level is very high, but my play-style has some impact on that, too. If I were pushing always-onward and never doing the Free Combats, I’m sure things would be more difficult. I have had a few tense battles and certain game mechanics (several of the characters can transform into uber-soldiers for a few turns) can really change the tide of battle drastically if used correctly, adding more fun to the game.

Granted I haven’t finished it, but I’m pretty confident giving Jeanne d’Arc a thumbs up. It’s been out for quite a while and has a metacritic rating of 87, so I’m not sticking my next out by saying its a decent game.