When you reach the conclusion of the third chapter in Level-5’s Jeanne d’Arc, there is a pretty substantial plot twist that brings up an issue that far too often plagues Japanese RPGs. While not going into specifics, it really cements the necessity to ensure that all your characters are at their best possible level. If you haven’t been grinding and doing so with all characters, then once you reach this point, you will have to go back and do so.
Western developed role-playing games have swayed away from this, at least not to the point that is is obvious that you should . On the other hand, most Japanese ones still force the grind. It’s odd since back in the day, Final Fantasy VIII incorporated a level system where your squad’s level determined the level of the enemies you faced. If Squall was at level 20, so were the foes he and his two other partners faced off against. It was your magic abilities and summons that helped to sway the battle in your favor (among other factors).
But here, although I have a good group of characters who are currently hovering between level 35-40, the few characters at 25-30 are holding me back. I now need to return to the lower level areas in order to build them up. While non-used characters do obtain some experience when not used in combat, it is very nominal. Additionally, considering you get “EXP” for every action except for “waiting”, it makes more sense to use those characters on the battlefield and risk them falling in battle rather than having them “level-up” through alternative means.
This hasn’t hampered my enjoyment of Jean d’Arc, but it has seriously put a damper on the progression of the story. Now into the fourth chapter, needing to go back and do at least 5-7 battles in the hopes that it increases those characters up to the necessary level is going to cost me a good 1-3 hours. I am really enjoying how the story has progressed but this detour hurts the pacing.
On the other hand, after playing for more than 16 hours, another aspect of the game that I am really enjoying is its Bind Skills set-up. What this does is allow you to combine the various skill stones that you acquire through combat or purchse in order to create more powerful ones.
There are four different skill stones available: red (coupe de grace; special attacks), purple (latent; reactionary skills that you don’t initiate), green (magic properties) and blue (status boost and/or extra abilities). Early into the game, you obtain lesser stones that are beneficially at lower levels. But, in order to have the strongest stones for a character, you need to combine (bind) certain stones.
Such an example, which are fairly easy, will have you combine two blue stones to create a better one. If you have two “HP +10” stones, when you combine them it creates an “HP +20” stone. It’s possible to create a stone upto “HP +150” and “MP +100”, which seem to be vital once we get to the game’s more difficult stages. Additionally, you can also create even stronger attacks which make your character’s dish out some extremely devastating strikes on the battlefield.
Of course, stones do have restrictions and the strongest and rarest ones do require characters to be at very high levels. But once you can equip them, they can be very helpful and make an upcoming battle significantly easier.
Every concoction has at least one formula but some have multiple. Let’s say you want to create the “Triple Strike” skill. One way of doing it is to combine a “Flash Strike” stone along with the “Cyclone” stone. Alternatively, you can combine a “Flash Strike” stone with a “Cresent Arc” stone which yields the same result. The game doesn’t inform you of what each combination makes until you try it out; thus forcing you to take a risk in the hopes that two stones create something special.
Not every stone can be combined with another stone. Some stones are only capable of being made with another specific stone. Also, once you reach a certain status with a stone, it can no longer create something stronger. There appears to be a lot of possibilities and new stones to create but I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.
Although I have my displeasure regarding the necessity to grind stages multiple times, the Bind Skill aspect of Jeanne d’Arc has been quite enjoyable and addictive. You can easily lose track of the time trying to see what your available stones can create. It’s even more addictive once you begin to contemplate if it’s worth risking two stones that are beneficial now in order to create something incredible for use later. Having created some stones that my characters can’t use yet, I look forward to seeing how they will benefit from them later in the game.