After forty hours of game play, over the course of approximately six months, Jeanne d’Arc has finally been completed. Don’t use the prolonged period of time as an indicator for the game, it is a fantastic title. But when you have so many other things on your plate, games like this tend to be put aside until later. It’s both a blessing and curse for the handheld market; there are games meant to be played in short bursts and over a long period of time.
But Jeanne d’Arc is not a bite-sized game for a number of reasons. For starters, most missions, be it for story progression or for grinding, consume a good chunk of time. The average completion of an area when approached with a comparable squad is about 25-30 minutes. For most people, 30 minutes is a lot of time, so you tend to play one mission and then play another some other time. The core plot consists of 36 missions, so roughly half of my forty hours was used just for that.
Meaning that the other half of my game time consisted of story progression and level grinding. Grinding is an inevitable fact in most role-playing games, regardless of the sub-branding and is especially the case in Japanese-developed titles. For Jeanne d’Arc, the level grinding, which while it did take me out of the story for prolonged periods of time, was necessary to complete the story at the level I was at.
My Jeanne finished the game at level 68. I had seven other characters in the 60s when we took on the last mission, with all other characters approaching that mark. Grinding also allowed me to discover the characters I enjoyed and which ones became a staple on my squad.
There are fourteen characters available and for the most part, missions have you using anywhere from 5-9 of them. Outside of Jeanne, who I used in every story mission and most grinding stages, I always used at least one archer but often relied upon two; my strong man was always Rufus, a dog-character; my lancer was Jean while I discovered a little too late the potential of Rose, who had a whip with great range.
A cool part of the genre is the flexibility and options you have. While I used those characters most often, other players could use a completely different approach and still find the same success. The real key in Jeanne D’Arc is the use of skills. There are so many available and that is the true key to success. Having the proper skill attached to a character makes a world of difference. In the case of Rose, equipping “Healing Whip” allowed her to heal all characters prior to a turn. It did not supply everyone with ample health but it was enough that it was rare that I had to rely on other skills or items to regain health.
While the skills were a real benefit to my success, one thing that was underutilized was the “Transform” abilities some of the characters possess. Like Summons in other games, when you trigger this ability, your character becomes a super-being, capable of doing some very effective moves for a short period of time. I am not entirely sure for the lack of this feature. Using it could have made some missions substantially less challenging but I often forgot of its existence until a story scene made mention of it.
The best part of Jeanne d’Arc was its interpretation historical events. It takes liberties of the events that actually unfold but makes its own story. Those under the impression that is simply a re-telling of the time period will be greatly incorrect. Also, it does not end the same way as it did in the history books so it is worth seeing how different this story is to the real world. There is a lot more to this and the fantasy elements do make for a very interesting story.
It is quite surprising that games based on historical events, pre-World War II are so rare. Outside of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, there are very few games that go that far back in time and/or bother to take liberties at changing things. Developer, Level-5 showed that it is quite possible to take a piece of history and put an even greater spin on it. While there are certainly some accurate elements to the game, most of this is their own interpretation of the events. It works because it is not trying to be historically fact. If there are developers looking for a pre-existing story and/or event, perhaps taking a page from the history books in a similar manner could result in great success.