Jeanne D'Arc & PSP 2000

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Traveling sucks. This isn't or shouldn't be news to anyone, but it bears repeating. There is little in this world as soul-sucking as coach seats and airport lobbies. Satan sends his minions to O'Hare every Friday afternoon at 4PM to learn technique from fast-food restaurateurs. The loneliness in the face of crowds is crippling. A few days of hotel-food and pretend jocularity, and poorly conceived TV commercials can move me to tears.

Thank heaven for hand-held games.

Gaming is the critical element of my travel survival. I've owned every portable gaming device since the invention of playing cards. Yes, including an Atari Lynx. But my fondest moment of travel-inspired acquisition lust was the first time I held a Sony PSP in my hands. It was black lacquer and sex, all wrapped up in a package that screamed "I've got so much technology inside me I'm going to explode!" I had a good run with that PSP. I played a lot of homebrews. I played Lumines until my eyes hurt and GTA: Liberty City Stories until my hands went numb.

But about a year ago I grew weary of it. There were simply no new games I really wanted to play. So I packaged up that sexy black box, all my games, all the random stuff, put it all on the white laminate of my second desk, took a picture and put it all up on eBay. To my surprise, the bundle fetched 80 percent of my actual retail cost.

I took the proceeds and bought a new Nintendo DS, a handful of games, and put the remainder into the bucket for the Xbox 360 games that ruled the roost for last year's holiday season. I was officially off the PSP wagon.

Some months ago, I first saw pictures of the new PSP - whatever the hell they decided to call it: the 2000, the Lite and Slim, the console formerly known as brick. I felt that technolust rising inside once again. I knew I had to at least hold one in my hands and feel the difference. But I hadn't been paying much attention to the release schedule, so there were no games I felt I simply had to have.

Then unbridled love for Jeanne D'Arc emerged from the ether, from people I trusted, people who I knew were cynical enough to hate everything, no matter how good it was. I was interested for real.

--

Here I stand. Stock still in the game aisle of Best Buy. I'm in a faceless town of the South West. I face a wall of games. I am tired. I am run-down and run-ragged.

It's 6PM, and I look ahead to another evening of eating alone at the bar, avoiding eye contact with strangers lest I have to engage in conversation, and finishing Terry Pratchet's "Making Money." I will then be alone, with the hollowness that comes from finishing a good book and having nothing to do.

There it is: a too-small box with a shiny silver PSP and various pack-ins I could care less about. Jeanne D'Arc sits next to it. It is the last PSP in the store, the last copy of Jeanne D'Arc on the shelf. It is a sign.

Back in my hotel room, I rip at the plastic containers of my newfound toys with frustration. Millimeters of plastic designed by mutant nuns in some subbasement of GE plastics fail to yield to my feeble attempts to stab the package open with a hotel-lobby pen. Finally, in a heroic feat of strength, the packaging yields. I slice my hand open on the tamper-proof impenetrable plastic condom. By the time I have the device in my hand, it has a smear of blood on the screen - a baptism of sorts.

It feels good.

It feels like having an old friend back, but a friend who is finally taking care of themselves, losing the extra weight, getting a better haircut, and hanging around with a better class of people.

I browse around the desktop, feeling out the old familiar corners of the interface, giddy at the brightness of the screen, the crispness of the sound, the presence of the thing in my hands. I sit down on the bed to see what Jeanne D'Arc looked like. 2 hours later I decide I should get something to eat.

--

Jeanne D'Arc is simply tremendous. It scratches the Tactical/Strategy RPG itch perfectly. It takes a somewhat ludicrous premise (Joan of Arc fights for France, against the demon hordes of England) and keeps it alive with a well written story, surprisingly good voice acting, unique and appropriate art direction, and engaging gameplay.

It's not revolutionary. The tactical combat pieces are derivative of everything from Advance Wars to Xcom to Tactics Ogre, yet it's dialed in just right for my latent grognard; I like having to worry about facing and unit-integrity. The JRPG elements are just thick enough to keep the story interesting (although the game features Anime tears in the first 10 minutes, which is nearly enough to make me dismiss any title). The skills and development system are unique and variable enough to be entertaining without being so complex as to be overwhelming. It gets 100 small things right, without being over the top in any one area.

If the PSP were to launch today - straight out of Japan, gangsta style, a surprise - Jeanne D'Arc would be it's defining launch title. Erase your preconceptions. Put yourself in the mindset of a Nintendo DS gamer. You've had your DS for a while, got a lot of mileage out of Advance Wars DS, and then you fire up Jeanne D'Arc.

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How could you not be blown away? For a mere $40 more than a DS, you're getting a system that plays games that look like Jeanne D'Arc? And in a tight little package that includes all the other PSP whizbangery, like letting my 7 year old watch American Girl movies without annoying her brother or playing MP3s or surfing the web at molassastastic speeds? For $40? It's only in comparison to our preconceptions that the current PSP can be considered anything but an error-induced bargain. But because of its lull, because it seemed to fade from view in the crush of solid titles for the DS, I had written it off.

And the new PSP is simply tremendous as well. It's not different in a big way from the old version. It's just better, faster, cheaper and easier to use.

Welcome home.

Comments

Welcome back, brother

JDA really came out of nowhere for me--a snack to tide me over until the OTHER tactics game came out-- but now I find that it is so much BETTER than any of these other ports of PS1 games that I am spoiled forever. The graphics are amazing, the anime cut-scenes are great, the characters are interesting, the combat is complicated ENOUGH without being ridiculous for a more casual tactics player. For $29.99, I don't think I've ever gotten more value from a handheld game.

(btw, check the huge JDA thread for 6+ pages of comments)

GWJ Jeanne D'Arc Crew represent!

Exactly what Matt said: it was the appetizer that turned out to be the main course.

Would be a good idea. I plan to have Logan sit in for me when I am on my honeymoon.

- Legion, taking "keeping it in the family" to a whole new level.

Xbox Live: Fedaykin98

I did the exact same thing with PSP version 1, and now i'm jonesin for PSP version 2. Damn you and your timely articles!

I love Jeanne. It made me bust out the PSP again, and finally put down the cash for Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops.

Jeanne is awesome, no better game to play to, from, and during work. Didn't participate much in the thread about it here, as most people were cruising wayy ahead of me.

ooooh, the new PSP is out now? That's on my 2008 budget plan.

Rabbit loves a Japanese game?

It's the end of the world, folks.

SommerMatt wrote:

JDA really came out of nowhere for me--

Ditto.

I wasn't even tracking the game's development until a week or two prior to release.

A few favorable impressions coupled with a SRPG itch was enough to make me pull the trigger. I had NO idea I was going to be getting a handheld title that would turn around and become my overall Sleeper Hit of 2007 (by a landslide, no less).

Jeanne D'Arc is utterly brilliant in design, execution and form of delivery (handheld gaming).

I like to announce to the heavens that Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth and video out justified the PSP slim to me, all by themselves. Jeanne D'Arc is gravy.

Hey, front page love for JDA! It's funny. From Ken Levine during the podcast the other day to Rabbit to many other bloggers I've read, there is definitely a groundswell of love for this game. I plan on getting FFT and Disgaea on the perspective days they launch and just knowing I have a year+ worth of gaming just sitting on my shelf there. But I don't think either game will captivate me the way JDA has. It's the game that would have sold me a PSP a long time ago, had they released it earlier. Funny that it took them so long (them being anyone) to come out with a game like this.

The funny thing is that this didn't come out of nowhere for me. I had read about the import version of the game, mostly because I was desparate for a Strategy RPG that was portable. I considered importing it at one point and living without the story. I'd already finished (multiple times) Tactics Ogre, FFTA, Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones, both Advance Wars for the GBA AND Onimusha Tactics. Yes, you read that right. I got so desparate I played and finished Onimusha Tactics. I even considered Yu Yu Hakishu Tournament Tactics (or whatever it was called).

I'm glad I waited. This game is a gem.

JDA and a PSP 2k is just a beautiful thing. I'm carrying it around with me wherever I go. I love that at any time, I can just ignore it for a minute and miss nothing. Plus all the other stuff: graphics, story, deep but not too deep strategy..etc. I'm jonesing for it right now.

No portable gaming for me, but readings GamerswithJobs on my phone has got me through several interminable layovers.

Damn you Rabbit, i bought one over lunch.

By the way, that Daxter package is a pretty sweet deal, even managed to get 10% off it at Circuit City (courtesy of AAA discount).

I'm playing this right now and it really is superb, and I wouldn't have even looked at it if not for all the glowing praises about it here on GWJ.

If it weren't for Zelda:DS, I'd probably be on the PSP/JDA bandwagon. Thankfully, Zelda has tempered my appetite for the time being...

screw jeanne d'arc, that was an outstanding piece of writing, rabbit. I particularly enjoyed the bit about your psp's baptism. All of it was good, nah great. When i read your work, sometimes I get the sense that I'm reading a hotshot Rolling Stone writer who touches on video games in his spare time. That's the collective emotional web your writing weaves for me.

souldaddy wrote:

sometimes I get the sense that I'm reading a hotshot Rolling Stone writer who touches on video games in his spare time.

Check's in the mail. Is that three D's or four?

(thanks, I'm a slut for compliments.)

I'll be damned if I didn't wish I could write like that. Your pieces are always a great read, and you put very well into words the sentiment I've been feeling since I picked up Jeanne D'Arc. I hadn't touched my PSP in over a year except to fondle it for a few minutes while running a system update, followed by the sharp realization that I had nothing to play on it.

I'm now thinking of going back and playing some of the (most likely) decent games that I seem to have missed over the past year, like Ratchet and Clank and Daxter.

Nice write-up Rabbit.

I've been considering replacing my long-ago-stolen PSP (don't ask) with the new slim for the last few months, but trying to avoid it because I'd rather not spend the money. But I want it. I desire it. But I was thinking about getting a 360. And I want that too.

You are not helping matters. Not helping at all.

Now I'm all...conflicted.

Anyone says , "Get both!" and I punch 'em (metaphorically) in da mouth.

I will say that if the PSP was ONLY capable of playing games, I'm not sure I'd see it as such a steal. I have high hopes the coming crop of games will blow me away. The rocksolid lock for me comes as a portable movie player. I'm shipping my wife off on a 5 day vacation with the entire Firefly series on it.

TheWalt wrote:

If it weren't for Zelda:DS, I'd probably be on the PSP/JDA bandwagon. Thankfully, Zelda has tempered my appetite for the time being...

As someone who played JDA and is currently playing Zelda, I have to say that I got MUCH more enjoyment out of JDA. Granted, they're very different games... and granted, I'm only an hour or so into Zelda, but unless something comes up soon that truly blows me away, I'll stand by my comment.

SommerMatt wrote:
TheWalt wrote:

If it weren't for Zelda:DS, I'd probably be on the PSP/JDA bandwagon. Thankfully, Zelda has tempered my appetite for the time being...

As someone who played JDA and is currently playing Zelda, I have to say that I got MUCH more enjoyment out of JDA. Granted, they're very different games... and granted, I'm only an hour or so into Zelda, but unless something comes up soon that truly blows me away, I'll stand by my comment.

STOP IT... I don't need any more reasons to buy more gadgets...

And good writing rabbit, I'm in the camp that believes it goes without saying that your articles are always a great read.

SommerMatt wrote:
TheWalt wrote:

If it weren't for Zelda:DS, I'd probably be on the PSP/JDA bandwagon. Thankfully, Zelda has tempered my appetite for the time being...

As someone who played JDA and is currently playing Zelda, I have to say that I got MUCH more enjoyment out of JDA. Granted, they're very different games... and granted, I'm only an hour or so into Zelda, but unless something comes up soon that truly blows me away, I'll stand by my comment.

I actually had the opposite reaction. JDA is a great game but it hasn't captured my attention like Zelda has.

Does anyone know why this game is not available in the UK or if it will ever be available. Amazon.com will not ship this game to the UK. All very frustrating!!

souldaddy wrote:
SommerMatt wrote:
TheWalt wrote:

If it weren't for Zelda:DS, I'd probably be on the PSP/JDA bandwagon. Thankfully, Zelda has tempered my appetite for the time being...

As someone who played JDA and is currently playing Zelda, I have to say that I got MUCH more enjoyment out of JDA. Granted, they're very different games... and granted, I'm only an hour or so into Zelda, but unless something comes up soon that truly blows me away, I'll stand by my comment.

I actually had the opposite reaction. JDA is a great game but it hasn't captured my attention like Zelda has.

to each their own. I'm just not caring about Zelda at all. I've played it for maybe and hour, and I just don't feel the "I must play this NOW" desire I felt with JDA (and with the PS1 rom of SUIKODEN II, which I was playing before Zelda arrived).

I just got a PSP slim on account of my love for the original Final Fantasy Tactics. I have not, however, played any other PSP games (or many PS2 games that have been ported there, for that matter). Do y'all have any strong suggestions for other buys? JDA is sounding like it's a worthwhile pickup. I am also strongly considering getting Castlevania: Dracula X, and the Disgaea game that's coming out next week.

If you haven't played Lumines, it's nearly mandatory.

I have LocoRoco, Guitaroo Man Lives, Jeanne D'Arc, and I plan to pick up FFT this week and Disgaea sometime down the road.
I'd recommend them all. Gitaroo Man is really short though, so if you can rent it I would. It's something I may go back to later but you can beat it in a week. The difficulty gets brutal near the end and on Hard mode, but I'm not masochistic. I beat normal and was satisfied.

I got Hot Shots Golf, Wipeout, and Metal Gear Acid 1&2 on the cheap and sold them a few months later, only losing out a few dollars. I'm not a big video golf fan so I was trying it out based on strong recommendations here. I'm still not a video golf fan, but you can find it pretty much anywhere cheaply.
Wipeout was good, I enjoyed it but didn't feel compelled to hold onto it. I didn't really give Metal Gear Acid a chance, I couldn't get through the start without falling asleep. I'm not a devoted Metal Gear fan. I picked up 2 for $5 without beating 1 and I never ended up opening it before selling.

If you haven't played Puzzle Quest on the DS and don't want it on the 360/PC then you may want to pick it up.

Warhammer 40k Squad Command is another to keep an eye open for.

Already released that I plan to check out sometime:
Castlevania
Crush
Lumines
Sid Meier's Pirates
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
Monster Hunter Freedom 2
Syphon Filter
SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 2
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

There are also 2 GTA games that are pretty well regarded, as well as a host of homebrew which I have started to get into.

*Edit*
You can check out the list of PSP games on metacritic listed by score order.
Metacritic PSP Games
I'd use it as a general reference, mainly to avoid stinkers and get an idea of the better games out there. Your tastes should pull you towards the ones you want.