I know a lot of tactics fans have had their eye on this game for quite awhile now, as have I... Fortunately, an English demo floated down from the nether regions yesterday, and I just could not resist firing it up.
(I'm not really sure of the "legalities" of downloading an ISO of a game DEMO... I mean, it's a DEMO, right? Meant to be played to try the game? Even so, I'll leave it up to you to figure out how to get a copy.)
The demo give you two random missions to play, but I think it definitely gives a taste of gameplay and left me drooling with anticipation for the game's official release on 8/21/07.
Intitial impressions... the game looks and feels nearly identical to the classic FFTactics for the PS1. The graphics are sharper and more detailed, it's optimized for the 16:9 display, and like DRAGON QUEST VIII, it uses cell shading to give a very "anime" feel to the characters on the screen. Speaking of which, the game intermixes anime cut scenes with the gameplay to further the story (as in the demo, where Jeanne "transforms" in a sailor moon type way into her "holy armor"...). The standard "static character picture pops up for dialogue" thing is used here also, as in many other JRPG titles.
The battle locations seem to be somewhat bigger than FFT, which leads to one of my only knocks against the game-- the camera zooms out to cover the whole battlefield, which leaves the characters much smaller than I'd want... when you move them & they attack, it DOES zoom in, but I still wish I could get a larger view since the characters are so nice looking. The locations are in full 3D, and can be rotated bu using the shoulder buttons or the analog stick.
As with FFT, when the battles begin, you're given victory conditions and set loose. Each character gets a move phase and an attack/skills/items phase. Jeanne's gimmick in the game is the "holy armor"-- during the course of the game she acquires various versions with different specialties. The armor is much more powerful than regular Jeanne, and the catch is that she can only use it ONCE per battle... and after using it, it only lasts 2-3 turns. The coolest thing about the armor is that if you "one hit kill" your enemy, you engage "godspeed," which allows you to move and attack AGAIN. If the enemies are weak enough and close enough together, you can string these attacks together and kill 4-5 enemies in a turn.
The first mission is right from the beginning of the game, and you only have Jeanne and her two friends in your party. The second mission comes much later in the game, and features a full-on part with archers, a big power-house character, a "mage/cleric" character, a spear wielder, etc. My impression is that there is no FFT-style "job" switching in the game, but it's hard to tell after just these two levels.
The story follows the "traditional" Joan of Arc plot-- it's set in France, you're fighting the English, and so on. When and where the English army got trolls, dragons, and skelton monsters is anyone's guess Not sure if she is eventually burned at the stake, but the game does mention GOD as being behind Jeanne's visions.
So, like I said... I'm really impressed. The game has classic tactics gameplay and great graphics. Really looking forward to it.