Level 5 has delivered RPGs such as Dragon Quest VIII, Rogue Galaxy, and Dark Cloud 2. Most recently, the company’s strategy RPG Jeanne d’Arc was released stateside for PSP. RPG Land was able to talk with the developer a little bit about this title, as well as open up this contest.

RPGLand.comWhy did Level 5 decide to go with a Tactical RPG instead of a different subgenre or standard RPG? Refresh my memory, have you done TRPGs before?
Level 5We knew we wanted to create a strategy game from the very beginning of the project. It was a decision based on the features and strengths of the PSP, as well as the fact that we had staff available who had worked on strategy RPGs previously.

Strategy RPGs typically have an image of being very difficult—perhaps that stigma has prevented more titles from coming out. And in a lot of ways, that stigma holds true with many of the titles. In fact, figuring out the complex rules and using it to your advantage is part of the fun of strategy games.

As the technology gets better and better, there’s no need to make the system turn-based, so real-time strategies have become the norm. That being said, however, turn-based strategy games offer a different kind of fun. With Jeanne, we designed the game so that players new to the genre will still be able to play the game, while veteran strategy game players will find this game both nostalgic and entertaining.

RPGLand.comWas there lingering doubt that Sony would bring this one stateside, or do you think it was it a fairly easy decision for them to make?
Level 5Not particularly. We knew the gameplay was very fun and addictive and that if the localization was smooth it would be a fairly easy transition. So far response to the game has been wonderful.

RPGLand.comJeanne d’Arc follows the real campaigns of Joan of Arc. What do you think of the balance between fact and fiction in its story?
Level 5We wanted to make sure that people would be able to enjoy the game even if they didn’t know anything about the history of Joan of Arc. For those that know of her story, we hope that they enjoy our take on the story and historical figures.

Our focus was to make the game a fun experience, so we took plenty of liberties where needed rather than trying to recreate a faithful historic recreation.

RPGLand.comFrench protagonists, British enemies, originally a Japanese script…you guys must have had your work cut out for you in trying to localize this thing for the American audience. How has the process gone, what types of twists and turns have you encountered, and so on?
Level 5The biggest work was done on the voices. The gameplay was so good, we didn’t need to make many changes to it for the US. However getting the voices just right was the trick.

Because the story takes place in France, we felt that it was appropriate for the characters to keep their French pronunciation for names, as well as speak with varying degrees of French accents. For the voiceovers, we really had a difficult time deciding on the level of French accents we should go for, or forget accents altogether and just go with neutral sounding English.

After some discussion, we decided that plain English took away from the atmosphere of the locale and characters. We then experimented during the audition process with varying degrees of French accents. We auditioned French actors and actresses with thick French accents as a baseline of what a true Frenchman sounds like, then had them pull back on their accents as well. We also had American actors play with French accents to see how authentic it would feel.

When most Americans think of French accents, I think most immediately think of Pepé Le Pew’s way of speaking wiz zee zick aczent, no? But that’s not what real French accents sound like, and it also gets very busy when all the characters are speaking with heavy French accents.

In the end, we chose to have American actors do very mild accents for the main characters, and have a few authentic French actors play some of the side characters to add more color to the dialogue. For the American actors, we had a French consultant to help them maintain the proper accents. It was pretty difficult to strike the right balance, but this was one of the most fun voiceover projects we’ve done.

RPGLand.comWhich are cuter: French or English accents?
Level 5French, of course.

RPGLand.comIn what ways does Jeanne d’Arc accomodate that “gamer on the go” you always hear about when discussing portable games?
Level 5It’s great because it provides gamers with a massive story, more than 40 hours of gameplay, and tons of missions and quests that people can play anytime, anywhere. The battles have a great variety to them, and can be easily played in short bursts. But the real trick was getting the visuals to look as good as they do on the PSP screen and in that regarding the game hit its mark.
RPGLand.comFollow-up: Are the folks that wrote the scenario/plot of the game sort of history buffs, or was there some homework to be done in the writing?
Level 5At first, we planned on coming up with an original story, but we decided that it might be interesting to create a story based on historical events. In the end we decided to make a game based on the story of Joan of Arc. This was done for a number of reasons, one of which was that we didn’t want to pick a story that was familiar in only one country. We needed to select a historical event that most people have at least heard of. Given that criteria, the story of Joan of Arc floated to the top as it’s a story that almost everyone is familiar with to some extent—the heroic maiden burned at the stake. Her story also worked from a strategy RPG perspective as it takes place during a medieval war.
RPGLand.comWhat would you say is the game’s single biggest weakness and biggest strength? And please none of the token “It has no weakness!”
Level 5There are many strengths in our minds, but the biggest is the visuals. It looks like current PS2 level game for sure…stunning graphics.

The weakness I’d say is that the title could be considered niche. We strove to create a game where strategy RPG fans would say “this is the type of game I was waiting for!” Although we made this game for strategy RPG fans, we also wanted to make this game approachable to people who are new to the genre.

RPGLand.comIf you had to compare Jeanne d’Arc to one or a few other games, which would it most closely resemble?
Level 5We see some elements of our game reflected in titles like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea perhaps…but we have a historical story on our side!

RPG Land thanks the various participants from Level 5 who took time to answer these questions. For a chance to end your summer on a good note, take a shot at winning Jeanne d’Arc in the contest.


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