Jack Jeanne Review – The Entralling Magic of Theater

    Title: Jack Jeanne
    Developer: Broccoli
    Release Date: June 15, 2023
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Aksys Games
    Genre: Otome, Adventure, Rhythm

With the many otome games localized by publisher Aksys Games, it’s easy to assume that they mainly focus on Idea Factory-developed titles. And while there are plenty of titles yet to receive a Western release, it’s always good to see a release from a different team. This is what initially grabbed my interest about their release of the Broccoli-developed Jack Jeanne. From the creators of the Uta no Prince-sama series, fans get to experience a title by Sui Ishida, the artist behind the series Tokyo Ghoul and Choujin X, with scenarios from Shin Towada, the writer behind Tokyo Ghoul‘s novelization. If you were hesitant to explore an otome game from a different developer, Jack Jeanne will easily open your eyes to an entirely new experience within the genre.

Jack Jeanne begins its story with Kisa Tachibana, a young girl who loves to act with her brother, Tsuki Tachibana. She’s always dreamed of attending Univeil Drama School, a prestigious institution with over 300 years of history, especially after her brother was once known as the Treasure of Univeil. There’s just one small problem, however: The school only allows male students to enroll, and those students must be able to act into male roles, known as Jacks, and female roles, known as Jeannes.

Somewhat convinced that she’ll never be able to attend the school, fate would have her run into the principal, who offers her the opportunity to enroll, but under three conditions: She must conceal her gender and pretend to be a boy, deepen bonds and connections with her classmates, and finally, land a leading role on the Univeil performance festival, which is held at the end of the school year. She is then assigned to Quartz, a class that primarily focuses on newbie students who have no prior acting experience.

Jack Jeanne screenshot. Suzu Orimaki, with his mouth wide, says "Yessss! You passed too, huh?! Congrats!"

The prologue is over rather quickly, as Jack Jeanne doesn’t waste any time getting you into the main story. There are six love interests: Suzu Orimaki, an energetic and dorky young man; Soshiro Yonaga, one of Kisa’s childhood friends; Sarafumi Takashina, a third-year who’s great at dancing; Mitsuki Shirota, a second-year who excels at singing; Kai Mutsumi, a man of few words, and finally; Kokuto Neji, the rather eccentric director, and scriptwriter of Quartz. There’s also a special route where Kisa doesn’t go for any of the six I just mentioned and instead chooses to spend the year honing her abilities.

Still, when it comes to more traditional otome, Jack Jeanne differs on many levels. You see, contrary to its contemporaries, about 80% of the story consists of the common route, with only the final chapter changing in accordance with the love interest you’ve chosen. In order to get into a certain love interest’s “route,” you must deepen their affection by spending time with them on the weekends, but you also must nurture a specific stat. Thankfully, the game makes it pretty easy to tell which one because the love interests have color-coded name tags that match the color of the stats, and through the Character menu, you can see how much Affection you have for them.

jack jeanne screenshot 6

There are “Lessons” systems used to raise stats. Each week, you’ll go through your school day training that specific stat, and on the weekends, you can choose to hang out with your fellow students and deepen your bonds with them. The tutorial implies the stats “affect various facets of the game,” but as far as I could tell, only two stats, Voice and Agility, make any difference, with the other four used to get closer to the love interest who you wish to go for, as I’ve mentioned previously.

Once you’ve met the required conditions, you’ll unlock Affection Events, which let you see a side of the character that you won’t normally see. After viewing the events, an option opens up to Furthermore, it’s not only the love interests that you can hang out with, but as you progress, you can also choose to interact with the students from other classes, and they feature unique special events.

jack jeanne screenshot 4

In Univeil, a school year consists of six performances. Each of them consists of Dancing and Singing segments. But if you thought you were just going to sit and watch them, think again. In Dancing, you must press the required buttons when the icons overlap, and in Singing, you must align the cursor by nudging it left and right with the shoulder buttons. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, this is a rhythm game. You can choose your difficulty, but regardless of which you pick, your ending will be determined by your rank.

During my playthrough, even though there are practice options, it’s a bit challenging due to the video playing in the background. And on certain performances, especially during Singing, I ended up getting some misses and off-timing because of how distracting the it was. And no, there’s just no way to turn them off.

jack jeanne singing segment
I wish I was kidding, but the text here is extremely distracting.

At the end of the performance, you’re graded based on the rating of each segment. This is followed by the individual performance awards, which run a quick stat check on Tachibana’s parameters. It might sound scary, but if you balance the training and rest accordingly, you should be able to get the gold award rather effortlessly, especially since there’s a small cutscene that will indicate to you when your current stat spread is already sufficient.

The first playthrough takes a long time to complete. But sequential playthroughs are quicker because you can skip practice segments and some text. Still, you’ll have to go through the dance and singing games all over again. This does end up becoming a bit repetitive, but the amazing soundtrack makes up for it.

jack jeanne performance grade

While the character writing and overall plot have excellent pacing, there are some elements that hint at a sequel. There are certain subplots that are left unresolved, which leaves a few questions unanswered.

Further, there are only 50 save slots, which is half of what other otome games usually have. Given the simulation systems, I had to regularly save, leading me to run out of them in the middle of my playthrough.

jack jeanne cg jun 02

The translation is decent, with only a couple of oddities that I encountered, such as punctuation issues and terms being mismatched with the Japanese voices. There’s also an Affection event where the choices presented are mismatched with what Kisa actually says. Furthermore, while the performance openings are subtitled, the music videos from Dancing and Singing are not, and there’s no way to view a lyric sheet anywhere in the Gallery.

After your first playthrough, all of the Dancing and Singing segments can be replayed from the Gallery, and you can also review any Affection Events, divided on a per-character basis. This is also where you’ll consult your Trophies. Yes, Jack Jeanne also offers a trophy system, which I found really cool, as it incentivizes you to watch all of the endings and get an SS rank on the toughest difficulty.

jack jeanne trophy list

Jack Jeanne is an amazing otome experience that you won’t want to put down. Still, repetition within some of the systems hurt the pacing on multiple playthroughs, and the narrative is practically begging for a sequel. However, it managed to keep me engaged, with some routes being an absolute rollercoaster of emotions. Hopefully, we see Aksys take more chances on these lesser-known otome developers in the future.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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