Jeanne at the Clock Tower Review – Historically Charming

    Title: Jeanne at the Clock Tower
    Developer: Liar-soft
    Release Date: Jun 10, 2021
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: MangaGamer
    Genre: Visual Novel

Jeanne at the Clock Tower, developed by Liar-soft, is an epic time travel visual novel centered on alternate versions of Joan of Arc. Despite weaknesses in the storytelling, the worldbuilding offers some fascinating twists on history and mythology.

The protagonist of Jeanne at the Clock Tower, Roland, is a French soldier during World War II. When his plane is shot down during a battle, he ends up in a strange world with a red sky filled with shadowy figures. This land is called Annwn, like the Otherworld in Welsh mythology, but feels more like a sort of purgatory, something between life and death. It’s made up of islands in time and space, important historical events, and places that souls have gathered around.

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Roland meets a young woman, Jeanne, who lives alone in a clock tower on one of these islands. As it turns out, the clock tower can travel through space and time — or at least the twisted versions of both that exist in this world — and Jeanne is actually Joan of Arc, patron saint of France — or at least one version of her, innocent and naive before she set off on her path to sainthood.

The characters are based on French history and legend figures, many of them female and some gender-flipped. For example, the main villain in the first part is Edwalda, based on Edward the Black Prince, known for his brutality against the French during the Hundred Years War. In Jeanne at the Clock Tower, Edwalda is styled as a sensual female swordfighter who rapes men to death to drain their life essence.

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“Gender-flipped historical figures swordfight” is a genre in and of itself, and if you’re into that sort of stylized historical fantasy epic, there’s a lot to like here. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and scored, albeit somewhat repetitive. And in addition to the popular historical and mythical figures who often appear as fictional characters, the author mixes it up a bit with some more obscure figures, such as the 14th-century astrologer Tiphaine Raguenel.

The worldbuilding is also engaging, and it’s always fun to see this kind of cross-cultural play on Western history and Christian mythology. (For example, Jeanne using the Lord’s Prayer as a magic spell in a transformation sequence that would feel right at home in a magical girl anime.) Some familiarity with the history and legends is certainly useful to appreciate how they’ve been altered and presented in this story. Still, even if you’re missing some context, the lore doesn’t get too overwhelming or difficult to follow.

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Although the setting is fascinating and individual scenes may be exciting, the overall plot lacks direction. The cast of characters winds up feeling larger than it actually is because new villains keep appearing to step on each other’s toes. It doesn’t help that the main villains are more compelling characters than the heroes; the pure romance between Roland and Jeanne isn’t nearly as interesting as the bad endings where they get corrupted.

In addition, the sex scenes are a major weak point. A few of them work well stylistically and reveal different aspects of the characters. Still, for the most part, they feel like generic padding by an author who wasn’t particularly enthused about writing them. The sparse male voice acting seems like a related problem. Having female characters fully voiced and male characters partially voiced or not voiced is common and understandable in a game that’s just about sexy scenes with pretty girls. Still, in a story like this, that’s meant to be a serious epic, the one-sided voice acting makes many scenes feel unbalanced.

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Publisher MangaGamer ported the game to Ren’Py for the English release, which is great for cross-platform compatibility, but unfortunately, it’s unpolished. The text could use another round of proofreading for typos and inconsistencies. More distractingly, there are scaling issues, such as the edges of parts of the composite character sprites are visible when you run the game at anything other than its native 1280×720 resolution.

Of course, the workaround is obvious (resize the window to 1280×720 or set your desktop resolution to 1280×720 for fullscreen). Still, part of the point of porting a game to a different engine for a Western release is so you can run it out of the box without having to deal with that sort of fussiness.

Left, 1280×720. Right, 1920×1080.

Jeanne at the Clock Tower is a fun romp through time with interesting spins on both familiar and obscure characters. The plot loses steam partway through, and the obligatory sex scenes feel out of place, but the lovely art and soundtrack bolster some fascinating worldbuilding that should satisfy fans of the genre.

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

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Amy Scholl

Fan of unusual visual novels.