Jeanne at the Clocktower is a historical fantasy visual novel from Liar-soft localized by MangaGamer. The intriguing premise draws upon the life and history of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. Given the abundance of visual novels with high school settings, it’s always exciting to take a look at something different. Is Jeanne at the Clocktower a triumphant victory or a tragic Agincourt? Let’s dive in.
Content warning: nonconsensual sex
A Land Outside History
The story begins with Roland and Olivier, two friends and Free French paratroopers tasked with clearing a way for the vanguard at Normandy on the eve of D-Day. But when things go wrong, they’re forced to bail out over a mysterious forest. Soon, a dense fog rolls in and a blackened moon hangs in a blood-red sky. The pair are beset upon by terrifying black knights, an encounter that seemingly proves fatal for Roland. However, he wakes up in a solitary meadow in the arms of a mysterious girl. She introduces herself as Jeanne and claims to live alone in a clock tower. Roland is eager to find Olivier and rejoin D-Day, but an impassable misty forest stretches as far as the eye can see.
Jeanne at the Clocktower centers around a fictionalized version of Jeanne d’Arc, the French peasant girl whose mystic visions led her to take up arms and rise to become an important military leader in the Hundred Years’ War. The game includes major figures from that time like Gilles de Rais and Philip the Good as well as lesser-known ones such as the astrologer Tiphanie Raguel. There’s folklore and legend too. This ranges from the Wild Hunt and water spirits to Roland, who shares his name with the leader of Charlemagne’s paladins. Christian symbolism and mythology also feature heavily throughout the story.
As someone who likes European history and folklore, I had a lot of fun with the setting. Every important person, place, or object has some historical or legendary counterpart. I enjoyed keeping an eye out for the references and seeing where the game decided to go with them. The story hops through time periods as well. You’ll have the chance to visit places and meet characters related to a number of France’s important historical events. And across the board, the writers did their research and use everything in ways that make sense.
Jeanne at the Clocktower has a lot of sexual content, and there’s no censored version of the game. Even the Steam version includes all the adult content. It’s not exactly vanilla either. In particular, there are a lot of rape scenes. The game’s go-to for establishing a villain as evil is generally to show them raping someone. And while rape is portrayed as an evil act undertaken by horrible people, the scenes themselves are still highly eroticized. Many of the scenes that aren’t straight-up rape are also dismal. Sex is often used transactionally or obtained through power imbalances, and as a result, most scenes have at least one party who would clearly rather not be participating. Even if you like Jeanne at the Clocktower’s type of sexual content, the constant use of sex to establish characters as villains or victims becomes repetitive and stale.
I think this content would be reasonable if Jeanne at the Clocktower were intended to be a fetish game. But the Steam page suggests the story and setting are the primary focus. In my experience, other games with large amounts of this type of content, for example the Rance series, are much clearer about their goals. I went into Jeanne at the Clocktower wanting a good story, not hours of rape. If Jeanne at the Clocktower aspires to be historical fantasy and not simply erotica, the numerous sex scenes do little to help. In fact, I think they detract by promoting lazy characterization and breaking the flow of the narrative.
There’s lots of nudity and fanservice outside the sex scenes too. Almost all the female characters have revealing outfits, and naked transformation sequences abound. Jeanne at the Clocktower’s writing doesn’t dwell on these too much, so they don’t stop the story from moving along. It does serve to constantly remind you that the next sex scene is likely not far away though. And if I ever have to hear “holy lance” used a sexual euphemism again, someone’s getting smote.
The Song of Roland and Jeanne
Jeanne, the girl of the clocktower, at first knows nothing of herself and the mysterious world around her. Roland, meanwhile, is eager to find his friend Olivier, from whom he became separated in the woods. However, Roland’s incursion soon brings unwanted attention in the form of a sadistic black knight. It also awakens something within Jeanne, and the pair quickly realize she is somehow linked to the historical Jeanne d’Arc. But complicating matters is the existence of another Jeanne: Jeanne the Witch. Unlike the innocent Jeanne the Maiden of the clocktower, Jeanne the Witch is a vengeful specter who calls down the flames of Gehenna on those responsible for the demise of the historical Jeanne d’Arc. Jeanne and Roland soon set off to discover Olivier’s fate and the truth of Jeanne’s existence, an adventure that eventually leads them to hold more than just their own fates in their hands.
The story is exciting with lots of action and intrigue. Roland and Jeanne cross swords with many dangerous and wily foes, and fight scenes are dramatic and dynamically paced. There are schemes, betrayals, and dark secrets too. The view often cuts away from Jeanne and Roland to show other characters’ machinations and foreshadow events to come. The hints aren’t exactly subtle and the reveals won’t surprise you, but it’s effective at building a sense of foreboding through dramatic irony. Jeanne and Roland are not privy to these scenes and so are blissfully unaware of the dangers that you as the reader know loom ahead.
The characters, on the other hand, are shallow and undeveloped. At best, they’re generic anime tropes. For example, Roland is the standard shounen protagonist who believes in his friends and desires the strength to protect those important to him. Most of the villains are cartoonishly evil with underbaked schemes and motivations that are barely explored. I also think Jeanne at the Clocktower tries to cram in more characters than it has space to work with. Subplots are abandoned for long periods and then hastily concluded before they have time to go anywhere. Characters are often unceremoniously written off in unsatisfying ways once their usefulness to the main plot has been exhausted.
Likewise, Jeanne at the Clocktower has intriguing themes but fails to explore them in any depth. One of the central ideas is providence versus the will of man. If the historical Jeanne d’Arc rose by divine providence, why did that same providence ultimately allow her to be burned as a heretic? And how should the current Jeanne stand before her tormenters? Should she cast them into oblivion, or offer them forgiveness and salvation? The two Jeannes represent opposing views, and the stage is set for a compelling conflict. However, the Jeannes never get enough character moments together for this to come to a head. And without her foil, Jeanne the Maiden’s internal conflict lacks impact. The themes are interesting ideas that unfortunately remain in the background.
I should also note that Jeanne at the Clocktower doesn’t have routes. The focus is always on Jeanne, and the choices you make affect primarily affect the ending. There are three endings for Jeanne that see the story through to different conclusions. There are also endings associated with two other characters, but these are bad endings that branch off at earlier points. The main point of them seems to be to feature sex scenes with these characters.
Sights, Sounds, and Extras
Jeanne at the Clocktower has lavish production values. The large cast all have distinctive designs and detailed sprites. Fight scenes are brought to life with dynamic CGs accented by small flourishes of animation and sound effects. In fact, there’s a generous amount of CGs in general. Different locations have unique backgrounds emphasizing their topography and architecture, and important characters are featured during their introductions and other signature moments.
A soundtrack that draws on Baroque and Celtic influences nicely complements the medieval fantasy setting. Everyone has voice acting, though only some of the male characters’ lines are voiced. There wasn’t any coherent pattern to when they were or weren’t, and I would have preferred if all the lines were voiced. But it was nice to see that Roland had a face and a voice when so many visual novel protagonists don’t. And I think the voice cast all leaned into their roles well. Whether heroic, maniacal, or sniveling, deliveries were on point.
There’s some sloppiness too though. For one, there are a lot of typos and minor errors. They never get in the way of understanding the text, but they do stick out. In addition, Jeanne at the Clocktower only runs correctly in 1280×768, a resolution that almost no one uses these days. The game still runs in other resolutions, but characters’ sprites will have thin black lines that form boxes around their faces. The boxes are obvious enough that I noticed them right at the start of my playthrough before I switched to 1280×768.
The extra features include both a CG gallery and a scene gallery that allows you to replay any scene, not just the sex scenes. I found the scene gallery a welcome and convenient feature. There’s also a short side story full of references and meta-humor. It wasn’t really my thing, but it’s entirely optional. Just make sure to play the main story first since it contains major spoilers otherwise.
Jeanne at the Clocktower has an interesting premise and does some things well. The novel setting is highly detailed while the story is exciting and dramatic. However, the characters and themes lack depth, so the end result feels like an average fantasy anime. In addition, gratuitous and extreme sexual content further detracted from my experience. I would recommend Jeanne at the Clocktower if you like action-heavy fantasy and the type of sexual content it offers. For this demographic, a score of 7/10 would be appropriate. If like me, that’s not your preference, I’d say to wait for a sale before you consider giving it a look.
WAIT FOR SALE ON JEANNE AT THE CLOCKTOWER
Many thanks go to MangaGamer for a PC review code for this title.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
A veteran of Oregon Trail and Battletoads, Wes has been playing and talking about games for as long as he can remember. He’s down to try almost anything, and he especially enjoys games with gripping narrative experiences.