Tsukihime: Blue Blue Glass Moon Under the Crimson Air

By Ishaan . July 24, 2009 . 3:17pm

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That’s the tagline of Tsukihime, one of the best visual novels ever written. Like its tagline, Tsukihime is haunting and memorable.

 

If you’re into anime, chances are you’ve heard of Fate/stay Night. The Fate/stay anime/manga are based on a visual novel of the same name by TYPE-MOON, a Japanese doujin-soft company founded by writer Kinoko Nasu and artist Takashi Takeuchi. Fate/stay is the company’s third or fourth project. TYPE-MOON’s very first work was a novel by the name of Kara no Kyoukai. Originally published online in 1998 on Nasu and Takeuchi’s website, it was commercially released in 2004 by Kodansha. The series was extremely well received and sold over half a million copies.

 

However, at the time of Kara no Kyoukai’s 1998 release, TYPE-MOON hadn’t been officially formed. Their first “official” project, Tsukihme, was published in 2000.

 

Tsukihime is a visual novel with erotic elements that places a heavy emphasis on plot and character relations. It features outstanding writing — possibly some of the best I’ve seen in a visual novel to date — and is my favourite visual novel of all time. Considering I’ve played my fair share of games from the genre, that is, in my humble opinion, saying something.

 

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Tsukihime is about Tohno Shiki, a boy who falls victim to a life-threatening accident at a very young age. Shiki wakes up in the hospital only to find out that, although doctors say his recovery is miraculously complete, not all seems to be right. Shiki can see strange lines around him everywhere. Lines in people…lines in objects…on the floor, on the walls…everywhere. Furthermore, he realizes that he can destroy any of these objects, no matter how small or large, simply by tracing along the lines with a knife or similarly sharp object.

 

Following an “incident” at the hospital, the doctors conclude that Shiki’s brain was damaged in the accident and that he is hallucinating.

 

But all is not as it seems. The lines are no mere hallucination. They threaten to drive Shiki crazy as he comes to the realization that there isn’t a single spot around him – no matter where he goes – without them. Shortly thereafter, he meets a lady who gives him a pair of glasses that hide the lines as long as he wears them. After giving Shiki the motivation he needs to continue with his life, the lady disappears forever.

 

Cut to eight years later: Shiki is ready to leave the home of his adoptive family and return to the Tohno family mansion, the residence of his real family. With both his parents dead, Shiki’s only real remaining family is his sister, Akiha. However, once he starts living at Tohno residence, strange incidents begin to take place.

 

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On the way back home from school, Shiki notices a beautiful girl. He doesn’t know her name or where she’s from. All he notices about her is her undeniable beauty. Her golden hair…her crimson eyes. Falling into a trance, Shiki follows her to her home and takes off his glasses. He then proceeds to cut her up along the lines on her body into several pieces, turning her entire apartment into a blood bath in the process. When he snaps out of it, he doesn’t know why he did it. He doesn’t know how he did it.

 

But more importantly, he doesn’t know who she was. No, it’s not what you think.

 

And that’s only the first of Tsukihime’s many plot twists. The game is extremely heavy on dialogue and the interface practically forces you to pay attention to the text. Dialogue is deep, insightful and sometimes, it really makes you think a lot about the game in relation to the real world. Playing Tsukihime is like reading a book, only on the PC and with hauntingly beautiful music and decent art accompanying the narrative.

 

Tsukihime features 5 different “heroines,” which means you have five different paths you could end up on. Furthermore, some of these girls’ paths split up into two different endings towards the end of the game, so you’re looking at a reasonably long playthrough. In order to undercover every single mystery the game presents, you’ll probably have to play through it more than once. While it is possible to die from making bad choices, it’s nothing some smart saving/loading at the choice screens won’t solve.

 

Tsukihime can be a very touching game at times. I found myself especially attached to Arcueid and proceeded to play through her ending first. The first time I made it to the end of the game nearly three years ago, I was infatuated with her for the rest of the year.

 

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Despite this, it can be downright spooky, too. The story isn’t necessarily about love or friendship; it’s about suspense. It’s about incidents that date all the way back to Shiki’s childhood…incidents that scarred him and those around him for life. If you’re looking to experience living another life filled with mystery and romance for a couple days, Tsukihime gets my highest recommendation.

 

[This playtest is an edited version of the original Tsukihime write-up on my personal blog. I decided to put it up on Siliconera since we've recommended the game to our readers who are interested in the genre on so many occasions.]


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  • Vaane

    I really loved the Tsukihime VN, and although the art isn’t up to the standards of modern VNs, you have to consider this was a doujin project by a newly started company, with very limited funds. Anyways, the writing more than makes up for any deficiencies. Seriously reccomended to everyone.

    • Tye The Czar

      I agree, art-wise it kind of lacks. But like the ultra-popular doujin shmup series Touhou, Tsukihime has some really likable and well-designed characters. I totally hope someone like Kyoto Animation or DEEN makes an anime adaptation that does it justice (“There is no Tsukihime anime”).

      And THANK YOU so much, Ishaan for doing a feature on this seminal VN. I hope you all do features on other doujin games as well.

      P.S. Doujin = Indie

      • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

        Oh, we’re very interested in doujin games. You’ll probably see more coverage from us on those in the future. :)

  • QBasic

    Definitely one of my all-time faves. And…still waiting for that rumored Tsukihime 2. =_=

    Until then, Melty Blood Actress Again will just have to suffice. Also…big kudos to the main man George Nakata, for staying so faithful to TYPE-MOON!

  • Aoshi00

    I’ve been meaning to try out the game, but I can’t seem to find the PC version anywhere. I don’t think this has been ported to PS2 right? Although I must say I don’t like Type Moon’s art compared to the anime character design, which looks a lot more mature.

    I’ve only watched the anime, liked the music so much I bought the two soundtracks right away. I’m an Arcuied fan too, most likely due to Nabatame Hitomi’s attractive voice (Aya in Infinite Undiscovery / Ouka in Busou Renkin). Of course the ED sung by Orikasa Fumiko (Rukia) is excellent too, “Please Save My Earth” good.

    • QBasic

      Anime? There’s a Tsukihime anime? First I heard of it.

      • Aoshi00

        Yes, Shingetsutan Tsukihime, it was from a couple of years ago. It’s one of my favorite shows and I even wanted to get the DVD box set. How do people get to play this game anyway? I don’t think it has been translated to English right? And I can’t find anywhere to order online because this game is so old, a doujin game too.

        Here, http://img442.imageshack.us/img442/8981/arcueid1qs5.jpg

        I think the anime Arcuied looks tons better, in comparison I’m not fond of the original Type Moon art at all.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          The English patch is at: http://www.mirrormoon.org. It’s vastly superior to the anime, btw. Anime’s not bad but the visual novel is in a league of its own.

          Edit: Also, about anime Arcueid. Her personality is a lot more lively in the visual novel. You’ll see…the slightly younger look suits her.

          • Aoshi00

            That’s what I heard, but I like the anime like that, w/o having played the game. I guess it’s impossible to hunt down a legit Jpn PC copy huh? Just curious, any T&A like the other type moon games?

            And the problem is I just can’t bring myself to like the Fate stay night art, as you know I’m quite a visual person, if the art style is not my cup of tea it’s hard for me to swallow.

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            There’s only two ecchi scenes in Tsukihime if I recall correctly. Mirrormoon’s patch even allows you to disable them entirely.

            And yea, I totally get that art style is important. I pass on a lot of stuff that isn’t aesthetically pleasing in some way to me, too. In fact, I thought Tsukihime looked kinda rough around the edges when I first played it, too…but the writing tends to win one over.

          • Aoshi00

            That’s cool to know, I guess those scenes are meaningful ones then. I was just wondering because I see so much naughty doujin arts on this series. Also I don’t like PS2 ports for these visual novels/dating sims because they are inferior version cutting out the “good” scenes.

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            Yea, they don’t throw them in for no reason at all, which is great I think. Sent you a direct message on Twitter btw.

        • QBasic

          Lol.

          That’s not a Tsukihime anime. That’s just some random crap thrown together. :P

          Like I said, never heard of it since it don’t exist.

  • http://thestoppableforce.net/ stoppableforce

    Tried to leave this as a reply below, but can’t. Ishaan: there are /way/ more than 2 ecchi scenes. There’s nearly 2 per /route/.

    I think I’m still kind of infatuated with Arcueid, myself.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Yea, that’s what I meant. Two per route. Apologies for not wording it more clearly. Arcueid certainly has her charm…

      • Yoneda

        You should have stated somewhere in your ‘playtest’ which routes you have played, or at least how many.

    • Aoshi00

      Thanks for clarifying, I was like “only two scenes for the whole game?” That’s worse than the watered down PC to Saturn ports :) Kohaku and Hisui get at least one, lol.

      http://x8a.xanga.com/5ecf3b2679c32236363492/b186743573.jpg (the anime art rules)

      • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

        Kohaku’s route was about the only one I didn’t do, but are you sure that’s part of the game? That looks more like the anime route, not the art from the v-nov game itself…

        Unless you meant it as an anime art post, in which case I’ll agree, yes, that art is amazing =D

        • Aoshi00

          Yea, I was just commenting on how nice the art of the anime is compared to the game’s, which seems below par (being a doujin game explains it).

          I have never played Tsukihime (only watched the anime which I liked a lot) since there’s no way to actually buy a Japanese copy for the PC. Imagine if they were to do a remake for today’s console w/ the anime art style. Instead they’re just doing these fighting games like Melty Blood.. It’s just like Suda 51′s Flower, Sun and Rain or Silver Case, I just can’t get past the ugly blocky 3D polygons (I don’t know how much better it looks on the original PS2 version, but that costs $80 on ebay now..)

  • Aoshi00

    Guess the only way to play this game is bootleg huh :)?

    • Reflect

      It was the only way for me, I wish I could pay for it but it’s kinda hard for those outside. =/

      Definitely worth buying although it’s really the only VN I have ever read – takes a lot of time going through the routes.

      • Aoshi00

        That’s too bad, Jpn PC games are hard to import as it is (though himeya has quite a few but not for cheap), let alone a doujin one from long time ago.
        It would be cool if they could re-release it, but like I said a family friendly console port w/ all the goodies gone would be an inferior version.

        I used to like VNs a lot, played a lot of them on the Saturn and Dreamcast. Just hard to get into them these days, I think I’ve grown out of it. I bought Aoishiro for PS2 and still haven’t touched it yet.

        I like the anime as it is, so I can imagine the original being better, but the art is not enticing to me.

        • Reflect

          The art in VN is nothing amazing really in fact that’s a reason why I didn’t bother to play it till a friend kept pushing me just to give it a try so I did, got myself prepared got some rest prepared some snacks and started the VN and shocked I was hooked to it until the very next day mid-afternoon.

          Console VNs aren’t my thing really… Oh by the way I should thank you for the links above. I didn’t know they re-released Tsukihime on DVD with better sound/quality compared to it’s previous which had issues. I just order a copy of the new collectors lol looking forward to next week.

          • Aoshi00

            I see, I guess the art really is just what it seems, semi-professional. So it essentially just has a very good story.

            No prob, I was surprised too when I came upon it the other day. Glad to be of help (some complained about me giving dead links..). If you really placed order w/ Amazon, please cancel it. Buy.com has it for half as cheap. I think it’s something worthy of collecting too. I’m a huge seiyuu fan, so I really like the VAs of Shiki (Ishida in Bleach) and Arcuied (Nabatame Hitomi).

            http://www.buy.com/prod/tsukihime-complete-collection/q/loc/322/210394629.html

  • http://otoboku.se manga

    So. Unless I understand Japanese I do not know of any legal way of playing this. I know of a patch that translates the game from Japanese into English. But that is about it.

    Or is Tsukihime comming out in English? Great news if that is so.

    For your thoughts on the game they are great.

    Sorry that I have a slight problem getting to understand what this post is about. A review? It´s comming out in English?

    I will have to blame it on lack of sleep.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Just a playtest. :) (We don’t like to call them “reviews” at SE)

      No, unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Tsukihime get an official localization any time soon…so yea, the only way to play it is through the translation patch on MirrorMoon’s site.

      • http://otoboku.se manga

        Thank you for the explanation. Then I know. And yes, playtest does sound better than reviews.

  • Suzero

    something very creepily familiar about this all

  • MadMirko

    If you have the choice to disable the ecchi scenes, I recommend you do. I found them really out of place and badly written (that might have been the English translation, though).

    Otherwise, I enjoyed the game but couldn’t get myself to revisit it immediately after getting Ciel’s True Ending. Some day, I will.

    • Yoneda

      I can only second that. Badly written for sure, and the CGs are quite ugly as well when compared with the character sprites. The only good thing about these scenes is the music.

      Seriously, the scene in the Akiha route totally ruined it for me so I had to pretend it never happened. Shiki is such an asshole whenever he gets his dirty hands on a woman that it kind of devalues the girl who loves him in that particular route.

      So, if you have the chance, disable them! Even if you are a horny bastard like Shiki they won’t pay off because of the bad art (and because there are so few of them and the rest of the game so big, you only get one for each 15 hours or so).

  • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

    What i liked best about this game was that all the paths led to a truth, and although the truths may not all be the same (i believe there was a contradiction if you compare akiha’s with arcueid’s route), they still are the truth for that path. There are no extraneous paths that don’t tell you anything new about Shiki and the girls.

    On another note, gods, Shiki actually has a past! And a personality! I miss that visual novel, if only because that is about the only v-nov I’ve played to actually have that. (I believe Fate~Stay Night~ does it too, but I haven’t played that … and it’s Type-Moon as well too.)

    I’m also a big fan of the vampire/gothic atmosphere if it’s done properly, and this game certainly does. The story told is amazing, the characters are amazing, hte concept with the Lines of Death are original and intriguing… Man, I really should play this game again someday…

  • kurdeaux

    Uahh~

    Satchi~n!

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