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