Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- Review – Lunar Legend

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- Review

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a visual novel I have been waiting decades to play. The long-awaited remake of indie classic Tsukihime has finally come out in English. Is it the same as the original? No. Was it worth the wait? Yes. Even if you don’t like visual novels, this game is still worth a try.  This review may contain spoilers.

After a childhood accident that nearly kills him, Shiki Tohno begins seeing mysterious lines. When he traces them with fingers or a knife, whatever they’re on breaks. And the lines are on everything. He wears glasses to avoid harming others and protect himself from the intensity of staring into death.

For years, he lives like a normal boy, exiled from the rest of the wealthy Tohno family. Then his father dies, his sister calls him home, and a serial killer begins stalking the city streets. Finally, a mysterious blonde girl passes Shiki on the street, and all his hard-earned control shatters.

Without hesitation and without reason, Shiki kills that girl. When he comes back to his senses, he’s horrified and confused. The next day, she tracks him down, introduces herself as the vampire Arcueid, and drafts him into her hunt for another vampire who’s slaughtering his way through the streets at night. What follows is a tangled story of love, blood, and betrayal. A tale of disability, responsibility, classism, and death.

Lunar Legend Resurrected

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a visual novel. Interaction and mechanics are limited, but the story develops differently depending on the choices you make. This game features two possible heroines, Arcueid and Ciel. Each girl is lovable and intimidating in her own way–and dragging a ton of action and baggage behind her. While this is a romance, it’s a very plot-focused one, and the game’s plot and thrilling presentation are some of its strongest points.

Shiki makes for an engaging, sympathetic, and sometimes scary protagonist. His perceptions are unreliable at the best of times, but those around him are also lying to him. Sometimes out of a misguided desire to protect him, sometimes to use him for their own agendas. Whether it’s a centuries-old vampire, a schoolmate, or his own family, Shiki can’t afford to trust anyone blindly. The absurdity of his life is played for both laughs and tears.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- screenshot of Ciel adn some early game choices.

This game is a genre-blending masterpiece with a thick and often unsettling atmosphere. It can move from sweet romance to uncomfortable family drama to psychological horror very fast. The characters are complex, messy, and wonderfully realized, even the new additions. And the translation is really solid. Shiki’s internal narration is lively and engaging, the dialogue is fun, and Japanese kanji puns are carefully explained. There’s a flowchart to make finding endings and specific scenes easier. This is good, because there are also a lot of bad endings.

The original Tsukihime, published in 2000, was the first visual novel produced by Type-Moon of Fate franchise fame. It introduced many of the concepts that would go on to dominate its sister franchise. This game revisits those themes, expands the narrative, and updates the classic story with a modern setting, updated Fate-consistent lore, and a much higher budget. The results are spectacular.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a Fascinating Remake

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a visual and auditory delight. The updated art is nice, especially the backgrounds. All of the portraits make the cast wonderfully expressive. The ‘camera’ moves around constantly to create an illusion of movement, and there are some really striking CGs. There are lots of visual and audio effects to keep the viewer’s interest. And the expanded story more than deserves a read.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- screenshot of Arcueid standing over a wounded Shiki.

The game is almost fully voiced and the Japanese voice acting is quite solid. The soundtrack is very good at setting the mood, even when that mood shifts on a dime. And the soundscape can provide all the ambiance a scene needs. Ciel and Arcueid hold themselves differently, have unique reactions when angry or embarrassed, and have very different relationships with Shiki. It all makes for a truly incredible visual novel.

There is one problem it’s impossible to overlook. There’s a lot of worldbuilding exposition. Arcueid literally breaks out a whiteboard to explain how vampires work at one point. That said, when the monsters actually appear, there’s a deep, visceral horror to them.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- Arcueid and her whiteboard full of vampire diagrams.

This title is a more grounded urban fantasy/horror than most of the Fate franchise. It’s part family drama, part high-octane urban fantasy horror/romance. It also asks more questions that it answers, as expected for the first half of a two-part game. That said, it is still a good entry point to the Fate franchise.

Disability, Absurdity, Alienation, Trauma

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a game about being young and sick, feeling like a burden and a monster, knowing you’re a danger to yourself and others, but still trying to live. It is a messy and sometimes ugly story focusing on a cast of messy and troubled characters. At 40-50 hours, it is also a hefty read despite only having two routes. And while it’s more polished than the original version, for better and for worse, it is a grim and joyous experience in its own right.

Shiki’s fragile health, lingering trauma from his half-remembered childhood, and special ability make him an eccentric and sometimes unreliable narrator. Trying to figure out exactly what happened to make him like this is part of the experience. So is puzzling out how aware he actually is of the wreck his life has become.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- screenshot of Shiki's panicked internal narration upon seeing Arcueid again.

Not everything that’s brought up in this game is resolved here. The specific circumstances of the Tohno family and Shiki’s accident will be examined in the upcoming second game. But the affairs of the Church and Arcueid, the titular “lunar princess”, are more than interesting enough to carry this half of the title.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is not the original Tsukihime. But it is a fascinating update and expansion of the original game’s first two routes. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the second part of this remake, and so should you.

***Switch code provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Beautiful art
  • Gorgeous sound design
  • Stunning writing
  • Complex themes
  • There’s more coming

The Bad

  • It gets dark
  • It’s long
  • It’s a visual novel
  • Too much exposition