Home Review: Tsukihime - A Piece of Blue Glass Moon

Review: Tsukihime - A Piece of Blue Glass Moon

From making eroge visual novels and selling them at Comiket in the late 90’s, to becoming the driving force behind the sprawling Fate multimedia franchise, TYPE-MOON is a powerhouse company with humble origins. Whether you’re addicted to the Fate/Grand Order gacha, or want to sink your teeth into Fate/stay night and its alternative spin-offs—such as the upcoming Fate/strange Fake—there’s a good chance you’ve already consumed some of TYPE-MOON’s content.

All of Fate’s impressive lore and world-building is the product of TYPE-MOON’s writer, Kinoko Nasu, and we could spend an entire article talking about that, especially since we’ll soon be seeing the English release of Fate/stay night in the West. But what’s been painfully missing for many fans is an official English release of the visual novel that started it all—Tsukihime. Now, three years after Japan received the first instalment of the Tsukihime remake, dubbed Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon-, Western fans can dive head-first into the Nasuverse with this captivating and engaging visual novel.

Mystic Eyes of Nasu Perception

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a true remake, rewritten and rebuilt from the ground up with new characters and refreshed visuals from TYPE-MOON’s legendary designer, Takahashi Takeuchi. Every spoken line has been dubbed by a stellar Japanese voice cast, and the score is impeccable—you’d have no idea that the original game was released way back in December 2000.

It’s clear that Nasu went to painstaking lengths to refresh what some fans would call his magnum opus—and whether you prefer the characters of Fate or Tsukihime, it’s clear that both are steeped in rich world building with a signature brand of nihilistic storytelling that perfectly straddles the line between dark philosophy and youthful hope.

For the most part, Tsukihime‘s remake is told through the lens of Shiki Tohno, a young boy who suffered a terrible accident at age ten, leaving him with cursed ‘Mystic Eyes’ that allow him to see death itself. With these eyes, he can effectively “kill” any living or non-living entity, simply by sliding a small blade along any one of these lines. After meeting a wandering magician—herself the star of another TYPE-MOON property, Witch on the Holy Night—Shiki receives glasses that safely limit his powers. He attempts to return home, only to be exiled from his family and sent to stay with relatives.

Seven years later, as a second-year high-school student, Shiki receives notice that his father has died and that he’s to return home to the Tohno estate. From here, the story quickly unfolds into a horror-tinged dark fantasy as Shiki encounters the beautiful vampire, Arcueid, learns that his upperclassman Ciel works for the vampire-hunting Holy Church, and is dragged into a conflict with a millenium-old vampire threatening the entire city.

And that’s just the prologue.

Completing both routes of Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- will easily set you back forty hours, which is a solid chunk of time even by visual novel standards. This first part of the remaster only contains the routes for Arcueid and Ciel (known as the Near Side of the Moon), while the other routes for Akiha, Hisui, and Kohaku (Far Side of the Moon), will be covered in the upcoming Tsukihime -The other side of red garden-, alongside a brand-new route for Satsuki Yumizuka that was cut from the original 2000 game.

Lunar Princess

If you’re feeling a headache coming on—don’t worry. Although this might seem impenetrable to a newcomer, Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is very beginner friendly, both as a visual novel and as an entry point into the wider Nasuverse. You don’t need to have watched Fate or played Witch on the Holy Night beforehand, although the latter is technically a prequel to Tsukihime.

Initially, players can only choose Arcueid’s route, and although there are a few dead-ends that occur from bad choices, it’s simple enough to roll back to before your failed decision. Tsukihime has an easy-to-follow flow chart, alongside a log of each scene that lets you replay anything you’ve missed.

Indeed, compared to going blind into something like Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, starting out with a visual novel like Tsukihime is a fantastic way to ease yourself into Nasu’s works. As your first main heroine, Arcueid is charming and beautiful, easily riled and a delight to follow. You’ll get appropriate snippets of world-building as you go, but Arcueid’s story is very much a ‘star-crossed lovers’ narrative—once you get past the main character murdering her, of course.

Yes, as we mentioned earlier, Tsukihime is probably the darkest of TYPE-MOON’s works, and -A piece of blue glass moon- doesn’t hold back in the slightest. With freshly remade graphics, the level of gore and horror can be nauseating at times, especially when you’ve been set on-edge by the haunting music and sound effects. For every time Tsukihime gives you a comedic scene between Shiki and his classmates, there’ll be a sickening twist that makes you question your sanity.

And questioning is something you absolutely should do. Shiki is an unreliable narrator, perhaps not so badly as Soujyuro in Witch on the Holy Night, but certainly one that has numerous unknowns—some of which get resolved in the Ciel route and can only be fully understood by playing out both distinct storylines.

Other Side of the Moon

We haven’t had the opportunity to play the original game—not besmirching the fan translations, but we’d been holding out for an official translation—so we can’t comment on changes between the original 2000 version and the remaster. For anyone interested, we recommend Orpheus Joshua’s review over on Noisy Pixel, but overall, the changes appear to be for the better, largely padding out the first two routes to make a complete experience.

The translation team at Aniplex of America have done an outstanding job with the localization, especially considering the length of the novel (something that, unfortunately, the 2022 translation of Witch on the Holy Night struggled with). There are a few hiccups that only long-time fans will notice, but by and large, the text is almost flawless and reads naturally while maintaining the complex themes. Although the original version of the game had erotic elements which have been removed in the remaster, there are still some mature concepts around love and obsessive attraction, which we enjoyed nonetheless.

Not only does -A piece of blue glass moon-‘s twin storyline leave a lasting impression on the player, but the themes of life, death, immortality, absolution, and acceptance are so much richer and more profound for being in a written format. While we have no doubt the remake would make for an engaging movie or anime series (not to discount the 2003 adaptation by J.C. Staff), the storytelling is at its best when you can sit down and immerse yourself in the experience.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- plays out like a more traditional visual novel compared to its ‘kinetic novel’ sister, Witch on the Holy Night, but the action sequences have suitably enjoyable visual and sound effects, and the sheer number of illustrations felt like we were watching an anime anyway.

Playing our review copy on a Nintendo Switch was a dream, since the touchscreen allows you to move the dialogue along, and feels like the definitive way to enjoy the story. The game is available on PC and PS4, but the smaller screen size feels more natural compared to reading on your television.

A Masterful, Must-Play Visual Novel

In summary, Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a masterclass in storytelling and visual design, and a confirmation that Kinoko Nasu is truly one of the greatest creators of our time. With an impactful narrative that follows the highs of youth to the crushing lows of humanity’s worst fears, Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- weaves together player choice with guided design, gently leading you along to the canon ending or your own doom.

If you call yourself a Fate fan, you owe it to yourself to see where it all began in Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon-, and if you’re just dipping your toes into the ocean of TYPE-MOON games and multimedia outings, then this remaster serves as perfect jumping-off point before Fate/stay night‘s remaster arrives later this year.


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