Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- Game Review (2024)

It's hard to overstate just how big a deal the official English language release of Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- (TBGM) is. Until very recently, English-speaking fans of Type-Moon—the creators of Tsukihime as well as other titles such as (but not limited to) Fate/stay night, Garden of Sinners, and Witch on the Holy Night—had resigned themselves to the disappointing belief that for reasons we could only speculate, Type-Moon just wasn't interested in officially releasing their visual novels in English. This decision came despite the cult success of Melty Blood, a fighting game based on Tsukihime made by French-Bread, and the not-so-cult success of Fate/stay night's many anime and spinoffs in this market. Sure, we still have official releases for things like MELTY BLOOD: TYPE LUMINA and the Heaven's Feel movies, which is awesome, but those hoping to read the visual novels they were based on were out of luck unless they could either read Japanese or were willing and able to pirate fan translations.

It wasn't until 2022 that a glimmer of hope finally emerged: Witch on the Holy Night became the first Type-Moon visual novel to get an official English release. While this was a big deal to both Type-Moon and visual novel fans, it didn't seem to achieve much, if any, fanfare outside of these communities. This is probably because Witch on the Holy Night just doesn't have the same level of name recognition in the English language market as, say, Tsukihime and Fate/stay night—both of which have other popular pieces of media (EX: anime, manga adaptations, other games) that have been officially released in English, unlike Witch on the Holy Night (although a movie is on the way). But things are different for TBGM, which is now the second Type-Moon visual novel to be officially released in English. Because more people are at least familiar with Tsukihime, an official English release of TBGM was always going to attract more attention. But did it stick to the landing?

TBGM is a remake of 2000's hit horror visual novel Tsukihime. Or, to be more specific, Tsukihime can be divided into two sections: the near side routes (Arcueid and Ciel's routes) and the far side routes (Akiha, Hisui, and Kohaku's routes) and TBGM is a more-faithful-than-not remake of the two near side routes. Because this game is only adapting two routes, those who played the original Tsukihime probably won't be able to help but notice where the loose story threads hang. Nonetheless, Arcueid and Ciel's routes (Ciel's in particular) are much more fleshed out in this version and make for a much more satisfying duology of stories than they were in the original.

Helping to both beef up the story and keep returning players on their toes is the presence of some new characters. Some of them and what they bring into the story are completely and utterly new to Tsukihime. In contrast, others directly take over roles that other characters once filled—or, to be more specific, sorry, Nrvnqsr Chaos fans, but he doesn't physically appear anywhere in TBGM. He's been replaced by the frankly much cooler Vlov Arkhangel, whose battle against Arcueid is the perfect example of how TBGM has clearly taken some cues from Witch on the Holy Night. This is to say that the fights in TBGM are much larger and grandiose in scale than they were originally. In tandem with the electrifying motion graphics and brilliant localization, you get thrilling fight scenes bordering on cinematic.

Visual-wise, the illustrations will probably be one of the things that people compare most between TBGM and the original since the differences between them are so immediately apparent. The illustrations of the original Tsukihime are quintessential turn-of-the-millennium anime and have their own distinct charm. Meanwhile, the illustrations of TBGM—while still maintaining some echoes of their original style (especially in the lineart)—are much more detailed and are stylish in a way that's different from the original. But because they're so different, I feel like comparing the two is apples and oranges—it's pointless. Forget apples and oranges, actually, because it's a fruitless exercise. For that reason, I won't say that the illustrations are "better" in TBGM. I will, however, say that the visuals overall in TBGM are dazzling and suit the story's tone very well. It's rare for visual novels—especially ones that don't use 3D models—to have as much going on visually as TBGM does, and it brings the story to life in a way we don't often get with visual novels.

However, these top-notch visuals could be a double-edged sword for some readers. While this isn't to say I would've recommended the original Tsukihime to people who don't care for excessive gore in their media, it's worth noting that TBGM takes the carnage to a whole new level by leaving less to the reader's imagination, and often presenting it in all its red, squishy glory. Whether this is to TBGM's benefit or deficit will depend on the reader, though personally, I love a vampiric horror story that's drenched in blood and guts.

But while it's probably the most obvious example, the visual quality of TBGM is hardly the only signifier of the production value that's gone into TBGM. Motion graphics, (Japanese) voice acting, an interactive flowchart, a stellar localization, a gorgeous soundtrack, and even comparatively simple and subtle things like the way that text you've already read has a lower opacity—all of these serve to elevate the game overall, and alongside it, the story. Being a completely choice-based visual novel, the story and writing are deeply important to TBGM, and more than anything else, will probably make or break your overall opinion of it. But luckily, the story and writing are where TBGM shines its brightest.

TBGM is, at its core, a blood-soaked game of cat and mouse between Arcueid, Shiki, and the vampire Arcueid is after. While the main story beats remain the same (especially in Arcueid's route), there have been several changes to the story—which, I know, isn't always something that returning fans are excited to hear. Most of these changes are additions (EX: new characters, new moments), but a few are removals (EX: Nrvnqsr Chaos, the H scenes). Yet, admittedly, I didn't find myself missing any of the removals terribly much. Furthermore, while some are better than others, rarely do the new elements feel forced or unnecessary—in fact, many of them serve to build upon and unlock a lot of the potential in areas of the story that, in the original, either weren't explored as thoroughly, or otherwise felt lacking. Ciel's route, which you can unlock after you beat Arcueid's route, benefits the most from this.

By now, the obvious question that you're probably wondering—that you've probably been wondering this whole time—is, "Is TBGM better than the original Tsukihime?" A master class in balancing fresh and familiar content and expanding on its own story in a way that feels natural, TBGM easily ranks among the all-time best video game remakes I've ever played and has emerged as a strong contender for my game of the year in a year that's been loaded with great releases (including, ironically, two other remakes). Plus, its accessibility helps to make it an excellent introduction to the I-swear-it's-not-as-intimidating-as-you-think expanse of Type-Moon titles.

But none of this makes the original Tsukihime any less charming and great. They're both fun games at the end of the day, and both of them have a chair (This chair. This chair. This chair. This chair.) at the Tsukihime table. People will inevitably compare the two, but just because one thinks that one game is better than the other doesn't mean they can't both be fun, and they don't each have their own merits. So, to answer that question: "Is TBGM better than the original Tsukihime?" "Yes, but—"

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- Game Review (2024)

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