Rating – R18
Developer – Type-Moon
Translator – Mirror Moon
Length – 30 – 50 Hours (for original Tsukihime VN)
Tsukihime was Type-Moon’s first venture in the Visual Novel world, going on to create Fate/Stay Night for their second attempt. Fate/Stay Night was amazing, and I will continue to mention it for a long time to come, so how does Tsukihime compare? Before I get into that I should probably mention that in this article I intend to review the entire Tsukihime franchise, including Tsukihime, Kagetsu Tohya, Melty Blood and even That Which Should Not Be Named (or have been created in the first place for that matter). Some of you might think that science has gone too far with this so-called “Mega-Review”, but considering that the same base characters are used in each game, I think it’s fair enough (and has nothing to do with the monster number of reviews I need to write).
Overall, I tended to like the characters more than the plot itself. Each character is interesting in their own right, with deep and (relatively) believable backgrounds. The world itself is reasonably well crafted also, but the story being told in each instalment is generally fairly forgettable. Tsukihime and Kagetsu Tohya are traditional visual novels with very dated artwork and a decent selection of BGM. Interestingly enough, the background of each scene in these two VNs are edited versions of real photos (which I didn’t realize at first, so thanks to Kai over at Deluscar for pointing it out!). It’s the first time I’ve seen it done and in my opinion it works reasonably well, being a cheap alternative to normal artwork. While it doesn’t matter as much in Tohya, neither of the Visual Novels have a “skip read text” function, so figuring out which bits you’ve read and which you haven’t can be tricky, especially when the changes are small.
I think that’s all of the general stuff, so let’s get more specific!
After experiencing a car crash when he was young, Tohno Shiki developed the ability to see the Lines of Death inherent in all things. If needed, he could use his power to break any object with ease, or even to kill. Luckily for the world though, Shiki’s a pretty nice guy. As a result of the accident, however, Shiki’s father sent him to be cared for by another family, effectively barring him from becoming the successor to the Tohno family name.
A number of years later Shiki is called back to the Tohno mansion by his sister following his father’s death. At the same time, serial killings have been occurring throughout the city, and Shiki will find himself drawn into a world he could not have believed existed, were it not for his eyes that could see Death itself.
It’s tricky to summarise Tsukihime without giving anything away. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that the world itself and the rules surrounding it are all very interesting. I could tell you that there are two different sorts of Vampires (with neither being the sparkly kind), Synergists capable of sharing power with others or even a secret branch of the church known as the Executioners, but none of that would give you an adequate idea of what Tsukihime is all about.
There are a total of five routes that are really split into two categories. The first category, containing two routes, is supposedly the main one as it features the “canon” heroine. To be honest though, the heroines in the second set are far more interesting. I guess it’s because the character development in the first set is quite minimal, while in the second set you see far more change in character personalities and also learn a lot more about the history behind Shiki and his family. The weird thing, though, is that there was a sixth route planned featuring another heroine entirely, but the idea was canned. It’s a shame really, because I found the character in question more interesting than any of the others. There’s a remake in the works for Tsukihime with that character’s route included though, so I’m looking forward to that ^_^
Pacing is something that I complain about a lot, and Tsukihime’s is terrible. In the first two routes an antagonist with supposedly incredible power is defeated nearly immediately, while the main “villain” isn’t nearly as scary but takes far longer to deal with. That’s just one example, but the entire thing seems a little rushed in my opinion. Still, Tsukihime is probably the most interesting story-wise, as it reveals the secrets of Shiki’s past that actually make for pretty good plot twists.
I liked Tsukihime, but most of what I liked was in the characters and setting, rather than the events that unfold throughout the story. If you’re a Type-Moon fan then it may be worth reading just because their franchises are all set within the same universe (and because there’s a Fate/Stay Night crossover series called Carnival Phantasm, which is hilarious). If you’re not then you may be turned off by the dated graphics and rushed story, and I really wouldn’t blame you.
Score: 7/10 – Enjoyable
P.S. For completeness’ sake, I should probably mention the Fandisc “Tsukihime Plus-Disc”. It was very short and not particularly entertaining. It introduces one new character who plays a very small role in Kagetsu Tohya, but it’s not worth playing just for that.
Kagetsu Tohya takes place after the events of Tsukihime and involves more or less the same characters. Without giving too much away, Shiki finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. He finds areas where the world crumbles to pieces around him and foes that shouldn’t exist, but the real problem is that he can’t remember anything the next morning…
Tohya doesn’t really take itself seriously. It’s full of jokes about the characters’ personalities, being really quite funny at times, and I’m not sure the fourth wall will ever recover, but most of the humour went over my head (read: It wasn’t my sort of thing). There’s a story hidden in there somewhere, though it tends to be the secondary focus and it’s not exactly riveting either. A new character is introduced who I quite liked, which is interesting because they never talk. Hm.
I’m going to be honest here, I didn’t finish Kagetsu Tohya. There’s the main storyline involving the Groundhog Day type scenario, which I did complete, but I found my interest waning when it came to the ten side stories you unlock as you play. I can’t really say that it was bad, exactly, but by the time I’d gone through a few of those stories I just couldn’t be bothered any more.
Rating: 6/10 – Average
Melty Blood is the odd one out in the Tsukihime franchise, having been originally sold as an Arcade Game (you know, the coin-operated ones that seem to be slowly disappearing from existence). It plays like an incredibly simple 2D fighter game (like Tekken or Street Fighter), with each character only possessing a few special moves. I played the Re-ACT version of Melty Blood which has updated graphics and combat, so the graphics were actually pretty decent considering how old the game is. The animations are well done, with each character accurately reflecting the personality attributed to them in earlier Tsukihime instalments.
The story mode features eight routes in total, though I only actually completed three of them, so I suppose you could say that I’m not really qualified to comment on the story. What I will say, however, is that the story is of even lower quality that in the two Visual Novels, serving only to link the game to the Tsukihime franchise in a minimal way. Again, the new character introduced in this instalment is relatively interesting, but not interesting enough for me to recommend the game.
So why did I stop at route three? It’s simple, really: there was a boss that I simply couldn’t beat, or rather one that I couldn’t be bothered putting in the time to beat. There’s a point where one of the characters transforms into a giant version of themselves that takes up half of the arena, hits like a truck and has a ton of health; I just didn’t care enough about the story to keep trying to take them down (and trips to Youtube show that I’m not the only one that had trouble).
If you like 2D fighters and enjoyed Tsukihime and Kagetsu Tohya, then Melty Blood will probably be your sort of game. However, it wasn’t my sort of game and I’m the one writing the review, so the minimalistic story and average gameplay (even when compared to other games in the same genre) come together to make the final instalment in the Tsukihime franchise incredibly average.
Rating: 5/10 – Average
That Which Should Not Be Named
So there’s an anime adaptation of Tsukihime. It’s terrible. Don’t watch it. No, seriously, most fans of the series will deny its existence entirely, it’s just that bad. I really can’t stress it enough. I want the period of my life that I spent watching it back. Or maybe I don’t…considering what I spent it doing, it’s probably tainted somehow. Just to keep you safe, I’ve avoided revealing the actual name of the anime here (yes, it is different). It’s for your own good.
Rating: 1/10 – Abysmal
P.S. – I didn’t watch very much of the anime at all and some of my dislike was due to a poor subbing job, so you probably shouldn’t take this final score to heart.