Tsukihime - A piece of blue glass moon (Switch/PS4, 2021) Review

Originally a doujin adult visual novel released near the end of the year 2000 created by less than a handful of people, Tsukihime finally witnessed the release of its professional grade remake in August 2021.

キタ――(゚∀゚)――!!

Personally I had given up on ever seeing this game come out long ago. The Tsukihime remake had its initial announcement back in 2012, but following that came years of silence. Only another announcement near the end of 2020 reminded fans that the remake was still happening. It's actually available today. The novel's first half remade in HD. Yes. The new Tsukihime released on Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch only covers two out of the five story routes present in the original visual novel. What may sound like less than half a game in numbers can still hold its ground on its own however.

Putting the character redesigns aside it didn't surprise me that the remake didn't only replace visuals and sound. The script has been touched up, entire parts of the story rewritten, characters replaced and new additions have been introduced as well. While the Arcuid route stays relatively close to its original counter part, Ciel's route has so many additions to it that it feels almost entirely new (although the core ideas are still present). Given all that's new and the slower pace when reading with voices enabled, the novel feels like a whole product despite remaking only roughly half of its original's content. Especially the new true ending of Ciel's route introduces a proportion to the franchise that hadn't been part of Tsukihime back in 2000.

Although I'm a real purist and hate to see changes made to my favorite games when remade, this one still left me mostly satisfied. But maybe I've just accepted by now that this is just how it is. All things considered A piece of blue glass moon still feels like Tsukihime. It's still a visual novel that retains the elements of horror, suspense, madness and bitter romance that made the original popular in the first place. Power levels have been scaled up a lot however. In this regard Tsukihime now feels much like Fate. Apparently this change was necessary to allow these works to still play in the same universe. I feel pretty meh about this because back when I read the original Tsukihime novel I really liked that it, despite being infused with supernatural elements, still felt rather grounded. The new battle scenes in the remake often seem like their author was already dreaming of an anime adapation in how over the top they can get.

It's been years since I read the original so unfortunately I can't draw a direct comparison between the two. The remake however really shines visually. It's still a classic 2D visual novel making raw use of 2D sprites without running them through any distortion algorithms. Backgrounds are still 2D artworks as well. All graphics are drawn in very high resolutions, no matter how much they zoom in you never see any pixel artifacts. The amount of graphics drawn for the novel is astonishing. It feels like a step up from Fate/stay night the way that one was a step up from the original Tsukihime novel. Needless to say the sound experience has been stepped up just as much. What used to be a set of about ten simple (yet expressive) sound loops has become a soundtrack taking up the space of not just a couple, but eight(!) CDs. Especially the battle scenes really benefit from the the enhanced soundtrack.

As far as the story itself goes, I generally enjoyed the novel (although some of the battle scenes were a bit too drawn out with occasionally cringy writing). Ciel's true ending sort of jumped the shark for me however. I honestly thought I was playing through a joke ending and was surprised that it ended up getting labeled as the route's true ending. But my tastes are oftentimes somewhat hard to match, and I feel most people would have the contrary opinion on this new conclusion. To speak in defense of it, it at least wraps up the first two routes in a way that helps them stand on their own. At least the characters still feel much the same to me, even if the writing and designs may have changed.

Just as one might expect the remake is a much more modern and polished product compared to what Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi originally created back in the late 90's. Although lacking in variety of routes, it's an experience that's well worth its money. Still it probably isn't a complete replacement for the original. The changes are probably explained by an alternate timeline setting for a reason. And no matter the improvements in production quality - Tsukihime's original doujin release had an atmosphere to it that a big-budget remake couldn't ever replicate. Not to mention good old Chaos still fits the novel's setting much better than this new and shiny Vloov guy. I wish Type-Moon had shipped this with a non-adult rerelease of the classic for posterity. Classic Tsukihime is absurdly hard to come by today even in Japan (it's worth several hundreds of bucks on the second hand market).

This remake is currently only available in japanese, but its author has hinted at a steam release with english and chinese language options. Maybe we'll see that come out in another 8 years. Meanwhile I'm looking forward to playing (well, reading and listening to) part 2 - it's probably going to take just as long to be ready for market. *jokes

Anyways I highly recommend reading Tsukihime (either version) to anyone new to the series who is into anime as much as they're into (psychological) horror and doesn't mind some shounen tier action. It's my favorite fantasy novel, hands down.