Review: Tsukihime -A Piece Of Blue Glass Moon- (Switch) - A Delightfully Dark Revival For A VN Classic (2024)

Tsukihime is responsible for a lot of things. Back in 2000, Type-Moon’s classic visual novel captivated audiences with a story crammed full of occult mystery, thrilling action, and heart-pounding character drama. Like jagged lines splintering out of a unified core, its success spread out in many different directions: adaptations across manga and anime, the production of a number of sequel VNs, the birth of Type-Moon’s mega-popular Fate franchise, and, of course, the creation of its very own fighting game series Melty Blood. It’s no stretch to say that Tsukihime is a cornerstone of the industry, which is exactly why the title’s fade into relative obscurity is such a surprise.

For all the waves it made in the time during and after its release, Tsukihime has never been graced with an official Western localization. Moreover, the original Japanese release has long since become abandonware, with the task of preserving the game online falling to diehard fans. Suffice to say, it’s not the fate that a game many champion as one of the best in its genre deserves. Fortunately, Type-Moon has seen fit to rectify that problem by way of a full-on remake project.

Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- is a remake of the 2000 original — one that takes a page from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII Remake and adapts a slice of the source material while heavily expanding, reworking, and updating it into something that sparkles like new yet glows with a nostalgic warmth. Now, roughly three years following its Japanese release in 2021, the title has finally made its way to Western audiences with an official English translation, and we’re happy to confirm that the first portion of this new chapter for Tsukihime is just about everything fans have long hoped for.

Mirroring its original incarnation, Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- chronicles the story of Shiki Tohno, a teenager who secretly harbors a mysterious condition that allows him to see lines of death covering the world around him. Shiki’s quiet life is turned upside down when his estranged family suddenly requests his return. Not long after, a chance encounter with a strange girl leads him down a dark rabbit hole filled with closely guarded family secrets, gruesome existential revelations, and vampires. Like, a whole bunch of vampires.

It’s at this point that we should note that Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- isn’t well-suited for the faint of heart or squeamish. Even more than the original, it pulls no punches when it comes to depicting and describing some pretty horrific imagery. Stick with it, though, and you’ll be rewarded with an compelling tale that revels in its own bloody exploration of grief, heroism, and connection.

This version covers just two of the original game’s five branching narrative routes, known collectively as the “Near Side” portion of the story. The first route features the cheery vampire Arcueid Brunestud as the main heroine opposite Shiki, while an unlockable second route instead places Shiki’s upperclassman Ciel into the deuteragonist role. Though the core essence of each route remains intact, both have been heavily expanded and revised, and Ciel’s route has received an extra-thorough rework to distinguish it from its Arcueid counterpart. Simply progressing through one of these routes is enough to provide a satisfying narrative experience, but those who want answers to all of the story’s many mysteries should be sure to play both. Fans of the original game’s other three routes can also rest easy, as those are set to be adapted in Tsukihime -The other side of red garden-, the upcoming second portion of the remake project.

Gameplay-wise, interactivity is limited to specific junctures in which you must make a decision to progress the story. Some choices have small narrative effects, such as choosing where to eat lunch at school. However, they can also be a matter of life or death, as picking certain options can lead Shiki to a premature (and often fatal) bad ending. We found that avoiding these Dead End sequences can occasionally feel like a frustrating exercise in trial-and-error, as many options that appear completely innocuous can blindside with some unforeseen twist of fate. That said, the ever-looming threat of leading Shiki to a disturbing end ensures that each decision carries weight and that you feel a sense of agency amid the carefully crafted narrative.

Getting a game over also notably comes with a reward in itself, as each Dead End unlocks a bonus segment called “Teach Me, Miss Ciel!” In these vignettes, Ciel and Neco-Arc (no doubt already familiar to many as the internet’s favorite anime cat-gremlin) offer humorous meta commentary on the story’s progression and provide hints at which alternative decision will help move the plot forward. For how intoxicatingly melancholic the tone of the main game can often be, these segments serve as a welcome lighthearted reprieve.

Of course, providing input on how to progress the story only comprises a small fraction of the game’s length. The rest is spent taking in the ever-unfolding narrative — and, thankfully, it’s an engaging read. The prose itself is rich and vivid, thanks to the winning combination of author Kinoko Nasu’s original script and Aniplex of America’s high-quality localization. There's a deliciously indulgent quality to the writing that pairs well with the game’s thematic exploration of desiring and embracing the taboo. Plot-wise, it’s a tale with heaps of excellent worldbuilding, but that lore never gets in the way of the poignant, character-driven story that serves as the beating heart of Tsukihime. The cast of characters and their respective arcs are always front and center, and each one is fleshed out and well-developed, even if a few faces don’t yet have the chance to fully shine with a route of their own.

If we had to pinpoint one place that the story of Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- falters, it’s the pacing. The game is undeniably a slow burn, and just about every scene is given plenty of room to breathe. These are generally welcome qualities, but there are some points when it can feel like certain sequences drag on for a hair too long or character conversations start going in circles.

Minor issues aside, the raw narrative is more than enough to stand on its own — and that makes the game’s downright stellar presentation quite the luscious cherry on top. From its plethora of beautiful CG backgrounds and jaw-droppingly gorgeous soundtrack to its extensive suite of quality-of-life options, the title oozes polish. The most welcome addition of all is the introduction of a fully voice acted Japanese dub, imbuing each character with a previously untapped level of liveliness and depth. All of these elements combine to give Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- a high-budget feel befitting its lofty legacy.

Conclusion

For as many creative liberties as it takes in remaking Type-Moon’s first-ever visual novel, Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- exhibits a respect for the source material that borders on reverence. It feels as though every bit of the game has been carefully and lovingly crafted for the purpose of creating the definitive version of Tsukihime — one in which the shocking narrative developments hit harder, the action sequences are even more exhilarating, and the core story of life, death, and love is all the more bewitching. For fans of the original, it’s not only a dream remake, but a triumphant affirmation to the rest of the world that, yes, we really have been missing out on something special for all this time.

Related Products

TSUKIHIME: A piece of blue glass moon: Limited Edition

  • $79.99
  • Amazon (US)

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Review: Tsukihime -A Piece Of Blue Glass Moon- (Switch) - A Delightfully Dark Revival For A VN Classic (2024)
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