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Tsukihime – Part I: Blood, Boobs, and Vampires October 22, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Commentary, Video Games.
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As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been spending a large chunk of time with Tsukihime lately. Partly because I’m enjoying the break from conventional games, and partly because it’s easy to play through while watching football. Oh, and it also has a decent story.

The plot is fairly straightforward—at least, initially. You take the role of the main character, Tohno Shiki, who is returning home for the first time in 8 years after being fostered by another family. The head of the Tohno family has died and named Shiki’s sister, Akiha, the successor. It is she who invited Shiki home. At the same time, there have been a series of nighttime attacks around town, and the media is talking about a “vampire killer.” Which is a mystery you’ll unravel as the game progresses. There are other secrets—every major character is hiding something, it seems—and those become clear as you progress through the different paths.

When I talk to people about Tsukihime, I usually get one of three responses:

  1. “Isn’t that a porn game?”
  2. “Didn’t that spawn Melty Blood or something?”
  3. “Tsuki-what? The hell is that?”

The answers to the first two are “sort of” and “yes” respectively. Tsukihime is an eroge (erotic game), but unlike most hentai games that is not the focus. In fact, the time spent with the hentai scenes is but a (very) small fraction of overall play time. With one exception on two of the routes, you only run into them in an interlude towards the end of the game.

Tsukihime tells a story on two different levels. First, and the most obvious, is the overall plot of the game. The first time you play through the game, you have no choice but to go through this. But just playing the game once will not answer all the questions the game raises—that’s where the character stories come in. As you play through the game, you are not only unraveling the larger plot, but you are also getting to better know the game’s main cast. The choices you make affect your affection level with the female cast, and dictate which path you take through game.

There are five main characters, each with their own path. These paths are further divided into the Near Side and Far Side routes. The Near Side route consists of Arcueid’s and Ciel’s stories, and must be completed once before the other three paths—those belonging to Akiha, Hisui, and Kohaku—become available. The Near Side route follows the game’s main plot, though each individual path provides different information on the characters, and grants a bit of a different perspective as to what’s going on. The Far Side route keeps things closer to home, and focuses on the Tohno family itself and the three girls at the mansion.

The writing is decent enough, even if it has nothing on actual novels, and the game definitely keeps an edge of suspense throughout. Much of this is dulled by the time you’re on your third playthrough, but even once you know what’s going on there is still an air of drama to the story, as there is seemingly always another mystery to unravel. And it is these mysteries that keep me coming back, even after I’ve seen the same bit of story from three other angles already. Until you’ve finished all the routes, there are still things to uncover.

Naturally, Tsukihime is designed to be played multiple times. To aid this, there is an option to auto-skip scenes that you have previously viewed. While this is an excellent option when you have to run through part of a path multiple times to get to a different branch, the game can be somewhat annoying as to what it views as the same scene. If you have a scene that takes place after a path split, but is in both paths, viewing one does not let you auto skip the other—even when the scene plays out the same way. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this happens quite a bit over the course of the game. Luckily, there is also a fast forward key, as well as a key that displays an entire page of text at once.

When it comes to actually taking different branches, you do have the option of loading up a previous save and simply making a different choice. The game allows you to save anywhere, and has 20 save slots, so this is a viable option. And once you’ve cleared a scene, or gotten a particular ending, it stays recorded even if you reload to a previous point. So you don’t necessarily have to replay the entire game just for a minor branch.

This is good because there are a lot of branches within paths. Four of the five characters have two endings. Kohaku only has one. Which of a character’s endings you receive depends on the final choice you make on their route, so you can just reload that save after seeing one ending to see and get credit for the other as well. Arcueid requires you to have cleared the game once to get the choice to her “Good” ending, so if you’re doing her first, you’ll have to reload a couple choices back after getting her “True” ending. The rest of the characters do not have that requirement.

Thus far I’ve cleared Arcueid’s, Ciel’s, and Akiha’s paths. I’m currently working on Hisui’s. I did Arcueid first, and her True Ending appears to be the canon ending to the game—especially looking at Melty Blood. Her character development is probably the most natural in the game that I’ve seen so far, perhaps tied only by Ciel. But that’s probably only because Akiha’s felt a bit forced. I’ll have to see what happens with Hisui and Kohaku.

I will say that I have been quite happy with the way that the mysteries surrounding the characters have been set up and resolved, though—especially across paths. Ciel, for example, shows up in a bunch of paths. Like, all of them, as near as I can tell. I was introduced to her in Arcueid’s path, and there were some questions generated about her that were never answered. Then I pop on over to her path, and get the answers. And then I play through Akiha’s path and get a few more answers about Ciel. Which was pretty cool. It’s nice to continue learning about certain characters outside their own paths.

The one thing I did have an issue with was an inconsistency in character art for a particular (non-Ciel) character that shows up across multiple paths. The Near Side art is drawn one way, but the Far Side art gives the character a totally different look. It’s a bit awkward. There are also some odd continuity questions as to why certain things do or do not happen on certain paths, but those are relatively minor, and don’t really get too much in the way of getting into a character path.

All in all, Tsukihime is a decent game with a pretty good story. If you find yourself wanting to try out the visual novel genre, want to see what the heck is up with those crazy Melty Blood characters, or are just looking for a change of pace, check it out. Mirror Moon has translated the entire thing, and done a bang-up job on it. I highly recommend their excellent patch. Not only did they fully translate the game, but they also have an option to disable the erotic scenes, if those aren’t your thing. The game certainly stands on its own without them, so they’re entirely optional.

Now, back to affectionizing some maids….

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Comments»

1. john - December 11, 2013

panget


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