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Tsukihime – Part II: We’ve Got Your Psychotic Dysfunction Right Here! October 25, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Commentary, Video Games.
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So. Tsukihime is done. Completely. All the endings, and all those pesky CGs. Everything. And I’m tired. It was fun and amusing, and the characters kept getting more and more interesting as I went down more of their paths, but I’m rather glad it’s over. There are just so many scenes rehashing the same things over and over again, with just one or two small things that are different, and thus are not technically previously viewed. So the game doesn’t skip them. Even the same scenes in multiple paths get this treatment. Ick.

While it was fun unraveling all the mysteries, I have to say. The main character, Shiki, is pretty much an asshole. Everyone else at least had some interesting reasons for being crazy in the head, but Shiki is just a jerkass. But, hey, I guess when you have the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, rape is love or something. And always remember, the only thing that matters is what you want. Never anyone else. Unless you don’t want to pilot the Eva. In which case, suck it up and do it anyway. And then bang the girl whether she wants you to or not. So, yeah. I pretty much liked all the characters except for Shiki. Even Yumizuka, which is a little hard for me to swallow.

As far as the story goes, it was pretty spiffy how the last couple of characters really wrapped everything up. They even filled in some stuff from the main story, even though they didn’t deal with any of those characters. Pretty cool. It was a very solid way to do multiple characters. In retrospect, I probably really shouldn’t have played through the whole thing like I did. It likely would have been better to space out playthroughs between other games, but meh. After Akiha I thought I would be able to knock out the rest of the game fairly quickly, which was totally not the case. Even though the last two paths technically had less scenes than the rest of the characters, they ended up being some really long scenes.

The only hang up I had was that after I had finished everything, I was still four CG images short of a full gallery. A couple of them were really quick to get, but I ended up stuck on one I was missing from Arcueid’s gallery (page 1, image 6). It turns out that it’s automatic on Arc’s path if one has near max affection at one point. Which I didn’t either when I went through it originally or when I went back poking all the options to try and get the last image. The weird thing about the CGs is that some of a character’s CGs show up in another character’s path, and it varies as to which character’s gallery they are placed in. Sometimes they end up with the character who’s path unlocked them, and sometimes they end up with the character depicted in the CG. Which is what made finding the stragglers interesting. At least it’s easy to tell if it’s an h-scene CG or not by where it is in the list.

Overall, Tsukihime was a good experience. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to try out the visual novel genre. The story and characters were engaging, even if Shiki got on my nerves. As one delves deeper, it becomes more and more apparent that everyone is really messed up in their own special way before eventually wrapping it all up at the end. Which was really cool. Any game that can still give me wow moments after that much play time and story iteration (and revelation!) is pretty special in my book.

I had originally planned to move onto the stuff on the PLUS+ Disc and Kagetsu Tohya when I finished Tsukihime, but for now I need a crazy departure from visual novels in general. Even Atelier Annie is not looking very appetizing at the moment. I’m sure something will tickle my fancy at some point this week. Right now I’m trying very hard to not buy Fallout: New Vegas. And I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably.

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….

The Return of the Lazy Backlogging Bum October 22, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Anime, Blog-along, Video Games.
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So. Here we are. I am officially a lazy bum. What happened these last months, you ask? A couple of things. For one, I got distracted by a couple of non-backlog-related projects. And then when I did start playing again, I ended up spending all my time playing and not typing up blog posts. Bad, evil, naughty me.

But I’m back! For what it’s worth.

Let’s see…progress….

Dragon Age Origins is done. I started up a Nightmare game with a female human noble rogue, but am still in Ostagar on that. Haven’t touched the game in a while. I did play through the Return to Ostagar DLC on my mage, but I haven’t picked up the Awakenings DLC yet. I should probably do that at some point before DAO2 comes out.

I still have a few trophies to nab on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, but that game is just about all done. I think I’m just down to a couple of challenge missions and finishing up the boost collection.

I think I’ve touched Demon’s Souls once since my last blog entry on it. It’s at the point where I pretty much need to start over, I think. Or at least replay some parts with my current character to get back into the swing of things. I did watch a speed run of it, though, and was rather amused.

Star Ocean: First Departure has likewise been on the back burner. Mostly because I got bored being so bloody powerful. I’ll probably restart it and refrain from being awesome at Art next time around.

I haven’t touched Metal Gear Solid or Valkyria Chronicles in forever, and I don’t even remember where I am in them anymore.

Okay, enough about how much I suck. I did manage to actually beat some games and finish some anime these last months, even though I didn’t mention it on here. The list of games I’ve taken care of in 2010 is currently thus (as best as I can recall):

SNES
Dragon Quest I
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

PS2
Ar Tonelico : Melody of Elemia
Final Fantasy X International

PS3
Assassins Creed II (+ first DLC)

Bayonetta
Final Fantasy XIII
God of War (God of War Collection)
God of War II (God of War Collection)
God of War III
Heavy Rain
Resistance: Fall of Man
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

PC
Dragon Age: Origins (+DLC)

Mass Effect (+DLC)

Mass Effect 2 (+some DLC, but not Shadow Broker)
Plants vs. Zombies

Tsukihime
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

PSP
God of War: Chains of Olympus

I think that’s fairly accurate. I’m still going through Tsukihime to finish off all the character routes, and I started up Atelier Annie. Oh, and Final Fantasy XI and XIV. Not that I’ve done much with either in recent weeks. And I started up Xenosaga again in an attempt to get through all three games.

As far as anime goes, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Gundam OO were my most memorable watches, and I very much enjoyed both. Black Lagoon was so-so. I’m slowly working through Golion, at like an episode per month. That is quite a slow series.

And I think that puts us back on track. The next update will likely be on Tsukihime later this afternoon. Like, as soon as I type it up. Which I’ll start doing after I post this. I also have a backlog-related project in the wings that I might start on next week. If that happens, I’ll be posting more details then.

For those (few) interested, my current video game backlog looks like this:

http://www.backloggery.com/suzaku

Sadly, it’s actually a tad bigger than that, though the sense of scale is about the same. I haven’t updated it as quickly as I’ve been pulling games from Steam sales >_>

Until next time (which I hope will be matter of minutes or hours, rather than months)!