TYPE-MOON reviews: Kagetsu Tohya

Twilight Grass Moon, Fairy Tale Princess

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There's a limit to a man's imagination, and the end of the world isn't within it. I didn't know the vastness of the world when I was young. And then, as I grew up, I gained knowledge that there is no end to the world. A road is a road, and the end is the start of a journey...no matter what, the road doesn't end, and one can walk it to one's heart's content.

This ambiguous day. The world without the past, one can freely redraw as he wills...
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It's been some months since the events of Tsukihime, and Shiki Tohno wakes up to another normal day. There's nothing too unusual-seeming about this day, nothing like yesterday. Wait, what happened yesterday? ...well, must not have been important. He eats breakfast, says goodbye to his sister and the two maids, and leaves for school. Shiki does catch a glimpse of a strangely-dressed little girl staring at him from a crowd while he's on his way, but he puts it from his mind. School is no different from usual, as Shiki decides to eat a normal lunch in the cafeteria. On the way back to class, however, Shiki feels a brief bout of anemia come on, and decides to ditch afternoon classes and head home. Unfortunately, a brief spasm outside causes his glasses, which suppress his mystic eyes and prevent him from seeing Death lines, to fall off.

The world collapses.

A bell in the village intones a funeral procession, and Shiki sinks in the end of the world to his doom...and wakes up, facedown on the ground. Huh. Shiki nervously goes back to attend class, and heads straight home afterwards. After dinner and a card game with Akiha, Hisui, and Kohaku, Shiki goes to bed.

And, in the lucidity he gains between waking and sleeping, he wonders again just how many dozens of times he's lived through this day, what is causing this endless dream...and what that end of the world means. Sighing, he resigns himself to forgetting everything that happened today, and falls asleep.

Day 1253: over
Get used to this screen.

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Kagetsu Tohya

This is a bit of a hard review to write, since this game has a very specific target audience. Specifically, this game is known as a "Tsukihime Fun Disk," somewhere between a sequel and a side story collection to the original game, and it's thus aimed at those who played Tsukihime.

Still, it is quite an interesting game in its own right, and I found it pretty enjoyable. With that said, let's get started.

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Gameplay

This is, at its heart, a visual novel. You read, and are every so often (quite often, in this one) are presented with choices. Your choices influence your relationship with another character, provide exposition, and affect your progress in the story. If that description seems slightly different from normal, it's because this game happens to be slightly different. As the opening quote and narration hopefully indicated, the main story of Kagetsu Tohya takes place in, essentially, a time loop. That narration is one example of how a day can play out; in fact, that's a likely way for the first run (with only school options) to play out, albeit one where you deliberately avoid seeing anyone.

However, the main thing that sets this Groundhog Day system apart is its mutability. Shiki is stuck repeating the same day over and over in an endless dream...but what sort of day is it? Is it a normal school day? A holiday? The day of the Culture Festival? A day where, for whatever reason, Shiki wakes up as a cat? Yes, that can happen.

One of these choices leads to instant death.  You'll never guess which one.
Keep in mind, this is just the morning choices for a non-school day.

That's right. This is a visual novel approximation of an open-world game.

As such, there's a very different focus from other VNs. The ultimate goal of the game is to to escape the dream, as some changes do carry over into subsequent days. Beyond that, the main focus is basically to just screw around, have fun, and unlock stuff all the while.

Oh, and there are a few ways to get killed in this game, before simply going to sleep at the end of the day. Luckily, death is a recoverable condition, and you'll just repeat the day.

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Story

Given the above, the story progression of this game is fairly unusual. I'd consider it roughly divided into three sections.

First off is the main story, which involves the cause of the dream and its consequences. This is the path that leads to the game's ending, and is the one that contains most of the persistent changes in the dream, as well as the game's actual antagonists. In visual novel parlance, this would also be considered the character Len's scenario, as it deals with her past and her growing relationship with Shiki, and growing closer to her is the impetus that unlocks progress in the game. Overall, it's mostly Len's role that ties this story together in light of the second part, and along with the more sinister aspects of the dream (and the genuinely shocking twist two-thirds of the way through) succeeds admirably in being far more than a footnote excuse of a plot.

I'm not lying.
There's also cake.

Second is the dream itself. Whatever the cause, and though he doesn't usually realize it, the fact remains that Shiki is in a repeating dream, and is more-or-less free to do as he wishes. This is the bulk of the game, aimed strongly at Tsukihime fans of any stripe, which also unlocks most of the side content. The dream also is also a convenient excuse for another thing: canon severance. Even given the nature of the Nasuverse (the world of TYPE-MOON's works, written by Kinoko Nasu), a multiverse which holds all game endings as canonical, this game doesn't tie itself to any previous Tsukihime ending in particular*. Essentially what this means is that Shiki's story can believably change day-to-day. Is he in a semi-relationship with both Ciel and Arcueid, or is he seeing one or the other? Is Akiha still attending a boarding school, or has she transferred to Shiki's school? Are Shiki and Hisui close enough to actually picnic together? These are just some examples, not taking into account other random daily life things. Of this part of the story, the biggest change that can occur is the eventual addition of the school culture festival to the day variants.

Third isn't really part of the main game, but the unlockable side stories called the "Ten Nights of Dreams." This is just a small collection of short stories of varying focus, purpose, and attention to canon, but they're still a significant part of the game. Canon-important stories include the backstory-filled "Crimson Moon," "Red Demon God", and "Nanako-chan, SOS" or the post-ending "Hisui-chan: Inversion Impulse" (taking place after Hisui's Good Ending), "A Story for the Evening" (after Akiha's True Ending), and "Dawn" (after either Near Side Good Ending). The other stories tend to be just for fun. "Good Luck, Ciel-sensei" pokes fun at Tsukihime's own in-game hint function herself. "The Tohno Family Con Game" involves most of the Tsukihime characters (including the villains) playing a hilarious day-long game of hide-and-seek. "Imogirisou" is a parody of visual novel horror games (and of Otogirisou in particular). "Flower of Thanatos" is an excuse to have a threesome with the maids.

Okay, so there's actually more to it than this, but still...
Yes, I'm serious.

Of separate note are "Hisui-chan: Inversion Impulse," "The Tohno Family Con Game," and "Dawn," which are the stories not written by Nasu. They're essentially ascended fanfiction...but it's easy to see why they were included.

Oh, and reading all of the side stories unlocks the Summer Festivals, a collection of five small events where Shiki attends a festival with one of the five heroines from Tsukihime. These stories are what ultimately show that you finished the game, as reading any of them will make the game's full credits scroll. And there may be something else unlocked by reading one, too...

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Characters

There's not much of note here, as most of the involved characters were introduced in Tsukihime. As befits a slice-of-life side game, much of Kagetsu Tohya's draw comes from having stories of these already-established characters in more normal situations. Still, there are a few exceptions.

Len, of course, is the major exception. She actually does play a part in Tsukihime, and is obliquely referenced once by Arcueid in that role, but her actual first appearance is in this game, and who (and what) she is is half the focus of the main story. In fact, you can gauge how far you've progressed in the story based on how much you find out about her, since the most obvious changes in the dream are the opening flashbacks before Shiki wakes up. Other than that, it's actually kind of strange how detailed her characterization as a hard-working, mischievous, but rather sweet-natured girl is, given that one of her defining traits is that she never speaks.

There's really only a few other new characters of note. Sadly, I can't really name two of them without diminishing their impact somewhat, but Melty Blood players should know that this is their first appearance*. On the other hand, Akira Seo is really somewhere between a minor and a secondary character, but I still like her. Kagetsu Tohya is technically her second and third appearance (she's in both the main dream and A Story For the Evening); her first was in Tsukihime Plus-Disc. She's a bit of a token outsider (albeit with minor future vision, which still makes her the second-least supernatural girl in the game), but her friendly relationship with Shiki is cute...and her relationship with Akiha is cute, complex, and occasionally disturbing.

Really, Akira's safe until Akiha finds out about her meetings with Shiki...
I-if you say so, Akiha...

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Technical

There's not a whole lot of difference, technically, between this game and Tsukihime. It's still a full-screen text visual novel, and still uses photo-realistic backgrounds with drawn character sprites. It even has Ciel-sensei reprise her role as an in-game hint corner. As such, there's only a couple of differences I'll point out.

First off is the soundtrack. Kagetsu Tohya has a larger soundtrack, albeit almost half of it is repeated from Tsukihime. The music is...decent. Most of it is pretty light and ambient, but for some reason, only a couple of tracks actually stood out in my mind. "Maiden" is the song that plays during many of the reflection scenes (including Len's backstory pieces), a pleasant piano melody. "Shock," on the other hand, is a very aptly-named little tune (it's the "wtf moment" theme, really) that I find difficult to describe. There's also the weird fact that the soundtracks differ (sometimes greatly) depending on whether you're playing the normal version of the game or the Tsukibako version...

Second is the artwork. The backgrounds and character sprites are virtually unchanged from Tsukihime, but there's a world of difference in the CGs. Takashi Takeuchi's artwork improves a ton over the course of the games, especially with regards to details like shading. It's kind of interesting thinking of this game's artwork as a stopping point between Tsukihime and the true impressiveness of Fate/Stay Night...

That doesn't count all the fanart, of course. There's quite a lot of it included, too, including some actually pretty good pieces, and some stuff by established doujinshi artists.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the little notes that pop up every time the game starts over. These can be production notes from this game or Tsukihime, little anecdotes by the creators or the staff, minor exposition on characters, mention of the day's lucky item, or just utterly random statements.

August 15 is Satsuki's birthday.  Just thought I'd throw that out there.
They're not kidding.

Breaking the lines!

Ero

There are precisely three ero scenes in the entire game, two of which are entirely avoidable, one of those being not only avoidable, but very easy to miss. Specifically, there are two scenes involving Len in the dream (including her easy-to-miss full-on sex scene, which has one of two times she talks ever in any game) and the side story "Flower of Thanatos." Like I said earlier, though, that story actually has something else to it besides the sex; it's a really disturbing little story even without it...but then, you unlock the story in the first place by being asked the question "Who are you dreaming about tonight?" and essentially responding "Why not Hisui...and Kohaku?"

As for quality, aside from one extremely disquieting aspect that should be very, very obvious, the game's scenes aren't too bad. But then, remember Nasu's love of inappropriate metaphor? This game is the reason mentioning "mollusks" on any TYPE-MOON fan site will result in laughter. As for me, the "no fetish, no rape, no lack of emotion" rule is satisfied (the last one in a somewhat...different manner), so I give them a passing grade.

It's a moot point, anyway. You can turn off ero scenes in the options. The game just skips over them in that case.

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Verdict

Again, this was a hard game to review, because I can sum it up very easily: if you didn't like Tsukihime, this game will mean nothing to you, but if you liked Tsukihime, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll like this one. If you haven't played Tsukihime, I still recommend it highly.

As for availability...as a doujin game released in 2002 only in Japan, it's pretty much only available online, if you get my drift. The Tsukibako version that I found has the higher-quality music and also comes with Tsukihime and Tsukihime Plus-Disc.

The English translation patch for Kagetsu Tohya was done by some good folk at Beast's Lair. If you get Plus-Disc, too, the hardworking people at Mirror Moon translated that.

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Next Review

Neutral Drow reviews: Heart de Roommate
Slice-of-life comedy and visual novel interpretation of a harem anime.

Another fantastic review again, and yet again making me want to be able to find the damn things.
I still haven't managed to get any VNs yet, but you make them sound SO good...
thanks again for the review :)
And I'm glad that this one isn't an Ero game... so I can get it without implications :P

Greyfox105:
Another fantastic review again, and yet again making me want to be able to find the damn things.
I still haven't managed to get any VNs yet, but you make them sound SO good...

Like I surreptitiously tried to indicate, I got the Tsukibako (which has this game and Tsukihime) by torrent. Obviously forum rules prohibit me from saying where and how. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't even bring them up if I thought there were any other way to find them.

Luckily, that moral quandary only exists for a few of these games (Tsukihime, Kagetsu Tohya, early Melty Blood iterations, and possibly Fate/Stay Night). Everything else I plan to review is still technically available and easy to find.

And I'm glad that this one isn't an Ero game... so I can get it without implications :P

Well, this and Tsukihime are still ero games (with "off" options), just not obviously so...which I think describes most of the stuff I got (no Cosplay Fetish Academy or Pick Me, Honey, in other words). Like I (think I) said, though, I'll get to Hourglass of Summer at some point. Hopefully it's good, since it's an actually non-H game.

NeutralDrow:

Greyfox105:
Another fantastic review again, and yet again making me want to be able to find the damn things.
I still haven't managed to get any VNs yet, but you make them sound SO good...

Like I surreptitiously tried to indicate, I got the Tsukibako (which has this game and Tsukihime) by torrent. Obviously forum rules prohibit me from saying where and how. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't even bring them up if I thought there were any other way to find them.

Luckily, that moral quandary only exists for a few of these games (Tsukihime, Kagetsu Tohya, early Melty Blood iterations, and possibly Fate/Stay Night). Everything else I plan to review is still technically available and easy to find.

-snip-

yes... torrents... we don't see eye to eye, exactly... 1 time I tried to get something... I didn't know how to open the file :P
so I'll just have to damn that method to oblivion... and since there are no other way of acquiring some things (Like some game mods), I'll have to miss out :|

I'm a huge fan of Type-Moon's works as well, and I was wondering, are you feeling optimistic at all about the Tsukihime remake?

Alloflifedecays:
I'm a huge fan of Type-Moon's works as well, and I was wondering, are you feeling optimistic at all about the Tsukihime remake?

I'm an optimistic person in general, so yes.

...granted, I know essentially nothing about what the remake will entail. I would assume updated production values (of which I'm of strangely mixed opinion, for nostalgic reasons given in my Tsukihime review). And there are the rumors of Satsuki finally getting a route, which I'm desperately hoping are true. partly because, hey, I like Satsuki. Partly because I'm having trouble imagining how that would fit into the structure of the original game (a Near Side route, Far Side, thematic cohesions?)...but I have enough confidence in Kinoko Nasu's writing that I'm not worried at all.

So yes, until further notice, I have this at the ready"

Besides, I wanna find out more about Depletion Garden...

 

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