Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tsukisome no Kasa -the end of scarlet luna-

To people like myself who follow scenario writers, one of the attractions to playing titles created by writers you know is that you typically have a good idea of the overall level of quality you're going to find in the story. A particularly good writer can even influence you to get an eroge that has a story that doesn't appeal to you, characters that don't really interest you and art that doesn't grab your attention. On the other hand, once you become familiar with a certain scenario writer's work, they tend to lose their ability to surprise you - you start expecting a certain level of quality, rather than hoping for it, and are disappointed if you don't get it.

New writers, on the other hand, are a blank slate. On one hand, they probably don't have much experience in the eroge writing field (and most eroge writers do get better over time) and the quality of the story may suffer as a result. On the other hand, you have no idea how good (or bad) they are and can't help but be surprised if the story actually turns out to be good (or great!) This is why it's often exciting to play an eroge written by a new scenario writer, particularly if the story seems a bit unusual.

Tsukisome no Kasa is an eroge released in January 2010 by new brand Hiyoko-soft. All three scenario writers are new to eroge scenario writing (the main one actually worked on the artwork for MOON STONE's Ashita Deatta Shoujo).

The protagonist, Kagami Renka, moved to the remote country town of Hasumi-mura due to his stepfather's new job. Renka intends to find information about his real parents after hearing that Hasumi-mura was his mother's hometown. Renka's mother died when he was young, and he never knew who his true father was.

While taking a stroll shortly after arriving in the village, Renka discovers a Shinto shrine partially submerged in the water. Since the first thing anyone does on finding a creepy shrine in an unfamiliar area is explore it, Renka enters the shrine. Poking around in the altar room, he finds a mysterious doll tied up with numerous chains. Feeling that something is not quite right, Renka attempts to leave the shrine as quickly as possible, but not before the appearance of a girl in a white dress. "Who are you?"

Making friends at his new school, he gradually opens up to them about his intention to search for information about his true parents. The days pass, and when the full moon comes, he learns of a legend particular to Hasumi-mura: an event that takes place every 44 years. Again, he meets the girl in the white dress who calls herself 'Amane', while walking along the beach. She tells him that they should not meet, but agrees to tell him about the festival and the strange deity it honours if he meets her at the shrine after the festival.

After the festival, Renka continues to search for information about his parents with his new friends. As the moon wanes, he learns more about the village, the legend and the mysterious 'Hasumi' family that historically presides over Hasumi-mura.

The new moon approaches and Renka starts to uncover an insidious web of tradition and deceit involving many of the families that live in Hasumi-mura. His friends begin to disappear and, too late, Renka learns of the true nature behind the ritual the village practices every 44 years.

When the moon disappears, everything comes to an end.

Tsukisome no Kasa is a single-route story, told in four chapters, with no branching paths or choices. The story is dramatic and fairly dark, which may not be everyone's cup of tea. To the writers' credit, there is very little "slice of life" in Tsukisome no Kasa- generally, the bare minimum to introduce the characters. This results in a fairly concise read: you can clear the game in 15 hours or so.

While the characters are pretty great, it should be stressed that if you're the kind of eroge player who decides on an eroge based on how attractive/cute the heroines are (and there is nothing wrong with that) Tsukisome no Kasa is not for you at all. The main heroine is 'unwinnable', for a start, and the story typically has a rather diminished focus on romance. This tends to bother some people so it's probably best they know from the start.

The story structure is a bit like that in 'Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo yori mo' - it is a four chapter story, with each chapter a 'reboot' of the timeline, for reasons discovered towards the end of the game. It doesn't do this as cleanly as Asairo did, mind; each chapter takes you back to the events that took place after the festival, and while the story doesn't use repeated text, you tend to see a number of events a few times in the course of the story. As in Asairo, the protagonist does not realise or remember the former events immediately and often stumbles around rediscovering information for part of the story.

The quality of the art is so-so; while the style is generally clean, it is not as polished as most modern eroges and a number of the CGs look rather awkward even when coloured well, with unusual body poses and perspectives. On the other hand, it makes up the lack of quality with quantity, boasting an above-average number of CGs (over 120), unusual for works light on the ero scenes. The backgrounds also vary; while generally good, some of the outdoor scenes are rather unusual. The graphics are generally well used and the important ones are drawn quite well, which is the important thing.

Music-wise, the soundtrack is decent and fits Tsukisome no Kasa quite well. Unlike most of the other aspects of this title, the music is created by the well-known composer Blasterhead. My only complaint is that you end up hearing some tracks reused quite a bit because the soundtrack is not especially large; however, it's still larger than the soundtracks of many equivalently-lengthed titles so this is a fairly minor complaint.

In terms of ero, Tsukisome no Kasa does not really deliver - it's not an eroge to read for that. The scene selection page lists 6 H scenes in the game; however, two of them are essentially two parts to the same scene (they take place directly one after another) and another two are fairly short.

Only two of the game's four heroines are 'winnable' in that sense, and while they all have H scenes, protagonist participation in the scenes is limited. If you're the kind of person to complain because your favourite heroine didn't get a proper H scene, again, Tsukisome no Kasa is not for you. The HCG are fairly awkwardly drawn, too, but only make up a small fraction of the total # of CG in the game so this is a minor complaint.

I quite enjoyed Tsukisome no Kasa. It is not an especially amazing eroge but it is worth a read if you find utsuge (depressing games) appealing. More importantly, it also highlights Hiyoko-soft as a brand to watch in the future. If they can iron out some of the issues here, they'd be well set for producing some truly spectacular titles in the future.

Overall Score: 78%

Tsukisome no Kasa official webpage
Tsukisome no Kasa @ getchu


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