Amaterasu Blog


Ourai no Gahkthun -What a shining braves- Review

Time for yet another dive into Sakurai's world of fantasy, steampunk and alternative history. And guess what? The series is still awesome.

Everything you love about the past WABs is here. Creative and original setting, very different from previous WAB settings but clearly part of the same WABverse. Distinctive artwork, different from previous styles but still quite memorable and appropriate for the series. Arguably it's less distinctive or less interesting than previous ones, but on the flip side there's no shortage of sprites, CGs or animations. The writing style is also exactly as you remember it, with plenty of fresh arc words to tease you with. Plus, for once copypasta is only a small part of the battle scenes (about damn time), so the fights are even cooler than usual.

The general format of the story is also familiar. Most chapters are still separate episodes about issues surrounding specific characters, with no more than hints for the main plot. The main plot still consists largely of driving questions about the setting up until the very end, when they suddenly get very thoroughly answered by a perfect storm of revelations. Sadly, there are a handful of scenes that overstay their welcome or verge on implausibility, and talking is all too often a free action. But other than that, Gahkthun is amazing.

Score: 9/10

Polarization: (+0.5/-1.5)

If you have any interest in Gahkthun, you've probably read at least one WAB before, so I don't need to tell you what's polarizing about it.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

P.S. The encyclopedia also makes a return in this installment, and this time it has quite a bit of information that isn't mentioned anywhere else.


Rewrite Final Patch Released (plus an author interview)

The Rewrite patch on our downloads page has now been updated with all of the fixes that have been reported since the complete patch was released. There were quite a lot of fixes, a handful of which were fairly significant (e.g., a minor character's name being misromanized, some text in Terra going below the bottom of the screen) so it's definitely worth getting the new final patch if you haven't finished reading the VN yet.

Also, I translated the writers interview from the Rewrite Perfect Visual Book. Some form of it will be included in our future Harvest festa! patch, along with whatever other bonus material I feel like translating. The interview features the three scenario writers of Rewrite - Tanaka Romeo, Tonokawa Yuuto and Ryuukishi07 - discussing their writing processes, funny anecdotes and some amusing ideas that could've been.

Obviously, the interview contains major spoilers.

**The scenario delegation was more or less what everyone expected!?

Interviewer: The game is currently on sale and I believe many users have already cleared all the routes. So today I think we should all dive deep into Rewrite's scenario without worrying about spoilers. To start us off, would you all mind revealing which parts of the scenario you each worked on...?

Tonokawa Yuuto (henceforth, Tonokawa): That's fine. Though I think it's exactly what most fans on the internet guessed (laughs).

Tanaka Romeo (henceforth, Tanaka): The common route was a bit complicated, but I think the individual routes I did are more or less what people thought. Basically, I did Kotori and Akane, as well as Moon and Terra, so four routes in total. I also wrote a few things here and there for the common route.

Tonokawa: I think we each did about half the common route?

Tanaka: Yeah. And as for the Mappie events......I put a lot of effort into the ones that didn't matter much (laughs).

Tonokawa: Those were about sixty percent me and forty percent Romeo-san. So back to the individual routes, I did Chihaya and Shizuru, and also about a tenth of Moon.

Tanaka: The battles in the latter half really stood out.

Ryuukishi07 (henceforth, Ryuukishi): And I was assigned Lucia's route.

Interviewer: How did you decide who'd do which characters?

Tanaka: I happened naturally. At first we only had Itaru-san's designs and a basic idea of the setting, so it felt like drawing names out of a hat (laughs).

Ryuukishi: Mine was decided later than the others. At the time we had Chihaya and Akane in Gaia, and only Shizuru in Guardian. So I thought I'd do another Guardian heroine to balance things out. I started writing it much later than they did, so we'd worked out a lot more about the world by then, and that's where my character had to be snuck in.

Interviewer: How much of the setting did you have worked out at first?

Tanaka: I think about two or three pages.

Tonokawa: We knew there were two organizations, there were superhumans and summoners, and they were fighting all around the world.

Tanaka: And something about the "song of destruction" which must never be sung. We were planning on battles from the beginning. Also, there was one line about using the Moon for some kind of surprise.

**From setting to secrets...... Details about the scenario.

Interviewer: Okay, now that we know who wrote what, I'd like to ask about your ideas and thought processes as you wrote the routes. Let's start with the Kotori route. Romeo-san, go ahead.

Tanaka: Okay. Kotori started out as an ordinary heroine. I thought about writing her as a normal girl who had nothing to do with the battles, but that just didn't fit with everything else. So I made her a druid with no attachment to Gaia or Guardian. I knew early on that she'd be good at raising plants and she'd have a big dog with her, so I built off of that.

Interviewer: She had the rather important role of being the childhood friend.

Tanaka: I did think of her as the first heroine, and her route was the first one I finished writing. I also used it to introduce the basic idea of the setting through the eyes of a normal person. She was especially important for explaining the basics of familiars to the readers.

Interviewer: Kotori, Chihaya and Lucia are the first three routes available.

Tanaka: Do you think it was a good idea to restrict two of them......?

Tonokawa: I think so. I think anyone who read Akane's route first would just be overwhelmed and have no idea what was going on. I remember thinking this during Little Busters (*Editor's Note: released by Key in 2007, Tonokawa was involved in it from the planning phase) too, but deciding on route order is always tricky. As the author there's an order I'd recommend to people, but if I force them to do it, that lowers the reader's freedom. I feel like the limit should be restricting one or two routes.

Interviewer: Childhood friend heroines are a classic love interest, but Kotori never did anything that romantic.

Tanaka: Well......I was planning to write that, but...(awkward smile).

Tonokawa: She always has her guard up (laughs).

Tanaka: The part where she'd normally start to open up was when they had to fight for their lives, so it would've been tough to fit it in...... Also, I really wanted to end that route with a CG of just Kotarou, but I think people didn't like that. The opinion I remember seeing was "I see what you were going for, but I wanted a picture of the girl."

Tonokawa: A lot of people asked why Kotori didn't come see him.

Tanaka: It felt out of place to write her doing that, so I'll just answer that with "a girl's heart is complicated" (laughs). Still, since I didn't get a chance to write any love scenes with Kotori I'm hoping I'll get the opportunity to do so in the fandisc (*Editor's Note: Harvest Festa, see page 163).

Interviewer: I look forward to it. Next up, Tonokawa-san, let's talk about Chihaya's route. That one stood out as having a lot of battles.

Tonokawa: I wanted to write at least one bright and cheerful route, since I saw Romeo-san and Ryuukishi-san writing pretty brutal stuff (laughs). Chihaya's the type of girl who never worries about things. I thought it'd be nice to have no potential concerns left over at the end of her route.

Tanaka: Wasn't that a popular route?

Tonokawa: It's a curveball relative to the rest of Rewrite, but the route itself is very traditional. I think everyone expected all of us to be throwing curveballs for this.

Tanaka: That is what I do (laughs).

Tonokawa: So I wanted to throw at least one completely straight. I made Kotarou grow the most and get the strongest as a superhuman, so I had to make it as thrilling and purely fun as possible. But it still feels weird when people say it's the battle route. Normally in stories with lots of battles everyone's really grim, right? I wanted to write something closer to shounen manga like Dragonball or One Piece. So I tried to keep the text descriptions to a minimum and use effects instead.

Interviewer: I remember the Chihaya route feeling like it had more effort put into the visual effects.

Tonokawa: Yes. We produced quite a few that only got used in that route.

Tanaka: I always have trouble deciding how to handle battles, so I don't really leap at the chance to write them. In fact at first I thought about borrowing the battle system from Little Busters. But everyone at Key firmly opposed the idea......(laughs).

Tonokawa: Of course they did (laughs). That thing was meant to be a joke.

Tanaka: I was imagining a map with enemies on it you could encounter and battle......but still, Tonokawa-san took care of the battles for me so that was a big help.

Interviewer: And while we're talking about the battles in the Chihaya route, we can't overlook Sakuya.

Tanaka: He was more popular than we knew what to do with. I still wonder what group liked him that much. Girls who want an older brother? (laughs)

Tonokawa: Cool older brother-types are automatically popular.

Tanaka: When I got into the industry, that was considered taboo. The idea was you couldn't make a character too perfect. Everyone felt that only the protagonist should get to be more powerful than everyone else......

Tonokawa: So I figured it'd be nice if he failed to achieve his biggest goal, and ended up entrusting Kotarou to achieve it in his place. But back when we released the trial everyone seemed to hate him.

Ryuukishi: There's no avoiding that at the beginning of the story......(laughs)

Tonokawa: I was trying to write him as an unlikeable guy, but I overdid it (laughs). But as soon as he does something a little nice suddenly everyone seems to like's not fair.

Ryuukishi: Kinda like how a delinquent goes up in popularity after he adores a puppy (laughs). The opposite happened with the class rep. Since she was the serious type, and after she snapped once everyone assumed her role was to freak out over things.

Interviewer: Sakuya was a good character. Now then, let's talk about the other Gaia heroine, Akane. Romeo-san, go ahead.

Tanaka: We knew from the beginning that she'd be like the "boss of Gaia". Since destroying the world relates to everything else in the setting I decided I should take on that role......but it was a tall order. I had to destroy the world, but I didn't want them to be evil. So I had to do some tricky things to give them all sins.

Interviewer: You mean the tragic backstories that Akane and the others had?

Tanaka: I could've easily made Akane a kidnapped princess, but I didn't think that would be good enough for Gaia's boss. In the end I decided she had to bear some guilt herself.

Tonokawa: I think it was a lot more than "some" (laughs). Just being at the top of Gaia already gives her a crushing amount of responsibility.

Tanaka: I really didn't want it to turn into the protagonist saving a poor girl who was nothing but a victim. Then she wouldn't really be Gaia.

Interviewer: The power struggles within Gaia made Akane's situation a lot more complicated.

Tanaka: If I made Gaia monolithic they'd be nothing but an evil empire, so I threw in a bunch of problems for them to fight over internally. I wanted to avoid having just one big evil that had to be defeated. I even made Kashima Sakura essentially powerless.

Tonokawa: Kashima Sakura was really unfair. No one ever got a chance to settle their score with her directly.

Tanaka: If they did it might turn into "Defeat her and everything will be fine!"

Interviewer: There were a lot of unpleasant things in Akane's route, but the more adult romance also stood out.

Tanaka: Akane was in charge of sex appeal (laughs). That comes from the fact that in really old eroges the older third-year character was always the more seductive type. I noticed we didn't have any other characters like that so I forced, in my mind she naturally became a more adult character. You know how Clannad (*Editor's Note: released by Key in 2004, all ages) did something like that too? (laughs) That's why I thought it might work. I also planned on giving every heroine at least one sexual harassment event. Like Akane's boobs and Kotori's seed planting. But there wasn't enough time for the others......

Tonokawa: I still can't forget Romeo-san's face when he told us about that plan (laughs).

Tanaka: I was always waiting for a chance to ask Ryuukishi-san to get one in Lucia's route......

Ryuukishi: Ahaha...... (awkward smile).

Interviewer: Back to Akane, the scenes of a peaceful farming lifestyle near the end were very memorable.

Tanaka: Honestly, I went off the rails a bit near the ending. I had to go back and do a huge revision. If I really wanted to I might've been able to shorten it another 100 kilobytes.

Tonokawa: Well, I was one of the guys suggesting you shorten it......but I think the first draft of 800 kilobytes might have actually had the best balance. It was just so long that it had to be trimmed no matter what. If you can read all of it there's nothing to complain about, but I don't know how many players would have gotten that far......

Tanaka: So in the end I left it at 450 kilobytes. A big revision like that really shortens the text, and personally I enjoy trimming it down. I think it was much better afterward. The other routes averaged 500 or 600 kilobytes, after all.

Ryuukishi: Did I write that much......?

Tonokawa: Lucia's route is 750 kilobytes if you count the common route parts! (laughs)

Tanaka: It takes about an hour to play through 100 kilobytes, right? A light novel is about 200 to 250 kilobytes per volume. They used to always tell me a scenario of only 700-800 KB takes less than eight hours to read, and that's too short for the faster readers. But Kanon's (*Editor's Note: Key's debut work, released in 1999) individual routes weren't that long. 150 kilobytes I think?

Tonokawa: Around 200 kilobytes.

Interviewer: I remember Kanon being praised for having a good length at the time.

Tanaka: It really was as long as it needed to be.

Tonokawa: I remember at our first meeting someone said "Let's keep them all nice and compact! Like 200 to 250 kilobytes." But none of us managed to do that (laughs).

Tanaka: I guess you could say I tried to keep Kotori's route short. Wasn't it 350 kilobytes? That's the only route I didn't have to revise. It ended at about the right length.

Interviewer: That was an informative discussion about text size from professional writers' perspectives. Now, back on topic......let's continue to Shizuru's route. The first-person diary at the end covered a lot of time skips, so it made the exact timeline unclear.

Tonokawa: I wanted to make it fairly unclear. Whenever there's a gap in your memories like that, it feels like everything that happened in between just disappeared, which can be confusing. I wanted the users to experience that same feeling. So it naturally ended up that way, even though I wasn't trying to do anything special. That aside, I think I put most of my energy into what happened after Shizuru and Kotarou parted at the end. I think it followed the Key formula more than anything else.

Interviewer: First-person narration from the heroines has been used to great effect in past Key works.

Tonokawa: That's true.

Tanaka: Shizuru's route is probably the most Key-like part of the scenario.

Tonokawa: I just wrote it the way I felt like writing it, so I wasn't doing that on purpose (laughs).

Interviewer: She ate a lot of saury......

Tanaka: Yes, it's just like Key to have food jokes.

Interviewer: I feel like one of Key's traditions is to make joke foods and items like that turn into something emotional in the finale.

Tonokawa: Yeah, exactly. The iPod might be another good example. Shizuru listens to music a lot in her route, so that was important. I wanted to actually have the songs in the game, but since they're all from the early 90's......I just had to imagine stuff I thought Kotarou would listen to.

Interviewer: Nishikujou-sensei liked 80's pop, right?

Tonokawa: That's just her weird taste in music (laughs). I was trying to show that she's a little behind the times.

Tanaka: There were some music jokes in Little Busters too, weren't there?

Tonokawa: Yes. We avoided recent music since that's troublesome, so instead I tried to use old music that would make people smile if they happened to recognize it.

Interviewer: So the conclusion is Shizuru's route is about music (laughs). Now then, Ryuukishi-san, let's talk about Lucia's route. Tell us exactly what was going through your mind.

Ryuukishi: Honestly, I planned on starting once I saw what the other writers had done, but when I started they only had a little of the Kotori and Chihaya routes finished. I started writing before we really knew what Shizuru and Akane were like. Since Shizuru's route wasn't there, we hadn't really settled on what kind of organization Guardian was, and the way the schedule worked out I had to finish mine I went ahead and added a bunch of detail about Guardian and Gaia myself. Also, I was pretty worried about whether to write something in Key's style, or something more like me. President Baba (*Editor's Note: Visual Arts' executive director, and the person who originally invited Ryuukishi07) told me something like "There's no point trying to play it safe," so I went ahead and wrote it the way I wanted. I figured if there were any problems Key could fix them later. And then they didn't change anything. My part of Rewrite didn't get rewritten at all! ......please emphasize that (laughs).

Interviewer: ......ummm (laughs), so does that mean Lucia's route was the first one finished?

Ryuukishi: Yes. Lucia was the last character added to the story but her route was finished first. I'm not really sure how that happened (laughs). That's right, in the first writers' meeting they were both bragging that "I'm gonna destroy the world this way", so I figured I'd beat them by using a nuclear missile......but I was surprised to learn later on that they'd both topped that.

Interviewer: Well, I'm pretty sure a lot of people died in Lucia's route.

Ryuukishi: Maybe (laughs).

Tanaka: I don't know who got the highest body count, but we all killed of a lot of people......

Ryuukishi: And despite what I said earlier, since it is a Key work, I felt I should write a date scene. Then I was a little shocked to find the other routes had almost nothing like that (laughs).

Tanaka: I wanted to put one in, but I didn't think it would fit anywhere (laughs).

Tonokawa: Chihaya's route had Sakuya so it wouldn't really......

Ryuukishi: And I put in some occult elements to make it more like me. I think anyone who played Lucia's route first went "Is this really a Key game?"

Interviewer: But isn't the way Lucia's misfortunes seem to pile up one after the other exactly like Key?

Tanaka: Yes, at its core I think it is very Key-like.

Ryuukishi: I guess the part where the protagonist is helping out an unfortunate heroine. I haven't written many traditional heroines like that so I had to think about it a lot. Especially since this was for Key fans, who've seen all sorts of heroines before. I researched all sorts of works to figure out what kind of heroine I wanted to write, but that was all a waste of time (laughs). In the end I made Lucia exactly the type of heroine I like.

Interviewer: Lucia stood out as being the type who looks strong on the outside but is actually very weak.

Ryuukishi: If she wasn't, there'd be nothing for Kotarou to do. People often say the protagonist doesn't do anything in my stories, so I wanted to make sure he'd get the chance this time.

Tanaka: Didn't people say Lucia's route was the best constructed?

Ryuukishi: But there's a lot of stuff I didn't get to write. I set it up so Lucia had huge boobs but I didn't get to do anything with them in her route! I'd like to touch on that a bit in the fandisc (laughs).

Interviewer: I look forward to that! (laughs)

Tonokawa: The fans did argue rather passionately about one thing: Were Lucia and Asahi Haruka actually two separate personalities or not? In particular, is the scene where Lucia gets surprised by the copy just her acting or is it genuine? ......stuff like that.

Ryuukishi: Well, I'd prefer to leave that to the readers rather than judge it myself......if I were to sum up that part of Lucia in one word, I'd say "discord".

**The feelings hidden in the hotly-discussed ending.

Interviewer: Now let's move on to Moon and Terra, which I suppose are Kagari's routes.

Tanaka: Those routes are covered in great detail in the explanation (*Editor's Note: See page 148 of this book) so I'd like everyone to start there. So, because the Occult Club had always been an imperfect group, I decided to write a scene where they get together and do something in perfect unison. Moon was my way of putting together an environment where that could happen. You could say it's the illusory world from Clannad. The readers' opinions split pretty heavily on it. Some theories said the individual routes were just simulations done by the Moon, though personally I'd like to say all the routes actually took place.

Interviewer: It does get trickier to interpret after all the sci-fi elements that come up in Moon.

Tanaka: I tried to make the difficulty just a step below AIR (*Editor's Note: released by Key in 2000, sparked debate over the shocking conclusion to its grand romance).

Tonokawa: Hmmm, there were hints sprinkled all over the place, so I can't imagine anyone being completely lost at the end of it.

Tanaka: If you read carefully it makes sense, but if you only skim it things don't seem to connect......I think that's about right. But I can understand why it'd feel difficult, and that's my own fault. It's tough to make something as easy to understand as Little Busters, but I think I could've made it at least as easy as Clannad.

Interviewer: What did you have in mind when writing an unusual heroine like Kagari?

Tanaka: When treating her as a heroine, I had to put a lot of effort into making the readers like her only using Moon. On the other hand, in Terra she's more like a dummy heroine, so it felt tricky to do anything deliberate with her. I did stray a lot when I was trying to make Kagari likeable in Moon. Her personality changed quite a bit between the first and second draft......

Tonokawa: At first she could talk normally. Some people in Key even felt she was cuter that way......

Tanaka: In the second draft Kagari talked like newspaper captions. In the third draft she was the silent type she is today. After I finalized it I heard we got a really famous voice actor for her and felt like I'd wasted that (laughs). Maybe the first draft was the best!?

Tonokawa: Something like the first version of her is still around in the bonus route.

Tanaka: I'm glad we got to use that Kagari somewhere at least.

Interviewer: Finally, about Terra. In the explanation it's portrayed as the route which answers all the questions. What were you aiming for?

Tanaka: The idea was to fill in everything we'd foreshadowed in previous routes. It ended up being about two light novels long, but I think I could've cut that in half if I wanted to. I talked to Key about that and they said it'd be better not to shorten it.

Tonokawa: If it was shorter it'd be harder to understand. We didn't mean for it to be a grand finale at first but that's what it turned into.

Tanaka: In the original plan a lot of routes had sad endings where the heroines died, so I wanted to make a happy end where everyone came back to life. But it's hard to bring characters back to life. So instead I wanted to make a route where all the heroines end up together with far less emotional baggage. So the last scene in Terra was my goal from the beginning. I was happy with the route as long as it ended up there. All the heroines are there, they go to see Kagari, and all the problems have been solved......that's the happiest end I could come up with.

Interviewer: Kotarou is the only one carrying a heavy burden in that ending. The explanation did mention you wanted to avoid a happy ending that no one paid the price for.

Tanaka: Trying to make an unequivocally happy ending is actually much harder. Even if I went back to rewrite it, I don't think I could change the nature of ending at all. I came up with it after looking at the plans for the other routes for a week or two, so if I tried to change anything now it'd just create contradictions.

Tonokawa: There was some debate over it within Key too......some said it had no "catharsis".

Tanaka: It depends on what you mean by catharsis, but I think the only way to get that is by sympathizing with at least one heroine, then seeing some shocking things happen that eventually resolve the plot. Rewrite was never meant to work that way so I don't think we could've changed that.

Tonokawa: There were also some people who just said they didn't understand it (laughs).

Tanaka: When working at Key I couldn't help but think about AIR and Mai's route in Kanon, since opinions on those were also divided.

Tonokawa: I liked that route (laughs).

Tanaka: But I can really understand why Little Busters is the mainstay. I did my best to get rid of all the unhappiness in Rewrite's ending.

Tonokawa: Personally I think it wraps up very nicely the way it is now.

Tanaka: I'd be very interested to see how other writers might handle the plot behind Rewrite.

**Key's expanding possibilities in a fandisc and future works.

Interviewer: What did you feel after seeing readers' opinions on Rewrite?

Tanaka: They were split, but we expected that. What we didn't expect was how polarizing it was. And I realized later that we didn't put in any tearjerk scenes (laughs). Though it would've been tough to fit any into that story.

Tonokawa: But there were people who said they cried. The finale wasn't designed specifically to make people cry so it just had a different impression. There are definitely scenes in the individual routes that make people cry.

Tanaka: Let's hope for more tear jerking from Tonokawa-san's next project (laughs). Either way, it did feel difficult working on something for such a huge brand.

Ryuukishi: I've always assumed I wouldn't get hurt as long as I stayed away from the gigantic boards (laughs), but I got threatening e-mails as soon as my role was announced so it was quite scary. Still, I learned a lot, and in retrospect I'm very glad I did this. As a fan of Key, it was a lot of fun.

Tonokawa: For me getting beaten up in reviews feels like part of the job......

Tanaka: I get a lot of harsh criticism too. In particular I really, really like Terra's ending, so when someone criticizes that it's hard not to feel sad......

Ryuukishi: This job might be more about keeping your spirits up than it is about writing well (laughs).

Interviewer: I'm sure we could go on like this for hours, but I think it's time each of you made a concluding remark summing up everything you experienced with Rewrite.

Tanaka: This is the first time I've ever worked for such a huge brand, but my feelings are split between things I think I did right and things I want to improve on. I think it might be nice to fix a few of those things in the fandisc after looking at people's opinions.

Ryuukishi: I also learned a lot and had fun doing this. And by "learned a lot" I mean there are also things I'd like to improve on......but fortunately I've been invited back for the fandisc so I want to work hard on that.

Tonokawa: I think producing Rewrite has expanded our possibilities, so it'll be easier for Key to go wherever we want it to in the future. Of course we might produce something very similar to Key's past works, but for all the readers who enjoyed Rewrite's approach we might ask Romeo-san or Ryuukishi-san for help again someday. Please keep an eye on what we might do in the future.

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Tsukihime Review

A flawed classic.

Overall, Tsukihime is quite solid. The story is complex enough to be interesting. There are loads of twists, most of which are not easy to predict. The characters have enough depth that they rarely feel like plot devices. Everyone's actions make perfect sense given their characters. The endings have proper closure, both logically and emotionally. Though the slice-of-life isn't great, it's nicely kept to a minimum. I found myself consistently curious as to what would happen next and constantly thinking about details of the backstory.

But there are significant problems. First, several scenes are almost literally copy-pasted between multiple routes. Second, many differences between routes are totally unexplained, making them feel disconnected. Third, all the routes are so end-loaded that I often felt like I was waiting for the plot to start, even when the plot was already moving. Fourth, I didn't find myself caring deeply about the characters, especially in Near Side. I was always curious what would happen to them, but only mildly concerned for their well-being.

Fortunately, none of these flaws are fatal, and I had no trouble enjoying all of Tsukihime despite them.

Score: 8/10

Polarization: (+/-1)

Since a lot of my criticism is about how the routes interact with each other, how important that is to you may be significant.

Routes/Endings: All