Welcome to Rockmandash Reviews, and today we have a very interesting Visual Novel that is incredibly hard to describe. This is my review of the Muv-Luv Visual Novels, a series of Eroge Visual Novels made by Age and was translated by Amaterasu Translations. Muv-Luv is a series that defies expectations, manipulates your emotions, and managed to inspire Attack on Titan. Yes…. that Attack on Titan.
Muv-Luv is a series of Visual Novels for the PC. Even though there are 2 Visual Novels in the series: Muv-Luv and Muv Luv Alternative, there are 3 Arcs of this series that are very different from each other but are all very integral to the plot. The 3 Arcs are Extra, Unlimited, and Alternative, and I'm going to talk about them one at at a time, for the sake of convenience.
Muv Luv Extra is the first Arc of the game, and it's your traditional dating sim. By traditional... I mean this is exactly what you would expect out of the genre.... there's nothing here but a slice of life romantic comedy. It doesn't do anything special, it's silly and forgettable, but it's not horrible. I eventually got bored if it and skipped most of the second half... but I felt like I didn't really miss much. The one redeemable factor in Extra is that it develops the characters very well. You get to know how they act, what they are like and you get used to this nice, peaceful world that is in Muv Luv....
Extra - 6/10
Until Muv-Luv Unlimited rips the main character Takeru out of this nice and peaceful life, and throws him into a universe of despair; an alternate world where aliens known as BETA invade the world, pushing humanity to the brink of extinction, leaving large parts of Eurasia uninhabitable. In Muv-Luv Unlimited, Takeru has to get used to the life of a military cadet, with the treat of death looming upon him… and you are in for the ride. Unfortunately, Muv-Luv Unlimited has one huge flaw that keeps it from being something spectacular… Unlimited is way too lighthearted. In every aspect of Muv-Luv Unlimited, everything is a bit too lighthearted: from the atmosphere, to the pacing, to the writing in general. There is absolutely no sense of urgency, which is sad, because the game has some great ideas… but they make it feel so Slice of life-esque that it ruins the game. The atmosphere of a game is very important, and they don't create the right one at all. It's really sad in a way; it has great ideas and a great world, they just don't execute it well in the game..... it isn't engaging as you would want it to be because they make you feel like an outsider, and the pace is just slow.
Unlimited - 7.5/10
If Unlimited was wasted potential, Alternative is that potential unleashed into the world and made into something amazing. Alternative picks up right from the end of Unlimited, where Alternative V happens… but instead of Takeru dying, he comes back to where he was… at the very beginning of Unlimited. This time, Takeru has experience of events, and he tries to change the events so the world isn't screwed over. At the beginning, it's a game of spot the difference… but when the butterfly effect kicks in, it kicks in hard... everything changes. You know how I said a paragraph ago that you feel like an outsider in Unlimited? Well, this game takes that feeling and runs with it. It creates a bond between you and the main character, the only person who's been on this insane trip with you, and the only person you can relate to in this alternate universe. It emphasizes it's unique and different world... and how they built up this world is absolutely fantastic. It's filled with interesting politics of the world, interesting military equipment, interesting people with all sorts of problems, and an interesting society. The best part about this interesting world is that they go so in depth about it, and any world building you would ever want is here... its absolutely fantastic and I wish that more games would do this. Plot wise, Muv-Luv Alternative feels like Attack on Titan but with good pacing and character development. While SnK focuses on Objectives and the deaths of your favorite characters, Muv-Luv focuses on all of it: tactics, strategies, ideals, characters, pacing, trauma, even a bit of pseudoscience! It's pretty much everything I would ever want out of this type of story, and it does it extremely well. Alternative impressed me because it integrated everything in the previous plots, making everything even mentioned important and relevant in some way shape or form, and never leaving red hearings. One thing that's surprised me about alternative is even though it has a slow pace, I really did enjoy the pacing. I believe it's because Alternative spent every bit of its time explaining the world, doing some of the best character development I've ever seen, and the most important part: keeping me completely engaged in the plot. The writing in this game is absolutely phenomenal, manipulating the player in ways they have not been manipulated before. If G-Senjou no Maou is a roller coaster of a plot, then Muv-Luv is a road trip; beautifully showing you the world at the pace you want to go, getting you absorbed, and getting you attached to the plot. I wouldn't say alternative is the best story ever; it's not in my opinion. It is however, one of the best stories I've ever experienced. It's does everything you would want in this setting, and does it very well.
Alternative - 10/10
It's hard to sum up Muv-Luv as a whole. It certainly takes its time to get good, but when it's good, it's really good. Even though it has some bad parts, I believe that the better arcs overshadow the negative arcs, especially because of how well Alternative integrated the plot and just blew me away. It's fantastic and amazing, but if you want to play this game, you will have to go through quite a bit of not so amazing writing to get to the better parts of the game.
Writing - 8.5/10
For the most part, the characters are the same, but they do differ slightly between each arc... and are just as fantastic in each. You follow the main character, Takeru Shirogane. At first Takeru is your typical high school student with a carefree and kinda mean attitude, but as you go through the game, you see him develop into a meaningful character, one who understands others, and becomes a mature person. He does an excellent job as a representative of the player, as he's the only character you can relate to. He's a great main character, and he's probably the character I've been most attached to in any medium ever. Because Muv-Luv starts out as a dating sim, there are plenty of heroines, but if I had to describe them, I would be going on and on about the amazing they are. All the characters are written absolutely fantastically and they all have a reason for being there. They are all extremely fleshed out with interesting back stories, interesting personalities, etc. Because of your situation in Unlimited and Alternative, the game really creates a feeling like you are in a squad, and it's icing on the cake. All the characters are written well, and they make the world feel real, and they are the best part of the series.
Characters - 10/10
Muv-Luv has it's strengths and weaknesses, and has a bad habit of starting pretty weak, but getting better the further you go along. The sound and visuals are no different: they both start pretty average at the beginning, but they get better. At the beginning, the visuals have a 4:3 aspect ratio, and average but entertaining art, but the big problem with visuals in the beginning is they didn't have enough art in general. With the sound, It's mostly average. Extra has nothing but generic and silly songs, and while Unlimited steps this up a notch with some fantastic songs, they are never used too well and it makes unlimited feel like wasted potential. Even with the knocks on Muv-Luv Extra and Unlimited, the presentation of these games do their job and they get out of the way for the characters and the world.
Alternative does a little bit better in this aspect and when you launch it up, be prepared for a slight quality jump. The big difference though, is that Alternative has some niceties like 16:9 and some of the best engrish I have seen in a long time. As for the sound, some of the tracks are absolutely fantastic, and the timing of these great tracks is something to be admired, but a majority of the soundtrack is just average. Alternative's presentation is nice because it takes care of all the small details, just like in the plot. The game's presentation isn't perfect, but when it's bad, it's so hilariously bad so it never really detracts from your experience, and overall, it's pretty nice. Also, All the FMV's have this nice 80's charm to it, and I dig it.
The character art, ui, voice acting and aesthetics in general are pretty much the same throughout the games. In general, art is just average and there's no getting around that, but you get used to it eventually, and you might actually like it. It never really hinders the experience, but it never shines. The voice actors are the same in all games and they do a pretty nice job in all of them.
One thing that might hinder your expereince, is the obligatory Eroge warning here: THIS GAME HAS SEXUAL CONTENT AND YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE THIS. IT'S AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE PLOT AND KINDA APPEARS EVERYWHERE. IF YOU ARE NOT A FAN, AVOID THIS GAME.
Presentation - 7.5/10
There are a few little things I want to say before I get into my personal thoughts on Muv-Luv, so i'll say them here. Muv-Luv made me realize how dependent I am on fan translations, as there were parts that weren't translated because of the engine, and I felt completely lost. This game hates windows 8 and likes to crash at specific parts in the end of extra and weird stuff like not displaying subtitles on videos. If you have a windows 7 computer, try to play it on that, but if you don't, you'll have to do what I had to do to continue playing, which was downloading a save online to get to Unlimited. Also, the engrish was absolutely "fantastic", it was one of my favorite parts of Alternative. It really helps add a bit more lightheartedness to a pretty bleak story, and it was very enjoyable.
As for my thoughts of this game, I already did a whole opinion piece on my experience with Muv-Luv, so if you really want to know what I think about Muv Luv, check that out... but if that's too long for you, I'll say it here: It's phenomenal and I love it.
Enjoyment - 10/10
I love Muv-Luv, but it has major flaws. It takes a long time to get good, isn't the best aesthetically or sound-wise... but it's a prime example of why Visual Novels is one of the best ways of storytelling. There's an INCREDIBLY HIGH barrier of entry, up with the likes of Kara no Kyoukai, but if you can get through the meh first half, through the dark parts, and the sexual content, you'll have one of the best experiences of storytelling that any medium has to offer.
Overall - 9/10, Polarization +1,-3
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