Today I'm starting yet another journey into the Muv-Luv universe with a look at Alternative Chronicles 01: a collection of stories set in the Muv-Luv Unlimited universe. Three stories are included: Muv-Luv Unlimited: The Day After Episode 00, Chicken Divers, and Rain Dancers.
After firmly resigning myself to the reality that we'd likely never get a translated version of Alternative Chronicles, the fan translations for both the first and second visual novels came out over the last two weeks, and it's time to get back to one of the greatest post-apocalyptic franchises in history.
This article will spoil things from the ending of Muv-Luv Unlimited and, of course, the plot twist from Extra to Unlimited. Proceed with this in mind. I'll mark the former, but not the latter spoiler.
After the End:
Spoilers here for Unlimited ending in this segment.
The major story in this package is Muv-Luv Unlimited: The Day After Episode 00. After the end of Muv-Luv Unlimited and at the beginning of Muv-Luv Alternative, we never see what became of humanity during the hellish, suicidal counterattack on the BETA that began with the use of G-Bombs in Alternative V. All we can be sure of is that it didn't work.
That's what The Day After is about. 90 days after the completion of Alternative V, we're shown the hell that it unleashed on Earth. The oceans are dried up, satellites crashing to Earth, and communication blackouts that leave our focus, the American TSF carrier John F. Kennedy, stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a massive salt flat created by the evaporated ocean.
We're exploring a story that we always knew about, but never really explored. It's explaining a noodle incident and showing us that what we went through in Alternative was infinitely better than what would have happened otherwise.
The Day After follows the exploits of the American Marine Corps squadron "Black Knives" as they defend the TSF carrier JFK in the waning hours of its life. We only get a few hours with these characters, but you can't help but feel for these people in their hellish world. They bury their feelings and charge forward into their duties with everything they've got. Their bravery and existential conflict forms a powerful narrative about what it means to be "alive" and what the duties of those who are "alive" are.
Chicken Divers follows Aquila squadron as they drop onto the Sadogashima hive in Muv-Luv Alternative's operation to capture it. Rain Dancers follows a European Typhoon squadron in their defense of the Sicilian island against the BETA to protect Africa. Unlike The Day After 00, Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers only last about 30 minutes each.
Even so, the characters in Chicken Divers must cope with the reality that this moment may be their last. It's a stark contrast to the cast of Alternative: these characters are cannon fodder and they know it. Rain Dancers explores the complex motivations of pilots across the world. Why do they fight? Why does it matter?
Exploring Muv-Luv Again:
Alternative Chronicles is basically an excuse to explore the fascinating Muv-Luv universe even more. It explores even more international politics, international military policy, and the inward crises of TSF pilots across the world. While Takeru and his squadron were ace pilots, the characters in this collection are all normal people. People who've been driven from their homelands, people doing their duty to their country, and people that don't want to see their friends die. It's a very human look at the darker, deadlier side of the Muv-Luv Unlimited/Alternative universe.
The Side Stories are a Bit Short:
The two side stories (Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers) are a bit short and seem to abruptly end before I've even gotten to know them. These are fascinating stories that I'd love to hear more about, but I also realize that there isn't much else to tell. It's not going in the terrible section for that reason. They served their purpose and that's that.
Does Not Stand Alone:
Muv-Luv is a paradox by its own nature. While it contains some of the best post-apocalyptic stories in our generation, the stories are only great when they are all combined together. Playing just this visual novel is not going to be good for anyone. As Rockmandash once said, Muv-Luv forcibly limits its audience. In this case, you'll only enjoy these stories if you've played the main saga.
Lacks the Same Impact as the Main Saga:
These stories are short and the characters don't get a fraction of the same screen time as the original cast. It doesn't have nearly the same emotional strike of Alternative before it. That said, it's still a good story for anyone that likes this universe. It does manage to get a couple tear jerkers in there and it still gets you to sympathize with these characters' somber reality.
It's a Kinetic Novel:
There are no choices in this visual novel, it's just a book. That's all it is. Some people will dislike this, but because it's so short, you probably won't even notice if you enjoy it enough.
At the end of the day, this visual novel is only for one audience: people that played the main saga of Muv-Luv and want something more. That's why you need to proceed with caution. It doesn't have the same emotional impact as the main saga, but it's exploring the fascinating world we were introduced to in Muv-Luv Unlimited. It's not going to make you cry or RAGE against AGE, but you will feel that connection to this world because you played the main saga. You'll enjoy that you're back in this post-apocalyptic hell that somehow resembles Earth to hear more about the incredible people and pilots that were previously relegated to "extras" in the main saga.
The main saga was about Takeru, a normal kid that just happened to be tossed into this world. These stories are about people who've been here. It's about the average person of this universe and how they cope with that realization.
All-in-all, it's a good visual novel that recaptures the despair and existential questions that the main saga had sprinkled throughout. I'm still on the fence about it being a kinetic novel, but its short length makes it fine. It does bring into question whether this is a video game or not though. *Shrugs*
This review was created with Talk Amongst Yourselves' official review format.
This review is part of my video game review series. I will be running it parallel to my Anime Marathon series. You'll be able to find all my video game reviews on Dex's Corner using the tag "Game Review".
You can find all my posts on Dex's Corner.