While visual novels aren’t as lucrative in the west as they are in Japan, the genre still has a very large audience which appreciates a deep and intriguing story. Perhaps the reason for visual novels not having as much of an impact as, let’s say, action titles really stems from the fact that, visual novels require a great deal of your time and details must be identified to truly enjoy the entire narrative. Any slip up or distraction could potentially leave players lost and ultimately end in dissatisfaction of sorts. So the whole point is that visual novels are really devoted to the true fans of the genre, the ones who really commit themselves to the narrative and even share an emotional bond with the cast of characters within the narrative itself. This brings us to Muv Luv Alternative, a truly deep narrative that takes players on an emotional rollercoaster ride and provides you with an experience that’s refreshing.
What to Expect
Before we get into the nitty gritty of Muv Luv Alternative’s gameplay, we need to stress that this game requires some understanding of the story in order for you to fully enjoy the experience. So if you’re jumping into the game without prior knowledge of Muv Luv’s prior adventures, Muv Luv Extra and Muv Luv Unlimited (which Muv Luv Alternative is the sequel to), then we suggest diving in to really get a feel of what’s transpiring in the story. As this is a visual novel expect to be reading a lot of text, sifting through predetermined scenarios and courses of interaction via multiple choices. What was initially marketed as an adult game has changed as much of the adult related content was removed in later versions including the one we’re currently reviewing. So if you want the more saucy version of Muv Luv Alternative, you may need to do some searching for the Japanese copy. All of this is truly a fun and relaxing experience once you dive deep into things, so be sure to strap yourself in because it’s going to be a long one.
Quick Muv Luv Unlimited Synopsis
So as we mentioned earlier, the Muv Luv series is a pretty long one and comes with a pretty lengthy story that you’ll need to really sit through in order to fully get the best experience out of Muv Luv Alternative. So to make things a little easier for you, we’ll cover just a little bit of Muv Luv Ultimate’s story before going into Alternative. In the beginning of Muv Luv Ultimate, main protagonist Takeru Shirogane wakes up to realize that Meiya or Sumika don’t come to wake him this time around (they both did in Muv Luv Extra). As he leaves his house and embarks outside, he’s shocked to realize this his entire town has been destroyed and that Sumika’s house is completely torn apart as it lies beneath a heap of Mecha scrap metal. Takeru later comes to learn that he’s now living in an alternate world and that the BETA ("Beings of the Extra Terrestrial origin who are the Adversary of human race") threaten to annihilate the human race. Much of Muv Luv Unlimited goes into detail about the origins of BETA and their arrival on Earth and how they killed millions of people, and now Takeru along with his colleagues must put an end to the onslaught.
Muv Luv Alternative Synopsis
Similar to Ultimate’s beginnings, Takeru once again finds himself in his room three years after the events which transpired in Ultimate. He thinks that much of what he experienced before was merely just a dream, but as he leaves his house once again he’s shocked to realize that he’s been sent back to the beginning of events which transpired in Muv Luv Ultimate. Knowing how everything turned out in the end for humanity, Takeru makes it his mission to rewrite history and so he decides to lend a helping hand to professor Kouzuki to save the Earth from peril and create the Alternative IV to prevent catastrophe from happening again.
Muv Luv Alternative pays close attention to Takeru’s role in trying to rewrite history by teaming up with his former colleagues in an act to prevent the world from peril. In the opening phase of the game, you’re greeted with some flashbacks of the prior events before you start off in Takeru’s bedroom. Visually Muv Luv Alternative isn’t your run of the mill high quality experience as the game initially came out back in 2006 in Japan, and it certainly shows signs of age. This isn’t to say that the game isn’t good to look at because we actually enjoy the nostalgic anime style the game uses, such as the very spiky hairstyles and very sharp facial features. It gives the game that ‘mature’ feel in a way because the story itself has certainly evolved since it began, and more fans are starting to grow curious about just how it all unfolded. You’re able to choose between English voice overs or the original Japanese voice overs, along with English or Japanese text to go with the imagery. It creates a more genuine experience when you opt for the original voicing but for those who are satisfied with the English side of things then the option is there.
As with any visual novel game, there’s very little interaction that you have while playing, since most of your time will be spent reading what’s going on between characters. If you’re familiar with visual novels, then this is of course nothing new to you, but we know there are some out there who may be jumping into this genre for the first time so a little heads up provides some assurance. Every detail that jumps out at you is something to take note of, especially the relationship between Takeru and professor Kouzuki. These two have a very special bond that goes well beyond that of his other subordinates and so their dialogue is very rich in information, so we recommend really reading their conversation thoroughly to truly understand what’s happening. You still need to of course pay close attention to the other girls he spends time with such as Chizuru, Meiya, since they too provide some clues as to just what’s happening and how things are progressing.
As you play through the game, there will be times where your decision will be needed, as multiple choice options are laid out in front of you. Some are very simple while others may require that you think things through just a little before committing. Depending on your choice, the direction of the narrative will change since there are multiple plot lines that the game takes, which is where a lot of the fun occurs. There’s a plot line for each heroine of the story and in total, there are roughly nineteen possible outcomes that can occur within the game. In order to view every ending, you’d need to replay the entire game from start to finish and so this is where it’s important to really pay close attention to detail. Making unwise decisions may result in failing the game, at which point you’ll need to probably restart from your last save point, so make sure you save at the right section!
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Overall, Muv Luv Alternative acts as more of a movie and is the finale that wraps up the trilogy if you will. There’s a lot of emotion that transpires throughout the story, be it the very tongue-in-cheek romcom, or escalating into a more action packed thrill ride that really has you immersed in it all. Since you’ll need to replay the game to truly get the best out of your play time, you’d be looking at around 50-70 hours so it’s best that you put other games aside and absorb yourself entirely to really appreciate the experience. It’s best to take the game in doses so that you can easily take in what’s being thrown at you, so taking small breaks in between is a good way to let the brain digest. One great feature that wasn’t found in the original versions is that, with Steam, you’re now able to save data via Steam Cloud so should you quit the game after saving and come back, the game will automatically load it for you right where you left off. If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of things and want to know everything about Muv Luv’s story, you can purchase the bundle available on Steam. Muv Luv Alternative has a stand alone version which is perhaps for those who’ve already dove into the prior two (Muv Luv Extra and Muv Luv Ultimate). We really enjoyed playing through Muv Luv Alternative and it’s quite clear as to why this title is highly revered as one of the best out there.
While it’s popularity isn’t as high in the west, we hope that this Steam version will entice you in ways that it did for us and provide you with a wonderful reading experience that will truly have your emotions racing.
Great narrative and connectivity with the cast of characters.
Really gets you emotionally involved with its twists and turns throughout the story.
50-70 hours of playtime once you play through every section.
The addition of Japanese voicing was great.
Great array of music that’s really stimulating as you read through everything.
Visual Novel titles require a lot of your attention and so it may not cater to everyone.
Honey's Final Verdict:
Muv Luv Alternative should not be slept on even despite its age because, for the most part, the story is very much intact and still provides that long lasting experience as its predecessors. Grab the bundle to truly immerse yourself and get to know Takeru more, as he tries to save the world from danger. We hope you found this review to shed some light on the story and hope that it gives you some direction moving forward. Look forward to other Visual Novel title reviews in the near future and of course, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on the latest gaming, anime and manga news from Japan. Don’t forget also to stop by our Twitch channel where we showcase a wide variety of titles ranging from RPGs, to visual novels like Muv Luv Alternative!
As always, for all things sweet, with news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!