Reviewing the two together because I don’t feel like typing two separate posts. Besides, these two are like an inseparatable duo that have to be played to get the full effect.
MuvLuv consists of 2 eroge: MuvLuv Extra and Muvluv Unlimited. Extra is a slice-of-life where our protagonist, Shirogane Takeru, gets punched by his childhood friend, Kagami Sumika, every day and wakes up one day with a girl he’s never seen in his bed. The guy has a harem at school but he never notices anyone’s feelings because he’s extremely dense like most protagonists. Unlimited begins with Takeru waking up in another world where his town is completely destroyed, damaged mechas lie on the ground, and his school is now a military training base. The world is also under attack by aliens named BETA and humanity is desperate enough to conscript teenage girls into battle. This world shares characters with Takeru’s original world, but they’re in the military and dealing with serious business. They train to become Eishi, or people who pilot mechas.
Alternative is sold as a separate game, and brings us back to the beginning of Unlimited. However, Takeru has some of his memories intact and the training from Unlimited carried over so it’s like playing a New Game+. He tries to prevent what happened at the end of Unlimited, and go back to his original world. Alternative is amazing, and is so much more than just mecha action. Takeru spends less time in the mecha than not, and only chapters 9 and 10 can truely be called blood-boiling action. Alternative teaches important life lessons, shows amazing character development, and is pretty much an anyone-can-die story. It’s also got gruesome scenes and ideas, so be warned unless you’re the type who likes to see exploding alien guts.
What I mainly have are pacing problems. Extra was short and not that good in the first place so I don’t care, Unlimited was better but still short. Alternative covers all the things that happened in Unlimited but that makes up less than half of it. It gets draggy at many parts, and likes to throw lectures and infodump left and right. I should also mention here that Alternative is much, much darker that Unlimited, but it is also better-written and infinitely more exciting towards the end. Lectures aside, Alternative really does have a great story that I’d recommend to anyone (except maybe people with weak stomachs because the BETA are disgusting as fuck). More than battles, Alternative is about Takeru finding something concrete to fight for, and learning the importance of life and resolve in a horrible world where everyone’s ideals seem completely insane to him.
What makes MuvLuv what it is are the characters. They obviously felt like cardboard cut-outs in Extra, and they get much more likeable in Unlimited but still have standard harem qualities. They will definitely grow on you by the time you get to Alternative. During the latter parts of Alternative, Takeru and the MuvLuv characters join another group of characters who come from other games by Age like Kiminozo. I immediately liked them despite not playing any of Age’s other games, which proves the quality gap in writing between Extra and Alternative.
Now, for the actual characters:
Shirogane Takeru – The protagonist. In Extra, he is a dense idiot who cannot notice anything despite girls throwing themselves at him and likes to play video games. In Unlimited, he’s much weaker than the other characters and he’s also naive, but seeing what happens at the end gave him the determination to bring the world into another direction in Alternative. He’s still dense. In Alternative, he’s better but still naive and doesn’t understand the way people think in the war-torn world, and even becomes a Shinji for a while when seeing people die. Fortunately, he mans the fuck up after he screws up more and things get even worse, and develops into an awesome guy by the end.
Kagami Sumika – Takeru’s childhood friend who wakes him up every morning in Extra. They’ve lived next door and played together for a very long time, and often hit and yell at each other. She is, obviously, in love with him but he has no idea what’s going on. In the other world, she doesn’t exist so she’s not seen during Unlimited and a good part of Alternative. If you couldn’t tell, she’s the main girl.
I thought she was ok. Not my favorite, but her interactions with Takeru are funny and you’ll appreciate her when Alternative comes. She doesn’t particularly stick out, I guess.
Mitsurugi Meiya – The girl who Takeru finds in his bed at the beginning of Extra. She’s from an insanely rich family, has personal maids, and doesn’t understand commoners, and has a dignified and well-mannered air. She very obviously likes Takeru, and seems to know him from before. She’s also very good with a sword :] Her character shines in Unlimited and Alternative, where her strong and noble side truly shows and she meets Takeru in a normal way instead of being in love with him from the beginning. Even in Alternative where Takeru is going for Sumika, Meiya remains a bro ’till the very end and has the most impactful scene for me.
Meiya is definitely my favorite character in MuvLuv, which is kind of odd because I don’t usually go for this type…(or maybe I do but never noticed. I mean, I do have a liking for the noble sword-wielding girl in RPG love triangles). Her (not just physical) strength and calmness combined with being hnnnnnnnng when she falls for Takeru won me over.
Sakaki Chizuru – The strict class president with oversized glasses in Extra, and the orders-and-plan-above-all type in Unlimited. She often yells at Takeru for his tardiness at school, and gets into fights with Ayamine, whose constant skipping and my-pace attitude annoys her like no other. Of course, she has a dere side.
Ayamine Kei – Always appears calm, and skips class constantly. She likes to do her own thing instead of following orders, so she naturally clashes with Chizuru. In the other world, she excels at close-range combat and has great physical strength. She likes to troll and purposely say things she knows will piss people off.
Tamase Miki – The innocent loli character that everybody likes. She has the most ridiculous hair of all, since they’re pink and form cat ears on their own. I didn’t find her awfully interesting, no matter which world she’s in.
Yoroi Mikoto – He’s Takeru’s shota friend who likes to play video games with him and doesn’t listen to what people say at all. In the other world, he is now an extremely flat-chested girl but still has the same face, hair, and voice. Takeru is clearly disturbed.
Jinguuji Marimo – Takeru’s kind homeroom teacher who likes younger guys and is constantly getting dumped. In the other world, she is their instructor and appears much more strict. Takeru can’t shake the habit of calling her Marimo-chan, even when she’s a drill seargeant.
Kouzuki Yuuko – The troll physics teacher at Takeru’s school who is always going on about some shit that nobody understands and is clearly not in the high school curriculum. She likes to force Marimo into cosplays and runs people over daily with her crazy driving skills. In the other world, she’s an XO and has great authority and is the only one who knows that Takeru is from another world. She’s a genius who is able to manipulate many things to her favor and witholds many, many secrets.
The art style and character designs aren’t to my liking, but I got used to it eventually and it fits pretty well for a mecha eroge. The hair looks awfully solid and some even look metallic. Also, ridiculous mecha hair styles are ridiculous. The mechas, tanks, and ships look pretty nice, but the BETA are disgusting and I wonder how the hell could the artist sit there CGing their guts all day. Backgrounds are pretty mediocre. The flashbangs, special effects, and awesome mecha sprite movements really bring the battle scenes to life though, and I applaud them for making it feel almost like a movie instead of just having some text say “I shot 3 BETA and then jumped over it and shot more.” What I found really astonishing was that almost all the side characters had unique sprites. Even like a group of senior Eishi who appeared once or twice get unique sprites. The art may not fit my tastes, but the quantity was certainly amazing, especially when I just finished Rewrite where nearly nobody had a sprite except for the main cast.
Music in Extra was alright, but nothing in particular stood out to me except for the opening theme and its arranges. Alternative’s soundtrack is eargasm. Absolutely wonderful. MuvLuv and Alternative are both fully voiced except for Takeru, so even side characters who appear once get a voice. Sound effects were a great addition to the special effects during battle.
I certainly recommend MuvLuv Alternative to pretty much anyone who doesn’t mind a dark game with many deaths and disturbing content. Of course, to fully appreciate Alternative, you have to play the not-as-great Extra and Unlimited before it. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t play it, as both MuvLuv and MuvLuv Alternative have full English patches. Just as a final warning though, there are some very disturbing things in Alternative and really anyone can die so if you’re not prepared, then get prepared. I needed Brain Age sudoku to help me sleep at night. Age really knows how to write, god dammit. When playing Extra you’ll yearn for the action to begin, but you’ll be missing Extra when Alternative comes around. Play MuvLuv. Do it.