Here is an anime style visual novel that actually puts the novel into visual novel. The Muv – Luv story is an epic tale spanning two major installments, Muv – Luv Extra and Muv – Luv Unlimited. According to the steam site, Muv – Luv Alternative is the next installment to be released this winter. The dialogue and interactions are well written even if some events and scenes seem tedious at times. As with other visual novels the player chooses the path of the main character affecting the destiny and lives of the other characters.
As I have found out, depending on the choices, you could get a very long story, or a shorter game with a disappointing ending. The longer story is much more dynamic, fun, and engaging. It also has more details related to the next chapter in the saga.
During the first part of the story the plot took many different turns and the story felt piecemeal. This should not discourage anyone from this game. Following the cooking competition the story begins to really come together and you realize how fantastic of a story Muv – Luv is. Odd events happened throughout the game, such as an entire neighborhood bulldozed and a mansion built overnight. Shock and a few questions asked then life continued normally. Same with a variety of bizarre characters appearing from nowhere with very little explanation at first. For example the three maids that suddenly appear. They are introduced just as Takeru’s maids employed by the Mitsurugi family. The three maids don’t act like just ordinary people, tending to pop up at random times and behaving in a mysterious and odd fashion.
During the progress of Muv – Luv Extra, tidbits of information, usually provided by the physics teacher, hinted to the realities of Muv Luv Unlimited. Also, Takeru’s love for a certain mecha game also leads into the Unlimited story line. Despite some of the plot holes in Muv – Luv Extra it’s still a fun interactive story. It is also a romance story and Takeru must make choices that could lead to falling in love.
Muv – Luv is set in the year 2001 and focused around Hakuryo Hiigari Academy in the Hiiragi District, Japan. It’s the last year of high school for the main protagonists of the story. The story follows the life of Shirogane Takeru and his childhood friend Kagami Sumika.
Takeru as the player’s character could have been better written. He had decent dialogue and some of his day-to-day encounters where amusing, but his attitude was not great. He tended to be arrogant, and treated people poorly at times. At his best he was caring and affectionate. His attitude toward his friend Sumika could have been better. I kind of felt sorry for Sumika at times, but they still stood by each other and both had a good relationship throughout the game.
Sumika is a very happy-go-lucky girl who is optimistic about life. She loves to take care of Takeru either by making sure he is not late for class to preparing meals for him. Sumika is not the best cook but tries hard to please Takeru. She is however very jealous, especially after the arrival of Meiya and puts up with Takeru’s name calling and bullying. Though Sumika also comes back at Takeru with punches and name calling. Sumika is more emotionally attached to Takeru than most of the other characters.
The other main protagonist of the story is Mitsurugi Meiya, the heir to the Mitsurugi Financial Group. She arrives under very mysterious circumstances and first appears in Takeru’s bed one morning. She uses her position to give Takeru everything; the best food, household staff, limo driver, and many favors. As an outsider she becomes well integrated into his circle of friends. Meiya also enjoys the experience of life as a commoner learning what it is like to go to an ordinary school and live an ordinary life. She also wields a sword, once used against a student mistaken for a demon. Meiya ends up taking residence in a mansion that was built attached to Takeru’s house. She entrusts everything , even seemingly strange requests to Tsukuyomi Mana, head of the house staff and advisor.
The other friends of Takeru are Tamase Miki. Miki is a very positive, upbeat character, who is an extraordinary archer with a cat fetish. Sakaki Chizuru is the class representative and the captain of the girl’s lacrosse team. She leads the team in the lacrosse match during the sports festival. Chizuru is also one of the top students in the class. Ayamine Kei is an aloof, introverted, and mysterious girl who pops up as fast as she disappears. She is one of my favorite of the Muv – Luv friends. Yoroi Mikoto is a weird character whose father is an explorer and tends to just kidnap him to go on an adventure at the wrong time. He and Takeru enjoy going to the arcade to play Valgern – On.
Two central characters that actually have a large role in both stories are the two teachers, Jinguuji Marimo and Kouzuki Yuuko. Yuuko is the physics teacher who hints at alternative universes and seems to be conducting experiments in her physics lab. She also has some of the most bizarre unscientific theories. Marimo is the English teacher with a cosplay obsession and takes interest in Takeru. In Unlimited, Yuuko is the head of the military academy and explains to Takeru about the reality of alternative universes and the alien invasion of Earth.
Muv – Luv Extra is more of a light-hearted tale of a group of students in their last year at school. A story with a mix of romance, strange happenings, daily student life, and humor. Muv – Luv Unlimited takes a completely different turn to be more serious and heavy in Science Fiction.
In Unlimited, Takeru finds himself in an alternative universe where aliens have invaded Earth. To fight off the invasion humans have created giant robots or mech. These mech require human pilots and Takeru’s classmates from Muv-Luv Extra are the newest pilot trainees. After being recruited by Yuuko, now commander of the military academy, he embarks on becoming a mech pilot in this new reality. He agrees to this only because he finally gets to pilot a real robot just like the ones in Valgern – On. At first his classmates make it hard for Takeru as a new recruit. They must get him up to speed quick so they complete their training and take their place on the battlefield.
Almost all the main characters from Extra are there with slightly different personalities and different histories. It was kind of strange to see people like Miki and Mikoto become serious military trainees. Alternate universes, alien invasion, human piloted giant robots, what is there not to like with Muv – Luv Unlimited.
The best things about this game, besides the bizarre happenings and strange mysteries, are the fact that everyone in the stories are so different in personalities and appearances. Their appearance also matches well with who they are. The stories contain well written character dialogue and interactions. There was infighting, especially between class rep and Ayamine, but there was also camaraderie amongst class mates. Also, the players interaction with the game and the different paths the story can take make this an epic saga. There is another aspect of the game that makes it good, that is it sticks with you after finishing a session. Its engaging and I want to go back and play through all the dialogue options to learn more about the characters.
The art is fantastic with some animation. Although some of the art did not quite go with the scene. For instance, once Sumika threw a shoe but her character art right after had her with two shoes on. Also during lacrosse practice the team was running around without sticks though the dialogue had them with lacrosse sticks.
The characters are given emotional responses to situations that can at times be quite humorous. However, Sumika’s emotions tend to be a bit overdramatic. This game is also fully voiced in Japanese with English subtitles.
This is a long story with two installments, one a light-hearted novel with events and characters that flow into the more intense Sci-fi novel. A visual novel game that will make players want to play again for more story and choices. It’s recommended for veterans of the visual novel genre and novices alike. Good voice acting and anime art brings it together into one epic saga that will continue with the next chapter Muv Luv Alternative.