Muv-Luv Alternative Review – A Worthy Conclusion
Platform: PC (reviewed)
Publisher: Degica Games
Release: 19th September 2017
Muv-Luv is a Visual Novel series brought to my attention through its very successfull Kickstarter back in 2015. While the first two parts were good but not exceptional ones, Muv-Luv Alternative symbolizes the last and final entry of the trilogy, aiming to tie all stories together. If you played Muv-Luv before, what´s highly recommended to understand the story, I can assure, Alternative is nothing less than a masterpiece.
After a small part of humanity abandoned the world in the Alternative V project in Muv-Luv, Takeru and his squad were left behind to die with the BETA. Surprisingly, when he wakes up one day, he finds himself in his old room again, months before the incident. Soon after he realises that he travelled back in time, Takeru sees his chance to avoid the events of the original Muv-Luv and change the fate of humanity, maybe beating the BETA once and for all.
Having played the previous two Muv-Luv games is essential to actually understand the events. The whole story builds upon Takeru´s and our knowledge of what will happen next. Surely, the beginning has quite some repetition to previous games, yet the way Takeru interacts with his world can spice it up. In contrast to the almost whiny Takeru of the past, the reborn one is aware of the consequences of his actions, his responsibility and everything around this world. Now he´s a veteran of this world, experienced and strong. Especially his constant references and comments on the events but also how he changes them are an essential part of what makes the first hours maybe even more enjoyable this time around.
While Takeru is a great narrator this time around, Muv-Luv Alternative´s actual story plays in a whole other league. What starts as a normal Harem Visual Novel set in a post-apocalyptic world, soon begins to warp into one of the most emotional, surprising stories ever told in a VN. Muv-Luv Alternative plays with the expectation of being a harem story, wrapping the reader into a coat of unspectacular dialogues and events … before it destroys them in mere hours. Without spoiling too much, Muv-Luv Alternative can´t only tell a huge story in a surprising way, by always doing the exact opposite of the expected but is able to carry it with characters and conflicts as well.
Set in a world tormented by the alien force named BETA, the overall atmosphere is never quite happy. Even the happy harem moments at the beginning will often be interrupted by various hints at the death and war behind the beautiful facade. Additionally, as soon as Muv-Luv Alternative starts to spend more time with the story around the mysterious time travel, the origin of Alternative IV and much more, the whole plot begins to become darker and darker.
Particularly the events around Takeru and his unit aren´t just regular action battles. Not only does every battle has consequences, be it for one of the characters which Muv-Luv Alternative isn´t scared to injure or even kill, or far greater ones, influencing the future of the whole world. At the same time the calm sequences aim to characterize every person in a seemingly superficial way at the beginning. However, as soon as the events begin to unfold themselves and the girls face the duties of being BETA pilots, it gets clear, how two faced everyone truly is.
During its 50 hours of playtime Muv-Luv Alternative can also shine with its presentation, a rather unusual thing for a Visual Novel. Unlike in most other ones, the story isn´t told through character portraits behind a seperate background but by different homogenic sceneries. Every scene or conversation has its own scene, the portraits weren´t simply put into a repeating background, letting Muv-Luv Alternative seem distinctive and unique. Topped by the occasional great looking cutscenes and great looking but antiquated artstyle, Muv-Luv Alternative looks as impressive as its story and length.
Unfortunately, the branching story progression of previous games is completely gone now. Where decisions or dialogue options are almost a necessity in most VNs, Muv-Luv Alternative lacks any of those. Focused on telling its linear story, we can´t decide anything, except when we´re done reading. For some this might be a downside but personally, I never saw the need for them here, there´s enough to carry the plot. I also wouldn´t like to imagine the additional work if they implemented decision into a 50 hours long Visual Novel.
All in all Muv-Luv Alternative can fully live up to the expectation. Taking an already known scenario, told from the view of a totally different person, its story can explain the last open questions of this universe, while telling a story so dark and sad, I couldn´t let go. Surely, the 50 hours length might not be for anyone and the antiquated artstyle can be a bit strange nowadays but every Visual Novel fan would miss out on one of the best trilogies ever made. Nothing is as it seems in Alternative and it´s great.
[A Review Key was provided by Degica Games]