Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 10/10/2019 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Holy crap, my dudes. I thought I knew what the word “intense” meant. I mean, I played through the original Famicom Disk System Super Mario Bros 2. I’ve seen the effects of Operation British in Mobile Suit Gundam. I’ve read Stephen King’s “IT.” I’ve heard the heaviest songs that Cannibal Corpse has to offer. I’ve endured the psychological abuse to which Doki Doki Literature Club subjects its players. But this? The suspense and heart-wrenching events of the story in Muv-Luv Alternative give the word “intense” and all new meaning for me. I cheered. I screamed. I cried. I laughed. Okay, so there wasn’t much laughing this time, but there was a solid chuckle or two. But DUDE. I wasn’t prepared for how intense this game got. I know I keep reusing that word, but I truly can’t think of a better way to describe the interaction between the fast and hard-hitting events of the game and the emotional investment I had in this story, this world, and these characters.
Muv-Luv Alternative picks up immediately after the events of Muv-Luv Ultimate, the second of the two parts of the first Muv-Luv release. For the most part, the game works exactly the same way – it’s a visual novel with the occasional choice here and there – but unlike Extra and Ultimate, Alternative really only has one real ending. The choices you make can have minor effects on a couple of instances of character interactions in the story, but the main events of the story stay the same. In that respect, it gives much less agency than the previous game, but that’s intentional because the tone and point are a little different here. There is no picking your best girl in Alternative. That’s a luxury you can’t afford with the BETA breathing down your neck. From start to finish, Alternative is a mad dash to pull humanity back from the brink of extinction and unravel the mysteries surrounding Takeru’s ability to shift between worlds and timelines. This is not a happy feel-good story like Extra, and this is not an inspiring story of triumph in the face of adversity like Unlimited; this is a story of perseverance and duty in the face of unspeakable horror, hopelessness, and despair.
The first thing to keep in mind about Alternative is that it is MUCH longer than Extra or Unlimited. It’s only 10 chapters, but each chapter takes several hours to get through. I didn’t time myself or look up average playtimes to confirm this, but I’d hazard a guess that a single playthrough of Alternative will take longer than a playthrough of Extra and Unlimited combined. Granted, there isn’t as much incentive for repeat gameplay in Alternative since you’re not picking a best girl, but still, it’s quite the hefty visual novel. It also answers a lot of the questions that I still had after Unlimited, and its focus on the world and the way the events of the story affect the characters rather than focusing largely on the effects of interactions between the individual characters serves to help you get really sucked into the world-building and invested in the game’s world and history.
The visuals are pretty much the same as in Extra and Unlimited, although there are some animated bits in Alternative and some sections where the text scrolls automatically regardless of your manual or auto settings to give the game a real sense of urgency and action. This is one of those few games where I really did find myself totally unable to put it down. Everything about the game perfectly accented the game’s tone. The music was a perfect fit, the tonal inflections of the voice acting reinforced the emotions of the scenes, and the writing was exceptional. It may not be the best writing I’ve ever seen in a game, but it was absolutely top tier.
Muv-Luv – the entire trilogy – is one hell of a ride that I really can’t oversell. It’s incredible, and Alternative is an almost perfect conclusion. The tone and atmosphere are so dark and serious, and while it contrasts with the tone in Unlimited and especially Extra, it really reinforces the change in Takeru’s mentality and personal goals. This definitely isn’t a game you can play without playing the previous one first, but by the same token, I don’t see how anyone can play the first game and not have an immediate NEED to play this one. My only complaint with Muv-Luv Alternative was that it had to end. I need more. There’s an epilogue after the end chapter that leaves just enough questions to keep the door open for another true sequel down the line, so it’s my fervent hope that âge sees fit to bless us with more Muv-Luv.