Saturday, 30 June 2012


Muv Luv: Alternative was released by Age for PC in 2006 with an English Translation released once again by Amaterasu in September of 2011. Originally planned as the Sumika route in Unlimited but instead improved upon and released as an entire game three years later, it is the final instalment in the original trilogy and more menacing than anything that came before it. SO, let's get started.

(r)Age love to do things a bit different, it seems. With humble beginnings as a stereotype-heavy harem hentai game, Muv Luv at this point had gone beyond anything that might be construed as hentai game convention, and instead has now dragged its readers along for a ride few might have signed up for in the beginning. Alternative, contrary to being dubbed a "SMALL, precious tale of love and courage" by developers Age, eclipses Extra and Unlimited in length, being longer than both games combined, and shows us all of what anyone might have been promised by denizens of the internet as well as Age themselves. It is spectacular and deserving of almost every bit of praise it gets. It's very hard for me to gush about this game without spoiling too much, but rest assured the best events and revelations will remain unsullied throughout this post.

Alternative begins in much the same way Unlimited did. Set in the same universe, Takeru is thrown back to the beginning events of Unlimited once again, three years after being left behind on Earth to fight the BETA and take part in the Alternative V plan, much to his understandable dismay and confusion. Now armed with all of the military knowledge, fitness and experience of his time in the events of Unlimited, he once again sets out to the same military base where his school once stood in Extra with hopes of speaking with scientist Kouzuki Yuuko, possibly the only one in the world with the knowledge and understanding to believe his story. This time, rather than the two guards beating him and throwing him inside a cell, he fends them off with ease and is escorted by Yuuko to her office where he is held at gunpoint, before explaining his knowledge of the secret project Alternative IV/V and understanding of Yuuko's Quantum Causality theory to earn her trust.

For the first part of Alternative, Takeru relives much of the same events as Unlimited. To buy more time before Alternative V is put into action and the earth is vacated, he uses his knowledge of soon-to-occur events and his military training in hopes of shaving off as much time as possible between him being instated into Squad 207 and their graduation as TSF Pilots. He also discloses relevant information to Yuuko with hopes of her eventually finishing the Alternative IV project she is tasked with completing, though he is unaware of what Alternative IV actually is. Graduating with the 207, he is thrown head first into a saga of TSF proportions, desperately trying to grasp a future in which he can return to his home in the Extra world, all the while trying to stave off death at the hands of the alien race BETA, the Alternative V plan which will mean eventual defeat for those left behind to defend the earth and discovering the secrets as to why and how he was brought into this existence in the first place.

Improved Speedholes
The first thing you'll notice about Alternative is the upgraded art, as well as the widescreen format. The animations in Extra/Unlimited were fairly good for a visual novel, and Alternative takes steps to improve upon them, with more fluidity in movement and improved accentuation of facial expressions and features. The TSF battles, being much grander in scale than anything before, show IMMENSE improvement, with independent CGs polished to perfection and each occurring animated sequence somehow managing to improve upon the last. The designs are as good as they ever were, if not better. Showing us more than ever the inside workings of a TSF, as well as the outside, Age have managed to undoubtedly inflict heart attacks upon most of its reading audience, including myself. The TSF remains cooler than ever before, and the action we see them take part in sets the benchmark for every other sci-fi/mecha Visual Novel to follow.

TSF Interface porn a la Alien 
The characters shine brighter than they ever have here. Each member of Squad 207 becomes so much more than anyone could have imagined throughout, often exhibiting unforgiving reckless abandon for a world steeped in desperation and growing to become heroes by the end. However if I have one gripe, it's with Takeru. The majority of his internal dialogue throughout the second half of Alternative can drag on for unmerciful amounts of time, and it frankly makes for some very cheesy stuff. There is also a HUGE issue with the sheer amount of text. Alternative is filled with stupid amounts of infodumping, dialogue and then reiteration of previous dialogue and infodumping through the protagonists memories, as well as plenty of loooong exchanges with the cast about upholding honour, defeating the enemy and winning back the planet.. 'n shit. As tedious as the infodumping may be, it's absolutely necessary in understanding the Alternative universe, as well as how Takeru ended up there in the first place. It's pretty clever too so that soothes the wounds a bit. It's all for the sake of the world in the end, and the world is understood to be the most precious thing there is besides a good Huffy BMX bike, which I can only assume don't exist in the Alternative universe. Shame. 

Only two h-scenes are shown throughout the entire game, with one being very cheesy as well as over very quickly and the other being one of the most infamous scenes in the entire game, one which many fans of the series wish didn't exist. Unlike Extra and Unlimited, wherein you are able to affect the outcome of the game (rather, which girl you end up bonking) with separate endings and story arcs for each female character, there is only one ending in Alternative, though the game still gives you a small amount of choices. These choices affect very little besides which character's letter you will receive nearing the end of the game and really don't matter all that much. With no bad ends and only one true end, you are free to click away for 70 or so hours without having to stress over any choice windows that might appear or sort through numerous save files to achieve the ending you want.

The soundtrack is a real treat. JAM Project, once referred to as a Japanese Iron Maiden with six vocalists, contributes the tone-setting, as well as absolutely blazing, opening theme which you are greeted with upon booting up the game, as well as many other battle songs throughout. Able to craft anthems for all things hot blooded and awesome with ease, their contributions to the Alternative soundtrack make for the cherry on top of a cake of cherries. It's all very LET'S FIGHTING LOVE, and it's absolutely brilliant. The non-JAM tracks, containing contributions from composers for series such as Zone of The Enders and Resident Evil, lend to the tone remarkably well and don't make a point of pissing all over the dialogue with weak piano licks like they sometimes did in Extra and Unlimited, and there's even a track which pays tribute to the main Gunbuster theme, which is beyond cool. The grand cherry however, ferried in from Cherry Island itself and crafted by the finest cherry experts available, is the ending theme, which happens to be a remake of the first Muv Luv Extra opening. If you're not shedding bitch tears by the time the credits roll, you have no soul.
The sound effects are absolutely superb, and the voice acting is a cut above. I've heard English fandubs of Alternative since but I barely get five minutes in and can't help but cringe and want to curl up and die soon after shutting them off. A testament perhaps to the outstanding talent of the voice actors on display in this game, or maybe just another example of severe autism going too far once again.

From Age's Muv Luv: Altered Fable DVD disc, a bonus 
Alternative Opening featuring JAM Project once again
Excuse me while I change my trousers and wash the cat

I HIGHLY recommend the Muv Luv trilogy to any seasoned fan of mecha anime, manga and 2D in general. I can't recommend it to you if you're new to the fandom, though. Alternative might convert you but you'll still have to sit through two games totalling around 60 hours to even start it, the first of which you'd be lucky to make it through without punching a wall let alone dropping it altogether But with all of the superb mecha designs displaying ludicrous attention to detail, the world building with a great amount of depth, the hard sci-fi involving lots of quantum mechanics theory, the 2D girls (and one cat for some reason) with volley ball tits inside tight plugsuits everywhere and a soundtrack containing some of JAM Project's most memorable moments, it's likely to be any otaku's wet dream. It's one of the most involved and acclaimed stories to exist in the realm of all things mecha, and if you're a seasoned mecha fan and don't check it out you're an awful person. 

Alternative is one of the most brutal real robot sagas there is.. no, really. The science behind it all is taxing in its difficulty towards any sense of comprehension, the setting goes into greater detail than ever before about just how fucked the Unlimited world actually IS, characters are taken away in an instant and without warning, sometimes in the coldest and cruellest ways imaginable (an event referred to as 'chomp' is beyond infamous for this), and the interactions throughout leave a very bittersweet taste when it all comes to an even more bittersweet ending. It took me a subsequent re-reading to fully grasp the scale and immensity of the whole thing, and it's definitely a story that isn't likely to leave to you any time soon. This is why you sat through picking lunches and grating melodrama in Extra. This is why you chose to shrug off the silly translucent fanservice plugsuits of Unlimited. This is why everyone insists Muv Luv is so much more than just a hentai game. A hard case to sell to anyone who hasn't played it, but anyone who does will be proven dead wrong in Alternative.. after being proven dead right in Extra of course, which is quite annoying. Nevertheless, Muv Luv: Alternative blows minds, and if you've an extra 140 or so hours and the patience to sit through some corny stuff, it just might blow yours as well.


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