Where do I even start with these? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
It may have become a cliche, but it’s absolutely true. Depending upon where I am in the story, these games rank among my favorite and most detested. Curious? Let’s take a look.
Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited are the two games you get when you purchase Muv-Luv. Extra comes first, and takes place in a world similar to ours. Unlimited takes place in an alternate dimension where humanity is struggling for survival against extraterrestrial invaders.
I’ve never played a galge (and I’ve been through a few if you browse my VNDB profile) that has parts I love and hate as much as this game. Meiya and Yuuko are among my favorite characters of all time, while Sumika is so incredibly aggravating that if I saw her on fire I would resist the temptation to piss on her until I was absolutely certain she was dead and not coming back.
From left to right:best girl Meiya, almost best girl genius scientist Yuuko-sensei,worst girl evar Sumika.
That disparity largely describes Extra’s various romcom storylines. There are parts of the game I absolutely adore and entertain me to no end, while others go beyond testing my patience. Middle ground is rarely seen; I find almost everything highly entertaining or highly grating, depending on the character and situation.
There is a lot to like here. For example, there is a running gag about your homeroom teacher Marimo-chan always getting dumped. Why is that? Go through her route and you’ll find out. You have a ninja maid that can seemingly do anything completely undetected, yet her three subordinates are borderline useless. Laughs ensue.
Unfortunately, a lot of things that seem boring or pointless the first time through the game are paid off later, so it’s going to be hard to fully appreciate what you see at first. Each time I’ve been through it I find more to like and more ways it ties into the rest of the series.
While it may be tempting to skip routes for some of the characters you do not like, this is one of the few games where it is strongly recommended to 100% the game before moving on. You will be introduced to characters and connecting plotlines that are paid off later. Of course, some things just can’t be explained…
Really? My blood was needed somewhere else. Stat.
You wake up one day and find out that your entire neighborhood has been destroyed. Hey, a huge mecha just crushed Sumika’s house! Awesome! This has to be a dream, right?
Wrong. You wind up in a different dimension, similar to Extra’s in the sense that the city is the same and most of the same people are still there, except for a few minor details. Like humanity has been in a war for survival with aliens since the moon landing, your high school is a military base in that war, giant mecha straight out of (not) Virtual On for real…you know, minor details.
Ever wondered what it would be like to go from a normal suburban life to being thrust into a sci-fi video game? This probably isn’t too far off the mark. You’re dropped into a combat unit halfway through military training and are expected to keep up with the grills from Extra, now lean mean killing machines.
The grills showing off the goods with just enough plausible deniability to act innocent.
The tone is much more serious, and it tends to make a better first impression than Extra. The story is more consistent and doesn’t drag in as many places. It even has a route for Yuuko-sensei!
The biggest issue when playing it the first time is the normal and good endings for each girl ARE ALL THE SAME. I’m not exaggerating, when I say the same, I mean the only things that change between them are a few words and who runs to do errand A based on which girl you choose. The end result of the normal and good endings are all identical, to the point of not feeling true to the characters. Yuuko-sensei’s route is a little different, and that is all. It is recommended to see Meiya’s good and normal endings (or another girl’s if you prefer, although there is a little extra story in Meiya’s route), Yuuko-sensei’s ending, and then go to Alternative. The only reason to go through all of the routes is for the H scenes. I powered through everything before starting Alternative, and it was not the most pleasant of experiences.
Fan Translation or Steam?
There is no correct answer for this. Both are different, and have unique strengths and weaknesses.
As someone fluent enough in Japanese to do translations myself, I’d give the nod on the translation to the original fan translation. It’s not perfect, but overall I find far fewer flaws with it. As far as I can tell the new translation focused more on doing things “differently,” sacrificing accuracy and tone in exchange for nothing, while screwing up a more lines than I can count that were perfectly fine. And you even get the whole game right out of the box. Crazy concept, right? You’d think that would be a given, but no…
Those jerkoffs actually removed all of the H scenes from the game, then want you to pay an extra $10 to get the whole game you thought you were buying. Remember that time you bought a game from JAST, and then they wanted more money for the “Director’s Cut?” Of course not, because that’s not how honest businessmen treat their customers. There are other ways to si this version, and if you’re going that way, it’s what I’d recommend nyaa. Ability to replay the H scenes was removed, even with the patch, and some music was changed as well. However, if you believe this is an honest practice, by all means support it with your dollars. It uses a newer version of Age’s engine, which probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it improves the visual experience substantially. Age is always doing things that never occurred to me with each new engine. The other advantage of the Steam version is the ability to play the game in Japanese. I switched it several times when the translation didn’t look right, and boy was I justified in my suspicion each time.
Before You Play
Muv-Luv intersects with other Age titles, none of which are available in English. Extra takes place in the same place as Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, and comes after KimiNozo in the timeline. I recommend watching the anime before starting Muv-Luv. Akane Maniax takes place a few days before Muv-Luv starts, however I would recommend watching it after playing Muv-Luv, unless you play the KimiNozo game and then Akane Maniax game (neither are available in English). Without 30 hours of context from the KimiNozo game you miss 99% of what’s going on, but knowing the Muv-Luv characters will help you make a little sense out of the OVA.
You have to play both of these games and watch the KimiNozo anime before Muv-Luv Alternative, which is an all-time classic and remains one of the highest rated games of all time among Japan’s fiercest critics. That is no small feat. While these have grown on me and there are things about them I like, Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited are acquired tastes that taste much better after Muv-Luv Alternative.. That said, still highly recommended. It will be worth it in the end, trust me. Play them. Or else…
Mup da doo didda po mo gub bibba be dat tum muhfugin bix nood cof bin dub ho muhfugga!