Muv-Luv Alternative marks the grand finale of the series and a really long one at that. This time the focus is less on the side character and more on the world and our main protagonist. When you see that it’s highest rated visual novel on vndb by a long shot, you know you are in for a hell of a story.
Muv-Luv Alternative continues going forward in the direction set by Muv-Luv Unlimited. There is no chibi scenes and the game is almost totally devoid of any humor present in the previous two installments, but this is understandable because Muv-Luv Alternative is much more focused to tell a story instead of making you laugh. The contrast of the first two titles is one of the things that makes this series so memorable. Playing through the older games will reveal small details you might have overlooked which fit together perfectly almost like a jigsaw puzzle.
Following the negative outcome of Muv-Luv Unlimited, Muv-Luv Alternative starts the same way Unlimited did, with our main character waking up in his room. Shirogane Takeru quickly goes to the army base to find out that he has looped back to the beginning of the events which transpired in Muv-Luv Unlimited. Fired up with the knowledge of how everything will play out he rushes off to talk to his biggest ally in the previous world, his physics professor and now vice-commander of the Yokohama base, Kozuki Yuuko. This time around you aren’t as wimpy as you were in the previous games, you outright beat everyone in everything. Unlike last time where you were the worst one in the squad, this time you leave everyone in the dust.
After the rigorous training from the previous installment our protagonist has finally become a man. While physically he may have become stronger he still mentally isn’t prepared for the things that arise in Muv-Luv Alternative. The story focuses on his view of the world, where he only wants to destroy the alien threat, while ignoring any personal conflicts other characters may have, deeming them worthless when compared to the stake of the entire planet.
Muv-Luv Alternative is very emotional. With not saying too much, this game will teach you about loss. You will get to learn the value of things only once they lose them. Some scenes are extremely painful, while others are quite touching. Muv-Luv Alternative is an emotional roller-coaster, making even the process of getting a new mech emotional.
You learn about the smaller things in life, because whenever something good occurs something much worse is waiting to happen. Everyone knows they are fighting a losing battle, but they still try to not let it show. Small talk in-between battles serves to lighten up the mood, but in reality all the characters still bear a heavy burden on their shoulders. Characters here aren’t transparent. Almost everyone has a back story that you learn more about throughout the game. This time around characters from Kimi Ga Noizomu Eien play a much more important role than in the previous games. In one big portion of the game you will be in the same squad as these characters.
Battles are meticulously depicted, with minor details such as reload speed and supply lines described in detail. All this makes you feel like you are in the middle of a real war, constantly thinking of how to prepare well in advance.
Muv-Luv Alternative is hard science fiction, meaning almost everything is explained in intricate detail. You never go on wandering for too long why another thing was not done. Things you might question are usually answered in the next couple of minutes, which is really a plus for any fan of science fiction. There are some really interesting twists and turns near the end, making you wish to see more of this universe.
Even Muv-Luv Extra which seems really light-hearted has a lot of “I see what you did there” moments. Playing through it again shows how much it really foreshadowed the events in following games. Just listening to the intro song or looking at the title screen background will show you how much the developers thought in advance, adding Easter eggs wherever they could.
The visuals are even better this time around. The game runs in a wide-screen format and at a higher resolution, with the character looking as detailed as ever. The game features a much better presentation. Characters now blink and have full lip synchronization. There are also a ton of animated scenes, most of them being the huge battles. The text boxes from the previous titles were replaced with a subtitle-like text at the bottom of the screen, which looks a lot more natural and allows you to view the whole screen in the more dynamic scenes.
The soundtrack is comprised of old and new tunes. New tunes are excellent and really make you feel like you are in the middle of waging a losing war. Other tunes can be quite touching and may bring a tear to your eyes. The voice acting is mind-blowing. All the voice actors say their lines perfectly, always giving a believable performance. Sound effects are also excellent, from the explosions to low frequency vibrations that can be heard from the BETA lair.
But the game is not without its flaws. The pacing is terrible. There were segments of the game where there is nothing but exposition for hours on end, while other sections are comprised of battles that last almost as long. Your entire group feels a lot closer by the end, but the game has segments where it doesn’t show specific characters for hours. The ending is a real let down, but considering the quality of the game as a whole it’s worth every second of your time.
This visual novel is extremely long. It will take you around 70 hours to play through, add to that the first two games and you got yourself well over 100 hours of gameplay. While Alternative may not have multiple endings or any choices after the first few hours for that matter, it’s long enough to justify a second play through since you will probably forget a lot of things by the time you reach the end.
Muv-Luv Alternative is a masterpiece of a game and one of the best visual novels I have ever played. This game has been a major influence on other visual novels and manga since. The author of the manga Attack on Titan said that that Muv-Luv influenced him the most. While it has its flaws the game is a great ride and one that should be played by anyone wanting a great story and deep characters. It is imperative you play Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited before you take on this game, because a lot of the enjoyment comes from the way these games link together. Muv-Luv Alternative is potentially a life changing game, touching on deep topics, in a way rarely seen in a game.