Muv-Luv is one of the most popular visual novel franchises of all times and its third installment is the highest rated game on the visual novel database. It would be criminal to overlook this series, so, with the hope of reviewing the entire franchise, I bring you the first game of this series, Muv-Luv Extra!
Before you begin playing Muv-Luv there are a few things you should know. Muv-Luv is set in the same universe as the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and its side story Akane Maniax. Even though it’s not really important to have played Kimi ga Nozomu Eien in order to enjoy the story of Muv-Luv, many of its characters remake an appearance in Muv-Luv.
The first game in the Muv-Luv series was released in 2003 and in fact contains two games, Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited. Unlimited is only available after you complete Muv-Luv Extra with both of the main heroines. Muv-Luv Unlimited is a radical departure from the original in both the plot and tone, but at the same time it brings up a lot of elements from the original. The third part released in 2006 is titled Muv-Luv Alternative and continues the plot where Muv-Luv Unlimited left off. Muv-Luv Alternative is the highest rated visual novel in the visual novel database.
Probably the biggest issue with this game is its plot or lack of plot. The main protagonist is Takeru Shirogane a typical high school student wasting away his life playing Valger-On a mech arcade game. Every day is the same, his childhood friend wakes him up, they go to school and once he arrives he starts bickering with his classmates. This is one day interrupted when he wakes up and notices an unknown girl sleeping next to him. Comedy ensues when his childhood friend comes to wake him up. Later that day his class gets a new transfer student who is coincidentally the same girl that slept next to him. After then it’s a fight for who will win Takeru’s love.
Simply said, the whole story feels very episodic. Most of the things that happen have little to no bearing on the game as a whole, from cooking contest, limousine racing, to lacrosse, they are just there as events. Not to say that this wasn’t any fun, it was extremely enjoyable and I often found myself laughing out loud to the gags, since all of them are over the top. The game strives to keep a light-hearted mood and does so perfectly. The game has also some more tense and emotional sections which are done pretty well, but Muv-Luv Extra is at its best when it tries to do what it does best and that is to be as over the top as possible.
On the other hand characters are pretty interesting. Even though everyone of them may be stereotypical, they all have enough character to be genuinely likeable. Kagami Sumika is the annoying, but cute childhood friend. Mitsurugi Meiya is the mysterious purple haired girl that you woke up with. Sakaki Chizuru is the class representative who wears glasses, has high grades and is good at sports. Ayamine, a girl who doesn’t like to talk a lot but she often argues with Chizuru. Let’s not forget Tamase Miki the loli cat girl type. Yoroi Mikoto is Takeru’s best friend and worst rival who always shamelessly beats him in ValgerOn. Additionally there are two teachers, Marimo who is kind and caring and professor Yuuko who is the manipulative self-proclaimed genius. There are a ton of other characters each interesting in their own way.
What makes the character great is the fact they interact with one another. Chizuru and Ayamine can’t stand each other. Meiya and Sumika get well one with another, but at the same time try their best to compete over whose lunch Takeru will pick. Over the course of the game you learn about each individual character and why they act the way they do, which makes the whole experience worthwhile. During the game characters also progressively change, for example Meiya starts talking a lot less formal than she did at the beginning.
The game has a common route for two main characters, meaning that the whole game will be generally the same except a few specific sections. The only major difference for the two heroines is last day which is the very ending. Side heroines each have their own paths, branching into an individual route consisting of a couple of days.
The game takes around 32 hours to go through all the routes. The first playthrough may take a while, but after that you have the option to skip all read text, so it’s a breeze to see everything.
The graphics are pretty impressive, it has quite a high production value to it. Visual novels usually have the problem where only one or two characters is on screen at once, that’s not the case here. There are scenes when there are six characters all on screen at the same time. When one character talks all the others change their facial expression depending on what is said. Each character’s text is colored differently, allowing you to easily follow conversations when there are multiple characters on screen. The backgrounds are also quite nice. The camera often pans around or zooms in and out, making the whole game seem a lot more dynamic.
Voice acting is superb. Each of the characters’ voices fits perfectly. The voice actors really put all their emotions into playing the roles that they were given. Every character has a voice including minor side characters that don’t even appear on screen. The main character doesn’t have a voice, but it’s all the better to pull you into the experience. To further boast the phenomenal voice work, the game features 3D sound, making character which are closer louder, while characters further away hard erto hear. It does a fantastic job of creating depth.
The music is great, and does an amazing job in setting the right mood. The game has a varied soundtrack and most of the songs are pretty emotional. Hearing them again after you complete the game can give you a pretty nostalgic feeling. Unfortunately some of the tunes do get repetitive, but that is to expect after player the game for over 30 hours.
Being an 18+ title the game does contain nudity and sex scenes. But as far as the sex scenes go, they would probably have to be one of the worst sex scenes in a visual novel I have seen to date. The main issue isn’t the quality of the scenes but the way they happen. After 15 hours with a character, not even getting as much as a kiss, in the final 3 minutes, they kiss, have sex and you see the ending. It really feels rushed out of place and definitely is detrimental to the whole plot. As for the nudity, there are really only around two to three nude scenes in the entire game. So if you are planning to buy the game don’t worry if it’s an all age version, because you won’t miss out on anything.
Completing Muv-Luv Extra is important in order to get immersed in the plot of Unlimited and Alternative. Almost everyone you met will reappear in the sequels so it’s a plus knowing as much as you can before you dive in to the next game. As a part of the Muv-Luv series I can understand why this specific installment is heavily criticized, the plot is nonexistent, some of the characters might appear way to stereotypical and the sex scenes are pointless, but by itself Muv-Luv is a great comedy with interesting characters and high production values.