Platform: Playstation Vita
Release: June 2018 (for Vita)
Price: $60 USD
Muv-Luv Extra/Unlimited/Alternative is a trilogy of visual novel games that was originally an adult eroge game released in 2003 for Windows but was localized in English as part of a Kickstarter funded project, and released for Windows in 2016/2017 and for PS Vita in 2018. The Windows versions have an optional patch that will uncensor the original adult content but the Vita version is the censored version with the adult content removed.
Plot: The three games have different plots and storylines. Extra is more like a standard dating simulator. You are Takeru Shirogane, you wake up one day in your bed with a beautiful woman beside you named Meiya Mitsurugi. You also have your childhood friend and neighbor Sumika Kagami competing with Meiya for your affections. As the story progresses, Takeru has recurring dreams about a marriage promise he made to a girl long ago. In addition to Meiya and Sumika as romance options, you also have a few classmates as romance options too – the cheerful cute Tamase Miki, the smart class representative Sakaki Chizuru, and the mysterious Ayamine Kei.
Unlimited takes the story into an alternate timeline where BETA (aliens basically) have invaded Earth and humans respond by fighting them with mechas and most of the human population erased. Despite this significant darker difference in setting, Unlimited contains light hearted elements of Extra with similar routes for each girl (except for Sumika who doesn’t exist in this timeline) and with Yoroi Mikoto (your former male classmate in Extra who is now female in Unlimited) added as an option.
Alternative takes place in the same setting as Unlimited except now Takeru feels a need to change history so that humans do not lose to the BETAs. Alternative is significantly darker than either Extra or Unlimited and deals with more mature themes and a lot of graphical violence is portrayed. Sumika is also present in Alternative albeit not in the same form she was in Extra.
Gameplay: Most of the gameplay is reading text like in other visual novels, except there are some instances where Takeru has to choose an option which will lead to different branching story paths and endings.
Takeru Shirogane – the protagonist, in Extra and Unlimited he is the typical H-game semi-perverted with good intentions type of character who all the girls in the game inevitably fall for, while in Alternative he is much more serious and takes on a leadership role in the fight against the BETAs.
Sumika Kagami – the childhood friend and neighbor of Takeru’s, and canonically Takeru’s main love interest. She is a standard romance option in Extra, does not appear in Unlimited but in Alternative appears in a different form who Takeru tries to comes to terms with.
Meiya Mitsurugi – the wealthy heiress to a large fortune, she awakes in Takeru’s bed one day beside him in Extra and spends the rest of that game as a romance option for him. She made a childhood promise to a boy to marry him which she believes to be Takeru. In Unlimited and Alternative she is a very competent solder in the fight against the BETAs, albeit sharing a much deeper connection with Takeru being one of his ‘main’ romance options in Extra.
Miki Tamase – a cute, cheerful ditzy ‘catlike’ girl, she appears as a standard romance option for Takeru and a reluctant but competent soldier against the BETAs in the alternate timeline.
Chizuru Sakaki – the class representative in Extra and squad leader in Unlimited, she is a confident, serious, intelligent girl who appears as a romance option for Takeru and a competent soldier against the BETAs in the alternate timeline.
Kei Ayamine – quiet, mysterious and serious, Kei has a habit of being rebellious and different from the others, she appears as another romance option for Takeru and also as a capable soldier against the BETAs in the alternate timeline.
Mikoto Yoroi – Takeru’s only male friend and classmate in Extra, he is known for being knowledgeable but for spacing out during conversations. In Unlimited/Alternative Mikoto (who looked gender ambiguous to begin with) appears as a female instead and a romance option for Takeru and also a capable fighter against the BETAs.
Marimo Jinguuji – She is Takeru’s (sometimes immature) homeroom teacher in Extra, but Takeru’s sergeant and instructor in Unlimited/Alternative where she is more serious and mature and a very capable soldier.
Yuuko Kouzuki – She is Takeru’s physics teacher in Extra who mainly acts as Marimo’s love advisor, but in Unlimited/Alternative she is much more serious and is the main scientist and research specialist in those games.
Mana Tsukuyomi – She’s Meiya’s personal retainer in Extra, and a lieutenant and close companion of Meiya’s in Unlimited/Alternative. In all three games she is dedicated and loyal to Meiya.
Graphics: Muv-Luv uses anime style graphics albeit in a more raw 1990s anime style, compared to the more polished cute style of modern anime. I personally prefer this type of older style anime graphics but to some people it can look a bit dated.
Music: The music is very good, Extra has mostly light hearted soundtracks while Unlimited and Alternative has both light hearted and heavier soundtracks fitting the mood of each game.
Conclusion: Extra/Unlimited – 8/10. Alternative – 10/10. Extra is a standard dating sim affair, and while the characters are tropes, I find it very relaxing to play for those of you who like ‘slice of life’ light hearted romance type of games, Extra does very well there. Unlimited is an interesting twist on Extra, but aside from the much darker setting, there is still light hearted romance in it. Alternative is to me one of the masterpieces of visual novels, and an epic conclusion to the trilogy. There is a lot of emotion, graphical violence, and a much more serious dramatic tone in Alternative and it fittingly ties in events from Extra and Unlimited in a way that makes a lot of sense to further the story. The events of Alternative can be a tear-jerker and I find it beautifully executed. Although I highly recommend Alternative as the best Muv-Luv game, it is essential that you play through Extra/Unlimited beforehand as they serve as ‘prequels’ to Alternative. Also, although Muv-Luv is coming out to mobile phones right now, there still isn’t an Nintendo Switch version yet, meaning the best way to play it on the go with analog buttons is still the PS Vita version.
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