My entire run-in with romance-centric sims basically revolves around marrying the dude with the nicest house in the Sims or juggling as many casual dates as I could to help my highly unspecialized stats in Persona 3 FES. All my other experiences with romance in video games have been side-stuff in RPGS for the sake of achievements or good dialogue. Then Muv-Luv came along, my first love centered visual novel. I don’t know what I was expecting, it definitely wasn’t this though.
The version of Muv-Luv (to be dubbed ML) that I reviewed contained two out of the three episodes in the trilogy. ML Extra and ML unlimited were the ones available, and ML Alternative was available for purchase. Going into this, I decided to check out a few reviews since I’m a noob with the genre as a whole. Literally 90% of the reviews quote what the game description on Steam says; that “it’s the best visual novel available”. I think I’m missing what the fuss is all about. To me, it’s difficult to consider Muv-Luv a game, since if I’m to describe what I imagine a visual novel to be like, I’d point at games such as Life is Strange or the Tell-Tale games. Basically a choice based, story driven adventure where options create a ripple effect, altering endings. Diving into ML, my first choice was literally 20-30 mins into the game. The rest of the time was spent with me basically clicking to move the dialogue forward. The second choice was only available another 30 minutes in. This is basically why, regardless of the visual content, I find it hard to consider ML an actual game, rather than a moving, very mildly interactive manga.
For those of you willing to venture deeper into this review, beware of mild to major spoilers (or what I would consider major spoilers for a game that’s essentially hinged on its story).
You play as Takeru the senior, a silent protagonist which I find a bit odd as all the other characters are voiced. (I believe that may only be the case in the Steam port of the game). This dude is the epitome of high school douche types I avoided like the plague during my school days. He’s both physically and verbally abusive (and not in the playful sense) to his childhood girl pal Sumika. The whole game basically opens in a dated diary post detailing how much she’s attached to this guy and how she studied incredibly hard to go to the same school as him while he made rumors about how she paid her way to get in. Fast forward to current day where you two are running errands together, and it’s basically more of him berating her and being a whiny brat while she tries to offer him dinner and insist (maybe a bit annoyingly) that she’ll be there to wake him up for school. I’m also completely ignoring the entire sequence where he gives her body issues after grabbing her chest. The more I played, the less all that supposedly cutesy aggression annoyed me. With more characters being introduced, the focus shifted and the narration began to balance itself out. Meiya is the other main character you meet during the game. Not going to go into detail about her origin as it is essential to the plot. Meiya and Sumika are essentially the main two ladies you choose to end up with. However you do have the option to just choose one of the side characters introduced while the story unfolds. That is basically ML-Extra.
In ML-Unlimited, you’re thrown into an alternate reality run by Mechs similar to the ones you encountered playing as in some dream sequences in Extra that have taken over the earth. This transforms the game from a tame visual manga into a little survival arc which I assume is what the majority of the genre fans are raving about. It still retains some of the romantic aspects in which most of the characters you interact with in Extra are present. Throughout the story you get more input on how these mechs came to be and units tasked with manning the resistance. Earth’s survival tactics are also addressed and I gotta say, it is an entertaining plot. Sort of reminiscent of Evangelion but not as dark. (I am a bit biased, I love Mechs.)
To continue that storyline, you’d have to play ML-Alternative which is essentially a back in time adventure for ML-Unlimited. Is that something I intend to do? Nope, nopetity, nope. The dialogue is bland and the characters aren’t entirely likeable, and with the limitations I have on how the story actually progresses, I feel like I’d rather just watch one of the high school based animes with some weird twist.
The art isn’t anything special. You generally get a bunch of stills with background SFx. The emotion animations are very repetitive. However, you will come across scenes that are actually somewhat funny. The music is pretty forgettable but it does hit some decent notes at intervals. There’s very little aside from wanting to progress the story that can keep you attached to playing the game.
Muv-Luv was reviewed using a PC downloadable code provided by Degica Games. The PC version was tested on a PC running Windows 10, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GT 750M fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4700HQ 3.4Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• The background sound effect add some life to story
• The odd change of pace and direction the game takes in the second act
• Some of the side characters are somewhat endearing
• The scarcity of choices throughout the story
• The mild effect the scarce choices have on the endings and events unfolding
• The repetitive animations
• The goddamn main character