By William Haderlie / January 16th, 2017
|Release Date||July 14, 2016|
|Genre||Adult Visual Novel|
With how many games Operation Rainfall has reviewed in the past year, and with Muv-Luv‘s notorious length as well, you might think that we have only just gotten around to reviewing this title due to time restraints. However, that is largely not the case, we intentionally waited to review this major Visual Novel release due to wanting to review the full experience. As such, this review is for the full 18+ version of the game. Even though I did not play the edited version, I can surmise where and when the cuts were made and make an evaluation based on that experience. None of the links in this article will take you to potentially NSFW places other than this single link to the 18+ Directors Cut Content Patch for the game, which I will place here. That being said, with the restoration patch in place there are some frank discussions of adult relationships, therefore the whole review I will place an 18+ warning on. I am definitely happy with our decision to wait for the full version, but I will go into the reasoning later. Part 1 of the review will be dealing primarily with Muv-Luv Extra, and Part 2 of the review will deal mostly with Muv-Luv Unlimited, but there will be one score at the end for the whole packaged experience.
I had never seen any Muv-Luv manga or anime, nor had I any other experiences with this series, prior to reviewing this Visual Novel. The only things I had heard about this series going in was that it was considered to be a very long Visual Novel, it involved mech combat in some way, and many people consider it to be their favorite Visual Novel of all time. Unfortunately, I wish that I had never heard of any of those things prior to playing the game. It’s only a very long Visual Novel if you do every route for both stories (and even then I’ve played longer), actual non-video game mech combat only comes into play in Unlimited, and I’ll talk more about its overall quality at the end of Part 2 (but the short answer is a not really, in my opinion). I had also heard that there was somewhat of a twist involved in the story, but that was largely underwhelming so it’s not even worth mentioning. All you really need to know going in is that you really do need to completely play through Muv-Luv Extra before you play Muv-Luv Unlimited. And I would strongly recommend you complete every story route in Extra before you do your first route in Unlimited, you will get the most out of the experience that way.
The protagonist for Muv-Luv Extra is Takeru Shirogane. Like any other standard harem visual novel, he is almost entirely unseen and he is also unvoiced. One fascinating part of this whole experience with Muv-Luv is that it is such an old game, having been originally released in 2003, and seeing which genre conventions have changed and which have not. One convention that has not changed much, is what an idiot he is. In fact, one of the only standout aspects of his personality in comparison to others in the genre is that he’s an even larger idiot than most of the rest of them. Fortunately, there have been some much better recent examples of male protagonists, or at least ones that I could identify with more. Right off the bat, I have to say that Takeru was one of my least favorite parts of this whole visual novel, both versions of it, and when your protagonist is the weakest link it can be a very bumpy ride. At a guess, I would say most readers of this Visual Novel are not going to understand the Quantum Physics his teacher writes on the board (which was accurate, by the way), but I doubt many of the readers are quite as dim as he is. So I do question the artistic decision, it definitely did not work for me, and led to a lot of unnecessary drama in the story.
Sumika Kagami is Takeru’s childhood friend, and she lives right next door, close enough for them to always talk to each other through their bedroom windows. She’s definitely a few marbles short of a full set herself, but unlike Takeru, she is much more aware of her own feelings and the feelings of others. And even if she is not the brightest girl in the world, it mostly just gets her into some comedic situations, so she’s largely fun to be around. Her one major character flaw is that she loses her temper extremely easily and takes it out on Takeru, usually in some physical comedy way. But throughout the story, it becomes very apparent how lucky he is to have such a loyal and caring childhood friend. That manga/anime/VN trope is well worn, but she is a really good example of the childhood friend romantic option. She is one of the two romantic selections that I would guess are probably the canon choices.
The other romantic choice that I would guess would be a canon selection is Meiya Mitsurugi. Not only do she and Sumika have a larger story in Muv-Luv Extra than any of the other girls, but the appearance of Meiya in bed with Takeru is the event that sets in motion the entire story. Also by this time it’s become a well-worn harem trope that there is a ferocious battle for the affections of a male between the childhood friend and the new (and more beautiful/intelligent/interesting) girl who shows up. It takes a very long time for Takeru to figure out why Meiya showed up in the first place, and I’ll be frank that it was quite irritating that it took him so long. Not only was it irritating because in real life it should have never taken that long, but throughout the story they give more than enough hints that you should have figured it out long before he finally does. Because they are not romantic choices, I won’t go into the other characters that arrive with Meiya but suffice it to say that she comes with an entire retinue due to her enormous family wealth. And they all quite effectively take over the lives of both Takeru and Sumika.
The tiny girl romantic choice in this story is played by Miki Tamase, but everyone typically calls her Tama. There is just no getting around the fact that she looks like she descended from a cat instead of an ape so that aspect of her personality is definitely played up throughout the story. But all the characters are quite aware of that attribute, so Takeru gave her a tail accessory (which she wears everywhere) and the physics teacher gave her a bell necklace. Needless to say, because she looks so young and cute and neko, she has officially become the class’s mascot. For those who might be put off by romancing someone of her appearance, you should know that she is the same age as everyone else. She is just a tiny girl, which certainly happens in real life. Most of her character arc revolves around her wanting everyone to get along, her struggles with performance anxiety in a spotlight, and her issues with her tiny body.
My least favorite romantic option in Muv-Luv Extra (also true in Unlimited) is Chizuru Sakaki, commonly called Class Rep by everyone. I would like to just say that she’s serious about being Class Rep and very serious about being the leader of the Lacross Club, but unfortunately, she is extremely serious about everything. It gets to the point where it becomes obvious that her adherence to rules and structure are pathological in nature, and that leads Takeru to try and discover what her real story is. But even during that whole period, their relationship remains so antagonistic that I could never see myself ever being fond of her. Sure, I can imagine sticking around and trying to help someone get through that, but I would never consider her for a relationship in a real life situation. Even at their best, you could say that Takeru is involved in a masochistic relationship toward her, which there is nothing particularly wrong with, but it’s just not something I’m interested in. As a result of their antagonistic relationship, the resolution felt a bit rushed, and because each relationship culminates in the sexual consummation of their feelings, hers felt the least likely to actually occur in that fashion. But that is, of course, subjective to our own personal tastes and biases, to some people her relationship may be the most realistic.
At first, Kei Ayamine will seem like the rival of the Class Rep, but over time it becomes apparent that they are more like the banes to the other’s existence. They are similar in a couple ways, the worst ways, but in every other fashion, they are completely the opposite. That makes them constantly clash all the time, and they would clash a lot more if Ayamine actually hung around long enough to respond to Class Rep’s provocation. But Ayamine represented one of the large reasons I did not like Chizuru very much, I was very fond of Ayamine. She and Meiya are definitely my two favorite girls in Muv-Luv Extra. Ayamine is very quiet and very mysterious, at her most talkative she is enigmatic at best, but there is definitely a lot of cuteness to her behavior and a lot of humor in her routine. In reality, she had the roughest back story, but she is also a lot stronger than pretty much anyone else (except maybe Meiya). It takes quite a while to figure out what is going on with her, but in the end, her aloofness never felt malicious to me, but once again that will come down to personal bias. As narcissistic as it may be, I was so fond of her because she’s so much like me. But, at least that made her easy to understand and empathize with.
There is an additional secret potential relationship in the game with Marimo-chan. Marimo is the homeroom teacher of this band of misfits, and not only do they call her by her first name, but they don’t even use Sensei when referring to her. To top it all off, her best friend since she was a girl is the physics teacher, and she bullies poor Marimo constantly. But Marimo has a very adorable personality, so the ability to end up in the sack with her is certainly a welcome addition to the game. However, this is not considered part of the actual story and results in a playful “Bad End” screen after it’s over. The last person worth mentioning in the Extra portion is Takeru’s best male friend Makoto Yoroi. Calling him a male friend turns out to be a bit generous, he’s quite effeminate and barely qualifies as a male by most of his class member’s estimation. In a bold move for a 2003 VN, he receives just as many love letters from males as he does from females. Makoto is quite intelligent in some ways but he’s a total idiot about other things, mostly he just knows a lot of weird information that is of almost no practical use. His father frequently dumps him in the middle of nowhere to teach him survival skills, and one of the bonus endings involves Takeru accidentally getting wrapped up in one of those scenarios.
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