Part Two – Unlimited
Rating – R18
Developer – Age
Translator – Amaterasu Translations
Length – 10 – 20 Hours (Extra), 10 Hours (Unlimited), 50+ Hours (Alternative)
Reviewing Muv-Luv has left me a little conflicted. I believe that all visual novels should stand up on their own regardless of whatever is planned for their sequels, but looking at Muv-Luv that way doesn’t quite do it justice. All three parts (Extra, Unlimited, Alternative) work together to build up for a grand finale at the expense of the earlier games and I’m just not sure how I feel about that. I’ve decided to review the instalments as separate visual novels, though I ask you to keep in mind that each requires you to read the one before it to reach its full potential.
If you thought the Muv-Luv series itself was entirely romance and comedy, you would be horribly wrong. In this second instalment Takeru wakes one morning before the end of the original game in a world almost completely different from his own. From the completely destroyed city surrounding his house to the military academy that sits in place of his school, Takeru has trouble taking these new developments seriously. The fight humanity has been steadily losing for the past few decades, however, is all too real. Through some odd twist of fate, Takeru is placed in a training squad along with this world’s versions of his classmates. Though the TSFs, or Tactical Surface Fighters (think mechs), that have been developed to fight Earth’s enemies resemble the video games of his home world, Takeru still has a long way to go if he wants to have any chance of surviving the BETA, the biggest threat to human survival to have ever existed.
Let me start by saying that I am not a mech fan. In the past giants robots just haven’t appealed to me. Despite that, however, I very quickly became interested in the world Muv-Luv Unlimited had created. Maybe it was because I had spent time with the main characters already in Extra, maybe it was because I’ve always been a sucker for training scenarios, or maybe it was the degree to which humanity had been pushed to the brink, but whatever it was Unlimited’s setting just clicked with me. The writing and ideas behind this second portion of the story were much better than Extra’s, though the story still suffered from the same problem: beyond one major exception (much like Extra’s endings), nothing really happens.
Though Muv-Luv Unlimited talks a big game, building up to an exciting conclusion, developing character relationships and yet still holding back a little bit of information to keep you thinking, it finishes without fulfilling what it appeared to be setting up. To be honest, I was really quite surprised when a “Two Years Later” sign appeared and then suddenly the game ended. If someone had asked me how far through the story I had thought I was even one scene before that point, I probably would have told them I was about half way because, as I said earlier, nothing had really happened. In fact, during Unlimited you never once get to see the enemy you’re supposed to be fighting because the main characters are all still in training. I understand that Age probably already had Alternative lined up as a sequel, but I don’t think that should be considered an excuse for the half-assed ending thrown onto Unlimited’s tail end.
Once again the characters are a strong point of this series, and being able to see how differently they’ve turned out in this alternate environment is incredibly interesting. Meiya and Sumika have been pushed back to having more or less the same importance of the other characters, which is an odd choice in my opinion, but since the ending routes are so short it doesn’t matter anyway. [MINOR SPOILER] Sumika doesn’t actually appear at all in Unlimited, and though the reason becomes clear in Alternative her sudden removal felt detrimental to Unlimited as an individual experience because of how important she’d been previously. [/MINOR SPOILER]
The brilliant use of character sprites and camera angles returns in Unlimited, becoming even more noteworthy because of their contribution to the Mech battles. While the visual novel format doesn’t lend itself to visual depictions of battles Muv-Luv probably does the best it possibly could with the medium, especially given its age. The BGM is mostly recycled from Extra, though I have no complaints about that, and the voice acting and sound effects are just as good.
Summary – I really liked Muv-Luv Unlimited right up until the end. The radical change in setting from the first game can’t help but intrigue you even if mechs aren’t your thing. It’s a shame that this portion of the story isn’t given a decent conclusion but I guess it works as a prequel to Alternative. Skip Extra if you must but Unlimited is absolutely necessary for you to truly enjoy the Muv-Luv series.
Score: 8/10 – Good