I’m sure many people have heard the name Muv-Luv bandied around at some point. Given that it’s ‘the greatest VN series ever written’ (depending on whom you ask) and that Muv-Luv Alternative is ranked number one in the visual novel database it would be no surprise to have been exposed to it. It’s been quite some time since the two main instalments in the series were released, but it still maintains a loyally dedicated fanbase, partially because of its awesome TSF (mecha) designs and partially because of its cleverly constructed and emotionally gripping story.

As you may be aware, an adaption of the spinoff VN Muv-Luv Alternative – Total Eclipse is scheduled to air this summer. In light of this, both Zephyr and I (Moomba) took it upon ourselves to finally buckle down and play through the series. For me, it’s been something I’ve long intended to do but always found myself sidetracked by other VNs, games and anime. To be frank, having finished the series, I can’t believe I didn’t do so sooner.

Our primary aim with this post (which will be split into sections for Extra, Unlimited, and Alternative per their chronological order) is to give our impressions on the series, try to convince you that these are definitely visual novels you need to play, and to give you some sort of idea of what to expect from Total Eclipse this coming season. While we’ll try to be as thorough as possible with our thoughts, we’ll also try to ensure to keep spoilers to an absolute minimum so we ask that you kindly do the same when making a comment (and make good use the spoiler tags)!

  Muv-Luv Extra


I dove into Muv-Luv with no real knowledge of what to expect – the entirety of the information on the subject I possessed at the time was that it involved mecha (and yes, that does mean I was completely unaware of certain scenes in Alternative until they crept up on me). My reaction to starting Extra should be pretty easy to guess; to say the least, I caught entirely off guard by the complete lack of any sort of battle mechs.

Continued after the spoiler tag… Show Spoiler ▼


I’ll be honest. I came into Muv-Luv Extra with no real expectations. I mean, why would I? My original intent was to play Muv-Luv Alternative and I was only playing Extra because it was necessary to understanding Alternative’s plot. As such, to me at the time, it just felt like a bit of an obstacle—something blocking me from going right into Alternative, which has been labeled as one of the best visual novels of all time. Furthermore, I had heard all these stories and reviews talking about how it was just a dating sim for the most part, which didn’t do much to raise expectations at the time. But you know what? After going through the game, I’ll admit that I totally dropped the ball on this one. As much as I love giving things the benefit of the doubt and try not to judge something by its cover, I still do it from time to time… and this was one of those cases. And not only that, this was one of those cases where I was wrong. See, Muv-Luv Extra turned out to be quite the enjoyable experience. It might not be as good as the other two iterations we’re covering here today, but it still does standout quite nicely as a stand alone.

Continued after the spoiler tag… Show Spoiler ▼

  Muv-Luv Unlimited


Unlimited is far more in line with my original expectations for Muv-Luv. The transition between the two sections of the game is a little abrupt, but I actually consider this a good thing since it puts is in pretty much the exact same frame of mind as Takeru – we’re left completely clueless as to what has happened and why. While Unlimited proceeds to answer these questions to a certain degree, most of the explaining is left up to Alternative. Where Extra could be considered an introduction to the characters, Unlimited serves as our first window into the BETA-oppressed world. In that sense, it’s probably best to look at Muv-Luv as a sort of extended prologue to Muv-Luv Alternative.

Continued after the spoiler tag… Show Spoiler ▼


To say the least, Muv-Luv Unlimited is where the series starts showing its true colors—throwing the main character not only back in time, but also to another dimension as well. And well, the result is a pretty drastic difference: A world where humanity is on the brink of extinction by aliens known as the BETA. Many of the characters from Extra are present, but with notable (and expected) changes as a result of the state of the world… and the fact that the high school you used to go to is now a military base for training mecha (TSF) pilots (known as “Eishi”). The gameplay mechanics stay the same for the most part, but…

Continued after the spoiler tag… Show Spoiler ▼

  Muv-Luv Alternative


It’s hard to talk about Alternative without resorting to spoilers, but I guess I’ll do my best. First and foremost, Alternative is designed to screw with your emotions. It’s generally considered an Utsuge for its uncanny ability to reduce even the most gar of men to tears. At its core, Alternative is a tale of courage in the face of adversity and overcoming hardships – standing beside Takeru as he conquers insurmountable odds while his entire world is turned upside down around him, it’s hard not to feel some sort of emotional attachment.

Continued after the spoiler tag… Show Spoiler ▼


Ah, Muv-Luv Alternative. Stated by some to be one of the best—if not the best—visual novel ever, the first question that comes to mind is: Does it deserve this distinction?

Continued after the spoiler tag… Show Spoiler ▼


    1. Just a warning: Major spoilers are everywhere. Even in the Wikipedia article linked above.
      It’s kind of a “School Days” thing.

      – Install Japanese Locale.
      – Get the patches from Amaterasu Translation
      – “Acquire” the DVDs (pirating, importing, whatever).
      – Install the two games using the patches, not the auto-run install.
      – Prepare yourself to 80hrs of enjoyment.

    2. Fun Fact: Muv Luv (the first game) was marketed as a “not just generic, but ultra-generic” harem comedy VN by their own creators. The “Extra” part of the first game was meant to be cliched experience from birth and served as a very clever cover to the big surprise that came after it: A Hard Sci-Fi Military Real Robot Mecha Romance story.

    3. Then you must have experience a lot of media, though I find MLA pretty great it is far from entering my top. Actually if not for the great setting and action scenes it would be pretty terrible.

      To be honest I always found ML dialogue and pacing quite horrible, but the good parts greatly outshine the bad

      1. Well, what I said has a lot to do with my tastes. Each person will have their own experiences with the series.

        About opinions: For it to be “the best VN ever created” is a very debatable statement. Even I, as much as I loved it, can’t agree to that because MLA is a 6 years old and there are many critically acclaimed games out there that most users don’t know about. Simply because they are not translated.

        But saying that it is terrible is just unfair and hard to justify.

        And you are doing it wrong if you play the games for the action in the first place. It isn’t directed by Michael Bay. It isn’t even part of the “Action” genre. It’s like watching K-On for the Music or Gurren Laggan for the Romance, it is there but it’s far from the focus.

    4. I think the best way for new viewers to understand Muv-luv is to see its openings.

      Muv-Luv Extra
      Muv-Luv Unlimited
      Muv-Luv Alternative

      You can tell how awesome stuff gets when they have JAM PROJECT do the op for the last VN. Its arguably my favorite Jam Project song too (“TACHIAGARE KEDAKAKU MAE SADAME WO UKETA SENSHI YOOOO!” )

      And just for kicks I’ll add the OP for the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien anime since its supposed to share the same continuity and has some significance in the actual story of Muv-Luv.

  1. I’ve always heard great things about this particular VN, but its also apparently a 90+ hour experience from what I’ve been told. I’ll probably give it a go after I get around to finishing Ever17 (eventually).

    1. Just a warning, Extra and Unlimited might feel like a chore to go through, sometimes frustrating. Especially when you consider what a complete dumbass the Protagonist is. It is however intentional, you just won’t understand the importance of the first two VN until you play Alternative. So don’t skip anything.

    1. Lol I was thinking along similar lines earlier… but the amount of VN novel coverage isn’t really something we’ve been doing on any regular basis, so it hasn’t really warranted one yet. If I remember correctly though, Zanibas has plans to cover more VN’s in the future though, so it may be coming shortly.

    1. I’ve played too many to list them all quickly, but a few of my current favourites (not including the Muv-Luv series) include Steins;Gate, Kamidori, G-Senjou no Maou and (of course) Fate/Stay Night.

  2. [Major Spoilers warning: Watch out for poorly titled YouTube related videos (as in “XXXX’s Death”). The ones I linked in this post are safe but I don’t recommend to watch further.]

    Now that I finished my rushed info-dumping and read your article. It’s very funny how you can’t really say much about Alternative without spoilers. Even the physical appearance of the aliens is a spoiler. But I applaud you both for this post, giving the series the respect it deserves and presenting it with the care it needs.

    Luckily, early in Unlimited there’s one of the best scenes of the games that instantly hooks anyone who got up to that part of the series: The history lesson about the new “Alternative” world the MC woke up in.

    A war against aliens… How bad could it be if we have gigantic TSFs to fight them? The way the story delivers the answer to that question was perfect.

    After Unlimited, comes Alternative. From the get go you get a far more technically improved game in almost every aspect. Higher wide-screen resolution, JAM Project opening, facial animations, updated artwork and a far more expanded orchestral soundtrack with many memorable pieces. The upgrade is very impressing and you really feel you are getting into something far bigger and ambitious than before just from the Menu Screen music.

    The only thing that you didn’t mention is the appearance of many past âge characters such as the Suzumiya sisters and Mitsuki Hayase from the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien anime (also known as Rumbling Hearts). People who are familiar with them will be glad to see them playing important roles once again.

    I hope that many RandomC readers try these games out. And I’m not saying this for Total Eclipse’s sake. These visual novels are masterpieces that stand on their own and should be played anyway.

  3. The combined efforts of these three vn’s had me feeling a plethora of mixed emotions for almost a whole month before I got over myself. This isn’t a story that you simply read from a 3rd person’s point of view, it’s a story that feels as if you’re living through it. There aren’t many visual novels that actually make you love and feel for the characters as much as this one does. My personal favorite :]

  4. Muv-Luv Extra is an incredibly generic cliche-riddenharem comedy. The thing is that was INTENTIONAL, since Unlimited/Alternative is largely how Takeru(a dense, stupid harem lead) deals being stuck in parallel world where humanity is facing extinction. The Muv-Luv series is a transitional series, Extra was there to establish the characters and get the reader attached to them, Unlimited brings the setting of the dystpoian earth and understand how bad things are there. Then Alternative is pretty much the “S*** GOT REAL!!!!” chapter so when the serious stuff happens its emotionally effective.

    One particular scene in alternative still haunts my nightmares. (Yes MLA readers you know what I’m talking about “THAT SCENE”)

  5. Ugg, I couldn’t finish Alternative when THAT scene kept popping up in flashbacks. Is it just me? I kinda feel ashamed that I couldn’t take the scene even though I’m an 18.

      1. A lot of people today are kinda jaded and desensitized, because of the ultra-violent games, movies and shows that are all the rage lately. Maybe you are too.

        It’s also important to note these scenes are more powerful/repulsive if you really like the character it happens too. And most people did really care for that character.

      2. I don’t appreciate the low punch there. It’s not a matter of desensitizing, but rather to distinguish fiction from reality. What happens to a fictional character in a drawn form is not worth having nightmare about, unless you’re weak mentally.

        Train your brain to distinguish between fiction and reality. Although I’m sure it’s hard for a lot of people who visit this website…

  6. Have to agree that MLA was definitely the best visual novel I’ve read with FSN a close second. Sharin no kuni felt all around better than G senjou (only haru’s route was any good), same writers though.

    Glad to see VNs on RC though!

      1. I’d like to know where you’re hearing these rumors, it’s known that there are at least two instances of anti-BETA large scale combat in Total Eclipse. And a few more instances of simulated anti-BETA combat.

      2. Inagaki Takayuki (the director) confirmed in a recent interview that there will be animated BETA. He also went on to say that they will be ‘disgusting’ and inspired by horror movies but that they would have to suppress some of the more grotesque stuff for TV broadcast.

    1. I hope not, since
      Show Spoiler ▼

      was one of the most powerful scenes in the visual novel in my opinion, and made me shit bricks when the orchestral music kicked in.

      1. I thought they explained it in Alternative that it was actually transparent so Show Spoiler ▼

        as Takeru himself explained

      2. Two reasons were given for transparency.

        Show Spoiler ▼

      3. “It’s fan-service” is just half of the answer:

        The Altverse is under the Hard Sci-Fi genre. Everything is explained and rationalized with scientific detail.

        Cadets’ suit are transparent in the +18 version of the game and translucent in the All-Ages version. It isn’t the same as being naked but anyone would be able to see their attributes if they get close enough.

        On the other hand, Eishi suits are all translucent.

        Very minor MLA Spoiler about the suits: Show Spoiler ▼

      4. Are you blind? I completely see nipple. Notice the pink part in the center on each breast that ends in a point and is where the material “covering” the breasts changes angles.

  7. Muv-Luv is a really great VN series. It is however important to note that you should be aware that by the point you reach Muv-Luv Alternative, the story will throw a lot of suffering, tragedy, violence and other nightmare-fuel at you.

    I think it’s worth it, but it’s definately not for everyone.

    1. “Best VN ever translated” is more accurate.

      There are a lot of stuff we non-moon speakers don’t know about like Muramasa, Baldr Sky, Grisaia, White Album 2 and more games that got as much praise as MLA in japan.

      Enjoy your ride.

  8. This VN managed to rile up so many emotions out of me like no other. It was sure an emotional roller coaster. As for people who are thinking of skipping the highschool sim hijinks, I suggest you don’t. I don’t think I would have BAWWWW’d as hard in the halfway point of Alternative if it weren’t for the attachment I had for Extra.

  9. “That scene” (which I can’t bring myself to complain about, since Takeru didn’t have a “censor” function on his eyes) aside, Muv-Luv was by far the best visual novel I’ve ever read, and that’s after playing through quite a few. Extra and Unlimited were solid, but not absolutely spectacular, but thinking back, it was all just a ploy to get you attached to the characters so the absolutely spectacular Alternative could rip out your heart. I’ve never cried so much about anything.

  10. Already finished MuvLuv Extra and I will say that it’s indeed a quite enjoyable ride. A bit boring on some times, hilarious at other times, and even pretty amazing at some other times. I would say it’s a decent ride of over-the-top generic harem-romcom story.

    And now…2 hours at Unlimited and I missed Extra already. Not because Unlimited is bad (It’s pretty awesome), but because I just realized some good things that I didn’t really notice in Extra. It’s already felt like a homesick already.

    Now I wonder what will I think when I reach Alternative.

      1. Lacrosse arc? Well, that’s the first time we saw MC getting serious in something, so it’s more like the first saving grace :))

        Yeah, pretty much I’ve already in synch with the protag, something that only a good story could achieve. But the biggest factor that contribute to my homesickness is…I can’t see “a certain character” up till now, 6 hours in game (furthermore, I never saw a screenshot of her past Unlimited) T_______T

        I’m planning to finish MuvLuv until alternative next week. I guess I’ll post my thoughts here as well :p

  11. I have to say I am glad people are saying the reason why this VN is so great is because you end up crying. Knowing this is a tear jerker like Clannad I will actually skip it until the entire series is out. There is no way I am going to put myself through week after week of watching a depressing show. Instead I will just wait, marathon it over a weekend and hopefully get past the depressing stuff to a redeeming ending. Though from what I have heard of Muv Luv the endings are either “Bad” or “Bitter sweet”.

    1. I think you misunderstood something. The anime airing next season is Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse which is a SPINOFF of Muv-Luv with a different cast of characters and story. The proper Muv-Luv trilogy that makes people shed manly tears are all VN’s.

      1. Technically is a Side-story (same setting). Set months before Alternative and ends right around where Alternative would start.

        But the most important and alluring part of the saga is the setting. I’m interested to see how much will MLA:TE reveal about it.

  12. I am always glad to read these. I’ve only this year started to become interested in VN’s (thanks to Katawa Shoujo). Right now I’m playing Fate/Stay Night but after I’m done with that I am going to put this series on the list. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  13. I think overall MLA is by far the most epic VN. I think it might be too long for people newer to VNs to get into. I tried to include a wide range and generally stuff that is easy to get into.

    Some other great VNs:

    Little Busters
    Cross Channel
    G-Senjou no Maou
    Fate/Stay Night
    Majikoi (Really fun series)
    Sengoku Rance (crazy perverted)
    Tsukihime (er the H is…but a must read)

    @ewok40k ever17 is pretty peachy compared to MLA especially when you get the true ending.

  14. read each and everyone of those that xRichard posted…
    add in various overdrive works,school days(released a few days ago),shuffle,Hoshizora no Memoria, bunch of other key works not on the list

  15. After 2nd episode of Total Eclipse, I want to remind that actually, the mecha and war detail stuffs in Muv Luv actually aren’t the main dish of what Muv-Luv trilogy serves.

    It’s a tale of man that turned from a manchild, an adult wannabe, a struggling human into a true “hero” after facing shits, learning the purpose of life, love and deaths. Truly a story of being human in the middle of under-apocalypse universe.

  16. I kinda don’t like the idea of a VN with a fixed ending like Muv-Luv Alternative. I get the thinking behind what it’s doing but still, there should be choice to the endings in a VN game, otherwise we should just be getting a LN/book.

    That’s not to say it’s not good though but yeah, each new game in the trilogy just takes away choice and gives you dispare in the process.

  17. Just finished the Trilogy not too long ago, it was pretty darn good. gogo MLA TE

    I quite liked the linear nature of MLA, but the lack of VN functionality is a let down. ie: CG gallery, Music Library

  18. Fulfill your duty with all your might.
    Despair not until your last breath.
    Never die in vain.

    In last two weeks,I spend my time played MuvLuv and followed by MuvLuv Alternative.I really grace I played it.As many said it before me,If It isn’t the best visual novel,then it is still one of the best.


    Show Spoiler ▼


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