Visual Novel Spotlight: Muv-Luv

Muv-Luv

Honestly, I don’t think there is anything I can say that hasn’t already been said at this point about Muv-Luv. But I will try and do my best anyway because I enjoyed Muv-Luv and was able to have time to reread it.

 

Synopsis 

I think it’s best to give a little background, Muv Luv is a trilogy of games released by âge, the first (Extra) and second (Unlimited) were jointly released in 2003. Unlimited is unlocked after you get the endings of the two main heroines (Sumika and Meiya) in Extra. From Visual Novel Database it reads…

“Shirogane Takeru is a typical high school student with a lazy attitude and a love for the virtual reality mecha battle game Valgern-on. Even though he didn’t really wanted it, he is popular in school mainly due to his daily fights with his osananajimi (Sumika) attracting too much attention. His life takes an unexpected turn when he finds a girl (Meiya) he doesn’t remember ever meeting in his bed one morning. Whom later revealed to be the heiress of one of the biggest zaibatsu. She immediately moves to his house and starts changing his life for the good with her one-track-mind and unlimited resources…”

Once I started to read the visual novel myself, the gist of it consists of a love triangle between Takeru, his childhood friend (and neighbor) and the heiress to one of Japan’s most successful and influential families. In other words, there’s a girl who he spent his whole life with and a girl who would and could buy him the whole world so she could spend the rest of it together. Denser than metal, Takeru is completely ignorant to how they feel about him and simply continues to live his life like he has before.

Huddle In, Gang

One good thing about Muv-Luv is that it isn’t hard to find group photos of the cast. The main attraction would be the main heroines, Sumika and Meiya, but there are 3 other females you could romance if you want to. Allow me to introduce you to the characters starting from bottom center, right to left:

Chizuru Sakaki is the class representative of Takeru’s class and classic tsundere who tries her best to maintain order in the class but is usually fighting a lost battle given who her classmates are. She tends to take herself and everything she does seriously so she’s also quick to anger. She’s a friend and rival of Suzumiya Akane, a main character from some of âge’s other works. Probably the least popular character, but after completing her route I gained new respect for her and understood why she can be defensive and refuses accepting help from others.

Sumika Kagami is the goofy childhood best friend of Takeru who is too kind for even the anime world (if you read Alternative you know why I’m saying this). That is, unless of course she’s knocking Takeru’s lights out. Like Iroha from Oregairu, she exemplifies what 萌え/moe is to me. Meaning, I feel like I’m going to get a cavity whenever she’s onscreen. Her biggest characterization is her desire to be with Takeru and for him to not see her as a childhood friend, but as a woman.

Meiya Mitsurugi the mutlibillionaire heiress who is anything but normal. Due to her sheltered upbringing, Meiya initially is a bit naive about the world, and solves most problems with money, but she’s way nicer than Seto Kaiba. A firm believer in the Bushido code of honor, she is highly righteous and noble. She has a personal maid named Mana Tsukuyomi who is also not normal. Actually, everyone in the Mitsurugi household are a bunch of oddballs.

Ayamine Kei is basically what I would be if I was reincarnated into a Japanese high school girl. Anyway, she’s someone who doesn’t attend class often and would rather spend her time in school chilling on the roof. She seems to find a way to the cafeteria on days when yakisoba bread, her all-time favorite food, is being sold. She likes to mess with people and usually gets into verbal fights with Chizuru. Her route sees Takeru accidentally stumble across aspects of her past that show why she has a disregard for authority figures (like Chizuru) and why she maintains such distance between herself and others.

Tamase Miki a.k.a. Tama is the tiny class mascot who possesses a cheerful, energetic attitude toward life (yay!) and dislikes serious conflict and tries to be the peacekeeper between her classmates, especially between Kei and Chizuru (with Kei actually listening to her). Tama is a member of the archery club and very talented with a bow and arrow. She is actually the successor to a renowned archery dojo, but despite her skills, Tama gets nervous when somebody, especially someone she knows, is watching her shoot, causing her to freak out and often completely miss her shot.

While there are five romanceable heroines in Extra, Meiya and Sumika are like I said, obviously the main ones and act as the foundation for the plot. Their routes are mostly the same except for the last few scenes, whereas the three other heroines each have their own separate endings that are mostly unrelated. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t introduce Haruko Kashiwagi, it’s because she doesn’t have her own route. She’s one of the coolest characters âge ever made though, take my word for it.

 

Once Sumika and Meiya’s respective routes are finished Unlimited is unlocked.

Muv-Luv Unlimited
Hm, something’s amiss here.

If you thought Muv-Luv was composed entirely of romance and comedy, you would be dead wrong. In this second installment Takeru wakes up one morning in a world almost completely different from his own. The whole city he lives in is in ruins and there’s a destroyed mech next to his house. Takeru being Takeru, comes to the conclusion that he must be in a dream, resolving to go and enjoy it for however long it lasts. Upon reaching his school, he finds it is now a military facility and his meeting with the entrance guards does not go so well. As fate has it, Takeru is placed in a training squad along with this world’s versions of his classmates. The Tactical Surface Fighters (basically mechas), that have been developed to fight Earth’s extraterrestrial enemies resemble the video game robots of his home world, but Takeru’s video game skills aren’t going to be enough if he wants to have any chance of surviving the BETA, the biggest threat to humanity’s survival.

Talk about heavy, especially since in this world only 1 billion humans are still around in 2001. An unimaginable reality has been common knowledge for generations. A sudden change in tone and setting was very much a surprise to me since I was expecting more dating sim shenanigans. While everyone in the squad has their route too, Unlimited is more linear with an overarching story and no fundamental differences in the routes.

Oh, one last thing I’d like to mention regarding Unlimited is the fortified suits the girls wear. They happen to feature partially transparent material for some reason, leading to something of an almost nude-like appearance. I’m not sure if the outfits have any justification really, because Takeru’s suit isn’t like theirs at all.

Fortified Suits

 

 

Why I like this visual novel

Two words, one character: Ayamine Kei. She isn’t the only reason, of course, but she’s a big one. It’s funny the two fictional characters I relate to the most are a female Japanese high school student and a two-tailed fox. Ayamine might seem like an Ayanami Rei expy, but don’t let her similar name fool you. I have a lot in common with Kei. She initially comes off as a stoic, taciturn, weird and quiet character who keeps to herself most of the time and does whatever she wants. She likes to troll/mess with people for her own amusement and has a strong penchant for yakisoba bread. My yakisoba bread would definitely be eggnog, get me eggnog if you’ve ever done something wrong and I’ll instantly forgive you. Despite being a little selfish and usually keeping others at an arm’s length, she does have a heart of gold for the people she cares about. There’s a reason she comports herself the way she does, and you find out in her route (which I would argue is the one with the most depth). I loved Ayamine Kei so much there was a time people thought she was my waifu.

Kei

I know people kvetch a lot about the slice-of-life romantic comedy of Extra, but I actually enjoyed it. Yes, I know it’s cliché since the story follows the common trope of the protagonist who has potential to be greater than he is, but lacks motivation to apply himself. He seems to be happy with how things are, never putting much thought into anything else except a robot battle simulation game (and I can’t emphasize that enough. This fella has a firm grip on the idiot ball and wants to do a 93 yard touchdown run with it). You also meet the main cast who are the embodiment of tropes themselves. I can’t imagine anyone saying Extra is groundbreaking ’cause it’s not. The character designs are certainly memorable though.

The eroge content, well, it’s… there. I don’t read these things for the sex scenes because of how brainless they are. Kei’s scenes were the most tolerable (Yuuko’s was alright too, but that’s ’cause she’s hot) and I’m not just saying this because she’s my favorite character. The less talk going on in H-scenes the better. Also, once hers (the one in Extra) was over she continued to troll and even called Takeru a ケダモノ (lit. beast) which made me laugh.

Unlimited was the superior of the two and amalgamates anime, sci-fi, aliens and technology which are all things I like. I guess even people at the staff thought Unlimited was a better story since it had its own animated opening as opposed to the OP of Extra which uses game CG scenes. This part of the visual novel manages to present characters you have already gotten to know in an entirely new way, with their personalities being a mixture of what you have already gotten to know and how a difference being involved in growing up facing extinction makes.

 

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This scene cranked the waterworks, okay?

 

Despite being over a decade old now, Muv-Luv’s art has actually aged quite well. The character sprites and poses have personality to them and the backgrounds aren’t bad either. Characters will move around the screen, becoming smaller when they are farther away and vice-versa, the camera will always show where Takeru is looking at. These features are used to greater effect in Unlimited, but they’re still good in Extra.

So these are the first two installments of what is a trilogy. Individually, each is entertaining, though nothing special. Extra is a dating sim school romance, Unlimited is a sci-fi mecha romance. Taken together, they become something a little more, transferring the characters you’ve come to know and love from one into the other is an interesting twist, and one which would lead me to recommend Muv-Luv to anyone who is a fan of visual novels. This isn’t the end of the story. Deserving and requiring its own post, Alternative elevates this franchise from just “good” to epic.

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Visual Novel Spotlight: Galaxy Angel

galaxyangel

They say you never forget your first, and this was my first visual novel. But good gosh, has it really already been 3 years since I first played this game? Mayne, time flies by so fast, next thing I know I’ll blink and my niece will be ten years old! Anyway, Galaxy Angel is great! From the first moment, I was gripped by this story’s space setting, drama and comedic moments, as well as the romance, which develops as the story goes on.

I actually saw the anime first, which was originally based off the game, but Broccoli (the company that created the series) had a problem. Like Finding Nemo, the game was a delay fish causing delays which eventually meant the anime aired well in advance. The anime staff had the designs and basic personality traits of the characters and not much else so they decided to scrap virtually everything about the game and it became the random, zany, light-hearted anime it is known as today. If you didn’t already know, the anime and game are set in alternate universes. In fact because the anime released first, and it was a popular hit, it can be argued it overshadows the games themselves. Shame because Galaxy Angel is awesome and my favorite visual novel series by far.

 

Synopsis 

Galaxy Angels are from the “Special Guardian Division” and they work closely with the “Imperial Special Guards” and the “Satellite Defense Teams”. They are the guardians of the White Moon, the sacred planet of the Transbaal Empire, and the personal protectors of the White Moon Goddess Shatoyan. The story begins with Prince Eonia attempting a take over of the Transbaal Empire with the aid of the mysterious Black Moon, counterpart to the White Moon. To counter Prince Eonia, the Angel-tai along with their flagship the Elsior are placed in the hands of the kind and ever-capable Commander Takuto Meyers. (The Visual Novel Database)

So in other words, a young man by the name of Tact Mayers becomes the commander of the Elsior and its five ace pilots, the Angel-tai. Their mission is to protect the last heir of the Transbaal Empire, Prince Shiva, from certain death as they retreat from the evil usurper of the throne, Eonia. The game differs greatly from the anime because of its intergalactic war story and the presence of the male protagonist, Tact. The “Galaxy Angels” are part of the military assigned to protect the Transbaal Empire. Each member of the Galaxy Angels are assigned one personal “Emblem Frame” which are the spacecrafts used to fight and defend against enemies like they did in the anime.

 

Gameplay

As the title reads, Galaxy Angel is a visual novel so most of the gameplay is going to be reading dialogue and making choices which affect the flow of the story, but what I really like about Galaxy Angel and what I would argue makes it unique is the battle gameplay segments. The player commands all the Emblem Frames in a “real-time” strategy mode similar to other real-time strategy games, like Homeworld and Age of Empires. You will have six ships to control: the Emblem Frames and your flagship the Elsior (if the latter’s health reaches 0 it’s game over). Despite its look and apparent status as top of the line battleship, missions usually involve protecting the Elsior, which can rarely do anything useful in a fight due to its low speed, low durability, and the fact that the Angels’ ships outclass it by a mile. Each ship has varying amount of attack, defense, speed, acceleration, etc. They all have the abilities to move, attack and defend, but only the Elsior and Harvester have the ability to heal other ships. Also, the Angels will move by themselves if no command is given.

In every chapter, Tact will have the freedom to move around the Elsior, visiting various rooms and meeting the Angels. Tact can only spend 30 minutes touring the ship at a time, and each room visit takes five minutes. The decisions you make affect the morale and trust of the Angels toward Tact, in turn affecting their combat abilities since Emblem Frames apparently grow in power in relation to their pilot’s mental state. For this reason, you should really try to keep the Angels happy.

Since you only get six picks on your downtime I’m sure you’re aware that time is of the essence. There’s often a multiple choice question in each of the girl’s scenes and choosing the correct response is what causes them to like you more. Naturally, getting a positive response is what we’re aiming for. As affection goes up, the Angels get better and better at combat, and the lady you eventually select as your girlfriend becomes a lean, mean killing machine!

galaxyangel2

If you’ve seen the anime, you should know who the girls are, but here their personalities aren’t exaggerated for the purpose of comedy so I’d like to discuss them and their Emblem Frames, going top to bottom, left to right:

Ranpha Franboise is the modern tsundere, yearning romantic and my favorite character in the series (she’s even voiced by my favorite 声優/seiyuu, Yukari Tamura). She has an affinity for physical activity and fortune telling and is an expert at martial arts/hand-to-hand combat. Being a proud young lady, she doesn’t like showing weakness to anyone and initially openly dislikes Tact. She does however, an amusing 180 if you choose her route and even if you don’t she eventually grows to respect Tact and sees him as a competent commander.

Her Emblem Frame is the Kung-fu Fighter, which is a close-combat fighter and possess high agility at the cost of defense. It’s best described as a glass canon and Ranpha can easily run into problems on the battlefield ’cause her ship is the fastest, but this means she can also rack up kills and it’s not unusual for her to have the most by the end of battles. The Kung-fu Fighter’s special attack is Anchor Claw where the two gigantic claws are launched at the target for massive damage (it will pretty much destroy the enemy’s ship).

Mint Blancmanche is the telepathic お嬢様/ojou-sama and sole heiress to the affluent Blancmanche Company. She ran away from home and enlisted into the military due to her father’s mercantile lifestyle and the fact he wouldn’t allow her to choose her own path in life. She has a strong penchant for tea and sweets and has a secret hobby of dressing up in animal cosplay outfits. Her calm and rational demeanor usually makes her the voice of reason among the members.

Trick Master is her Emblem Frame capable of both omnidirectional and highly accurate attacks. Mint can attack multiple enemies from any direction and it’s best to use her as support to weaken groups of enemy ships with her special attack and finishing off the enemies with the lowest health since the Trick Master is slower than the other Emblem Frames. Speaking of special attack, hers is Flier Dance where the ship’s fliers swarm all enemies in a specific area. If there’s only one enemy the damage output is very high, but if there are more of them they will each receive only modest damage because the fliers are spread out evenly across all targets. It can be the best special attack since the enemies usually move in groups.

Milfuelle Sakuraba is the kind-hearted, optimistic, air-headed girl who possesses extraordinary luck which is both a blessing and a curse. She has a passion for cooking and loves making other people happy. While “stupid” wouldn’t be the best word to describe her noetic abilities, she’s quite slow to understand situations unless it’s spelled out for her. She is extremely slow to anger and isn’t ever shown to be angry toward others, only mildly irritated or disappointed at best.

Her Emblem Frame is the Lucky Star (the irony), the most well-rounded of all the Emblem Frames that has high speed and is above average in everything else so it can fight in just about any situation. Lucky Star’s special attack is the Hyper Canon, a giant pink laser that literally destroys anything in front of it, across the ENTIRE map! It’s best to use at long range because sadly it’s not likely the enemy ships will happily line up to get blasted.

Forte Stollen is arguably the most attractive (I might just be saying this ’cause I’ve recently realized I have a thing for strong women, lol), mature, wise and “big sister” character. She has the most military experience, is the oldest by age and the leader of the Angel-tai. She also loves gunpowder guns in a time where such weapons have been superseded with light sabers and laser guns. She is perhaps the most sensible out of all the members.

Her Emblem Frame is called the Happy Trigger (tee hee), a heavy assault ship that has all kinds of weapons, armory and obviously contains the greatest attack/firepower of all the Emblem Frames. It’s the slowest of course and most of the enemy have already been defeated by the time it arrives on the scene. Its special attack is Strike Burst where Forte’s entire arsenal is unleashed on a single victim.

Vanilla H is the youngest member who is quiet but hardworking and has the ability to control nanomachines which allows her to treat wounds. Because nanomachine usage requires immense concentration, Vanilla suppressed her emotions to the point of being stoic and speaking in a monotonous voice. She still cares much for her close friends and loves interacting with animals. She becomes more expressive and vocal as the story goes on, especially in her route.

She pilots the Emblem Frame Harvester, which has the highest defense and is the only one with the ability to repair the other ships (but she can’t repair her own ship, the Elsior or ally ships that are not Emblem Frames). She also has the lowest attack and and is average in all other attributes. Her special Vapor Wave is invaluable though, by sending a huge wave of repairing nanomachines the Harvester is able heal all of the Angai-tai to full health, no matter where they are on the map.

 

Why I like this visual novel

Before playing this visual novel I never really cared for romance in fiction. Nowadays it’s one of my favorite genres, I just love seeing happy couples (whether real or fictional), I’m all like “Mayne, I hope you two stay happy and continue to treat each other well”. Anyway, the fact I was reading a story which makes love seem like the greatest thing since sliced bread was an interesting one. At the time, it blew my mind I could choose whom I want Tact to date since he wasn’t in the anime series. Tact is a protagonist worth investing in and the rest of the Elsior crew are wonderful. I especially love the banter between Tact and his best friend Lester. Despite being a visual novel, its battle field part was something different, fun to play and while there were challenging parts, I never found it to be frustrating. Besides the usual CG events the game also has fully animated cutscenes, usually happening during important moments in the story. Anyone who is a fan of the anime should definitely play this, it looks better, sounds better, feels better, the drama is genuine, the characters are more dynamic, and of course no friggin’ Normad! The main theme is catchy as well. I’m glad this was the first visual novel I ever read.

 

Ranpha x Tact

 

galaxyangel3

If you ask me, Tact and Ranpha are not only one of the best couples in anime, but in all of fiction.

Starchaser’s Favorite Visual Novels

I never have time to read visual novels nowadays. It’s a shame since they have some of the best stories I’ve ever been exposed to. Maybe when I graduate university I’ll get back in the game, but until then let me not waste any more time and instead tell you about some of the best visual novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

 

Muv-Luv Alternative 

Muv Luv Alternative

Muv-Luv Alternative is a true beauty. It’s difficult to talk about any of it without getting into spoiler territory though. Alternative is the third and final part of the Muv-Luv series. It takes characters you’ll be familiar with (it goes without saying if you want to read Alternative you SHOULD start with Extra and Unlimited first so you can appreciate it in its entirety) and puts them in a world where an alien invasion has humanity on the brink of extinction and human-piloted mechs are their only hope for survival.

This visual novel did a lot whilst making me feel a swirl of emotions and succeeded in doing so. I can’t understate how heavy the plot is though, and I wouldn’t recommend it for the weakhearted and those who can’t deal with depression. The ending is the definition of “bittersweet”, and calming songs such as this were able to hit me in the heart every time I heard it. Oh yeah, and it’s because of Alternative Ayamine Kei was solidified as one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. The only other character I hold in high regard is Miles “Tails” Prower. Her moment with Chizuru and reading her letter had me burst into tears.

 

Galaxy Angel 

Galaxy Angel

My community college days were fun and I have the Galaxy Angel trilogy to thank for that. It’s no secret Fullmetal Alchemist got me into anime and manga, and this is what got me into visual novels. There are probably better introductions, but make no mistake, Galaxy Angel is one of the best visual novels I ever read. The story is straightforward and the theme mostly centers around romantic love. It actually makes for a good amount of heartwarming moments no matter which girl you pair Tact Mayers with.  It’s one of the best romance stories I’ve ever experienced. Some people talk about Beyonce and Jay-Z being “relationship goals” but for me, I would want a relationship with a woman the way Tact Mayers has with Ranpha Franboise.

For me, this visual novel oozes with charm thanks to its pretty art style, sci-fi and futuristic setting and wonderful soundtrack. I should also mention “Eternal Love is one of the grooviest themes I’ve ever come across in any media. The moments where it plays is always fitting and a delight to hear. The actual battle gameplay mechanics are great as well even if they are on the simple side. The ending to the third and final installment is a happy one that’s bound to bring a smile to the reader’s face.

 

Grisaia no Kajitsu 

灰色的果实高清壁纸

This visual novel really tested my patience, both in a good and bad way. If I can encapsulate what Grisaia no Kajitsu is about I would say… everyone has their own story, everyone has their own struggles, and everyone makes mistakes, regardless if you can see any of them or not. Also, no one’s perfect. Anyway, the dialogue, writing, execution and unique heroines are what makes this piece of fictional work stand out.

This has the longest common route I’ve ever read and that’s what I mean by testing my patience in a bad way. What keeps it going though is the copious amount of comedy thanks to the girls’ quirks and Yuuji’s serious and stoic disposition providing a lot of hilarious moments. Once one of the heroine’s route starts, the tone of the story takes a turn for the more serious. I started to find a deeper meaning in why the woman in question is the way she is now. There are quite a number of plot twists in each route that kept me guessing and engrossed throughout.

 

Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!

Majikoi

This and Muv-Luv Alternative are the only visual novels I have given a 10/10 to. So yeah, I think it’s really damn good. Unlike the previous entries, Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai (usually shortened to Majikoi) is more lighthearted and over-the-top, and I’m a forgiving person especially since there wasn’t one character here I didn’t like. The story is about life, growing up and making memories with the people you love. It’s a story about family/friendship between a group of childhood friends. Considering I’m a happy person who loves his family and friends to death, I was able to get a lot from this visual novel.

It might be not plot heavy, but this is where the characters come in. All the characters are lovable, entertaining  and memorable. Besides the main characters, there’s also a bunch of supporting characters and they’re all great. They contribute to the comedic dialogue and each have at least one moment to shine. If there is one visual novel I would recommend, it would easily be this one.