In an insane world, a fate is tossed about
In a world headed toward destruction, a flame of life blazes forth
And that which could be spun out, one more future
Unable to be told before, it is alternative ending.
A very great, very small, very precious,
tale of love and courage.
-Promotional lines for Muvluv Alternative.
Release Dates: DVD-ROM: Feb. 24, 2006
This is a spoiler-free introduction/review to the game, a much more spoiler-laden synopsis will be available. aha Looks like I wrote this overview up over 6 months ago and forgot to post it. Oops, sorry about that. ^^;;; .
After a very very long delay after the release of the original Muvluv, the final chapter in the story was released almost 3 years after with numerous delays where Age would announce a release date, only to go back and delay things for months on end. How long was the wait? Well, according to a fan site that obsessively tracks the roles of the actress who plays Sumika: sale date announced 10/17/2004 for 4/28/2005, then on 2/1 moved to 5/27, then on 4/19 to 7/29. Then on 7/11 the date was simply removed and the game was “in production.” Then on 11/15/2005 it was announced for 2/24/2006. And, finally, it released. Phew.
What makes Alternative unique is that it is very much like an epic film. If a film could be believed to take maybe 20-30 hours of play time. On my first play through, I clocked a little under 30 hours, native speakers apparently finish around half to 2/3rds of that. The screen is, for the first time in a game that I have seen at least, wide screen 1024 pixels across resolution. I have seen games that portrayed most of the images in wide-screen-like format before (such as Nekonekosoft’s Gin’iro in 2001) but never at a resolution of this size.
There is also only one story line in the entire game, and only one ending. The only branchings that occur are minor branches along the way which determine which of the girls come up for certain small events. That said, for those who still have yet to play the game, don’t do what I did, which was attempt to complete the game over the course of a weekend; which, while might be doable, would involve practically no sleep.
The premise of the story is somewhat simple, but perhaps not. At the end of Muvluv: Unlimited, we were treated to something of a monologue by Takeru. In that monologue, he expressed perhaps what we all wanted to come to pass for the world of Unlimited. That, there was some meaning to his coming to this world, and that, if only he had the will to protect something from the very beginning, maybe, just maybe, there was something that only he could do. We all have waited a very long time to see the answer, and Alternative pretty much delivers.
The first thing we find in our reunion with Takeru is that time has reset itself. Inexplicably, Takeru finds himself back on the day when he originally appeared in this world. However, this time, something was different, Takeru had memories, memories of events that occured in Unlimited. And now, armed with this knowledge, as well as the training that he had receieved in the past, he now has the desire to save the human race from the very beginning.
The game’s official genre as quoted by Age is “a tale of love and courage” and part of the lines in the promotion material. It is actaully a very good succinct description of the story. At its heart is a story about love so deep that it breaks all barriers, while also being a tale about the unimaginable courage needed to literally save a world. Alternative is very good with respect to showing that, no matter how special Takeru may be, it takes so very much to save a world, that it couldn’t be done alone, and that it takes many many events and experiences to shape someone to be even capable of being a focal point for saving the human race.
As expected in a continuation of a story, the primary cast remains unchanged from Muvluv. What has changed was that there is now a vastly expanded cast of important supporting characters. Far from simply being totally one dimensional plot or humor devices as expected from many supporting roles, the supporting cast members are also fleshed out, to varying degrees, as people with multiple sides to them, as well as people who bear a unique importance to the story in some way or other.
Most prominent of the new additions are of course the three main heroines of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. Suzumiya Haruka, Akane, and Hayase Mitsuki. Akane played a small cameo role in the original Muvluv, but all three play a large role in Alternative.
Among other new characters characters, Izumi Michiru stands out as being previously from another Age game, Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu.
In the parallel universe of Alternative, there are many brief cameos, for instance, Kiminozo’s Takayuki is mentioned on occasion, the driver of the 60-meter limo, Takahashi appears, etc..
The are two things that are annoying about Alternative. The first is the lack of any kind of scene replay feature. While, scene replays aren’t universal in the industry, the linear story of Alternative really lends itself to such a feature, and it saddens me that it doesn’t exist. The only consolation is that the save feature of rUGP (supposedly) allows for up to 1000 saves, with the ability to place free-form text comments. If you build up a good save bank, then you can overlook this, but it’d make a better feature. This flaw is addressed in the all-ages version by the way, and I’ll discuss differences between the versions some other time.
Second, there is no music mode after the game is finished. Admittedly, I don’t use such features very much when I play these games, but it’s such a simple and ubiquitous feature, not to mention the music is just gorgeous (they used a live orchestra for much if not all of it).
Finally, there was one complaint about Muvluv Alternative from one group of fans. Alternative is very dark, very serious, with far less instances of the comedy which had set the original Muvluv apart from Kiminozo. Those who were expecting comedy were somewhat disappointed. Instead of comedy, Alternative focuses upon drama of Kiminozo proportions. It is war, people will die, sometimes graphically (a source of complaint for some, but even those scenes were placed purposefully, not out of sadistic whim) The number of scenes that can draw out tears is quite high, and as someone who loves moving scenes that are well-written, and I can’t help but love it.