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Developer: âge Publisher: PQube Platform: PS Vita and PC Release Date: June 12, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature It is hardly an overstatement to say that the success of Muv-Luv's Kickstarter is a testament to just how much people adore Muv-Luv Alternative. Being the final act of a visual novel trilogy, Muv-Luv Alternative firmly plays upon the expectations of its once lighthearted roots in the original Muv-Luv to present a far more mature sci-fi tale in which the stakes have never been higher. Does it provide an exciting, satisfying conclusion or will it leave the player traumatized by the end of the whole ordeal? ...That was a trick question, actually, because Muv-Luv Alternative has no shortage of excitement and trauma. As the the trilogy finale, Muv-Luv Alternative expects a strong familiarity of the original Muv-Luv because it takes nearly every route, character, and story element from them into account. Because of this, some amount of narrative spoilers of the previous titles are pretty much unavoidable when talking about Alternative to any serious degree even though there will be an effort to minimize them. With that disclaimer out of the way, Muv-Luv Alternative brings players back in the past, quite literally, as the lead character Takeru Shirogane's consciousness returns to an all too familiar October date yet again in a Groundhog Day fashion. After witnessing the end of mankind during its last ditch effort plan called "Alternative V" within Muv-Luv Unlimited's finale, Takeru is now driven to do whatever it takes to steer mankind's chance at survival back on its course and prevent it from happening once again. With this pretense, Alternative has the really intriguing setup of both the player and lead character being on the page regarding events of games past. As such, most of the in-game dialogue choices have the player/Takeru armed with the knowledge they should not have at this point, yet also the anxiety of the consequences when attempting to change too much to the point where he can not predict events going forward. It is by playing upon this expectation that the storytelling is quite willing to teach players that change may not necessarily be for the better. The previous title, Muv-Luv Unlimited, frequently tip-toed around its darker story elements yet rarely committed to anything to a frustrating degree. Muv-Luv Alternative, however, has an immense sense of foreboding throughout and one can not really overstate just how grim the narrative can shift at any time. For instance, there was certain gut punch sequence in particular that left me so disheartened that I literally could not play the game the following day. Not because I was not engaged I while playing it, but because of how effective the game was at delivering its narrative cruelty. Little did I know that I was not even halfway through the game yet and had so much more (gripping) heartbreak in store. To say that Muv-Luv Alternative is an emotional roller-coaster is putting it lightly, but there is a slow introductory ramp before reaching those immense narratives highs. It is not exactly due to its deliberate Groundhog Day nature of seeing familiar events in a different light either but mostly because of how Takeru himself has a few too many redundant flashbacks and goofy anime antics that it makes the early narrative pacing move to a near crawl in addition to revisiting what should be familiar events. Plus, well, the game itself is massive for visual novel standards and will easily take fifty hours for slower readers to get through. So it is quite demanding to ask players to trudge through noticeably less compelling initial story instances when it goes on for more than a few hours. But still, in spite of its pacing issues, Muv Luv Alternative wisely utilizes a lot of it to work towards some straight up expertly-handled character development for its lead protagonist in particular. Frankly speaking, Takeru was rather obnoxious in the previous games (heck, the start of this game too) to the point it was difficult to believe that any woman would fall head over heels for him in games past and to see him evolve so thoroughly as a person in a very believable way is nothing short of impressive. The many key heroines do certainly have their time in the limelight as well too, of course, like the incredibly strong-willed Meiya to the fascinating yet also so very morally ambiguous scientist Yuuko, but few of them see nearly as much change as Takeru does during Alternative's tale. Going back to the main story, however, in addition to it being very emotionally charged it also far more complex from a world-building perspective than prior Muv-Luv titles.Themes that were vaguely touched upon in Unlimited this game more than delves into like from a political intrigue standpoint, to the inner-workings of their mech suits as well as battle tactics, and, for better or worse, the true horrors of war from both a human perspective and also a very not human one when the alien race called the BETA makes it abundantly clear why mankind is on the brink of extinction in this timeline. It is a highly involved grand finale and after seeing first hand just the lengths it goes to tell it there is no doubt in my mind it is regarded as a classic for a reason. It is easy to put an unreasonable level of expectations upon Muv-Luv Alternative. It demands so much out out of the player upfront with two basically mandatory visual novel predecessors, as well as to be able to put up with Alternative's own fairly plodding early goings from a time-commitment perspective to fully appreciate its massive narrative. But, that is just it, while there are most certainly a few glaring shortcomings Muv-Luv Alternative's narrative high points are incredibly high. Whether it be through the course of its grim but compelling sci-fi tale to its phenomenal lead character development it is easy to see why the fandom is so passionate towards this trilogy finale. Those that are in-fact patient enough to go through the demanding legwork will likely confidently see why Muv-Luv Alternative earns its title as a classic among visual novels. Pros + Stellar character development + Immensely grim, but very compelling storytelling Cons - A few too many flashback moments (and silly anime antics) lead to some really slow early exposition in particular - Context from the previous two Muv-Luv games is basically required Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great By being just as grim as it is poignant Muv-Luv Alternative ends up being a thrilling conclusion to the trilogy for those patient enough to put up with its many slower early pacing moments Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
Jason Clement posted a article in Industry NewsPQube's and JoySteak Studio's Songbird Symphony is out on digital shops this week, and it stars a cute little bird named 'Birb' that sets off on an adventure to discover his heritage. As Birb, you'll move the environment around you by tapping in sync with background beats, solve different puzzles to add new sound queues to the background music, collect feathers to learn more about different birds, and explore interconnected levels with many different passages. Oh, and you'll participate in rhythm battles as well, and with its combination of platforming, rhythm, and puzzles, it definitely looks to be one of the more unique indie titles out this year. If that all sounds good to you, you can check out Songbird Symphony on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC (via Steam) for $16.99. And be sure to check out the trailer below! Source: Press Release
Developer: Age Publisher: PQube Platform: PS Vita and PC Release Date: June 12, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature The Muv-Luv series may be one of the more surprising success stories on Kickstarter. Gathering over one million dollars in Kickstarter donations for an official localization is more than enough proof that the two-decade-old visual novel series certainly has a passionate fandom behind it. Yet, those that did already have a preexisting attachment to Muv-Luv had to wait until 2016 for the official PQube PC release. This year, Sony's PlayStation Vita has seemingly been resuscitated for the same reason, but before getting to the highly acclaimed finale that is Muv-Luv Alternative (which will be reviewed separately), series newcomers are best served by playing the original and separate retail release that is simply called Muv-Luv for reasoning that may not pop into one's brain right away. The first game, commonly referred to as "Muv-Luv Extra", has a setup that frankly feels like it was ripped out of a time capsule contributed by nearly every early 2000's era romantic comedy anime. You have your high school setting backdrop full of romantic interests like the childhood friend, Sumika, to the incredibly rich yet socially awkward, Meiya, that attempt to vie for the affection of the completely oblivious main guy. Muv-Luv Extra absolutely thrives on its often lighthearted enthusiasm above all else. The humor is frequently slapstick and is complemented by very expressive anime character portraits that are honestly much more lively than most visual novels nowadays, which is impressive. It will easily go from the typical mouth flaps and blinking eyes of many visual novels, exaggerated camera panning, to random chibi expressions at the drop of a hat to emphasize the punchline to nearly every joke. Even when not all of the jokes hit their mark (some, uh... out of touch heteronormative perspectives/perverted gags from the obnoxious main dude included), there is a genuine energy to it that makes it entertaining to go through it regardless. That said, Muv-Luv Extra is pretty simple for visual novel standards. Narrative choices are rarely more complex than picking whose bento you want to eat for lunch and staying committed to one of the five wooable heroines to reach their potential ending. Even then, though, there is a clear discrepancy in importance (and likability) with Meiya and Sumika versus nearly everyone else, despite me being a fan of Kei's deadpan humor. Most characters also do not necessarily have much depth to them beyond their apparent anime character tropes making it difficult to justify going beyond seeing the ends of the primary two heroines. It is almost hard to believe that one can really do much with this simple cast of characters for more than one game despite them being likable enough in Muv-Luv Extra. Well, as it turns out, all you need to freshen up the experience is a dramatically different setting in which mankind is on the brink of extinction due to an alien race called the "BETA" in an alternate sci-fi Japan. This is where Muv-Luv Unlimited comes into play which is a separate game despite featuring many familiar faces. And, believe it or not, it is actually a direct sequel to Muv-Luv Extra as well. The reasoning to this, of course, is a spoiler but is partially made clear to the player immediately upon starting up Muv-Luv Unlimited's tale. Muv-Luv Unlimited is the starting point of why the Muv-Luv series was so subversive back in 2003 and gives people a taste of why the series is so beloved. Players immediately question everything they thought they knew in Muv-Luv Extra from the entirely new world to characters. It is compelling to see much more in-depth world-building like the eerie alternate timeline of World War II, the inner-workings of its many sci-fi elements, to higher-brow story concepts for a cast that once cared about little more than high school romance. The biggest problem, however, is that the storytelling itself is very incomplete. There is a lot meandering day to day (under the guise of team building) which was fine in Muv-Luv Extra but feels tonally dissonant with the apocalyptic pretense of Muv-Luv Unlimited. In addition to this are many clearly important story devices that are kept an incredibly tight lip on and frankly will not be answered for players until Muv-Luv Alternative. To rub the most salt on the wound in regards to pacing are, undoubtedly, the many fanservice scenes that stem from its original erotic game roots despite being the "All-Ages" version. Maybe it is just me but when five billion humans have been killed by the BETA I have a difficult time finding an anime beach scene appropriate in the slightest for these lead military cadets training to combat them. The original Muv-Luv is a tricky visual novel to judge. By themselves, both Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited are decent enough visual novels, but neither are nuanced enough to be all that remarkable. Muv-Luv Extra being a perky romantic comedy full of charm while Muv-Luv Unlimited is a subversive take on the once familiar cast of characters and sets the stage for a far more intriguing sci-fi setup. Unfortunately, both titles are rife with rough edges regarding pacing, anime tropes, and lack of story resolution. As parts of a grander tale, however, both games do just enough to trigger one's curiosity and, hopefully, such patience is rewarded whenever one gets around to playing the highly regarded trilogy finale of Muv-Luv Alternative. Pros + Very expressive character portraits that feel more active than a lot of modern visual novels + Intriguing setting shift between the two games that presents familiar faces in a dramatically different context + A bizarre, antiquated anime charm with memorable characters Cons - Many rather cliche story beats throughout - Recycled music between both games is disappointing - Really out of place fanservice scenes with Muv-Luv Unlimited in particular despite attempting to be much more serious - A lot of storytelling is clearly left open for the would-be finale Muv-Luv Alternative Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Muv-Luv gives players a taste of why the visual novel series is so iconic but without the resolution of Muv-Luv Alternative to wrap the experience up makes the original release feel more disjointed than it should be Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.