[Personal note: Unlike the Road to Muv-Luv, I was actually around to experience most of these events, so this time around, I’m going to add these personal notes to the timeline. I hope they provide a more in-depth view of what the long wait for Alternative was like.]
February 28 2003
Muv-Luv is released.
October 05 2003
The Kimi ga Nozomu Eien anime starts airing.
[This is where I started. I watched this show as it was airing, and I was so impressed by it that I took the plunge and picked up the game before the anime even ended. I played through the main story in a single weekend and I was absolutely blown away by the power of the story. This was the first visual novel I had ever played and I was stunned by the storytelling possibilities of the medium. So when I looked up what else this company had done, and discovered that they had made a follow-up to this game – and what’s more, that it featured mechas, the great anime love of my life – I was all in.]
February 23 2004
Age finally updates their Muv-Luv website. Most notably, they announce that they will definitely release Alternative sometime in 2004. They also announce that they will release a DVD-ROM version of Muv-Luv (the original release was on CD-ROM).
[This was around the time that I had finished up Muv-Luv, so my earliest memory of Alternative was knowing that they would release the game sometime later this year. This struck me as a very reasonable amount of time to wait. Of course, for Japanese fans, this was a far more frustrating announcement. Keep in mind that an entire year has now passed since Muv-Luv was released, with almost no news whatsoever.]
April 10 2004
Age puts on a live event called “Songs From Age The Live”. During this event, JAM Project performs the Alternative theme song “Asu e no Houkou” and Hironobu Kageyama’s “Tsubasa” for the very first time.
[I still remember that awesome shock I felt when I first read that JAM Project would be doing the theme song to Alternative. I’m sure that nowadays it’s obvious that the two go together, but at the time it was almost unthinkable for an adult game to get a mainstream name like JAM Project. It was an amazing feeling of two of my favorite worlds colliding in a way that I absolutely would have sworn was impossible.]
April 30 2004
The DVD version of Muv-Luv is released.
[It’s been a very long time since I played that original CD version of Muv-Luv so I can’t remember specific details, but my general impression is that the DVD version didn’t make too many enhancements over the CD version. I do recall that they recast the role of Kashiwagi, replacing the original actress with the one who has been playing her ever since.]
October 21 2004
The Age website announces 2 release dates: December 17 2004 for Muv-Luv Supplement, and April 28 2005 for Muv-Luv Alternative.
[Fans were, of course, enraged by such a massive delay from what they were promised. Personally, this was the first time I had experienced one of Muv-Luv’s patented delays, so while I was disappointed, I was willing to suck it up. Before this, I had more or less put Muv-Luv out of my mind, confident that I would be able to return to it by the end of the year. Knowing now how long it was going to be before I could actually play the game, this was the point when I started actively seeking out news about Alternative.]
November 25 2004
The Akane Maniax OVA begins its release.
[It’s pretty sad to look back now and realize that Akane Maniax was the closest that the Muv-Luv characters have gotten to being animated. I still like to come back to this OVA and watch the Muv-Luv scenes in particular, and imagine what might have been. Years afterward, Yoshimune confirmed what everybody had suspected – that Akane Maniax was indeed intended to lead into a full Muv-Luv anime, and the final handover scene of the OVA was written with that in mind. That’s why Bandai Visual took over distribution of the final episode of the OVA. However, stuff happened behind the scenes and the project never came together. Bandai Visual would eventually make the KimiNozo Next Season OVA in order to salvage something from the deal.]
December 17 2004
Muv-Luv Supplement is released.
[From the moment it was announced, it was obvious that Supplement was simply something Age threw together in a hurry as an apology to fans for breaking their promise about Alternative. As such, I tend to be rather easy on it, since I never expected much from it to begin with. For me, and I imagine for many fans, the real draw of Supplement was the video of the Alternative OP included with the game. The OP included far more new images and video of Alternative than Age had released to this point. There was a time when I would watch the OP several times a day – it’s fair to say this is when I started getting very obsessed with Alternative. This version of the OP is so seared into my brain that, to this day, the 16:9 version of the OP that plays in the actual game still feels really weird to me.]
February 02 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is delayed 1 month to May 27. Age would eventually claim that this was due to the events of the 2004 Chuuetsu earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which had taken place over the past several months. Originally, the end of Operation 21st would have depicted a large tsunami devastating Honshu at Niigata. However, Age felt that this event needed to be changed in light of the real-life devastation of Niigata, followed closely by the real-life tsunami rampaging across the Indian Ocean. Changing this event, and in particular Kashiwagi’s original role in it, required changing many other sections of the story that originally referred to it as well. Remnants of the originally scripted tsunami remain in the final story, but its effects are largely glossed over.
[Of course, Age wasn’t going to spoil their own story by explaining this when announcing the delay, so from our perspective it just looked like Age can’t release their game on time once again. By this point, I was so invested in Alternative that even a month’s delay was painful.]
April 19 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is delayed 2 months to July 29. Age would eventually claim that this was due to the anti-Japanese demonstrations that had broken out in China and across East Asia earlier this month. This required changes to the depiction of Imperial Japan in the game in order to downplay elements that could be misconstrued as promoting Japanese nationalism. One thing that has come up several times in interviews is Age’s fear that the game will be perceived as a right-wing, nationalistic work. They particularly fear that, as an adult game, they won’t be cut any slack or be allowed to argue about the larger artistic themes being portrayed. They’ve consistently cited it as one of the major factors that scares potential partners away from working on an anime adaptation of Alternative.
[You’ll note that this is a new 2-month delay announced only a month before release. Up to this point I had been trying to cut Age some slack, but this latest delay pushed the game out to 7 months past the “end of 2004” date I had originally heard about, so I was definitely starting to match the anger that the Japanese fans were feeling. Keep in mind that this was around the time that Alternative was supposed to be released according to their announcement back in October, which just made this latest delay even more difficult to swallow.]
May 21 2005
The gaming magazine Tech Gian includes a major feature on Alternative, including an official demo. The demo starts with a sneak peek at the attack during the XM3 Trials, before moving into Chapter 1 of the game, finishing when Takeru officially joins the 207th. The demo also shows off the games’ major new features, such as the 16:9 aspect ratio, talking/blinking animations, and the removal of the textbox. The game’s official website is also updated.
[For me, this demo was a big, big deal. The story being teased was so promising, but I was especially taken with the sneak peek included at the beginning of the demo, which depicted an actual battle between our heroes and the BETA. Much like the 4:3 version of the OP included with Supplement, I played through this section so many times over the next 9 months that it is burned into my brain – to this day, I can’t play through this section of the game without thinking of the old demo. Nowadays, things like the 16:9 aspect ratio and the talking/blinking animations are pretty standard, so it’s hard to describe how amazing this game looked at the time. I think Alternative was one of the very first visual novels, if not the very first, to do 16:9. This game looked like a BIG FUCKING DEAL – it felt far more advanced and important than anything else on the market.]
May 25 2005
JAM Project’s “Muv-Luv Alternative Insertion Song Collection” is released. This mini-album includes JAM Project’s “Asu e no Houkou”, Hironobu Kageyama’s “Tsubasa”, and Masaaki Endoh’s “Carry on”.
[Finally, after 5 months of endlessly playing the OP video from Supplement, I could finally listen to JAM Project’s new song on its own. I listened to these songs constantly over the next 9 months, and pored over the lyrics sheet trying to figure out how they fit into the game. “Tsubasa”, in particular, was clearly written to reference a specific storyline in the game, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the story would develop. I failed, of course.]
July 11 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is delayed indefinitely. Age would eventually claim that this was due to the 2005 London bombings, which brought terrorism back to the front page. This necessitated another round of changes, particularly to the 12/5 Incident, in order to avoid accusations that they may be portraying terrorism in a sympathetic light. Due to this, scenes showing the events from the viewpoint of the rebels were cut – in the final game, the entire incident is shown pretty much exclusively from Takeru’s point of view. Age may also have wanted to simply put distance between the London attack and the release of their game, hence the indefinite delay until they felt the political atmosphere had cleared.
[The game was scheduled to be released July 29, meaning this delay came only 18 days before the game was to be released. After waiting for so long, I felt that delay like an almost physical blow to the gut. This was the moment when I finally lost all faith that Age would ever release something on time. Much like the five stages of grief, I had finally moved to Acceptance – the peaceful knowledge that Age’s release dates are not to be trusted, and that is simply the way things are. Moving into this stage is a crucial part of becoming a Muv-Luv fan.]
August 10 2005
Minami Kuribayashi’s single “Muv-Luv” (Alternative version) is released.
[If you’re paying attention, that now makes all 3 theme song releases for Muv-Luv (including the original “Muv-Luv” single from 2002) that were timed to release alongside the game, only to be stranded when the game got delayed. I can’t imagine Lantis was amused by having all 3 of their releases go out without the product they were supposed to support.]
November 15 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is officially scheduled for February 24 2006.
[By this point, I was finished with all the speculation, the analysis, going back through the game to find clues to Alternative, trying to piece together all the different scraps of info we were given . . . I just wanted this date to be true. For the love of God, just let this date be true. There were definitely fans who now believed that Alternative would never come out, and everything Age said to the contrary was a filthy lie. I couldn’t bear to believe that . . . just let this date be true.]
February 24 2006
Muv-Luv Alternative is officially released.
[Having now waited 3 full years for the conclusion to the story, Alternative needed to be the greatest game in the world for fans to turn their opinion around…]