Muv-Luv Expo: The Summer of (Muv) Luv

July 2, 2020

The Muv-Luv team just finished up its Anime Expo replacement stream, Muv-Luv Expo, and it was a real banger, so let’s go over what was announced.

The stream started off with its main announcements panel (which was awful nice of them, oftentimes companies hold off on their big announcements until the end of their event).  Here’s what they talked about:

Project Mikhail: The professional smartphone game.  They had shown off some gameplay videos at Age’s earlier C98 stream, but I wound up not blogging about it because it was largely in line with what we knew about it already.  This one is more of a 3D action game, and allows you to customize your own TSF, using parts from many different TSFs.  Battle is much more hands-on, as you can select your weapon payload and fighting style.

In this stream, though, they announced for the first time that the game is an MMO in which all of the players participate in a single shared world.  Furthermore, they stated that they would be taking advantage of Muv-Luv’s built-in setting of multiple timelines to suggest that the timeline of this game is separate from the “main” Alternative timeline, and that the collective actions of all the players can shape the path this timeline will take.  That’s a really intriguing idea, and it actually makes me a little interested in the possibilities of this game for the first time (I hadn’t really bought too much into either smartphone game before this).

Project Immortal: The fanmade smartphone game.  While Mikhail recruited developers with a lot of previous game development experience, Immortal is basically just one guy who was passionate enough to get approval from Anchor.  This one seems to have less real-time elements, with a turn-based strategy part, and an action part that seems much less complicated than Mikhail’s.  In this one, you don’t seem to be customizing your own TSF; rather you customize your units by combining different pilots, TSFs, and weapons.  I believe that in Mikhail you’re generally controlling a single character (representing yourself) with a custom TSF, while in Immortal you’re controlling an entire team of preexisting characters that you pull with a gacha system.

Both games are slated to release in 2021, and both games seem to be targeting both smartphones and PCs.

Muv-Luv Photonmelodies: Apparently this game was approved for Steam mere minutes before the stream started, so now they’re able to confirm that it will come out by the end of July.  I’ll put up a more detailed post about what’s in it once it’s released.  Suffice to say most players will be interested in the Altered Fable section, focusing on the world of Final Extra that appears at the end of Alternative.  There are two other Chronicles stories included, but let’s face it, nobody’s basing their decision to buy this game on those stories.

Muv-Luv Alternative Manga: Wow.  Talk about coming out of left field.  The manga for Alternative, drawn by artist Azusa Maxima, will be coming out digitally starting this month.  This is a great adaptation of Alternative that spans 17 (!) volumes, and took 10 (!) years to come out.  (It only just wrapped up 3 years ago!  That was around the time Alternative itself came out on Steam!)  That kind of time allows Maxima to insert a number of original events not covered in the original game, mostly fleshing out some of the side characters.

It’s a shame this is only covering the Alternative manga, as anybody trying to read the manga on its own won’t have the proper context for the story.  On the other hand, the Extra and Unlimited manga aren’t really anything to write home about, so maybe it’s for the best.  The Alternative manga is definitely the one that’s worth your time, regardless of how many times you’ve already played through the game.

I don’t know who’s publishing it (is Anchor doing it directly?), but I sure hope that whoever’s in charge of translating it is consulting the game’s translation.  I’ve seen multimedia projects being translated into English that do appear to refer to an existing translation to keep things consistent, and I hope that’s happening here.  It would be very difficult for the manga translation to live up to the game’s high standard otherwise, and that would be a shame.

Incidentally, while artist Azusa Maxima has a great artstyle that beautifully captures the spirit of Alternative, he also draws some very adorable SD art, to the point where he began providing the SD art for Age’s actual games.  In fact, you can see his SD art in both of the Chronicles stories included in Photonmelodies, also out this month.  Synergy!

The Anime: They showed off some design art for the Takemikazuchi that appeared in the anime trailer.  I remain unconvinced by the way they keep dodging the question of what exactly this is going to entail.  This is still very much in the early stages, so I continue to withhold judgement until we actually get some details.

The Artbook: Perhaps feeling bad for how Anime Expo’s cancellation means no convention goodies for fans, Anchor has made a digital version of their Comiket artbook Age Graphicers available for purchase.  This is a neat book collecting a lot of artwork, but be aware that it’s pretty thin, and quite a number of pages are devoted to games that will almost certainly never be released in English.  But be honest: if you had gone to Anime Expo, the amount they’re asking for this book is barely a rounding error, so go ahead and treat yourself if you’ve got the money.

Muv-Luv Unlimited: The Day After: They had already announced on their C98 stream that they were bringing this to Steam, so this announcement was no surprise.  On the C98 stream, they weren’t yet ready to commit to announcing this in English, but realistically, there’s no good reason to be putting this on Steam unless they planned on reaching a global audience.

I was pleasantly surprised by the much stronger confirmation that they’ll finally be releasing the final chapter, 04.  Maybe it’s just that it’s been so long since they’ve released a new game, but I was quite moved to see them talking about it with such confidence – they usually react to questions about finishing TDA by dodging the question with vague promises about the future.  They released some concept art of the final chapter, but we’ll skip talking about them here since some of them were pretty spoilery about previous chapters.

So what is The Day After?  Well, you may recall Unlimited ending with a handful of people being evacuated off Earth, the plan being to then drop G-Bombs on all the remaining Hives on the planet.  The Day After explores the aftermath of that operation, and it isn’t pretty.

Although the core cast is new, the supporting cast is largely made up of supporting characters from across all the different Muv-Luv franchises.  This is not a standalone franchise like Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken – finishing the original trilogy is an absolute requirement, and the game rewards familiarity with the shared universe.  For instance: while you can go into The Day After having only played the original trilogy, the upcoming Photonmelodies will introduce (or at least mention) THREE new characters who go on to appear in The Day After at some point.  More synergy!

Speaking of, another fairly prominent supporting character in The Day After makes her first appearance in the Alternative manga, in one of those original episodes I mentioned earlier.  In fact, depending on the release schedule of both the manga and The Day After, it’s possible she may appear in both at around the same time.  Even more synergy!

Mini-Concert: With the announcements complete, the stream moved on to a special pre-recorded mini-concert with Aki Misato and Minami Kuribayashi.  Aki Misato sang “Kizu wa Kaseki ni Naranai Keredo” (the ending theme to Chizuru’s route in Extra), “calling” (the ending theme to Alternative Chronicles), and “Saigo no Eden” (the opening theme to the upcoming The Day After).  Minami Kuribayashi then sang “Muv-Luv” (obviously, the opening theme to Muv-Luv and the ending theme to Alternative), “Doubt the World” (the second opening theme for the Total Eclipse anime), and “Divergence” (the opening theme for the old all-ages edition of Muv-Luv).  “Divergence” is a pretty strange choice, since it doesn’t play on the English version of the game.  But it’s a song I haven’t heard in a while, so it was nice to hear it here.

Chat with the Creators: This was an interesting segment where fans submitted questions for the creators directly through Twitter and Youtube chat.  Western fans may not realize it, but in Japan, creators don’t usually take such blunt questions, especially about projects that are still in development.  I thought the Japanese staff took it with admirably good humor, and responded seriously to each question.

Comedic highlights include Yoshimune taking it to Gundam Seed Destiny by saying nobody wants to see the old heroes overshadow the new, current heroes in The Day After.  He also responded to a question about the strongest TSF by saying that across all the Muv-Luv properties, it would be the Hinokagutsuchi, which is an extremely powerful gag robot from a gag game.

They also talked a little about the Yui/Anime route for Total Eclipse, which remains something I am very interested in reading one day.  Any time they bring the Yui route back into the conversation is time well spent as far as I’m concerned.  I know we’re not getting it any time soon, I just want them to know we haven’t forgotten about it.

Finally, I wanted to close out this recap by mentioning a couple of more serious notes that Yoshimune touched on.  In one, he mentioned how he always tries to write the international politics of Muv-Luv without ever allowing one side to become simply evil – all sides are in a desperate struggle for survival, and all sides are on some level justified in believing what they do is for the greater good.  In another, he mentioned how he always tries to keep in mind that every character, no matter how small the role, has their own life and their own story.  These are the very aspects of Muv-Luv that most appeal to me.  I’ve written about them before, but I don’t think Western fans have ever had the opportunity to hear Yoshimune himself talk about them so directly.  Muv-Luv is a massive work and everybody likes a different aspect of it, but I hope that there are some fans out there who heard what Yoshimune had to say today, and perhaps started thinking that maybe those are things that are important to them as well.  It would make me very happy to know that there are fans who see Muv-Luv the way I do.