Age 20th Anniversary Broadcast “still breathing”

October 22, 2019

What an event! A lot just happened, so let’s talk about what was announced and what it means for the future of Muv-Luv.

The event was streamed on both Muv-Luv’s Japanese and English official YouTube channels. The English stream was accompanied by a real-time translator. You can still watch the archived stream here.

The event took place at the Avex building in Tokyo. The event actually began around 11AM JST, with special themed food and a garage sale of much of Age’s excess merchandise that they’ve accumulated over the years. The stream itself began at 4PM JST, and generally played Age music for 2 hours until the talk event was scheduled to start at 6PM.

Shortly before the talk event was scheduled to start, though, they allocated a little time for a special opening act. After originally announcing his intention to hold an event, Yoshimune was contacted by a an indie game developer named Kitakuou, who wanted to make his own TSF game.  Yoshimune gave him a few minutes before the actual talk event to present his game concept to the audience.  He showed off a little gameplay, which I thought looked pretty cool – it reminded me of the Baldr series.  I think for this event he’s simply looking to raise awareness and get a buy-in from the official rights holders, and he’ll look to raise money to make this game in the future.

The talk event itself began afterwards.  Let’s talk about the people who were involved:

Kouki Yoshimune, I assume, needs no introduction – he’s the CEO Age, and he is basically the creator of Muv-Luv.

Tororo is the former CEO of Circus, another visual novel developer that was very close with Age in the Chiyoren days.

Nobukazu Sakai is the CEO of Minori, another visual novel developer.  They also did some events with Chiyoren back in the day, but they didn’t seem to be as close to them as Circus was.

Bamboo is the CEO of Overdrive, yet another visual novel developer.  He seems to have gotten close to Yoshimune a little later than the other two, probably sometime after Alternative was released.  As far as his relationship with Age, he’s probably most famous for helping produce a series of BETA hoodies, some of which were still available during the Muv-Luv Kickstarter.  He’s also the one who invited Age to Anime Expo back in 2010.

Mafia Kajita is not a CEO of anything; he is a writer, often writing articles for 4Gamer.net.  He seems to have gotten close to Yoshimune while writing up some articles about Age and Muv-Luv.  They’re close enough that Yoshimune has invited him to similar Age talk events in the past.  He’s listed as the “representative of the fans”, probably because he doesn’t really have any connection to the franchise beyond being a bag fan himself.

The MC of the event was Takao Yagi, who first met Yoshimune when he served as the director of Radio Total Eclipse.  They got along well enough that Yoshimune invited him to be a fellow host on Age’s own in-house radio program, which he worked on for almost 2 years.  Since then, he’s been invited back to be the MC for several Age talk events.

Anyway, as is probably clear at this point, the guests for this event basically consist of people that Yoshimune is good friends with, rather than people who may actually be involved in Muv-Luv.

After some introductory remarks, they moved on to looking back at Age’s 20-year history.  This was accompanied by a (very) detailed timeline of Age’s works, apparently put together by Age’s main writer/director Hayato Tashiro (who, as the commentators quip, may have a little too much love for the company’s history).  The timeline includes not just Age’s games, but also their tie-in drama CDs, manga, novels, anime, radio, and live events – yeah, it’s a little crowded and hard to read.  Yoshimune says they’ll probably put it on the website so people can actually read it.  From what I was able to read of it, there’s actually quite a bit of snark in it, so it may be worth it to go through it once it’s up.  They blaze through this part pretty quickly, and nothing of real interest comes up, so let’s skip to the next section, where they talked about:

Current (Old?) Projects: In this section, they mentioned the Android ports of Muv-Luv promised by the Kickstarter, the complete version of The Day After, and the final fan book for their old fan club Ageku no Hate.  They don’t really have a lot of updates for these projects, other than to acknowledge that they need to get done and that they still have every intention of doing so.

My personal impression has always been that Age regards TDA as a very low priority.  I think it’s pretty clear at this point that TDA (and the Chronicles series in general) was just a way for Age to occupy their time while all of the moving parts for the Total Eclipse anime and game lined up.  Once Total Eclipse was completed, they quit putting out the Chronicles series, and ever since then I suspect they’d rather focus their efforts on new projects instead.  This is especially true ever since Avex bought out Ixtl – I’m sure that Avex would rather they spend their time on what comes next instead of working on old projects.  And after seeing some of the stuff they introduced later in the stream, I’m not entirely sure I blame them.

Yoshimune insists that he is determined to get TDA out, and at one point even insists it will come out sometime next year (under the theory that setting a firm date will get things moving), but it still doesn’t sound like anybody is currently actively working on it, so I think I’m going to file that one under “wishful thinking”.

Afterwards, they had a cute section where Yoshimune pointed out a couple that had met each other because of KimiNozo, and they gifted the couple a pair of Mitsuki and Haruka illustrations by the original artist, Baka Ouji Persia / Gai Sugihara.

After that, they moved onto introducing their new projects.  They started with the surprise announcement that Totoro (who, you remember, had been introduced as the “former” CEO of Circus), is now working with Age as the Muv-luv general producer.  (They also announced more humorous titles for Sakai and Bamboo, but I’m pretty sure those were just gags.)  From there, they moved into their first major announcement:

Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Reboot: This project is what was being hinted at by the artwork posted to Age’s website a couple of months ago.  They didn’t announce any major details, except that, according Totoro, he would like it to connect to Muv-Luv.  I have some more thoughts on this below, in light of later announcements.

At this point, they showed off some video messages submitted by some pretty major guests:

Hajime Isayama, the creator of Attack on Titan, was first.  In the afterword to one of the Alternative manga volumes, Isayama proclaimed that he had “plagarized” Alternative, by which he obviously meant he was heavily inspired by it, but which was taken out of context and passed around the anime clickbait sites for a while.  Ever since then, Isayama has been a major promoter of Muv-Luv, giving interviews in support of their projects and even showing up at a couple of talk events.

Kumi Koda, the singer for the first Total Eclipse anime opening, was next.  According to Yoshimune, he had strongly pushed for Masami Okui (who had sang the original Total Eclipse opening) to do the anime opening as well, but the deal between Avex and Okui fell through at the last minute, and Avex offered Koda, one of their biggest names, as an apology.  Koda was on maternity leave at the time, but according to Yoshimune, she was very happy to work on this project.  To be honest, I’m a little surprised to see her here, as she’s much too big to be slumming it at the Age 20th anniversary, and I suspect that, much like with her original involvement, she’s making this appearance because of Avex, not because of Age or Muv-Luv.  Nevertheless, she sounds very positive here about her time working on Total Eclipse.

Granrodeo was up next.  These guys have a long history with Age.  The vocalist, Kishou Taniyama, was the voice of Takayuki in KimiNozo, and the way he tells it, one night while working on the KimiNozo anime, he went out for karaoke with Age publicist Saitou K and Lantis music producer Yoshiyuki Itou.  Apparently he impressed Itou enough that Itou offered him a character CD release for Takayuki, which is pretty unheard of for the male lead of a visual novel.  Taniyama credits this event with starting his music career.  Roughly a year later, Lantis was put in charge of the Japanese music for IGPX, a Cartoon Network co-production.  For some reason (possibly because it was a Cartoon Network project and not a lot was riding on the Japanese release), Itou decided to get creative and assigned KimiNozo-related artists to the project.  Taniyama (the voice of Takayuki) was paired with Masaaki Iizuka (a composer who worked on most of Age’s songs up to that point) for the opening theme, while Minami Kuribayashi (the voice of Haruka) and Chiaki Takahashi (the voice of Mitsuki) were paired for the ending theme.  Kuribayashi and Takahashi’s group Exige never did anything else, but Taniyama and Iizuka’s group Granrodeo went on to become a major anime band.  They would return to Age to do several songs for them as well.

Rounding out the video messages was Hironobu Kageyama, the leader of JAM Project.  He first got involved with Age when he was asked to write the lyrics for “Carry On”, a song to be sung by fellow JAM Project member Masaaki Endoh.  After Alternative was split off into its own game, he was brought back to write the opening theme and perform it as a member of JAM Project, as well as also writing and performing the insert song “Tsubasa”.  According to him, he was provided a massive tome containing the entire Alternative script, which is why the lyrics he wrote so perfectly match the game’s story.  He also tried playing through Muv-Luv itself to try to understand the story even better, but although he provided updates from time to time on his blog, I don’t think he ever got past the lacrosse section.

Afterwards, they brought in a couple of new employees at Anchor, Jun Kumano and Yoshiki Kajitani (who used to work at Square Enix), and they introduced the game they’ve been working on:

Project Mikhail: This is a 3D TSF action game intended for smartphones, although it will also be available on Steam.  They showed off some of the gameplay, which allows you control a TSF in combat, and it looks like the TSFs will also be highly customizable.  They intend for the game not to have any gacha elements; instead they’re looking at having the game run on a subscription model.  The projected release date is 2021, although they mention they will work hard to try to get it out in 2020.  Notably, they intend the game to be available in Japanese, English, and Chinese.

This may be a good time to mention that I strongly believe that a major reason Avex picked up Ixtl is because of the immense success of the Muv-Luv Kickstarter – the Total Eclipse anime didn’t make a ton of money for them, so I really think it’s the $1.2 million dollar Kickstarter that caught their eye.  Ever since Avex acquired them, they’ve been paying special attention to the overseas fans that funded the Kickstarter, including the real-time translation on this broadcast.  So the fact that this game is projected to be released in multiple languages lines up with that as well, and I would expect that to be part of the release plan for any future projects whenever feasible.

The demo for this game had a few of interesting aspects as well.  The first battle featured the Oguna Squadron, and showed 2 character portraits.  I don’t recognize Oguna 3,  but Oguna 8 kind of looks like Yuzuka from The Day After (albeit in a very strange, presumably placeholder artstyle).  The second battle features Ilfriede from Duty -Lost Arcadia- (this time identified by name), and her dialogue references the events of the Chronicles story Adoration.

That brings up a very interesting question, which is where exactly Duty -Lost Arcadia- fits into Age’s new plans.  Yoshimune seems to have confirmed on Twitter that there are no longer any plans to publish any Duty novels, so that story seems to have been left in limbo.  At the same time, Yoshimune has been very clear that they had intended to cover some very important plot points in Duty, including bringing the story of the Master from Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken to a conclusion.  Could they possibly use this game to cover the story of Duty instead?  Much like how they wound up using Strike Frontier to cover the story of Operation Zero?

There’s one last interesting detail about Project Mikhail, and it concerns the name itself.  Prior to KimiNozo and Muv-Luv, Age put out a game called “Kaseki no Uta”.  This game takes place in the far future, and heavily features a machine called the Mikhail System.  Essentially, in this world there are lifelike automatons called “dolls”, and the Mikhail System allows the user to enter a virtual world in order to “tune” these dolls, giving them a consciousness and molding their personality to the desired specs.  Yoshimune has hinted in the past that he specifically chose the word “tune” to describe what Takeru does to stabilize the 00 Unit, in order to imply that perhaps Kaseki no Uta takes place in the far future of the Alternative world, and that the Mikhail System is perhaps a much more advanced version of what Yuuko did to create the 00 Unit.  Yoshimune has generally dodged the question of whether Kaseki no Uta really is in the future of Alternative, or whether this is just a meaningless Easter egg with no greater implications.

Not only does Project Mikhail share the same namesake as the Mikhail System from Kaseki no Uta, the menu very clearly features a button labeled “Mikhail System”.  What does that mean?  Could that mean we’ll get some answers about the placement of Kaseki no Uta in the larger Age universe?  Or is just another Easter egg for long-time fans?

Afterwards, we got to the part I’m really excited about:

Muv-Luv Integrate: Yoshimune has been dropping hints about his ideas for “Alternative 2” for years and years now, and finally, he’s introduced a proper name and some concept art for the series, which suggests that he may finally be moving beyond just talking about and may actually be taking some steps to turn it into a reality.  He’s still cagey about the whole thing, saying he isn’t sure what format it will take or if it will actually ever be released, but I have been hungry for this for a very long time and I will take whatever hope he is offering.

This is the official sequel to Alternative, and the first story to really go beyond Operation Cherry Blossom in the timeline.  Let’s take a look at the images he introduced:

The first image is of one of the hives on the moon.  Yoshimune has hinted in the past that he would like to take the story all the way to destroying the hives on the moon.

The second image is of some TSFs inside a hive.  I don’t recognize the TSFs; they may be 4th or 5th generation.  Or I might just be bad at identifying TSFs.

The third image is pretty unclear.  There’s a massive hive in the background, much closer to civilization than I think hives usually are.  There are people on the ground – or, at least, people-shaped creatures, since their heads look kinda funky.  Are they new human-sized BETA?  Or are people actually turning into BETA?

The fourth image is quite shocking.  It’s pretty clearly the Statue of Liberty, destroyed and engulfed in flames while the BETA swarm around it.  Is America screwed in this new story?  In the background, it looks like there are two huge hives.  At first glance I thought they were attacking each other, but maybe they’re both under attack from human forces?

The fifth image is the most interesting one.  There are four characters, and upon closer examination, I think those four are, from the left: Ilfriede from Duty, Akane from Muv-Luv (she looks really different without her headband, but she’s got a Valkyries emblem and her hair and eye color generally match), Latrova from Total Eclipse, and Gretel from Schwarzesmarken.  That’s all four major Muv-Luv franchises represented in this picture.

Yoshimune says that he chose the name “Integrate” to mean “bringing everything together”, and he’s said in the past that his vision for Alternative 2 was to bring back many of the surviving characters from the different franchises.  This image really represents what I think he’s hoping for from this new story.  I don’t know how a fan of Muv-Luv can look at this picture and not get excited for what it could mean.

The last image shows what appears to be Yuuko looking rather shell-shocked, clutching what appears to be Kasumi’s stuffed rabbit thing.  She looks awfully bloodied up as well.  What happened to Yuuko?  Is it even Yuuko at all?

This more or less wrapped up the talk event.  They then transitioned to a mini-live concert.  Minami Kuribayashi came out first, and she performed “Rumbling Hearts” and “Muv-Luv”.  Afterwards, Rino came out and performed “Kimi ga Nozomu Eien”.  Finally, the two of them sang “Precious Memories” together as a duet.

Afterwards, the stream faded into the event logo, but apparently, one last video was shown to the actual attendees, with the words:

Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation

Well that was quite mean of them, wasn’t it?

So, what does that mean?  If it means that they really are making Muv-Luv into an anime, then that could potentially mean that the earlier announced KimiNozo reboot, which was said to tie into Muv-Luv, might actually be intended to tie into this new anime.  Their Comiket book Exogularity 02 included updated character designs for both KimiNozo and Muv-Luv characters, so with the KimiNozo reboot pretty much confirmed to be using these character designs, perhaps the new Muv-Luv designs are intended to be used for the new anime.  In that way, both KimiNozo and Muv-Luv would share the same type of character design, tying the two stories together even more closely.

That was a massive event!  It was exactly the kind of event that Age needed right now.  Even though it was pretty sparse on details and firm dates, it still showed off quite a bit of the game design and some concept art, which goes a long way to proving that at least something really is happening behind the scenes.  Yoshimune confirmed that he would be starting up some live news streams again soon, so hopefully they can keep up this momentum and keep fans engaged with their future plans.


Photonflowers Released! (And hope for the future)

August 3, 2019

Photonflowers has been officially released (after a typical Muv-Luv style delay).  You can get it on Steam now, and you can read up on what exactly Photonflowers is in my earlier writeup.

But that’s not the only exciting news to hit the Muv-Luv world.  Both the Kickstarter page and lead translator Evan Ward’s Twitter account have posted images from the 2nd collection of Muv-Luv side stories, Muv-Luv Photonmelodies, showing that progress is well underway.

But the really big news is on the Japanese side, as Age has now posted a new page featuring a brand-new illustration of KimiNozo/Muv-Luv character Haruka Suzumiya, drawn by Kina Kazuharu, on the 18th anniversary of the original release of KimiNozo.  That may not sound like much, but it represents the first news from the company in a whole year.  Although they’ve advertised crossover events with the mobile games Super Robot Wars X-Ω and Phantasy Star Online 2, they haven’t so much as hinted at actual new content since their Comiket book Exogularity 02 last summer.  That book also featured hints of new designs for both Muv-Luv and KimiNozo characters, and while the art there wasn’t credited, it certainly looks like the same artstyle as what was just posted.

What exactly the image means, Age hasn’t said.  Many people have leapt to the obvious conclusion, that this image hints at a full-blown remake of KimiNozo.  (Age hinted at such a possibility back at Anime Expo 2016, although it’s not at all clear how serious they were being.)  Others have seized on what looks to be a hidden “0” at the bottom-right of the image, which could mean a full game version of Operation Zero.  Operation Zero covers the events surrounding the KimiNozo characters in the Alternative world 3 years ago.  Although they had hinted at such a story ever since their 10th anniversary video, it remained nothing but a hint until they finally adapted the story as a chapter in their mobile game Strike Frontier.  Afterwards, Age had posted 2 videos rendering that Strike Frontier chapter in AGES (they can be found here and here), but perhaps now they’re looking at creating a full game version of it, possibly with voices.  Or perhaps, like with the KimiIta remake and Confessions, they’re doing both – releasing a full remake with Operation Zero as a pack-in bonus.

Or perhaps it really is nothing more than what they’ve announced it to be – just a celebration of the 18th anniversary of KimiNozo.  But even that would be news – it at least shows that Age isn’t dead, that they consider it still worthwhile to keep fans engaged and hopeful for future projects.  After a whole year without any output from the company, even that would be newsworthy.

And speaking of voices, there was one last piece of news yesterday – Minami Kuribayashi, singer for most of Age’s games and the voice of Haruka and Kasumi, and who had been working under the single name Minami for the past few years, announced that she would be returning to the name Minami Kuribayashi, and will be celebrating the KimiNozo anniversary with a new version of her very first song, Rumbling Hearts, the theme song to KimiNozo.  Hopefully, it means Kuribayashi and Ixtl/Anchor/Avex have buried the hatchet and we’ll be seeing more from them soon.

It’s been quiet on both the Japanese and English sides for a very long time, but now both sides have unveiled some exciting news on the same weekend.  We can hope that this means the Muv-Luv franchise will finally start moving again.


Photonflowers Release

July 21, 2019

The Muv-Luv team has announced that Muv-Luv Photonflowers will be released in a few days, on July 22, so that means it’s time to come back and spend some time on this blog.

So, what is Photonflowers? Well, Age has created a ton of side-stories for Muv-Luv over the years, and eventually they collected most of them into a pair of games called Photonflowers and Photonmelodies. Since the stories in Photonflowers were made over such a long span of time, I thought going over the context in which they were written might give people some additional insight into them. So, let’s cover the stories in Photonflowers, in the order in which they were written:

Muv-Luv Side:

Extra Short Story Collection: The 4 non-Meiya stories were the earliest Muv-Luv stories to be released to the public. They actually started out as text stories hosted on the Muv-Luv website back in 2002 when the game was first announced. As such, they’re meant to introduce the characters and give a general sense of their personalities and relationships, as well as the general tone of the game. The actual Muv-Luv game itself makes several references to the events of these stories, particularly Sumika’s, and the game is clearly written with the understanding that many players will have already read these short stories.

Meiya Short Stories: The 2 Meiya short stories were also meant to introduce Meiya and her crew, but they were not hosted on the Muv-Luv website. Instead, they were included as a special bonus in 2 issues of Tech Gian, a visual novel magazine, a few months before the original Muv-Luv was released in 2003. Unlike the other short stories, which were only text and accompanying pictures, these stories were rendered in game format, although without any voice acting. Indeed, part of the purpose of these short stories was to show off Age’s new AGES graphics engine, which is why Meiya starts out the story by moving the camera in every direction. This kind of camera work was revolutionary in a visual novel at the time.

These 6 short stories were eventually gathered together in the Muv-Luv Supplement fandisc. For the 4 non-Meiya stories, this meant rendering them in game format for the first time. For the 2 Meiya stories, this meant including voice acting for the first time.

Before the Cherry Blossoms Bloom: This is a mid-sized story set after Sumika’s Extra story, and was originally the centerpiece of Muv-Luv Supplement. It was put together in something of a hurry as kind of an apology to fans after Age realized that they would not be able to release Alternative in 2004 as promised. I think one of the most interesting aspects of it is the expanded role it gives Kashiwagi, who was an extremely minor character in the original Extra. In this game, she is finally given a first name (Haruko), as well as numerous new sprites, allowing her to be portrayed as a more expressive character. We learn a lot more about her, and she gets to participate in hijinks alongside the other characters, helping to set her up for her larger role in Alternative.

All of the stories on the Muv-Luv side are credited to the same team as the original series, with the same team of writers (notably Age head writer Hayato Tashiro and series creator Kouki Yoshimune) and original artist Bou.

Alternative Side:

Atonement: Atonement is a short story depicting Marimo’s past. It is essentially an expanded telling of the story Marimo tells Takeru after the XM3 trials. Much like the Meiya short stories, it was originally released as a bonus pack-in game (without voices) in an issue of Tech Gian, just a few months after Alternative was released in 2006. It’s written by series creator Kouki Yoshimune with art by series artist Bou.

Inheritance: Inheritance is a short story focusing on Akira, Michiru’s sister, and is set shortly after Alternative. Like Atonement, Inheritance was a bonus pack-in game included with the Dengeki Hime magazine, just a month after Atonement was released. It’s also written by Kouki Yoshimune, with art by Gai Sugihara, the original artist for Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu (the game that Michiru and her sisters come from), as well as Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. Of special note are the voices for Michiru’s sisters, who are all carried over from the original KimiIta game – if you’ve ever played the KimiIta remake from 2011, you won’t recognize these original voices. If you listen hard, you might be able recognize Marika’s voice – she also played Mikoto in Muv-Luv. But no matter how hard you try, I doubt you’ll be able to recognize Akira’s voice – even though she also played Yuuko!

Both Atonement and Inheritance were eventually collected in Age’s 4th fanclub game, alongside Ayu-Mayu Alternative. Much like the Extra short stories, Age took this opportunity to add voices to the 2 stories. Since both of them were recorded at the same time, they both share the same quirk – much like Age’s first 2 fanclub releases, these 2 stories have all of the lines voiced, even the narration lines from Marimo and Akira. This collection was also the debut of the Chronicles opening and ending credits – the original magazine releases didn’t include them. As such, both Atonement and Inheritance share the same opening sequence, including CGs from both stories.

Chicken Divers: Chicken Divers is a short story depicting an orbital dive team during Operation 21st. It was actually originally a piece of fanfiction. However, Age was impressed with the story, and they happened to be looking for people to put out some smallers works for them, so they contacted the author, Wei Luxin, to license the story. He took down the story from his website, and Age included it in their first Lunatic Dawn book for Comiket. Later on, Age decided to render it in game format (without voices) and released it as part of their offerings for a later Comiket. The artist for the game version was Sou Miyata, who by this point had taken over as the main artist for Total Eclipse.

Rain Dancers: Rain Dancers is a short story depicting a European team field testing Typhoons in the 90s. After releasing Chicken Divers, Age asked Wei Luxin to write a new short story to be released in their newest Lunatic Dawn book for Comiket. Like Chicken Divers, a few Comikets later Age again rendered this story in game format. The artist for the game version was Azusa Maxima, who was drawing the manga adaptation of Alternative. Of note, this is the only story in Photonflowers not to have any connection with any characters or events from the original trilogy. However, Luxin named the lead character Monica Giacosa with the intention that she would be the older sister of Valerio Giacosa from Total Eclipse.

Both Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers were eventually collected in Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 01. Since they were both existing stories, they were the obvious choice to kick of Age’s series of Chronicles game releases. Like with Atonement and Inheritance, voice were added to both stories at this time. They also share an interesting quirk – for Chronicles 01, Age experimented with adding lip flaps to the game CGs, not just character sprites. However, Age seems to have abandoned this idea afterward, so these 2 are the only Chronicles stories to include them. Like with Atonement and Inheritance, both Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers share the same opening sequence.

Confessions: Confessions is a mid-sized story depicting Michiru’s past. Like with Atonement, Confessions is basically an expanded telling of the story Michiru tells Takeru during their first meeting. Confessions was a bonus game included with the 2011 remake of Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu (although given their relative quality, many fans have taken to referring to Confessions as the main game and the KimiIta remake as the bonus game). Confessions is written by Kouki Yoshimune with art by Sou Miyata, who also drew the KimiIta remake. I imagine most Muv-Luv fans are surprised by the art, particularly during the beginning and ending when the entire Alternative cast is remade in Miyata’s artstyle. At the time, there seems to have been a push to get everybody redrawn by Miyata, who had become Age’s de facto lead artist, with the intention of using the Miyata versions for all future projects. The Miyata versions would appear again in the Chronicles story Resurrection (coming soon in Photonmelodies!), but otherwise these new versions of the characters wound up falling by the wayside after Miyata was removed from the company for, um, reasons.

That’s all the stories included in Photonflowers.  There are 3 more stories that will be included in Photonmelodies, including the one I’m sure everyone is waiting for, the one set in the Final Extra world.

(Also, if anybody is still interested in what I have to say about the original Muv-Luv trilogy, I actually have a number of articles written up – it became necessary to split them up due to how many topics I wanted to cover – and I’ll be posting them over the next few weeks.)


Muv-Luv Alternative Released!

September 18, 2017

Muv-Luv Alternative is now out on Steam!

Unfortunately I didn’t quite manage to finish the whole game before the general release, but I’m about 90% done, so I’m almost there.  What is clear to me, after playing through so much of the game, is the astonishingly high quality of the English translation.  The amount of thought put into each line absolutely amazes me.  We’ve seen a lot of truly great visual novels get translations that are far short of what they deserve, and back when the Kickstarter was running, I was very nervous that Muv-Luv could suffer the same fate.  We are very lucky that one of the greatest visual novels has gotten the best adaptation possible.

The game itself doesn’t feature too many improvements from its original release – the improvements made to Muv-Luv were mostly to bring it up to Alternative’s level.  However, there are a few new CGs and events, including a lengthy new section at the Original Hive featuring everyone’s favorite song.  Takeru is now voiced at several critical events.  And we have an album mode and chapter select screen – the chapter select is especially useful.  And it’s all topped off with a new opening theme by Granrodeo to supplement JAM Project’s classic original theme.

The entire Muv-Luv trilogy is now on Steam, available to the world with a high-quality translation . . . it’s an amazing time we live in . . .


Muv-Luv Survey

September 13, 2017

In preparation for their talk event at Tokyo Game Show, Age has put out a survey that they want their fans to answer.  They’ve gone to the trouble of putting up an English version of their survey on their own website, and in general I get the impression that they are particularly interested in hearing from their overseas fans, so this is a great opportunity to put in your two cents directly!

Specific details about the talk event, including details about the worldwide livestream, will apparently be provided soon.  The event will happen on either Saturday the 23rd or Sunday the 24th – that means if you live in America, the livestream will likely happen in the evening on either Friday the 22nd or Saturday the 23rd.


Muv-Luv Alternative Releases in 1 Week!

September 11, 2017

Muv-Luv Alternative is scheduled to be released on Steam on Sept 18, exactly 1 week from today. If you didn’t back the Kickstarter, I hope you’re saving up the money to pick this up when it launches, because it is absolutely worth it. Kickstarter backers have already gotten the game in advance, and some have even finished already. Personally, I finished up the halfway point last night, and it’s been a blast. I’ve played Alternative many times over the past 11 years, but the last few times have been “highlight” playthroughs, where I basically fast-forwarded through the boring parts. This is the first time in quite a while that I’ve truly sat down to read the whole thing from beginning to end, and I want to take my time because this is the first time I’m experiencing it with an excellent English translation.

Anyway, with the release of Alternative, now sounds like a good time to get back in the swing of things and put up a few posts.

The Road to Muv-Luv post I made was much more popular than I thought it would be, so of course I’ll be making a similar post for Alternative. I’m very excited for this one since, unlike the road to Muv-Luv, I was actually around for the road to Alternative, and going through all the old material from back then has been very nostalgic. I’ll put this post up on the 18th to celebrate Alternative’s launch.

A few weeks after Alternative launches, people will hopefully be wrapping up their own playthroughs of Alternative, so I plan to put up an analysis of the story around that time, similar to my massive analysis post for Total Eclipse. I meant to put up one for the original Muv-Luv game, but ultimately it was too difficult to talk about the story without Alternative, so I decided to make just a single one for the entire trilogy.

Finally, a preliminary note – Age has announced that Avex Pictures will host a Muv-Luv talk event at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show 2017 on Sept 23/24, and will stream the event worldwide. Details will be announced soon. Maybe it’ll be nothing. Maybe it’ll just be a victory lap celebrating the release of the Muv-Luv trilogy on Steam. But given that 2017 has been a complete wasteland for concrete Muv-Luv news so far, I really hope something interesting comes out of it.


Muv-Luv Released!

July 14, 2016

Today is quite a momentous day: the original Muv-Luv is now available in English from Steam!  Check it out here!

I got to take a quick peek at the game at Anime Expo, and I spent much of yesterday playing through the pre-release, and I’m thrilled to report that so far, the translation is amazing.  I have played this game numerous times for over 12 years and I have a very strong sense of how I would have wanted it to read in English, and this translation is right there.  To finally be able to play this game in English, and to know that it is how I always pictured it, is a strange and exciting feeling.

(They also went with “Surface Pilot” for the translation, which scores massive points with me.  This is the official English term used in all Muv-Luv media, so using this term in the English translation shows an immense respect for the franchise.  When I think back on how close they seemed to be to going with “Eishi”, I realize what a miracle it is that we get to enjoy this translation instead.)

If you’re only familiar with the old Muv-Luv release from 2003, you’re going to be shocked at the improvements made to the game since then.  I’ve mentioned some of them before, but for anybody still on the fence about supporting this release, I’ll go over them in greater detail:

This release seems to be based on the most recent version of the game, the PS3 version (this version was also used for the Vita release).  For Extra, this means the pre-menu OP is “LOVE STEP” by Minami Kuribayashi.  The in-game OP continues to be “Muv-Luv”, as in the 2003 release.  New EDs are included for the Chizuru, Kei, and Miki endings – “I will” remains the ED for Sumika and Meiya.  For Unlimited, the OP is now “sion” by Masami Okui rather than “Muv-Luv” – this is the only opening sequence from the old versions of either Muv-Luv or Alternative to be completely removed from the game.  The ED for Unlimited is unchanged.

The most obvious change from the 2003 version is that this game now uses the same system as Alternative.  The game appears in widescreen and without a dedicated dialogue box.  All sprites now have eye and mouth movement.

All TSF scenes in Unlimited have been completely redone in the Alternative style.  This includes using Alternative TSF sprites, and directed using the more advanced AGES techniques from Alternative.  The TSF HUD has been completely replaced with the Alternative HUD, including character comm sprites.

Music from Alternative now appears throughout Muv-Luv.  Most importantly, “Briefing” now plays during briefing scenes in Unlimited.

Reading it on the page, these changes may not seem like much.  But when you actually play the new version, I promise you will be blown away.  Muv-Luv now actually FEELS like the same game as Alternative.  It actually feels like a real trilogy, rather than different games separated by 3 years of development.

There’s also a small bonus for hardcore Muv-Luv fans.  There are some small differences in setting between the original 2003 Muv-Luv release and Alternative.  Most notably, in the original Muv-Luv the idea seems to be that Yuuhi was the Emperor of Japan, as Meiya is described as being related to the Emperor.  By the time they released Alternative, they changed their minds about that (I think I read once that they decided depicting the Emperor in their Imperial Japan fantasy was a bit too sticky, politically), so now Yuuhi is a Shogun nominated by the Emperor.  For the re-release of the original Muv-Luv, they actually went back and rewrote (and rerecorded) several lines to match up with this new setting.  It doesn’t really affect the story, but I appreciated that the original game no longer contradicted the later works.

Of course, it’s tradition in this industry for re-releases to include new artwork and CGs, so given that the PS3 version is the newest version, we get all the new art that wasn’t included in the original version.

I’ll put up another post dedicated to the actual game itself . . . eventually.  (Just like the Muv-Luv franchise, I don’t keep any deadlines I try to set for myself anyway.)