Review: Muv-Luv Kickstarter goods

The approach to this review will not be anything different from any other review I’ve done thus far. No special treatment, no kids gloves on; I will approach this as any product reviewed in this blog thus far. It’s only fair towards you, the readers, and the staff behind the Kickstarter. However, I won’t be reviewing all the KS goods. I’ll be concentrating on the main dish most people probably got through their backing; the Kickstarter physical package, the Codex and the Destroyer Class plush. This will strictly discuss the items themselves, not their translation or such.

Let’s start with the physical package.

This is also the image that was used on Alternative‘s original DVD release. It’s honestly the perfect choice for this

At first appearance, the package seems pretty on-par. Despite using thin cardboard, the appearance isn’t half bad. The decision to put the description and all copyright information to the bottom is an interesting take, as now its reversible to every other direction. This breaks how commercial boxes are designed, which some perfectionists might find jarring, as now the box doesn’t flow well with other software boxes.

However, visuals aren’t all. While the box still feel sturdy in hand, the contents inside are loose. The image above is just before I opened the box, and I could hear and feel the items inside rattling back and forth. This isn’t great to any extent. A box like this should have necessary support inside to keep items in their proper places during transit, as now no matter what sort of stuffing is used around it the items can be damaged. So, let’s open this one up and see what’s inside.

You could fit another booklet in there or something

This is exactly what I didn’t want to see; items rattling around in an oversized box. Because the box is made thinner cardboard, the same some DVDs have around them, it loses most of its structural integrity when opened. I can feel the CDs being lose inside their jewel case, let’s open that one up to see if they’re damaged. The case’s cover is nice choice though, but the back cover should have been revised. Maybe drop the song titles here completely and have them inside in an insert.

Oh. Ooooooohhh…

Luckily, only one of the CDs were loose, but the discs’ printing is not up to quality. While the chosen images are good in themselves, for whatever reason the images are lower resolution than the text, which itself is sharp. The typeface and font chosen for the CDs ends making these look like something printed at home. Furthermore, these discs should have been labelled as numbers, e.g. Muv-Luv Alternative Original Soundtrack Disc 1, not Volume 1. The fact that OST is used on the discs like this, and the fact that there is no kind of information who composed the songs, makes all this feel like a homebrew compilation.

As for the games themselves, the front covers are what you’d expect and look good. Nothing to say about these, but the back covers are another thing. There’s too much text on them. Even when these VNs are long, the descriptions should have been cut in half and with heavier emphasize on images. To use Sweet Home as an example, the flavour text is two whole sentences, being straight to the point. The word homebrew creeps back to my head with this, as things like Minimum Requirements should be on the box. Actually, they’re not seen anywhere on the packaging.

The discs however are rather standard, overall speaking. There’s nothing to mention about them, though I would’ve expected more legal text on all of these. Perhaps printing a monochrome image on the disc similar to âge’s Japanese releases should have been brought on to the table, as its much easier to make them look sharp rather than what might end up looking like a sticker on a disc.

I must mention that the disc I have for Muv-Luv seems to have been damaged somewhere along the way, as it has a strange arc on the underside. Despite this, the disc seems to be readable. There’s also a weird discoloration, as if something had spilled all over it inside. This might be a quality control issue, and I’ll be sure testing this disc further down the line.

The darker wavy line is easy to spot, the lighter arc near not so much., I have no idea what they are and I am slightly worried

The shikishi, a drawn image signed by the author, that came with the box is pretty great. Sumika doing a Drill Milky Punch is nice, even when it’s just a print and not a real thing in itself. The artbook uses similar typeface and font as the CDs, and doesn’t exactly look the greatest. Everything’s printed on a thin, glossy paper that in itself isn’t terrible, but the cover should have been heavier duty. The feeling the book gives is flimsy, plus it creases extremely easily. Corners will get damaged fast in normal use with this paper too. Because of the thinness, the pages are slightly transparent and the images on the other side bleed through. The images and character descriptions are on-point, though the complete lack of illustrator credits anywhere in the codex is a bit disheartening. Seeing the second and last to last pages under the covers are completely blank, these would have been great places to put them on.

Here’s how I solved the rattling the contents: I added two pieces of cardboard on both sides, and a support structure to keep the CD jewel case in place. To be completely honest, the outer box does feel like something you should throw away, as the package overall lacks any sort of premium feel to it. The added cardboard makes it feel more rigid and gives some extra heft. There shouldn’t be any reason for me to do this addition, but as things stand now, I had to. For comparison, here’s how Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal laid its contents. Notice the use of sturdier cardboard, how the items are laid and fit perfectly, and the use of supportive thinner cardboard at the bottom of the PS4 case.

 

Well, let’s move unto the second big thing, the long-time Holy Grail of Muv-Luv Alternative source of information translated and recompiled with Lunatic Dawn content; The Codex.

Like some majestic predatory bird

The first impression of the book is nothing short of impressive. I didn’t expect hardcover version of the book, especially considering the number of pages, but first looks can be deceiving. When you stop and look at the cover, it’s not pretty.

On the right, you see the scanned cover of the Muv-Luv Alternative CODEX. On its left you have the same illustration, scanned from Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works. I recommend opening them in Full View to fully see how badly the covers have been fucked up. Either someone forgot to pit High Resolution mode on in In-Design, or something seriously went awry during data process. Both covers have been printed in low resolution, while the cover text nice and crisp. While a book shouldn’t be judged by its covers, this piece can never be called high quality or premier product. A way to remedy this situation would be to create a dust jacket for the book with high resolution print on the cover.

However, the meat of the piece is on the pages. With some few hours looking through, there appears to be no real concern how accurately things have transferred during translation. There are also welcome changes, like changing Melee Halberds into Close Quarters Combat Melee Blade. While a mouthful, melee blade in itself is more than enough. Back in 2016 I wrote a post concerning the topic, which was comped with a review of TSF’s close combat weapons. I strongly recommend you to read them both if you haven’t. There is one fib that has leaked through, where BWS-8 Flugelberte is described to resemble a halberd, when in reality it resembles an axe. Or a bardiche.

The information itself is great stuff, but it shows that this is a book that’s glued together from multiple sources. The Lunatic Dawn content that’s in the latter part of the book is just bolted on, rather than taken and included into the book proper. The word on the street originally was that the book would need to be completely revised, but in the end it follows Integral Works‘ looks and design with the occasional change in order accommodate English.

Good ol’ Gekishit. Isn’t ‘Play Back’ one word though?

The paper used is similar glossy paper that’s in the artbook. It’s a level heavier, but creases still extremely easily. Despite being heavier and slightly thicker, it still isn’t near heavy matte paper in terms of preventing transparencies, as seen above. Fingerprints will be abound while reading this book. I’m rather surprised that this wasn’t a softcover book similar to Integral Works or Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works, to which I compared IW to back in the day as well. Codex‘s paper is nowhere as heavy and hefty as the two aforementioned, but the book is third thinner due to the new paper. It doesn’t allow the book to have any air to it either.

Because of the glossy surface and the sheer amount of text, people with poorer eyesight will have headaches while reading this. The typeface selected is just small enough to cause extra strain on the eye. As everything’s also packed very, very tightly in this small size, people who suffer from either vertical or horizontal dispersion in vision, meaning certain letters will lose lines, making reading a chore at best, extremely headache inducing at worst. This is easily alleviated with the use of different typeface or slightly larger font size.

The use of this sort of glossy paper can also be a double-edged sword. While Yakuza 6‘s artbook had the same paper, some copies were completely glued together, some were completely warped and some had ink smudges all over them. The feel of glossy paper works best for single leaflets and photos. When going for a book like this, its still best to consider heavy matter paper first and foremost, as it offers longer life and cuts down possible ink and paper problems down to mere percents.

All in all, the covers are just a damn travesty, sadly. Well, that and one of the pages, p. 353, get repeated on the following opening. While accidents like this sometimes happen, this does sting of lack of quality control.

Lastly, we have the Destroyer Class plushie, one of the things that was suggested very early on due to its role in the fandom. The plushie is based on a very certain background piece in Joshi Eishi Cryska EX.

While the plushie is clearly different from it CG original, this is due to difference in reality and fiction. The overall quality is damn nice, chosen materials feel sturdy enough to give this to a child to play with. Interestingly, the back end has a sack that’s filled with grains rather than fluff the plushie is filled with otherwise.

The grain section is about one-third from the back, starting from the tag on its arse

It’s just a joy to see and have, maybe even the best part of the package in terms of quality. This thing really should see mass production. Clearly, there is a market for BETA plushies.

I’m sure that at this point it’s rather clear what’s the end verdict is. The Kickstarter original products are largely a disappointment in terms of quality. I’m not going to mull over whys or hows, that doesn’t net anything. They are what they are, now’s too late to do anything about it. Other items, like the ones in Yuuko’s Gift bag, have higher quality. Stickers are hard to screw up as are postcards (though mine are rather warped, requiring me to straighten them down.) It must be also mentioned that Valkylies has been corrected into Valkyries with the patches.

Those patches were produced by Cospa, company that produces cosplay goods, including the jackets and shirts that were on the Kickstarter. The pilot jacket may be 100% polyester, but I can’t expect a cosplay clothes company to manufacture clothes like they were actual military wear. The Drill Milky Punch T-shirt is at 100% cotton and I’m wearing it while typing this review. This extends to the dakimakura, which is of standard Japanese productions for items like it, I expected no less.


The experience with the Kickstarter goods, delays and pretty much everything including the end results of the goods probably affected negatively both backers and staff. It would not be surprising if this was the first and last Kickstarter we see, and the rest are done away with less fanfare, which would also mean no physical products would be produced. However, in cases like this, I would always strongly recommend companies and people looking into Limited Run Games, a company that specialises in doing limited physical run on goods. At the time of Muv-Luv‘s Kickstarter, the company wasn’t relevant, but now it has managed to establish itself just fine. For example, they are delivering Shantae: ½ Genie Hero‘s Kickstarter goods. But all this is academic at best. I can only hope that lessons have been learned, but have not allowed to snuff the staff’s spirit.

I’ve got no good end for this review. Shit happens, we will probably never know what, but the end results are in our hands.

 

Ignorant parent is child’s worst enemy online

Recently a 15-yers old teenager committed a suicide after reading the Visual Novel Doki Doki Literature Club. The title’s rather infamous for starting out as a normal cute-as-button story, and then becomes rather nasty in its themes and content. The VN does state that its not for everyone and is not suitable for children, the usual warning for software of its nature.

The news reporting on the incident on the Sunderland Echo reflects how poorly entertainment software, VNs or electronic games, are understood. Age doesn’t really change this, only education does. For example, Sue Kirby, the author, makes her first mistake in the title calling it an online game. Even if we give the leeway that VNs are counted as games, Doki Doki Lit. Club certainly is not online and does not contain any other “players” characters outside the reader, another mistake that’s made in the article.

The article is really all that and not much as else. Some statement from a coroner warning parents to look after their children, something they should already be doing, and neither he or the author describes any rhyme or reason why this should be an issue. Great many who commit suicide have done something before their final deed, be it watching television, listening to music or other activities. Perhaps the title did serve as a some sort of trigger for the suicide, but then its not exactly the driving reason to do so. There must have been something there already, a thought and drive, which has been the true underlying reason. A software doesn’t simply brainwash you do commit suicide, neither do any other sort of media.

Few other sites, like Fatherly, has almost the exact same article up, with no expansion on the topic itself, no research done for better or worse. I’m not even going to go through The Sun’s article on the topic, as their opening thinks it’s somehow negative that Doki Doki Lit. Club doesn’t require any parental checks. Last time I checked, you had to set things up via Steam’s client in Family View rather than title-by-title basis. Then again, it’s available on other sites as well, so maybe this particular kid got it from there rather than using the most popular game platform on the PC. The Sun’s on a witch hunt mode on the title and it shows.

A common theme among all articles is how there’s criticism how the game doesn’t enforce the suggested. How would the game do that? Are we now in need of Adult Gamer license like with the UK’s fap license nonsense and all games need to have it separately or something? Absolute nonsense.

Manchester Evening News at least has some more meat on the platter, an interview with the parents. The father of gives a statement that the game wouldn’t leave the player alone, as it resembles real life through interactions. Perhaps this shows that the teenager didn’t have the best relations outside virtual environment, if he was looking something better in a virtual environment to cope with it.

Jude Holmes from the Public Protection Division urged parents to check websites their kids are using, effectively encouraging them to break their children’s privacy. Smart kid will be able to wipe their history away anyway, or set up different User Accounts. Firewall settings don’t help much, as they’re easily circumvented just as much. Furthermore, we are talking about a title that’s on Steam as well, meaning the parents should be aware of their kids’ Steam libraries to boot. That wouldn’t show up in the browsing history.

Holmes doesn’t seem to be the Sherlock of the bunch.

Credit where credit is due, Manchester Evening News at least does to the research to describe Doki Doki Literature Club as a visual novel and how it functions. Yet, much like other sites, the author describes the horror twist in the game in a negative tone, as if a story within a game, or any story driven media, couldn’t be gruesome and showcase hard topics straight up.

At least nothing is said to directly connect the suicide to the visual novel, outside the parents’ words, but even the stupidest of readers can read the message between the lines. In truth, we probably will never know the real reason why the teen committed suicide, Doki Doki Lit. Club is just an easy target to put the blame on. Not knowing is the worst there is, and if parents aren’t up to their child’s life, there’s very little to go by.

Certain people are easy to be impressed and suggested by the media. The solution is not to cut out connections to websites or similar. There is no such easy solution for the safety so many parental and safety groups want. There are only hard and long solutions that would require parents to know the web environment well enough so that they’d be able to teach their children to become sensible users of the World Wide Web. An ignorant parent who doesn’t understand modern technology, and doesn’t want to learn anything about it, is probably a child’s worst enemy when it comes to the unsafe Internet. Even Andy Burrows, the Associate Head of Child Safety Online recognises this, imploring parents to have regular conversations with their kids, but what the hell are these parents going to talk about if they don’t know what to talk about? Don’t give your photo away online? Not applicable on the modern era of social media anymore, where everybody and their dogs have an account to post personal details for everyone to see.

There are lots of mays, maybes, coulds and mights. There is nothing definitive, but a mob doesn’t need solid proof to hang the accused. This won’t launch a new crusade against electronic games, or VNs for the matter, but it is part of the rising bad media and journalism that’s begun to permeate video games for the recent years, from calling game consumers are toxic to blame them to be reason for political downfalls. A moral panic over violence or adult subjects in games wouldn’t be nothing new, but it would be extremely pathetic.

After all, that makes better news than an objective view on the subject.

Valve’s wake-up call for visual novel enthusiast and others

With Valve taking steps to remove numerous titles from Steam due to T&A, Mangagamer has decided to bring their titles to GOG. The last sentence in their post also mentions how Sekai Project, the infamous VN publisher, is joining them in this move.

Mangagamer questions Steam a retail platform for visual novels, and that has been an extremely good question from the start. Steam as a digital console has the exact same limitations as vast majority of other game consoles have had throughout the years when it has come to sexually mature content. The last console that allowed some sort of clothes-off action was the Sega Saturn with its R-18 rated gambling titles, though even then the titles were cleaned up from their arcade and PC counterparts. Whether or not it really is better to have violence than sex in media has always been brought to question, but that’s slightly outside the scope here.

The PR director for Mangagamer, John Picket, knows how to word this opening salvo towards GOG. There has been some friction why these titles have not appeared on GOG, mostly due to GOG having different set of guidelines than Valve, but calling this an opportunity rather than an option forced on them is standard marketing speech. Considering Steam has always been an unreliable publishing platform due to how Valve exercises their control over titles, developers, publishers and users, this movement should not have come out as a surprise to anyone. Valve’s customer support is legendarily terrible, and their ~30% cut of all sales, which yields less and less revenue to publishers down the line, especially when most users simply purchase everything from sales. In previous post about VN bans on Steam I mentioned how their policies went against EU legislation when it came to purchasing, resale and refunding titles, but what I didn’t mention was that Valve put in bit in their EULA before purchase where the consumer would waver their freedom for 14-day return period. Similarly, when Valve was in court in Australia over similar matter between 2014 and 2016, they stopped providing their financial information, which ended the judge giving them a middle finger in legalise form. All legal cases that they knew they couldn’t sensibly win has been elongated for PR reasons and to create proper backup whenever the inevitable end result comes to.

While EA is considered to be the Satan of game corporations, credit must be given where credit is due, and their did have refunding program as according to EU legislation two years prior to Valve, and even then Valve’s refunding program was in Steam credits, meaning they still keep your money. Valve’s policies get changed from time to time to reflect the pressure they’re under from outside forces, all to cover their own assets and revenues. That is ultimately the end goal of all corporations, after all.

Valve has the control over the PC side of game market like no other to the point of publishers and developers considering any other route a detriment to their product. After a company has partnered with Valve to get their titles to Steam, everything else gets so muddled down. Why would you want to publish games on other platforms when Steam has essentially become the Windows in terms of digital games publishing? We’re at a point where an anti-trust case about their monopoly could be made, but that won’t happen. Too many consumers and companies are tied to Steam both in terms of money and emotions. Only something that would break the glass would make them consider twice on Steam. Something like taking down titles for them having bare chests.

But Aalt, aren’t you the one always championing game exclusivity? Yes, with consoles. The PC is a different market than consoles and is based on user-end freedom, something that has been constantly eroding through the use programs like Steam, taking Operating System control away from the user and evermore increasing activity tracking to the point of end-user having no privacy. If consoles are tightly controlled platforms for single purpose only, the PC was its free counterpart, where everything from your hardware choice to how you modified your software was completely up to you. Now, if you modify software linked with Steam to any extent unsavory for them, you’re going to be banned.

Valve has no competition. GOG is a good second, but far behind Steam in terms of dedicated users, despite GOG always being the objectively better option for software. Japan has DLSite and DMM for both pornographic materials and normal titles, something that Nutaku reflects in the West. There are numerous smaller publishing platforms that do not tie the user to themselves, but due to lack of publishers on these platforms they’ve never reached the surface awareness.

There is a distinct lack of diverse competition on the PC currently and it is not because of exclusives. This has been case for a good decade now, with even vast majority of the small amount of physical titles needing to be connected to a service as a form of DRM. This had lead Valve to had an effective control over PC software when it comes to gaming and their like titles, like visual novels. It should come to no surprise to anyone when Valve decides to exert their control on anything that might be seen as unsavory for their own benefits.

Banning Adult Oriented material, again

Lewgamer has a nice article with sources and citations on Valve threading to take down on adult games on Steam, give it a look before we go further.

The whole issue really is all about having erotica CG within the titles. Doesn’t matter if its just left in the code, if its junk data somehow and completely inaccessible by normal means. If it is there, it counts. Sounds extremely pathetic and funny, but that is the reality. The case this is most compared to, going as far Steam’s own representative doing it as well, is the Hot Coffee case. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas exists a disabled minigame where the player character can bang their chosen girlfriend character. The reason why it was left in the game’s code is because the assets were used elsewhere as well.

This basically set the tone that if a software has any sort of pornographic content inside the code or assets, it’s automatically Adult Only, which further means certain shops will not carry it and places like Australia most likely will instantly ban it.

I also recall something about Valve considering on banning titles that have censorship removing patches from other sites, be it via addition of the content or unlocking. However, I found no solid sources on this, so take this as a rumour at best.

With most visual novels having some level of erotica in them at least, Valve’s probably going to gun them down if this keeps going. This also means that even Muv-Luv‘s Steam releases are under threat in the worst case scenario. Considering Manga-Gamer had their title with “earnest and tasteful exploration of sexuality” is about to get the boot, pretty much anything goes.

This is one man’s crusade, though what Valve is doing here is covering their own asses for the worst case scenario for them. They don’t give a damn about the consumer or developer end due to their monopoly. Games with pornographic content is mere blip on the radar for them, the revenue Valve gains from them is microscopic for them. Worse, they’re a public corporation, and having erotica or pornography on their service in any form is often seen as a sort of stain. This probably also leads to some problems, just like how Steam’s terms of service had to be revised from “purchasing games” to “subscriptions” circa 2012, when Court of Justice of European Union decreed that it publishers can’t oppose of resale of used licenses. EULA ties you to nothing. However, publisher have more leverage if you don’t purchase anything from them, just subscribe to their product.

Valve, of course, never had clear rulings on the issue. They’ve been jumping back and forth regarding adult oriented material on their service in order not to even recognize the topic properly due to the stigma pornographic content still carries with it despite the fact that it’s all virtual.

The discussion about what constitutes as porn and what doesn’t should be made, but it doesn’t matter to Valve. Their view is pretty clear on the issue, even if they aren’t. If it has any kind of sexually explicit content under any kind of depiction, it is counted as porn. There is no room for nuances on the topic, which only tells how puritanical this issue is.

It is unfortunate that things have done this way, as this will probably cause further issues down the line for anyone willing to entertain the idea of having a more sexual title on Steam. It’s a slippery slope we’re in for here. There are numerous solutions, like moving these titles to Nutaku, but that also means raving Steam fans wouldn’t follow in suit.

Mature sexual content, be it pornography, erotica or whatever else similar will always limit your audience to adults and people who aren’t living in a medieval level culture. The approach of simply trying to clean it away is not the right step by any means and it will be met with opposition. However, what Valve could do here is to open a specific section for Adult Only audience, both expanding their market and guaranteeing that places competitors like GOG wouldn’t be tempted to open this sort of targeted service. Then again, this would encourage further competition, so perhaps it would be a chance for them. Muv-Luv on GOG would remove any of my reasons to use Steam.

What is the consumer to do here, if they oppose booting titles off Steam if they contain adult material? Wallet voting by purchasing these products, making your voice hard on social media and elsewhere at their representatives and showcasing support to devs who are inclining towards censoring their products.

I guess this is as good time as any to remind my readers that corporations are there to make money and keep their investors happy. That’s their main goal, and sometimes it is more favourable to enforce certain image and lack of products that could be harmful somehow to the younger audiences.

Funny that, this is pretty in-line with how the US is seen by most Europeans; a place where over-the-top and accurate depictions of hyper violence is awright, but a bare breast will make everyone flip their shit.

So you’ve finished Muv-Luv Alternative, and wondering what next

Due to circumstances, I haven’t had time to type out anything too wholesome to read for this Tuesday. Hence, I’ve prepared a small suggestion guide what to check next in the Muv-Luv franchise if you’ve finished Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative. This is a spoiler free listing, splitting between English and Japanese contents.

Official English language options

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse TV-series has been officially licensed and released by Sentai Filmworks. While Total Eclipse has rather negative reputation among the fans, it was the first Muv-Luv related product that reached the Western shores. It offers a new cast of characters, with questionable production values, and takes place before the events of Alternative. You can read a larger take on the series here. It doesn’t offer the best the franchise has, but is an expansion to the world Alternative has introduced. It stands as an independent story from the rest of the franchise, like most of these larger sidestories, and its two first episodes are probably the show’s best ones.

If your Japanese is good enough, the PC version of the Visual Novel is a definitive pick, though some argue that the anime is better due to it lacking certain significant revelation.

Schwarzesmarken

Schwarzesmarken was officially simulcasted by Crunchyroll, though for whatever reason they managed to misspell the title with a space. Set in the BETAverse’ 1980’s, the story is far removed from either Total Eclipse or Alternative. It has a more dreadful to it than Total Eclipse, with cold war between East and West still raging in Germany, all the while the BETA still push towards Western Europe. Half as short as Total Eclipse, Schwarzesmarken offers some look into earlier days of war against BETA, when not all tactics were put into stone yet and TSFs were heavy coffins. Opinions are split which one is worse, Total Eclipse or Schwarzesmarken, though I recommend watching both to make up your own mind. The two shows may have a connection through one certain character, though that has never been officially confirmed. If you want to read more about Schwarzesmarken, I have a full review of the series on the site.

The Visual Novel was split into two and didn’t sell all that well, but is a better piece of the two, if only by a margin. Only in Japanese though.

Rumbling Hearts

Rumbling Hearts AKA Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was localised by Funimation in the mid-2000’s and is available at their site for free to watch, though this is region locked. Nevertheless, the DVDs are common and cheap to pick up. Rumbling Hearts, while not exactly a prequel to Muv-Luv, shares the same setting as Extra, and certain character appear in their BETAverse versions in Alternative. However, unlike Extra, Rumbling Hearts is very much dead serious in its tone to relationships to the point of being probably one of the more realistic depictions of troubles in romantic relationships in Japanese cartoons. It is a fantastic adaptation, shrinking the core of the Visual Novel while still giving it some originality to it. It’s highly recommended if you haven’t seen it, regardless of your genre preferences. I have a podcast special with Invalidname, a huge fan of the series; Evan, one of the translators of Muv-Luv and all around pretty cool guy and Muv-Luv Alternative; and Doc who I dragged along because the show needed a third party opinion.

If you can muster the language, I recommend reading the Visual Novel as well.

Whenever the Photon collections gets released on Steam thanks to the Kickstarter, this spot will be updated with multiple entries when applicable.

~Unofficial~English Language Options

These option require you to acquire the discs themselves for you to patch.

Before the Shimmering Time Ends

Before the Shimmering Tim Ends is a sequel to Muv-Luv Alternative. This story can be found in the Muv-Luv Altered Fable and Photon Melodies collections. It is a common misconception that the story’s name is Altered Fable, but that’s just the collection’s name it comes in alongside Faraway Dawn and Total Eclipse Mini-ADV . Those who have finished Alternative should be aware of the last events changing things a bit, and this story takes full advantage of them. Alternative Projects has translated three of the routes in the Visual Novel of the PC version, and the required patch can be picked up from their site. The three routes are highly recommended to read, as it soothes the pains lingering from Alternative. Or makes them more exaggerated, depending on you, dear reader.

Haruko Maniax

One of the shorter stories, Haruko Maniax gives you what’s in the title. One of Evan’s spot-on contributions around, before the Kickstarter hit the ‘hood. If you liked Haruko as a character during Alternative, this is a must read. It follows Haruko’s little brother, who seems to have some fixation to his older sister. Filled with comedy and fantasy segments of erotic kind, it’s a fun little read while you’re waiting for other stuff to come out. You can pick up the patch from Alternative Project.

Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 01

Much like how Altered Fable is a collection, the Chronicles lineup of fandiscs (releases that are directed at the fans rather than as full-blown, Big Name releases) serves as a backbone to ixtl/âge’s expanding both Unlimited and Alternative through side stories. The Day After is a series that takes place after the events of Unlimited‘s end and offers a world that is very much gone to hell, with half of it turned into an ocean of salt, struggle against famine and BETA an everyday thing. Both Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers give further insight to the struggle against BETA from the viewpoint of your normal surface pilots. Once more, the patch can be picked up from Alternative Projects.

Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 02

Chronicles 02 continues where the previous one ended, though this time there are only two stories to read through; The Day After Episode 01 and MLA Chronicles Adoration. The Day After continues with the Unlimited timeline as previously mentioned, while Adoration having a lighter tone to it as it follows Imperial Royal Guard member Makabe Seijurou’s exchange in Euro Front’s Dover base. Not much need to be said about either one, except that Alternative Projects have a separate patches for TDA01 and Adoration.

Various Rumbling Hearts short stories

Evan, one of the Alternative Project’s translators I mentioned above, has a site up called Kiminozo Life, which contains his unofficial translations for numerous Rumbling Hearts and Muv-Luv related side stories. These include, for example, Melvina Maniax’s Kimi ga Nozomu Muv-Luv, which sees the two main characters between the two stories switching places, and True Lies, one of the more comedy filled entries in the KGNE/ML metaverse. There are no patches, as the translations are done through subtitled videos. You can also bother him on Twitter about anything.

Japanese options, for fun and language training

This is not intended as a complete list of all âge/ixtl’s products that have relations to Muv-Luv, but here are some specific picks for those hungry for more and have the language skills demanded.

Before the Cherry Trees Blossom -Muv-Luv After Episode-

A story set after Sumika’s Extra route, starting in February 2002. While having some janky writing, it is nevertheless the first direct continuation of an Extra route, and it’s a must read for those who want to see more Sumika, and how the cast graduates. If you absolutely hate her guts, you might as well skip this. Otherwise, it’s extra for those who like Extra. It can be found in Muv-Luv Supplement, alongside with rectal destroying card game Muv-Luv Duelist and few other stories.

Muv-Luv ~Another Episode Collection~

Stuffed to Muv-Luv Supplement, Another Episode Collection also goes under the name of Heroine Short Story collection. These stories are set in before and during Extra from other character’s perspective. Also in Photon Flowers, so you can dust off that PS3 of yours, or sit tight and wait.

Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu

Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu is the whole shebang that started âge’s Kimi ga line of VNs, that lasted all two titles. Much like how Muv-Luv follows up on Rumbling Hearts, Rumbling Hearts follows on Kimi Ita. The title’s not anything special, if we’re honest, but does give an insight to certain characters that appear as their BETAverse counterparts in some Muv-Luv titles. There is also an updated version, if you find the late 1990’s style garish.

Chronicles 03 and 04

Chronicles 03 follows in the footsteps of Chronicles 02 and has two main titles: The Day After Episode 02 and MLA Chronicles Resurrection. Resurrection follows the exploits of one Silvio Orlandi. While the story opens up as a rather serious take on him praying in a church before he engages a mission, it quickly turns into a more light-hearted romp about him becoming a Six Million Dollar Man and is sent to infiltrate the Yokohama Base as a spy. It’s a rather lengthy story to boot, with multiple chapters and a change in visual style.

Chronicles 04 collects more stories than the two previous installments, with TDA 03 introducing a certain familiar face from the mainline trilogy. Let’s just say all those hours put into Valgern-On really paid off. Last Divers could be called a companion piece to Chicken Divers as the two share themes with each other, with the significant difference of Last Divers taking place in the Unlimited‘s TDA timeline. War Ensemble takes place in 1998, and unlike most other stories, it concentrates on the infantry. While we have TSF running around, the story’s main point is to show how inglorious it is to be a foot soldier, with few powered armours at your side, when a BETA assault lands on you.

And if you’re a fan of anthropomorphised BETA, Chronicles 04  has an episode of Haiburu.

Tactical Surface Figher in Action and other materials

Tactical Surface Fighter in Action, or TSFiA for short, is a series of short stories concentrating on the TSFs themselves and numerous events across Unlimited and Alternative timelines, crossing over with both Schwarzesmarken and Total Eclipse. These were essentially story advertisement for TSF toys and models, and dioramas were made using these. Some of them stories have been translated, but that was some years ago, with this being the latest version.

There are loads of books regarding Muv-Luv, from source books to comics. Some of the comics have been scanlated at least to some extent, and I’m sure you can locate some through use of a search engine. A special mention needs to be given to the Alternative comic, which has gotten a positive reception from those who have read it. Integral Works is also recommended, though its info is used in the upcoming Codex. TSF Cross Operation books are sort of expansions to Integral Works in that they contain expanded information and short stories, including numerous TSFiA ones.

Muv-Luv Alternative Faraway Dawn

Faraway Dawn are two sets of strategy games included with Altered Fable and Haruko Maniax. In essence, your job is to keep TSFs intact and their pilots alive through number of missions in rUGP powered STR. Expect high difficulty and lots of savescumming. The game plays on a field build on hexagons, and while all the menus are in Japanese, understanding them is a small matter of trial and error. It’s about as easy to get around them as it is with a standard Super Robot Wars, though there are more things to consider than in SRW titles.

Akane Maniax and AyuMayu Theatre

Akane Maniax is a name of a visual novel and a three-episode OVA. The OVA was meant to bridge Rumbling Hearts to Muv-Luv in animation form, but that came to naught. However, it is the first time we see Takeru & co. in animated form, and while it does lean on the comedy side of things, it’s a good fan service overall. You can pick the Japanese DVDs rather cheaply nowadays, or if you’ve got the dough, the BD set that comes with Rumbling Hearts, Akane Maniax and Next Season OVA with some other extras. You can freely apply fansubs to these versions, and there are specifically timed versions floating around the net. Next Season is effectively an optional end to the series, made to both advertise then-new Latest Edition of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien VN, and to appease raving Haruka fans.

AyuMayu Theatre, or AyuMayu Gekijouban if you’re so inclined, is an ONA based around making fun of both Rumbling Hearts and Muv-Luv, having cast from both series stepping and having comedy of their and the viewer’s expense. It’s really a recommended watch, and subtitles floating around can be put into good use as the DVD is dirt cheap nowadays. Seriously, it costs one yen if you know where to look and are willing to buy used. If you’ve grown fond of Ayu and Mayu, they got their own Alternative.

AyuMayu Alternative

The last entry on this short list is AyuMayu Alternative, a rather tongue-in-cheeck spin-off with more of the comedic characters from Rumbling Hearts and Akane Maniax getting a huge spotlight. It’s a fun read, especially if you’re a fan of old-school robot anime and Saint Seiya. However, if you’re in mood for something more serious, AyuMayu Alternative also hosts two Chronicles stories.

MLA Chronicles Atonement and Inheritance/Succession (it’s got two competing choices for a translation) follow a select two characters. In Atonement, we see Jinguuji Marimo‘s past when she was a cadet, at her Comprehensive Combat Eval. and her first sortie against the BETA. These expand on the character, and while I’ve seen some argue that it cheapens the character, others have countered that it expands and gives another meaning to the 7th chapter Muv-Luv Alternative; The Unforgiven. Inheritance concentrates on the immediate family of Captain herself, Isumi Michiru, specifically her little sister Akira. Set soon after the events on Sado Island, Akira meets with her sisters after a victory celebration, only to pass out due to PTSD flashbacks. Later, they learn about Captain’s faith. Towards the end, we see Akira taking part in Operation Sledgehammer in 2003, the third known successful Hive infiltration, and the first successful Hive capture for humanity without a need for weapons like G-Bombs.

There is lot more to Muv-Luv as a franchise than what’s on this list, especially if we take into account the rest of the expanded metaverse, but for now these should offer some ideas what to check out next. There is a lot more to come in the future.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-5 Freedom Fighter

I’ll be blunt straight from the start; the F-5 series Tactical Surface Fighters are boring and blocky as hell. Their design takes only few elements from the fighters overall and mostly rely on being blocky to stand from the crowd. They are the antithesis of the TSF design rules I proposed, and the main argument why they are invalid across the board. I shouldn’t really be writing this with a fever, but now that I finally have access to my folders and books, I wanted to get this done away. However, let’s start with the real F-5 first and foremost before mentioning a thing about the TSF.

The F-5 was designed in the late 1950’s by Northrop to compete with its contemporaries, mainly the McDonnel Douglas F-4 Phantom II. F-5 however became the more popular of the two for it being a versatile and a low-cost light weight supersonic fighter. Mainly designed to be an air superiority fighter, the fighter was also capable of air-to-ground attacks.
The initial run of F-5’s was around 800 units, as USAF didn’t have a need for a lightweight fighter such at the time. Nevertheless, the F-5E Tiger II was put into production for Americas’ allies after Northrop won the Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970. F-5E saw an overall improved design with more powerful engines with the J85-GE21 turbojets capable of 2 268kg of afterburning thrust, greater sing spanand other overall improvements. One of the places F-5E saw extensive use was in Vietnam due to its nature of being able to perform both air and ground attacks. Its two 20mm cannons in the nose could deliver new speed holes to the enemy units and the F-5-E was capable of carrying two AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs on its wingtips, plus around 3 175kg of mixed ordinance. By the mid-80’s, over 20 countries had imported the F-5E into their air forces, and while it may lack all-weather capabilities, it’s relative cheap price and operation was deemed more valuable. Taiwan, South Korea and Switzerland all produced F-5E under license, and while the production of the fighter stopped in 1987, manufacturers still offer a variety of upgrade options. It’s one of the more widespread fighters in the world, and countries like Mexico sill have some in service. The last evolution of F-5 series would have been the F-20 Tigershark, but the USAF declined the aircraft. However, the F-5 series served as the basis for the Northrop YF-17 and F/A-18 fighters. To be fair, there is so much history to the fighter due to its widespread nature that it’s better for you to check what interest you more, this is just a basic introduction to the fighter.

f-5There’s no imageboard variant this time around. The lack of any sort of good backside image or Jump Units for this particular version really shows how the further variants are more prevalent in the franchise

The TSF version of the F-5 bears some resemblance to the fighter in its history. Initially rolled out after the introduction Phantom II, the Freedom Fighter opted for lower armouring and superior mobility. Just like the F-5 fighter was used to train pilots, the Freedom Fighter TSF served first as a training machine that was converted into a full-fledged combat unit. We don’t know what this training TSF was named or looked like, but that doesn’t matter. Similar how the real life F-5 became an export extravaganza, so did the Freedom Fighter, with the US forces allowing to local productions of this lightweight surface fighter in order to take pressure off from American productions. This naturally gave the Europeans their own TSF push towards Kashgar and counter the invading BETA.The weapon loadout for the Freedom Fighter was simple; a WS-16 Assault Cannon and brass balls for the pilot. The FE85-GE15 engines allowed the TSF to have superior maneuverability over Phantom II, but the weapons technology was severely lacking during the early 1970’s, making the war against BETA more or less a futile attempt. However, it was because of its cheap price and low-maintenance why Freedom Fighter found success in the front lines. The Soviets and European forces found it worth to mix Phantom IIs and Freedom Fighters in a healthy mix to compensate each other’s lacking capabilities, which would yield further high-low mix troops in the future.F-5 itself influenced the Soviet’s MiG-series and would affect their design decisions in regards of close-combat capabilities. The French developed the Mirage III based on the Freedom Fighter, which would ultimately give birth European 3rd Generation TSFs such as EF-2000 Typhoon and the Rafale. The F-5 series of TSFs would continue to mirror the evolution of the real life fighters in a very similar fashion, giving birth to F-5G Tighershark Tactical Surface Fighter and other variants. Of course, Muv-Luv’s BETAverse differs in naming schemes and has some additional variations, but that’s par for the course.As for the design of the F-5 Freedom Fighter, it shares more design elements with the F-5 Phantom II than the real fighter it is supposed to be based on. Sure, the Jump Units (not pictured) share its normal resemblance with the fighter, but outside few overall similarities the core Freedom Fighter doesn’t have much going on for it. This is where the early consistency still kicks in hard, but the lack of further discerning elements in the TSF from the fighter makes this a boxy and boring unit.  Things would get any better, with F-5F Mirage III being essentially the same with a new chest, wider antennae and spikes on its knees. It wouldn’t be until Mirage 2000 before the European TSFs would start to carry further elements from the real life fighters. That’s a damn shame too.F-5 did offer elements to borrow from, but I guess one ways to show how low-tech 1st Gen TSFs are is to have lacking plane elements in the,
Just like with some other TSFs, what matters more is the history and intention of the rather than the design, resulting in a poor comparison point between the fighter and TSF, unless one wants to over analyse every single little bit on the unit. Frankly, that would be useless.From now on, I probably will have to resort to various other sources for images, most likely the use of CGs will see a rise.

Review of the month; TSF Close Combat weapons overview

Fantasy weapons are rarely useful. They’re overdesigned pieces of trash that use excuse of magic or other bullshit to make them plausible. While Japan has produced some fine examples and utter bullshit, like the Final Fantasy 8 Gunblade or Clouds Buster Sword, the West is no stranger to absolutely batshit stupid designs. Skyrim’s Red Eagles Fury and Daedric Sword are good examples of awful design as is the Frostmourne from World of Warcraft.

The TSF close combat weapons don’t get a free pass from me just because it’s Muv-Luv. The problem with giant robot weapons is that they’re pretty much always made of bullshittium or the like. In case of TSF’s close combat weapons, they’re most likely made of some sort of derivative of supercarbon to give them high resistance to damage and light weight rather than made straight up same type the TSF’s are made of. Outside the fact that close combat is not the best idea when it comes to fighting the BETA, these close combat weaponry range from night retarded to plausible.

To add to the discussion whether or not these should be called Melee Halberds or something else, I’m sticking with my grounds and refusing to call these halberds despite me finally finding some materials having the term in plain English. Furthermore, Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse World Guidance, or just TEWG, splits Melee Halberds into types; halberds and claymores. This can be countered with two arguments; 1) there are no halberds in Muv-Luv and 2) there are no claymores in Muv-Luv. This is largely a case where the writers have just thrown in cool sounding terms they no jack shit about. You might as well start calling a gun a longsword while you’re at it and missiles as Volkswagens. I may  need to read up on fighters and jet planes with each TSF comparison, but I know my way around blade weapons pretty well.

The Type-74 PB Blade is the sword we see the most in the franchise as it is used by the Japanese. It’s not really modelled after any real life sword, and while most people will see it modelled after a katana, the closes analogue would be the Chinese changdao as all of them are named after this particular type of sword. Tachi or nodachi would be the closest Japanese equivalent. Maybe the back carrying is taken from nodachi due to their huge size, but the grip with Type-74 is too short to be one.

Incidentally, the Type-74 PB Blade bears resamblence toa changdao in blade curvature. As a sidenote, changdao directly translates as long knife
Re-using this one from my previous entry

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