The Muv-Luv series is considered by many the pinnacle of the visual novel genre, mostly due to its complex and dramatic stories, its interesting characters, and the top-notch mecha design that you wouldn’t expect in this kind of game.
Yet, while its popularity certainly spiked after the successful Kickstarter that resulted in the western release of Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative, it isn’t as well known as it deserves in the west,
Those two games (or three, if you consider Extra and Unlimited separate titles) hide an extremely complex saga made of many titles released so far only in Japan, and there is certainly more to come.
In order to know more about the series, its past, and especially its future (in Japan and in the west), DualShockers had a nice and long chat with creator Koki Yoshimune at ixtl’s headquarters in Akihabara, Tokyo. The interview was translated directly by ixtl Executive Director Asahi Iwanaga.
Muv Luv Extra goes into Unlimited with a very radical twist that changes the setting entirely from a rather traditional romantic harem visual novel to a tragic story of love and war set into a fascinating sci-fi alternate universe where an alien race named BETA has invaded Earth and is indiscriminately exterminating humanity. A natural question is of course whether this change was planned from the start, or it came during Extra’s development.
Yoshimune-san explained that there are some elements that were added during development, but all the important plot points like the death of certain characters were included in the storyboards drawn before Muv Luv‘s creation.
The Muv-Luv series is about human beings growing up, and it was initially targeted for the young generations in Japan. In order to provide a sensation of realism, elements of the real world have been included, like the TSF (Tactical Surface Fighters, the mecha included in the franchise) inspired by actual military aircraft, alongside historical factors like the relationship between Japan and the United States.
Interestingly, the Japanese TSF are an exception, as they’re not inspired by real military jets. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the local military hasn’t worked on domestically produced fighters. The only exception is the project that gave birth to the Mitsubishi F-2. The American Government pushed for a collaborative project based on the F-16, and this collaboration appears in Muv-Luv as well, following what happened in the real world.
The mecha design of the Japanese TFS is inspired by famous Japanese artists like Kazutaka Miyatake, Masami Oobari, and Mamoru Nagano, to whom the Muv-Luv team looks up with great respect.
Another peculiar element in the Muv-Luv series is the enemy, embodied by the alien invaders named BETA. The team didn’t aim to design them just as scary creatures, working instead on looks that would be as disgusting as possible. This was done to instill into players feelings of revulsion when looking at them. To that end, human body parts were used as part of the BETA’s design.
[Editor’s Note: The following paragraph includes a spoiler on Muv-Luv Alternative, so if you have not played the game, you may want to consider skipping it.]
Humans and BETA have in common the fact that they’re both carbon-based organisms, and the BETA actually doubt whether humans are living beings at all. This creates a contrast with the fact that they have body parts with similar looks.
The story of Muv-Luv branches between the world derived by the ending of Unlimited, and the situation created by the end of Alternative. Yet, Yoshimune-san explained that it’s not really difficult for him to keep track of those branches. He designs each story with what comes afterward in mind. It’s not really about choosing one branch or the other, as each story has its own ending and its own continuation.
Now that ixtl has taken direct control of publishing the franchise in the west, Yoshimune-san mentioned that that the entire staff at ixtl are currently doing their best to improve their localization workflow, so that one day, future games of the franchise can be possibly released at the same time in the west and Asia as in Japan, or at least with only a few months delay.
Speaking of games already released in Japan, while timing is still to be determined, ixtl would like to release them as well sometime in the future.
Schwarzesmarken is also part of ixtl’s future plans. At the moment it's simply a matter of having the resources available to allocate to the localization.
For Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles things are a little different as the series has not been completed yet, so the team needs to focus on the Japanese version first, and when the right time comes it will be translated in English. Unfortunately, they don’t know when that’ll happen for now.
Another piece of the Muv-Luv puzzle is the mobile game Muv-Luv Alternative: Strike Frontier. Tashiro Hayato is deeply involved in writing the scenario, and the same goes for the character designers of the original heroines. âge also regularly checks all the visual materials, working closely with DMM to deliver the new story.
The game is also used to test new things like the Attack On Titan collaboration. All the companies involved are doing their best to work together and explore new possibilities for the Muv-Luv franchise.
Going forward, Yoshimune-san would like to use new technologies as the team did with Muv-Luv VR. There is a lot of new tech that has been developed recently, and it would be great to utilize it to show the Muv-Luv world in new ways and to a wider audience.
This prompted us to ask whether we might ever see a mecha combat action game set in the Muv-Luv universe, as the franchise would be perfect for that. Yoshimune-san mentioned that he feels the same way, and it would be easy to imagine a first-person-shooter or third-person-shooter in which the player takes the role of a pilot in the cockpit of a TSF. He is looking forward to creating something unique while taking advantage of newer technologies when the timing is right, and when that happens, he would like the fans to support his plans.
Asked whether he is considering more consoles like PS4 or Nintendo Switch, Yoshimune-san mentioned that he is always looking for ways to expand the reach of the series to other platforms.
The franchise also has a solid presence on the anime front, with an adaptation of Schwarzesmarken and Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. Yoshimune-san explained that he himself belongs to the anime generation, and he really loves to watch anime.
He thinks that animation is certainly one of the ways in which the Muv-Luv world can be shown to a large audience. To that end, he hopes that the fans will help to raise awareness about the games. ixtl is working with Avex hoping that the growth of the fanbase will make new anime series in the future more likely.
Another facet of the Muv-Luv series is represented by its light novels, and Yoshimune-san would like them to be translated into English, but it depends mostly on the fans. If there is a strong request from the fanbase, it could be possible, especially if there are fans that want to help with the translation. In that case, it might be possible to do something together.
Speaking of fan involvement, at the moment there are no specific plans to use Kickstarter for other projects, but it remains a possible option for the future.
Currently, Yoshimune-san is working on a story set eighty years after Muv-Luv Alternative. For the moment there are still no promises on whether this will actually become a game, but he is thinking about it and working on the events it will involve.
In the past, he already created a story set a thousand years into the future, titled Kaseki no Uta, born from his love for Isaac Asimov’s writing.
That being said, there are a lot of stories that can still be written in the Muv-Luv universe, and Yoshimune-san has many ideas in mind. Whether they’ll become games or not is still undecided.
Incidentally, he explained that Muv-Luv means “True Love.” “Mavu” in Japanese is a slang word that conveys the meaning of “Truth”
Our chat ended with a message for the fans: Yoshimune-san explained that the franchise was created about fifteen years ago, and it was originally targeted at young Japanese gamers. He was really surprised that the series’ popularity expanded all over the world, and is now inspiring the young generations outside of Japan.
The Muv-Luv setting itself is not specific to Japan, and its stories can be set in many different regions. That’s why he is hoping to see talented creators in each nation step forward to create Muv-Luv stories set in their own regions.
He would like to one day be able to collaborate with young artists and creatives from all over the world in making their own countries’ Muv-Luv stories.
If you want to read more about the series, you can read my own review of Muv Luv and Muv Luv Alternative. Both games have recently been re-released on Steam, and they’ll launch on PS Vita this summer.