JP title: マブラヴ オルタネイティヴ クロニクルズ01
I don’t think my heart can handle any more MuvLuv games. But there are still two (soon three) more volumes of Alternative Chronicles! Oh man. Also, and I doubt I need to say this, but the review assumes you’ve already finished ML Unlimited and Alternative. There will be no spoilers for Chronicles itself, though.
To give you a brief introduction, Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles is a series of side story collections taking place in the worlds of ML Unlimited and Alternative. It also has some other extra content as well like wallpapers and a very weird porn-centric story about, uh… humanized BETA girls? Yeah, I dunno.
Anyway, the most prominent story in the first volume is Muv-Luv Unlimited: The Day After (Episode 00), taking place three months after the end of Unlimited – in other words, after Operation Babylon and the activation of the dreaded Alternative V plan. If you don’t quite remember, this plan involved giving up on Earth, selecting about 100.000 people (hand-picked as the best of humanity), and taking off into deep space while the rest of humanity makes a final stand against the BETA using loads of G-bombs. Pretty grim, right? And this is only where our tale starts.
The other two stories (roughly 30 minutes each) featured in the volume, Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers are very quick side-stories set in the Alternative universe: Chicken Divers basically talks briefly about the fate of an Orbital Diver squad during the Sadogashima operation (when Sumika and the XG-70 Susanoo are first deployed), while Rain Dancers goes a few years back into the past and is mostly about the BETA invasion of Italy/Sicily in 1995. If I had to comment on them I’d say that CD is over way too quickly, or at least feels that way. However Rain Dancers, which I think is the better story of the two, introduces a fairly likable main heroine and ends on a touching note, which is always a plus. For such a short story, I felt it was really nicely executed.
The main course, The Day After 00, chronicles the lives of a group of US Marines living on the stranded USS John F. Kennedy, and mostly serves as the prologue/introduction for future volumes as far as I can tell. As far as the eye can see, the world had been turned into a salt wasteland via severe G-bombing – however, the upside is that the BETA are completely wiped out. While life on a stranded ship in a world without BETA might sound boring at first, and TDA00 does have a relatively slow start, it gets better. It’s not especially long, either, so there’s no reason not to just stick with it. I had my doubts about it at first, but in the end it managed to more or less deliver the Muv-Luv-ness we all know and love. However, the short length also means that I won’t be able to say *too* much about it in a spoiler-free review such as this one.
While it’s more or less a standalone story, it is highly recommended to play Unlimited and Alternative beforehand, as the major themes TDA00 touches upon are similar to the ideals explored in the original games – this will make certain scenes, and especially the finale feel that much more meaningful. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is pretty much a “for fans only” release, and you really need to be in the Muv-Luv mindset to be able to fully appreciate the story and its themes and developments. Despite its length, the game still managed to make me care for the fate of its characters quite a bit, so there’s that. The time it has is spent wisely – not on filler scenes, but on meaningful character development that feels completed by the end. On the flip side, since the cast is quite likable (Lilia in particular is a very pleasant new heroine), it is somewhat of a bummer that they’re limited to only a few hours of screen time in a mere side story. I suppose I’ll be able to judge this better after reading the other volumes as well.
Fans of the Muv-Luv history and lore so nicely fleshed out in the main games will also find things to like here: the story of TDA00 shows what it’s like to live in the post-Alternative V world that the original only briefly mentioned (and Takeru himself has a major gap in memory concerning his two years before looping to the MLA world). All in all, while not outstanding, TDA00 was a pretty good introduction to these not yet explored events of the MLU timeline, and I’m only hoping that the next few volumes will continue this trend. The ending itself was done very nicely (complete with a brief cameo that will no doubt make MLA fans rejoice), and filled me with almost the same level of satisfaction I felt upon completing the original Unlimited.
In conclusion, while not exactly on the level of MLA, and lacking its crazy twists, TDA00 is still a solid attempt at introducing the readers to the post-Alternative V universe, and I’m overall fairly pleased with it. Like I said, the start might be slow. However, the payoff is quite nice – it all builds up to a very cool finale that managed to bring back all the emotions I felt during certain parts of Alternative and Unlimited, utilizing the typically Muv-Luv-esque practice of establishing a set of likable main characters and then throwing them into life-and-death scenarios. Tension was felt, emotions were stirred. Short as it may be, TDA00 is definitely deserving of the Muv-Luv title.