Currently listening to: Muv-Luv OST (No link this time, play the VN before that!)
Muv-Luv Alternative (MLA) is one of those VN titles you can't help to see everywhere, if you're into the genre. It's apparently one of those titles you must play, one of "the best VN evah!!1!".
After reading such things, I couldn't help but googling a bit about it.
Turns out MLA is a direct sequel to - you'll never guess - Muv-Luv, which unlike MLA isn't apparently all that good. But hey, if there's something Shakugan no Shana taught me, is how a sequel can improve the original series, so after finishing Rewrite* I was in for the ride.
(*: Why the heck didn't I write about that?!)
There's not that much to write about - mainly because I want to spoiler as less as possible - so here's what I think:
Muv-Luv Extra: This is the first part of the original ML. Let's be clear, it's a pain. I didn't mind it too much at first, but after finishing the first route (out of 5, plus 2 bad endings), the entertainment factor was long out of the window.
It was nothing unexpected though, so I (kinda) rushed through the main routes, ignoring altogether the other two, since they aren't plot-relevant anyway.
"There, done. Start screen changed, now it's kinda odd too, but who cares about that? Let's just install MLA already".
Fortunately, after another bit of googling, I discovered in time that I was not done with Muv-Luv at all. That was because, after clearing the 2 main routes, you unlock...
Muv-Luv Unlimited: ...which is the second part of the original ML. I was already cursing quite a bit, but after just a few minutes into the game, I was happy to find out that MLU is an entirely different thing, and I was beginning to see why MLA was supposedly this good.
Hours flew and I finished MLU before realizing it. It was finally time to start...
Muv-Luv Alternative: The most obvious thing you notice even before pressing "Start" is how the budget sky-rocketed compared to Extra & Unlimited. Which was, as you can imagine, a very pleasant surprise. Just by looking at the start screen, I also immediately noticed how much different MLA was going to be from its prequel(s). These thoughts were confirmed the more I played it.
Now, as I said, I don't want to spoiler anything so there's not much I can say, if not a few generic thoughts:
1) Considering that Extra & Unlimited first came out in 2003, while Alternative was only released 2006, I find it very impressing that the developers already had in mind pretty much all the story since the beginning. This is quite obvious seeing all the references in MLA.
2) In MLA I found one of the best plot twists EVER. It's literally the first one in years that REALLY surprised me and left me totally "WTF WHY IS THIS HAPPENING HELP" for a few seconds. This is not to say everything in MLA is not predictable - in fact, right after that major plot twist I found myself guessing rightly most of the things that were about to happen (though I had no idea of the reason). After that, there was another HUGE mind-blowing scene, which left me totally baffled for several minutes. Again, this was something that didn't happen to me in a long time.
Also, do note that both these scenes might easily be disturbing for someone. It's probably about one of those two that, according to the Muv-Luv wiki:
"Even the fans agree that that scene could have been censored, and shouldn't have been seen again in so many flashbacks, though. Due to this, a censor patch has been made available. "
So yeah, serious shit.
3) Also keep in mind that the saga is long. I don't know if it's Umineko-tier but it's definitely Rewrite-tier.
So, yeah, this is one of the few cases where not only I found the hype totally justified but I agree with it as well.
There are lots of spin-offs games / novels too but the most interesting ones are yet to be translated - if they ever will - so I guess I'll just put the saga on-hold for a bit.
tl;dr: Bear with Extra, let Unlimited blow your mind, prepare to be amazed by Alternative.