Disclosure: the reviewer backed the Muv-Luv localization Kickstarter and received Muv-Luv photonmelodies♮ as a campaign reward.
The second collection of Muv-Luv short stories was released in English earlier this year. It’s mainly intended for fans who have already played Muv-Luv Alternative, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point if you’re new to the series. Muv-Luv photonmelodies♮ includes three stories that can be played in any order: “Adoration,” “Resurrection,” and “Altered Fable: A Shimmering Shard of Spacetime.”
“Adoration” follows Seijurou, a Japanese cadet who is sent to Europe in order to learn more about their tactics. Driven by teachings from his older brothers and a burning conviction that he must embody the spirit of a true samurai, Seijurou views everything in an overly dramatic light and is disturbed when the casual, eccentric European soldiers don’t quite live up to what he imagined.
It’s a comedy, with most of the humor coming from the contrast between Seijurou’s uptight nature and the people around him, and his tendency to overthink every single thing. “Adoration” might be a bit sillier than you’d expect from a story in the Alternative universe, but it also has some truly heartwarming moments near the end. It stands on its own as a humorous coming-of-age story set in a dark world.
“Resurrection,” on the other hand, starts out on a grim note more in line with Alternative itself, as a dark series of events transforms Silvio Orlandi into a cybernetic soldier who has lost his faith. The main story begins when he is sent to infiltrate Yokohama Base to learn the truth about Alternative IV and Yuuko Kouzuki’s research, not knowing that the scientist already has her own plans for how to handle him.
Silvio is utterly devoted to two things: destroying twisted BETA research and living his life exactly the way his dead friend would have…up to and including his friend’s preferences in women. Yes, despite its dark set-up, “Resurrection” has a fair amount of comedy itself. While his supposed guides put him in increasingly suggestive situations at every turn, Silvio finds himself scouring the base on an absurd scavenger hunt that he accepts with complete seriousness. It does ultimately take a more serious turn as it approaches the climax, and it’s probably the most emotional of the three stories in this collection.
But the main draw of photonmelodies♮ for most players will be “Altered Fable: A Shimmering Shard of Spacetime,” a longer story that takes place after the end of Muv-Luv Alternative. Alternative ended with Takeru back in a timeline closely resembling his own, but now with Yuuhi and Kasumi joining the cast. If you asked yourself how the events of Muv-Luv Extra would change in this timeline, here is your answer! Don’t expect this to be a simple rehash of Extra with new characters, however. Instead, it takes the slice-of-life romcom silliness and ratchets it up even further to provide excuses for more returning characters and numerous call-backs to Alternative, such as Yuuko changing the sports festival into an airsoft battle.
A handful of choices throughout the story determine which character’s romance route you’ll end up on, with the story branching at certain points for specific scenes with that character. However, since this is based on the PS3 version of photonmelodies♮, keep in mind that there are no H-scenes that were present in the original “Altered Fable” release. Meanwhile, there is a bizarre spy story that builds up slowly in the background, but although it has its serious moments, everything is largely laid-back and lighthearted.
There is also the occasional hint that Kasumi remembers everything from the other timeline, but that just makes it feel even better to see her enjoying herself. As for Takeru, he might not remember everything, but he’s a bit more thoughtful and considerate than he was in Extra. “Altered Fable” is a feel-good romance story all around, with excuses to send the characters to the beach or on a skiing trip, feature a Christmas celebration, and so on. If you didn’t enjoy the tone of Muv-Luv Extra, you might not like this either, but you’ll most likely enjoy it if you did.
The art and music are all up to the usual Muv-Luv standards, and you can tell it’s a quality production despite its reuse of assets from the main games. All three stories are enjoyable in their own way, especially when it comes to comedy. Muv-Luv photonmelodies♮ is a fun return to the Muv-Luv universe if you’re looking for something with a bit more humor or want to give Takeru and his friends the happy send-off they deserve.
You can buy Muv-Luv photonmelodies♮ from Steam.