The past twelve months have been pretty amazing for visual novel fans in English-speaking regions. First CLANNAD had an incredibly successful Kickstarter back in November of 2014, and then the entire Grisaia trilogy was also successfully funded barely a month later. Both of these series are highly acclaimed and well-loved in the extremely picky (and frankly nearly impossible to please) VN community, which explains why both Kickstarters initially aimed for $100,000 in funding but each managed to raise far more (the Grisaia series netted a total of $475k, while CLANNAD raised an even more impressive $541k). But there is still one series out there that is even more popular, more highly acclaimed, and is largely believed by many in the VN fandom to be the best VN trilogy ever made: the Muv-Luv series. While the Kickstarters for Grisaia and CLANNAD were going on, the people who were funding these projects couldn’t help but mention how they hoped this was a sign that Muv-Luv might eventually get picked up once Japanese publishers saw how much Westerners would pay for an official release with a nice translation and decent voice acting; the phrase “throw all my money at it” was used by more VN fans than I care to admit. And finally, late in September this year, it happened at long last: a Muv-Luv Kickstarter was born.
…but gradually morphs into something more amazing involving robots and monsters that frankly neither the reader nor the main character of the VN were prepared to handle.
It is difficult to explain why Muv-Luv is so popular without spoiling most of the story. The safest and least spoilery summary I can give is this: Muv-Luv starts out as a pretty nice parody of slice of life romantic comedies set in Japanese high schools, but gradually morphs into something more amazing involving robots and monsters that frankly neither the reader nor the main character of the VN were prepared to handle. On top of this, the art, music, and Japanese voice acting were all considered top-notch, and the story across the three main VNs (never mind the additional side stories) were considered by many to be the best writing ever done in a VN after Alternative (the finale to the main trilogy) came out in 2006. It’s still considered a crowning achievement by many to this day, and as a result has the most protective and fanatic fans I’ve ever seen for any sort of fictional media.
It came as no surprise to me, then, when the Muv-Luv Kickstarter launched and asked for a whopping $250,000 just to get the initial project off the ground; two and a half times as much as the other major VN series had asked for. It was an extremely popular title already, after all, and fans had sworn up and down that they would hurl money at the project, so Degica and the Muv-Luv Team were right to believe that could afford to ask for that kind of funding. So it was also no surprise to me that the Kickstarter managed to raise that much money in under eight hours, and although momentum has since decreased, they’re still raising an average of $4,000 per day more than two weeks into the Kickstarter. At the time of this article being written, they’ve raised over $605k, making this the most successfully funded VN Kickstarter of all time. One final stretch goal remains with another secret one waiting to be unlocked if they get to $720k, and at this point I’d say that’s likely to happen. People who love Muv-Luv are the kind of people that throw all their spare money into their VN hobby; according to the last update, the team working on Muv-Luv is actually going to add another $1,500 tier and a total of four more $4,000 tiers because people have been asking for them. That’s right, people have literally been asking for more high-level tiers to throw money at.
People who love Muv-Luv are the kind of people that throw all their spare money into their VN hobby…
So, what are the developers planning to do with all that money? Part of it will be going to officially translating it (though word on the street is that they’ll largely be modifying the existing fan translation put out by Ixrec), and part will be going to updating the graphics, providing better user interface, and making sure the new release runs smoothly on all recent PC OSs out there (this last one is particularly important, given that Windows 8 seems to enjoy crashing VNs with frightening regularity). Now that stretch goals have been unlocked, there will also be improved English voice acting, new music and backgrounds, both Vita and Android ports of the game, and a Muv-Luv universe codex. And in case anyone was worried about censorship, although the PC version of the game is going to be released on Steam (it’s uncertain whether it will release on any other digital platform yet) they’re already planning a patch for the adult content so nothing will be left out, and we can assume some funding will be unofficially heading towards that (unofficially, because of Kickstarter’s no adult content rules). Still to come are the translation of two Muv-Luv side stories, Photon Melodies and Photon Flowers, and a strongly hinted-at final secret stretch goal.
So, what can a person get for backing this? A lot, depending on how much money you’re willing to splurge. $25 gets you the first two games, Extra and Unlimited, $35 gets you Alternative (everyone’s favorite), and $60 gets you digital copies of all three. $80 gets you physical copies of all three games, or digital copies of all three plus the OST. Lower level physical goods tiers like Yuuko’s gift bag get you things ranging from buttons and postcards; higher level tiers (think $150 and above) gets you hoodies, plushies, art books, model robots, pillowcases, and all the digital rewards that are guaranteed to be released. Currently they’re out of rewards at the $5,000 and $4,000 levels, but you can still buy in as high as $3,000 now.
If you’re interested in backing this project and getting your hands on one of the greatest VN series ever made, the Kickstarter is still live and will be going until November 3. Remember, a lot of VN developers in Japan haven’t considered releasing their products in North America in years past because they think there’s no market for it. Backing a Kickstarter, even an already successfully funded one, can make a developer reconsider the idea that no one in the Western world wants to spend money on their product. And there’s no better project around to throw money at than Muv-Luv. I strongly encourage you to support their Kickstarter, and I promise you it’ll be worth however much you want to give.