#AlwaysApril – Virgo Versus the Zodiac

So…I had intended for this post to be out the door back in March, but as you’re reading it toward the tail end of April that obviously didn’t pan out. #MaybeInMarch is the follow through from the post I wrote back during love your backlog week. Unfortunately I was a bit too deep into Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. As a result I started the game I had selected, but wasn’t quite able to finish it in time. In fact, having now finished it, I was only about half way through it. But I finished Virgo Versus the Zodiac this past weekend (at the time of writing), so lets dive in.

Virgo Versus the Zodiac is an RPG that released last December, which I scooped up during the Steam winter sale. Visually it looks very up my alley as I’ve played and reviewed no short supply of 2D pixel games. However, RPGs aren’t exactly my favourite genre. A lot of the time I don’t have the patience to wait for them to get going. And very seldom do role-playing games start crashing out of the gate. Why then would I subject myself to Virgo?

Well for starters I like taking chances on games because I never know when I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If I only ever played things that I figured I’d enjoy then there are numerous games that I’d have never played.

Secondly the trailer had great music. Yes. That IS an especially dumb reason to buy a game.

So, did Virgo rise up and impress despite being in a genre I typically don’t have the patience for after my incredibly dubious purchase?

aries

Yes actually.

Despite still having a slow start, I found the whole experience on the positive side, due largely to how the game addresses old school RPG sensibilities with modern improvements. My favourite of which was the lack of random encounters. Almost every battle has an enemy sprite in the over-world that you need to interact with in-order to begin combat. This gives the developer much more control over the pace of the whole game. You’re always given enough experience to be exactly as strong as you need to be and a much finer balance is struck between story and action when compared against games where combat encounters are random.

I also liked how combat was implemented. Instead of typical tedious menu based combat there is a system not unlike what the Paper Mario games used. Attacking and blocking use an active system akin to a quick time event to increase the effectiveness of your actions. Successfully timing button presses will see you halving incoming damage as well as applying bonus damage and secondary effects on all of your attacks. This results in a battle system where you need to be actively engaged which I really enjoyed.

The battle system might not have been as welcome if battles weren’t so fast paced. Both your party and the enemies have a quick time to kill, so battles are lightning fast. All you need to do is perform a few successful actions to ensure victory. Virgo also allows you to retry a battle immediately after you’ve failed it instead of punting you back to the last place you saved. Given how challenging some of the fights are and how quickly you can snowball into defeat I really appreciated that the game was so accommodating with second chances.

combat

We’re moving onto story next so there are spoiler-inos ahead. You’ve been warned.

Now for the story beats. The overarching story is good. You play as the Zodiac Virgo, if the game’s title hadn’t clued you in already, on a righteous quest to purge heresy and bring about the second golden age. Virgo is convinced that the galaxy has lost its way and intends to return it to its former glory by any means.

Things begin a bit slow and I only started to get drawn into the story once it dawned on me that I was playing the villain. The context you’re provided at the onset of your journey leads to players assuming Virgo is the hero. But the further you get in the story the more you realize Virgo is not a good person. Her actions almost always have a net negative on all of those around her and the galaxy as a whole. This re-contextualizes everything, including the boss fights. The Zodiacs aren’t opposing you because video game logic. Rather, it is because you’re systematically destroying them and their people.

On top of that the story also has a branching narrative. There are three major decisions that you make in the first half of the game and depending on what decisions you made you’re set down one of three unique paths. Because of this the writing and tone mirror the actions you’ve taken up to that point and certain events make far more sense. For example, in my play-through I killed two of the Zodiacs and and daughter of Capricorn in the first half of the game. Because of this some of the Zodiacs refused to fight me in the latter half as they were too afraid of dying. I’d already proven I was a genocidal maniac and only those with a strong vendetta against Virgo continued to oppose her.

Spoilers end here

heresy

While I enjoyed the overarching story, I wasn’t as big on the character specific writing. Aside from the occasional laugh at Virgo’s outbursts about heresy I found her and most of the main cast a little too typical. They lacked the kind of core that is required to make them interesting or easy to relate to. Instead, they all closely followed well worn character tropes. That’s fine, but didn’t make them particularly memorable. It also caused some of the moments that were supposed to be emotional to fall flat as I hadn’t come to care about any of the main cast in a meaningful way.

So overall I enjoyed my time with Virgo. It took a bit to get going, but the active combat kept me around long enough for the story to pick up and once it did I was drawn into the whole of the game. The characters were a bit weak though.

That wraps up my thoughts on Virgo Versus the Zodiac and also sees me completing #MaybeInMarch…or #AlwaysApril. Whichever. Glad I finally got around to finishing something after Monster Hunter loosened its grip on me. Hopefully now I can catch up on the rest of the backlog I accumulated over the past several months.

3 thoughts on “#AlwaysApril – Virgo Versus the Zodiac

  1. I know it was probably meant more as a joke and I’m reading too much into it, but I’d say good music is a good reason to trust/buy a game.
    In my opinion. sound design (and music in particular) is one of the most overlooked parts of video games. Even great games often opt for a generic background tootling, rather than a soundtrack that perfectly underscores what’s going on at the moment. I’m talking about soundtracks where you can listen to them a year after you played the game and instantly know what had happened during that song.

    It does not even have to be a super characteristic melody, but even well-placed, subtle sounds can find their way into your mind and stay there forever. So whenever a game has good music, I find that it says a lot about how much overall care and love went into developing it.

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    1. It was meant as a joke, but I’d tend to agree with your assessment. Good music usually means that time was put into it and often that means that time went into other aspects of the game. Or at least, there is enough existing evidence that I could reasonably draw the same conclusion you have.

      Like

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