Virgo Versus The Zodiac

It's fair to say I've been on a bit of an RPG kick this year. I've played through Atelier Ryza, Bug Fables, Disc Creatures, Temtem, Pokemon Shield, Final Fantasy XV among others. Virgo Versus The Zodiac not only stands tall among this list, but is possibly the best experience out of the lot.

You are Virgo as she aims to bring back the golden age by acquiring all the zodiac's crowns, by any means necessary. Her quest and attitude are both determined and brutal. Accompanied by her faithful companion, Ginger, a sentient gingerbread man, you travel to various realms in search of your goal.

Virgo Versus The Zodiac

The first part of the game that struck a chord with me is the battle system. Virgo Versus The Zodiac plays like a standard RPG and there are many enemy encounters throughout. In a rare triumph for a game of this genre, at no point did these battles feel like a grind or a necessary routine that you have to tolerate in order to progress. It's an active battle system in which you have to complete a simple button task when attacking or defending. These include hitting a specific button at the right moment, repeatedly hitting a button to fill a bar (and sustaining it at full capacity until the timer expires), or pressing a series of directional buttons in quick succession. These boost the power of the action and keeps you on your toes throughout each fight. These timers can be extremely quick so you really have to keep your wits about you when engaging in battle. It can be very easy to miss these, and this can turn the battle in your opponents favour.

The difficulty in the early part of the game feels somewhat brutal. The first boss in the game, roughly two hours in, took me over twenty attempts to defeat. But, to the game's credit, I didn't feel frustrated. I was enjoying learning the system and what was required of me, as well as the incredible sound and art direction. I can see though, at the time of playing, that only 55% of players had the achievement for defeating her, so maybe others found the difficulty too much. The battle has a limited number of turns, and I have to say, at one point when I reach the end of this with the opponent on just one health remaining I did let out an audible exclamation! This shouldn't put you off though. As you learn the systems and gain party members, you don't really encounter a fight as challenging as this one.

There is a considerable amount of depth to the battle system. Each character can perform one of four actions per turn, one of which is a shield. The shield and counter mechanic is absolutely vital in ensuring you aren't overwhelmed. If an enemy attacks while you have you shield up you are able to counter. You can select one of another set of four attacks. There are so many items that you collect along the way that change the attack. In fact, there are so many that there are numerous items that I never used.

Virgo Versus The Zodiac

The main system that battles revolve around are enemy and attack types. This is represented by three colours: red, green and purple. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, green is weak against red, red is weak again purple, and purple is weak against green. This is true for Virgo and her party too. Using this to your advantage is imperative and make a noticeable difference in how battles go. There are more complex enemy types that may not have one of these colours incorporated in their design so clearly. The range of enemy designs are imaginative and inventive, as are the majority of characters in the game.

This system sounds like a lot, and it did take me a number of hours to get my head round it in practice, but ultimately, when everything clicks and you are in full control of maximising attack, defence, and support, this is one of my favourite battle systems I've encountered.

I have spent a long time discussing the battle system, but there is so much more to the game. There's crafting, improving and breaking down weapons, shmup sections between each areas (in a similar vein to Kingdom Hearts, only this is actually fun and well made!), black holes which serve as battle arenas, side missions, collectables, and more. All these different mechanics are succinct and are part of the overall experience. Did I mention you can ride an alpaca pretty much whenever you want?

Virgo Versus The Zodiac

One of my only complaints with the game was the character of Virgo herself. Her attitude is one of elitism. She talks down to nearly everyone she encounters, doesn't listen to others, and is so focused on her aims that she starts to lose reason. It felt like the classic conundrum, 'wait, am I the bad guy?'. Thankfully, this was addressed in the story and my discomfort with her attitude was lessoned. The writers have done an exemplary job of leading the player down a certain narrative and subverting it on more than once occasion. There are unexpected emotional gut-punches and the pay-off is immense. The narrative heads down brutal and unforgiving routes and occasionally left me stunned. We're talking Undertale or Lisa levels of effective storytelling here, and I consider those two games to be some of the finest in the genre. The conclusion of the game really shook me, something that not a lot of games can do.

The art and music deserve commendation too. The art is varied, detailed and especially well animated. This is particularly the case in the battles. The backgrounds are varied and beautiful, and all the characters are really brought to life. The soundtrack is a standout too. There are many tracks of varying genres and they were a pleasure to listen to. I find these factors so important, especially in a game which can involve repetitive elements, such as battle encounters, as I was happy just looking at and listening to the game.

I completed Virgo Versus the Zodiac a week prior to writing this review and have since moved on to other games, but it sticks in my mind. The sheer quality of the game, the engrossing and impactful narrative, and just how well the developers have done in incorporating so many mechanics to make a succinct and special experience. For fans of RPGs, this is an absolute must.

5

In Short

  • + Incredible and deep battle system
    + While a slow burner, the story really pays off
    + Fantastic audio and visual design
    + So much to do without any of it feeling a burden
    + Great character designs
    + One of the best RPGs in recent years.

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