Virgo Vs The Zodiac Review
Virgo Vs The Zodiac pitches the titular Virgo against…most of the zodiac in her holy quest to rid the world of heresy. Along with her trusty sidekick cookie Ginger, she makes her way through various lands to take the crowns of other zodiacs whether by diplomacy or force.
Like most good indie RPGs, Virgo Vs The Zodiac has a unique story and world. Here, Zodiacs rule over their respective lands and denizens, such as Capricorn’s corporation where salarygoats and kids work hard in the name of capitalism, or Taurus’s foresty land of gluttons and nature. So too like many games of its kind, almost every item you can walk into has humorous flavor text. I feel like some of the zodiac’s personalities might have meant more to me if I actually knew more than a few stereotypes. As a Libra, my representation wasn’t particularly interesting. Virgo can tap into her memories between chapters, giving you a bit more insight into her relationships with the other zodiacs and their place in the galaxy.
At the start of the game, I had a difficult time grasping the mechanics, and I lost to the earliest enemies until I got the timing to attack and dodge correctly, as well as the precise strategy. This is not really a game to play when you’re tired. In general, it is not that tough (on normal difficulty), though I still saved quite often. The further I got into the first area, Virgo became better equipped and leveled. So while you still can’t get very far if you miss a lot, most of the time I was able to make a mistake or two without having to redo the whole fight. Thankfully the game does let you retry battles so you don’t have to reload a save. The boss fights are fairly fun with each zodiac having unique abilities such as blocking my ability to counter-attack, completely changing how I normally fought.
The turn-based combat system is initially, easily comparable to the Mario & Luigi RPGs, wherein both attacks and blocking require a timed button input, and the buttons used are unique to each party member. There’s a range in the timing whether you missed, hit/blocked normally, or got it perfect. Blocking perfectly will halve the damage, and while missing will mean that obviously, you take it all. In contrast, missing an attack does still deal a smidge of damage. Some attacks can be overcast which not only reduces the effectiveness but deals damage to the user. There are only a few different kinds of inputs, though for the directional ones I made sure to switch to the d-pad otherwise, I’d not get a perfect. The health bar below characters only sits about halfway because the other half gets taken up by purity. Purity acts as a guard meter, so once you’ve deployed your guard you’ll have something to protect your health.
When damage is taken from this blue Purity bar, you deal a counterattack, so it is important to remember that you’re likely to be hit back immediately. Your moves will either be ranged or melee, the latter of which will pull you to the front of the party (and thus most likely to get attacked next) if used. Moves also work on a cool down, so you can’t just keep using the same attack, or even blocking as you please.
Damage comes in a triangle system. Early on enemy’s color palettes were easy to distinguish between the three types, but later on, trial and error panned out better than wondering if the blue enemy was cardinal (purple) or mutable (green). It probably doesn’t help that the colors are both an attribute connected to the game’s morality and attribute system such as purple being ambitious, but additionally a damage type, with purple also being cardinal. I got by not paying much attention to the attribute changes in battle, though it’ll likely be important in the hardest difficulty.
Your moves are basically just your weapons; three main ones are able to be equipped at one time, as well as a shield, though the shields are the only items that can’t be shared between party members. Additionally, there are four slots for counterattacks. Since all the attacks in the game come from weapons, anything an enemy hits you with can eventually be gained and used by yourself, which is satisfying. There is an absolute plethora of items and weapons to find and craft. These can be boosted with dropped or bought items or even broken to turn into said parts. Eventually, I found the weapons I liked to use, just making sure to mix the colors up a bit between party members and boosting them. Only occasionally would I need to change a weapon to deal with particular enemies. There are three healing items (which also influence a certain stat) but you can only hold five of each at a time, indicating that you are definitely meant to use them in battle. The only other consumable item is throwing gloves which was a very handy tool in boss fights, letting me throw a party member directly at the enemy.
You can regularly go to black hole areas which are places that let you fight enemies from a particular zone, then after beating them all, you fight a tougher version of that land’s boss. Doing so will let you choose from rewards, which is a handy way to keep adequately leveled (especially if you were being nice and not slaughtering denizens left and right). Those zones also let you create a playlist from the entire game’s soundtrack which is an appreciated touch. I would say there aren’t really any puzzles, which I don’t mind. Between lands, you can choose to take the risky route and play a vertical shoot-em-up segment for a good reward, but these are thankfully, entirely optional.
Outside of battle, you explore the world to progress, find items, and interact with characters. Virgo is obsessed with purity and punishing blasphemers, making her a fun main character who isn’t particularly heroic or nice. Your choices in and outside of battle make a difference towards the story as you go and not just the endings. Various decisions are color-coded towards certain attributes, and I chose to stick to the pink color scheme (fixed), avoiding adding to my heresy count, which generally meant being unhelpful. I basically ignored a guy in need of assistance and he declared himself my mortal enemy and I’d fight him throughout my journey. However, I was rewarded with a cute pink dress for Virgo for my lack of care. While I clearly had made some poor choices I didn’t exactly feel bad even if Virgo herself was feeling sorry. The side plot involving your party member Algol, while initially having an impact on Virgo’s journey and being the reason she came along, concluded entirely without her or the player’s input, which felt a bit lackluster.
Visually the game has a somewhat simplistic-looking pixel art style which reminded me a bit of Kamiko. The enemy designs were fun ranging from Vampyros (fire vampires) to Taicows (drumming cows). Environments are fairly detailed in comparison to the main characters. The UI is fine, though I hit the load dinosaur instead of the save dinosaur, without noticing, to my own dismay a few times. My only disappointment in the style is the portrait art, as while I couldn’t do much better it definitely feels a bit more amateurish in comparison to the rest of the game. Though Virgo is really the ugliest of the bunch with most of the other characters looking fine at worst. Certain scenes will display the pixel characters in larger art, which looks a bit nicer, and even takes into account the colour palette Virgo's wearing. The animations in combat are usually not over the top, but the simplistic character sprites do stretch to give weight, and seeing Algol fall backwards whenever she shot her large gun was funny. You can spend a certain currency found by exploration, on different color palettes for all your party members, as well as your alpaca and pig, which are purely cosmetic additions.
The music is absolutely great, not every track is a banger but many are. I especially loved the deep electronic feel of Cancer’s realm and the fun funky bops in the vampire hotel. The sound effects are another highlight, such as the accurate hit noises I make with my baseball bat weapon.
Playing on the Switch I did occasionally get some slowdown in combat which really messed with the timing of attacks and blocks. Outside of minor technical issues I don’t have many complaints about the game. Besides wishing I got more boss fights, but from what I’ve seen I’ll have to do some more playthroughs to experience some different ones.
Virgo Vs The Zodiac is quite unique, and for the most part is better for it. Personally, I don’t see how a game that lets you ride an alpaca and purge heretics could’ve gone wrong. The morality system isn’t super complex but it does change what boss fights you can experience, as well as who lives and dies. Meaning the changes aren’t quite enough that I want to get right back into the game but I do plan on experiencing the perhaps more righteous paths myself in the future. The combat is a fun system that requires good timing but doesn’t force you to shake up your tactics on more than a few occasions. For fans of eccentric little RPGs or someone hoping to experience a story with a main character who is less personable than average, Virgo VS The Zodiac is a fun time.