STAFF REVIEW of Virgo Versus The Zodiac (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Virgo Versus The Zodiac Box art Inspired by the Mario & Luigi RPG title, we have Virgo Versus the Zodiac from developer Moonana and publisher Serenity Forge, a RPG that really surprised me. A traditional turn-based RPG at its core, you’ll also need to be quite attentive with its real time blocking and attacking as well. While you normally play the hero in stories, here you’re the titular Virgo on her conquest to bring back The Golden Age, regardless of how many heretics she must stop in her way to her goal.

We know the zodiac signs as just those, symbols of different personality traits and such, but in this universe, each zodiac is an actual person, Virgo included. Each rules over their own realm, like Gods, but Virgo wants to rid the world of heresy, and nothing or no one will stop her, other zodiacs included. Often referred to as Dreadful Queen by others, Virgo believes her way is the only way to righteousness, regardless of the pathway to that outcome.

To bring back her viewed Golden Age, she is on a rampaging mission to gather all the crowns from the other zodiacs, and if they don’t offer it up willingly, then she’ll take it by force. Virgo isn’t alone in her quest though, as she has a small sidekick, Ginger, who also happens to be a cookie. As you travel to each ruler’s realm, they are all unique in not only their backdrop and setting, but their denizens as well. There’s a surprising amount of humor if you take the time to follow along with the heavy amount of dialogue throughout the journey.

Exploring each realm is where you’ll spend the majority of your time outside of battles, displayed in that classic top down RPG viewpoint. Each realm is drastically different aesthetically from the last, suited to which zodiac ruler you’re attempting to reach. Take the time to explore each realm before taking on its ruler, as there’s no way to return after you’ve reclaimed their crown for yourself and head to the next world to conquer. What I didn’t expect was an optional vertical shoot-em-up sections that offer great rewards for the hassle. It feels a little out of place, but at least it breaks up some of the monotony somewhat.

As you explore each area you’ll find numerous characters to talk to and interact with, items to find and enemies to slay. Virgo is obsessed with stopping any blasphemers and heretics and it’s honestly a little refreshing to play a main character that has somewhat of an evil side to her, even being blatantly rude at times. You’re able to save at any time you wish out of battle, so feel free to see where one dialogue option leads, and if you’re not happy with the outcome, reload and try again.

Combat in Virgo Versus the Zodiac is turned-based, but like its Mario & Luigi RPG inspired gameplay, there’s also a constant active component to battles that you’ll need to stay alert for. You’ll need to find a balance of offense and defense for nearly every fight, having quick reactions times as well for the timed inputs is going to make a massive difference in your victories or defeats.

I’ll admit, I was a bit overwhelmed at first, as the game will give you the basics, but doesn’t do a great job of explaining it all or easing you in. After a few hours it was of course no problem and I fully understood the mechanics, but I was certainly a bit lost at first. With no random encounters, you’ll see each enemy on the screen, opting to battle or not some of the time, meaning each battle is designed to be done at a specific point.

You have a bar that’s half split between your health and purity. Think of purity as your shield or guard meter, as once this is depleted, you’ll take damage to your actual hitpoints. Certain actions will not only allow you to refill your purity, but this is how you enable counter attacks as well, so there’s definitely some strategy involved. This isn’t unique to just your party though, as enemies also can do the same. Getting hit when you have purity will enable you to counterattack, dealing massive damage depending on your equipment loadout.

You have different attack types as well, from melee in front row, range from behind, or area attacks that will hit all. Moves have cooldown timers as well, so you can’t always spam your best attacks, meaning you’ll have to strategize when best to use each type of move based on the flow of battle. If certain moves are on cooldown, you could even block to raise your purity again or even times where passing your turn is more beneficial, because attacking the enemy would just allow them to counter you.

The equipment isn’t explained very well either and took me quite some time to figure out. You essentially equip three different weapons and a shield, along with four different armor pieces. The weapons and shield equipped will determine what moves you have, so there’s a bit of trial and error to see what types of attacks go well together and what suits your playstyle. Each piece of equipment has a bonus and a negative, so you need to check each piece carefully and decide what the best tradeoffs are.

You’ll find healing items throughout your journey and through battles as different drinks of coffee, tea or lemonade. These will not only heal, but help boost certain primary stats, giving you a great bonus for a short while. You’re only able to hold onto five of each at a time, so no need to hoard them.

You’ll eventually gather a bunch of different items and weapons, some tied to specific characters, though you’re able to either upgrade or break down items when you’re in the main hub world in between chapters. Where it gets confusing is that the game doesn’t use the normal naming convention for your stats, so it takes some time to figure all of this out and memorize. Weapons are also based on certain stats, so sometimes you’ll want to swap gear if you’re facing certain enemy types.

Even though combat is turn-based in nature, each attack or defense move will require a button input if you want to inflict maximum damage, or negate the most amount of damage. The speed of which you’ll need to react is based on the difficulty you choose I believe, but even on Easy or Normal, there were a few inputs that came quite quick, so you’ll always need to be alert. Miss the timing and you might not crit, or you’ll take full damage, so it’s an important component to being successful. Different party members have different button inputs, though it can be changed to a single button to be easier should you wish. Certain moves will require the D-Pad directions to be used as well, but not as often in my experience due to my gear choices.

There’s a triangle system in place where one color is strong against one and weak against the other, but I found it hard to memorize when colors are also tied to specific stats and morality choices as well. This still takes me a moment to figure out even after a dozen hours. Each time you’re back at your hub world, you’re able to zone into a black hole, allowing you to fight enemies and the previous realm’s boss to farm crafting materials, coin and ever important experience points.

The pixel art is done quite well, appearing at first glance as a retro RPG from decades ago. Enemies have a decent amount of variety, as each realm, has their own types you’ll face. Each realm’s backdrop is also a different in visual style, as each zodiac ruler clearly has different tastes to where they reside. During dialogue sequences you’re treated to some portrait art of each character, though I wish it was more animated. Sadly the hefty dialogue isn’t voiced, but the soundtrack on the other hand is fantastic and catchy, adding to the overall mood of each realm.

With multiple endings, engaging combat and a decent narrative, Virgo Versus The Zodiac really surprised me. RPG fans have a new journey to sink a dozen or two hours into, and it’s hard to go wrong killing heretics while riding a colorful Alpaca.

**Virgo Versus The Zodiac was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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