Title: Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star
Developer: Eyeguys, Lorenzo Redaelli
Release Date: August 13, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Genre: Visual Novel
We may take video game stories with a grain of salt sometimes, but they can be used as a powerful way to share traumatic stories as the writer lays it all on the line. Developer Lorenzo Redaelli has seemingly done this in their visual novel Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star. They took this opportunity to explore an abusive relationship through the lens of fictional media, and the outcome is compelling. Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star ends up turning into vent art in its most pure form, giving us a window into the writer’s past no matter how grim the scenario. However, the execution ultimately falls short.
Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star sets up its mature theme right from the start as a warning about abuse appears before the opening. The story stars Nuki, a lonely boy who is obsessed with the stars. I mean, he’s even got a pet starfish. When we meet him, he’s a total wreck who is desperately looking for fulfillment in life.
One night, as Nuki is trying to find a planned meteor shower through his telescope, he sees a star crash down as he is pulled to it by a mysterious outer force. There he meets Sune, and Nuki instantly falls in love with him, giving him the nickname, “milky way prince.” However, their relationship is immediately fraught with danger as Sune wastes no time taking advantage of horrifying emotional manipulation tactics to keep Nuki under his control.
Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star has a very interesting method of presentation, self-proclaimed to be inspired by the stage design of the theatre stage director and playwright Robert Wilson. It uses minimalistic sets, with often completely untextured models illuminated by changing light direction to create a mood with a surreal atmosphere. This is then coupled with flat 2d character portraits that are also often monochrome, with only the occasional spots of color to make them stand out, and finally coated over with an electropop soundtrack to give this a genuinely psychedelic setting.
It’s a totally unique style, at least to me, and I found that it set the tone of the story well. The UI and star motif thrown around the place is very cool, especially to an astronomy fan like myself. However, the pacing and transition between scenes are plodding, with noticeable gaps between every single text box. This is, depending on how fast you read, anywhere from annoyingly tolerable to downright frustrating on a first playthrough, and it only gets worse on a replay.
The issue of Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star is that the surreal vibe of the presentation only works due to how minimalistic the story is. The entire story only contains a couple of locations, and two characters, which isn’t inherently bad, but it feels like the story doesn’t do anything with these characters, given that there’s no detail.
Sure, they have an abusive relationship where one emotionally manipulates the other, that’s written very well from a textbook view of these actions, but the actual character writing feels almost non-existent. There are no other interactions aside from textbook manipulation examples in each scene.
The game jumps from Nuki falling in love with Sene to them having sex in the bathroom of a fast-food place. Right after meeting. Furthermore, an entire mechanic is utilized to allow you to customize these sex scenes using different “senses,” and it just comes across as messy and pretentious due to the lack of any character development.
So while I am sympathetic towards Nuki’s situation, I’m also incredibly bored. There’s some plot here, but there’s no actual meat. It’s a skeleton of a story, where it’s tough to care about anyone. I should mention, one section that I did enjoy, which came up at the end. Yes, the last two scenes in the game are absolutely excellent.
Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star uses an experimental visual style to tell a story about a topic that is very tough to talk about. While it exceeds in conveying these themes, it feels empty and pushy. All of the actual content in the game is condensed into the first few hours, and then there’s really nothing more to it. I enjoyed the artistic approach and themes, but the execution makes it tough to recommend.
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