Even the most beautiful stars can become unstable and explode.
Relationships are complicated and, even when you think you know your significant other, you can never get inside their head and really know what they’re thinking. That’s why relationships are hard; you have to work with each other to try and create positive memories together and possibly heal past traumas. But sometimes, even when you try everything you can, things don’t work out as you planned.
That seems to be the forefront of the message in developer Lorenzo Redaelli’s visual novel Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star. An artsy, indie project, it covers complicated topics from abusive relationships to borderline personality disorder. While beautiful, it can be quite strange and difficult to understand.
“While beautiful, it can be quite strange and difficult to understand”
Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star is a semi-autobiographical story about a summer of dysfunctional love between the two main characters. Nuki is young and unafraid of finding the perfect person for him. He loves space and the stars, and he dreams of finding his ‘milky way prince’. When that prince, named Sune, seems to fall right out of the sky and into his lap, it couldn’t be more perfect. But once Nuki spends more time with Sune, he begins to realise that this star might be too unstable; but the connection he feels with him is real – and he’s determined to save his prince.
At the very start of the game, Milky Way Prince feels like a typical romance visual novel. The main character dreams about finding love, and wants that love to be like a binary star system – two stars that orbit around each other. Once you’re introduced to Sune, it becomes pretty obvious that this isn’t going to be a normal romance story. Sune is handsome, but strange and mysterious. His personality is erratic at best, which can be attributed to his personality disorder, but he isn’t the only thing that’s strange in this universe. Nuki’s obsession with him is also unhealthy and, as their relationship continues, things just get weirder and weirder.
“The entire relationship is hectic and, even after completing two playthroughs, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense”
Sune and Nuki’s relationship doesn’t feel like something you’d encounter in real life which is part of what makes the game’s story so hard to stomach. Things happen very quickly; after only the second “date,” if you can call it that, it feels like Nuki is expressing his undying love and affection to a stranger. Each new scene with the two characters introduces more conflict, more strangeness and raises so many questions.
Due to its semi-autobiographical nature, there are bits and pieces of the game that you can pick out that sound and feel real, but the content is so strange and out-of-this-world – pun intended – that it’s hard to interpret. Sune is mentally unstable. The game describes him as being an “unstable star”. Nuki is convinced that he can fix it and what ensues is an angry and abusive back-and-forth between the two. Nuki is so determined that Sune is the perfect one for him that he doesn’t listen when Sune insists he’s too far gone and doesn’t want to hurt him. The entire relationship is hectic and, even after completing two playthroughs, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
“Milky Way Prince gives an important lesson, but one that’s muddled behind flashing lights and disturbing images”
It also feels like Milky Way Prince relies too heavily on symbolism to guide the story along. If you’re not willing to put in some work to pick through the strangeness and awkward conversations to find the real message, you’ll likely miss what could be an important lesson. I’m no expert on symbolism, but Milky Way Prince, while at some points genuinely confusing, does show how quickly relationships can go wrong as well as how easy it is to be tricked into thinking that someone is good. It gives an important lesson, but one that’s muddled behind flashing lights and disturbing images.
Despite its many fallbacks, Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star is most definitely a work of art. If the artist wanted to make a horror game, sign me right up; some of the scenes in Milky Way Prince are genuinely disturbing. The game’s soundtrack is also excellent; there’s over 30 minutes of original electropop, which makes for a fantastic listen. Unfortunately, great art and good music isn’t enough to redeem the game’s bigger issues.
Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star is perhaps one of the most bizarre pieces of media I’ve ever consumed. After two playthroughs, it’s still incredibly difficult to summarise my experience in words. However, I do think it’s important for those who have gone through traumatic experiences to be able express themselves in any way that helps them cope – and if the video game medium is able to do that for them, that’s wonderful. Telling your story is hard, and allowing other people to see your interpretation of that story and be a part of it is even harder.
But that doesn’t automatically mean the outcome is an experience that’s worth playing. Ultimately, Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star is too outlandish for its own good and doesn’t make for a satisfying game in its current form. Its audiovisual design is commendable, but with awkward dialogue, peculiar scenes and a hard to follow story, it’s very hard to recommend.
Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star is available on PC.