Sometimes, we’re all idealistic. It’s not always a bad thing – it’s good to be optimistic from time to time. But it can often blind us from the truth of a situation. This is one of the major themes in Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star, a visual novel with a heavy focus on the use of different senses during intimacy that explores a difficult relationship between two struggling boys.
You see the story through the eyes of Nuki, a boy obsessed with a fairy tale that tells of a prince falling to the earth in the form of a star. He’s an anxious person, but also fairly positive. During yet another boring summer, he meets a boy named Sune by chance. Sune is quiet and seemingly sad, and Nuki finds that he and Sune, both lonely outsiders, are kindred spirits. After a moment of passion, Nuki gives Sune his number. Nuki returns home, feeling drunk on love, proclaiming Sune to be his prince.
Two more dates follow. The second one seems to go well as Nuki learns more about Sune and has yet another heated moment at a hotel. The third begins to take a darker turn as Sune begins to say concerning things about Nuki being like everyone else. Nuki vows to be the celestial knight to his starry prince. From this point, the story begins to branch off into multiple paths. Which path you take is entirely based on the decisions you make throughout the story. Will you play the part of a concerned partner or will you ignore the rising problems?
There are also moments where you see things from Sune’s point of view, which really helps you understand the pressure he’s feeling. It also helps you understand exactly what he’s doing to Nuki. Being able to see the relationship from both sides is important in the story because both Nuki and Sune seem to struggle with mental illness and handle it in different ways. It’s also interesting to see the effects of the situation on each of them.
Milky Way Prince has a dark plot, and that’s important to note. It is meant to portray the fear of being in a relationship you can’t control and the hurt of not knowing how to help a struggling partner. It touches on emotional and psychological abuse and the harm that can come from being too optimistic, especially in difficult situations. The game has you make the decisions on what to say, what to do, and even what sense you use. No matter what you choose, though, you’re still often faced with anger or sadness.
One aspect of the gameplay I found interesting is the use of sensory information. During intimate moments, you’re asked to make an agreement to protect and love Sune unconditionally. After you agree, you’re given the choice between five senses: touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound. The decisions you make here change the course of the story, but they also give insight into Sune’s character. You only get to choose about three times before the moment ends, and I think this was a smart way to convey information.
In important situations, we often don’t use all of our senses. We remember specific things, like a noise or sight that stood out. Milky Way Prince uses that to its advantage to give small pieces of information that you can use to piece together Sune’s feelings. Choose your senses correctly and you may be able to get through to Sune. If you don’t…well, you might be frozen out for good.
The game is definitely designed to pull you into the story. The art is simple, and the black, white, and red color scheme is surprisingly good at giving away the proper tone of the scene. It can make you feel at ease one moment and extremely uncomfortable the next as light shifts and colors darken. The music has the same effect; the mix of choppy electronic beats and soothing piano can change the mood in a matter of seconds. The sound effects usually appear in tense moments and are sharp and sudden, just like the outbursts you face from your partner. And of course, you get to choose your dialogue and actions, which further immerses you in the story as well.
Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star tells the story of two boys in a dysfunctional, abusive relationship with respect and realism using not only the typical pick-and-choose dialogue of most visual novels, but also a sensory component that deepens the feeling of the story. While the dark and sometimes frightening plot may be difficult to handle, it’s truly a compelling and thought-provoking story with a unique presentation. Be warned: this astronomically tragic story is not one you will soon forget.