I’m not sure if this game would be satisfactory, even for its intended audience. With the gameplay getting stale in only a few hours, I think it’d feel like money poorly spent.
Genres: Shooter, Visual Novel
Developer: INTI CREATES CO., LTD
Publisher: PQube Limited
Release Date: 12 Feb, 2021
Frankly, I knew nothing about this series coming into it, but there have been 4 games made for it thus far. Gal*Gun Returns (GGR) is a remake of the first game, which previously had never made it to the USA, coming to us from Japan. My interest in GGR stemmed partially from its asking price, as $50 is typically reserved for AAA releases, not a title with strong visual novel elements. As a point of comparison, the most expensive Danganronpa game costs $40, and the Phoenix Wright trilogy goes for $30, so does what GGR have to offer warrant such a price? I don’t think so.
In this case, GGR blends its visual novel elements with an on-rails shooter, giving the game more gameplay and action than many VNs. Instead of shooting at aliens or terrorists though, the protagonist fires at his high school peers, in a way that’s thankfully not as horrific as that first sounds. What makes all the difference is that his projectile consists of pheromones, which is used to quell the frantic desire of his female classmates. Although its content and focus would be bizarre for most parts of the world, this emphasis is very fitting for Japan, and almost seems normal by that standard.
There are 3 modes of play in GGR. The first is Story Mode, where the protagonist pursues 4 love interests, trying to confess his interest in her while dealing with mobs of boy-crazy females. Score Attack only lets you play the Story Mode routes you’ve already completed, progressing through each on-rail shooter section of that route without any story segments, except for the final trial to win over the gal. Doki Doki Carnival is centered around Doki Mode, where you specifically target a girl by zooming in on her and firing on her weak spots. It’s a very specific mechanic of the game and doesn’t seem like a worthwhile feature to develop a mode around.
There are two main ways to control GGR, using either a controller or keyboard and mouse. For an on-rails shooter, I decided to use the keyboard and mouse, as I found the cursor hard to control comfortably using a controller. The gameplay controls switch depending on different situations, so it’d be cumbersome to fully describe them here. For the most part though, the mouse is used for aiming and firing at girls and occasional obstructions.
The protagonist of GGR is Tenzou, a Japanese high school male who’s never had a girlfriend before. Things look promising for him though, as love is in the air, and cupid has an arrow just for him. Unfortunately, this cupid botches the whole affair, blasting him with a volley of arrows, which makes him a love magnet. There wouldn’t be much to complain about if the effects didn’t wear off in 24 hours, and the repercussions wouldn’t make all women despise him on sight, dooming him to a loveless future. His only hope is to develop a relationship by the end of the day, as a girl who loves him won’t fall out of love. Ignoring the strange gameplay, this plays out like an anime storyline, and isn’t a bad VN premise. However, the actual writing is pretty horrendous, straining even stereotypical shotgun romance stories.
Although the 3D graphics used in GGR look alright from a technical perspective, it comes across looking like a generic school anime. Since there isn’t a distinct style to the art, the round, smooth look character models have doesn’t stand out. Plus, when I carefully look at their expressions, it makes me think of the LEGO games, as they’re not any better than that. A school environment is also rather sterile and bland to base a game around.
Much like with the graphics, the music comes across as fairly generic. It does a serviceable job as it seems suitable for the school setting, and there’s appropriate songs for the shifting moods. For instance, a slower, sappy track for the ending sequence, and quirky music during the more comical moments. I don’t think any of it is bad, but it won’t stick with you for long. The voice acting done for the girls being shot might linger for a while, butI don’t know that it’d necessarily do so in a good way. It’s something I’d turn down for my own purposes, though I don’t intend to play the game further.
- There’s not a ton of on-rail shooters available on Steam, and this does somewhat satisfy that style of gameplay. However, as that’s not the most prominent focus of GGR, this alone wouldn’t be a sufficient reason to get it.
- The ranks have humorous titles.
- On-rail shooters tend to be very repetitive by design, as the layout is quite rigid: the path taken, how fast the screen scrolls, and enemies spawning the same each time. Incorporating VN mechanics with it, and not making each route unique, worsens this downside further.
- Even if you were interested in GGR for its ulterior purposes, I’d think the scenarios presented would make it feel uncomfortable. For instance, crawling underneath cafeteria tables.
- I didn’t notice much difference in difficulty between newbie and seasoned.
- You don’t have limited ammo or get penalized for missing shots, usually. However, rapid-firing at all times might not be the best approach. Well-aimed shots will matter more at times, such as the relationship-building events in Story Mode.
- There are nuances to the mechanics that the game never outlines in normal gameplay, so it’s a good idea to check out the manual.
When it comes to the perverse aspect of GGR, I think my tolerance for it is higher in contrast to other games because such things are more prolific in Japanese media. That’s not to say it isn’t a gimmick to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but seeing as how stuff like this shows up in several anime series, it’s not surprising to see it in a game. However, I can’t say that how things are presented don’t come off as creepy. The idea of intentionally scoping out high school girls to peek when their skirts flip up is already sad and desperate enough, but adding in over the top voice acting with it makes that much worse. It’d be fair to ask why I took any interest in GGR if that wasn’t appealing to me, and it was to see if the gameplay stood up despite this aspect, as well as thinking it’d catch some attention on my YouTube channel.
Even if you were quite interested in GGR, there’s no justification for its asking price. Having played through 3 of the 5 Story Mode routes, and trying the other modes, I was already getting bored with the repetitiveness of how the game plays, which didn’t even last me 10 hours. There are factors that could increase the game’s life-span, but only if you care about unlocking everything through repeatedly playing the same modes multiple times. For its asking price I expect a lot more out of a game, and don’t think suggestive content makes up for that difference, so I wouldn’t recommend it.