More gals than guns
One of the great things about the Nintendo Switch is its region-free capabilities. If you find a game in Japan which you really want to play, and it never got a release on home soil, no longer will you have to fork out for a Japanese console in order to play it. With that said, it’s quite weird that a game as inherently Japanese as Gal*Gun 2 got an actual EU/NA release.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never formed an attraction to an anime character, no matter how overly accentuated their features are. For that reason, I find it difficult to explain the popularity of games like the Gal*Gun series in Japan, and even in the wider world. The series, arriving for the first time on a Nintendo system, has three previous entries, which have come to a range of different systems, and all of them have you shooting love-crazed high school girls with a ‘pheromone arrow’ as they hurl themselves towards you from all angles. The scantily-clad outfits on the girls just feels so perverse, and it’s hard to envision a person of sane mind who will be taking some sort of enjoyment out of it. From their skirts billowing up to really tight-fitting schoolwear wrapped firmly around the boobs, it feels throughout like this is a game targeted at young males who haven’t yet had their first experience with real-life women.
Opening up the game, we meet Risu, an angel who provides you with goggles that can’t be taken off and enable you to see these pixie-like demons which can possess the girls to make them more powerful, and can be defeated by shooting them and can also be sucked up using your vacuum gun. The game records whether you shoot the demons or suck them up, and they contribute towards your end-of-level score. The side-note of the goggles is that they attract all of the girls in the school to pursue you with a level of hysteria. You can’t have it all, I guess. The hoover gun has a certain amount of power which will drain as you use it, but its power can be refilled by shooting the demons. And yes, it does make an effect on the girls if you point it at them too – though only the demons can be totally sucked into it. Risu will shout out the direction that the enemies will be coming from, allowing you to swivel around in preparation, but there will also be arrow cues on the game’s HUD to use as reference.
The game is a rail shooter, but rather than moving automatically from set piece to set piece, at the end of each section you’ll see a blue silhouette of yourself which you’ll need to point at and select in order to move on. You can zoom in and out as well as lean by using specific buttons, but your main concern will be to shoot all of the girls or demons before they get close enough to grab you. Some will push you over, limiting their view, and you’ll need to shoot them in order to get back up to continue the shooting. You can move the controller for motion-aiming as well, though I preferred using the analogue sticks.
Hit certain areas of the girls for a quick pick-off, referred to as a ‘euphoria’ – yeah, I was thinking the same thing. It’s not easy to continue to hit enemies consecutively and build up combos, but it’s not hard to successfully negotiate the levels either, and you’ll find yourself coming to the end of the segment thinking if the game has something more to offer which you’ve been missing.
As a shooter, to be fair this isn’t a bad game. It’s not doing anything at all revolutionary that we’ve never seen before elsewhere, but it’s not something which stands out as a game which might withstand the test of time in terms of being memorable. There are a range of school-based locations, from the gym hall and the classroom to (more perviness) the locker rooms and the showers.
Despite a number of different gameplay types, from shooting the girls to stop their advances, to protecting the girls by shooting the tiny demons that are trying to attack them, the overall experience feels pretty much the same whichever game you’re playing. Ultimately, you’re still standing on the spot, whirling around and looking for things to shoot, though in some cases they’ll be moving targets and in others, you’ll need to shoot lockers and other non-sentient objects which might move if struck.
Occasionally, boss battles will provide an opportunity for a bit more skill to be displayed, figuring out patterns and chipping away at the boss’s health as with any good boss fight. There aren’t a lot of them, but they are pleasing when they come.
With an amount of emphasis placed on story-telling (though the character building isn’t particularly fleshed-out), the game isn’t entirely about the shooting. In-between missions you’ll find yourself in the protagonist’s home, where he sometimes takes deliveries of boxes full of items and forms a relationship with his next-door neighbour through the window. During the cutscenes, you will occasionally get a number of option responses to choose to advance the story, and sometimes allowing you to pledge your allegiance to a particular character. These affect different endings, though it’s a tough ask to replay through the levels in order to get other endings when they’re all so similar.
Sound is an irritation. Aside from the anger-inducing, repetitive, upbeat backing music accompanying the levels, all of the girls will squeal with delight when they see you, and again when you shoot them. They’re all speaking in (what I assume is) Japanese, other than the odd one yelling out “I love youuuu”, making things all the more disconcerting for players who aren’t already into their Bishōjo genre games.
With the Men of Yoshiwara games already at home on the Switch eShop, I suppose it is only fair that a for-men equivalent hits the market. I’d have rather seen adult characters over the high-school age girls we get here, though, without a doubt. Removing clothes with exorcisms and hosting seedy photoshoots with the girls would have been much better, comfortability-wise, with grown-ups.
Gal*Gun 2 was always going to be a game which only applied to a niche audience, and there’s little to suggest that may be anything other than the case. Your average person would feel awkward playing this in front of friends or family members – so best to get it played alone. The Free Hugs Edition is impressive, though.