[Note: Due to the fanservice-heavy nature of this game, some of the images in this article may be considered NSFW.]
Into the Light
I’m sure we’ve all seen the dingy little arcades found in the back corner of the local mall, off to the side in a movie theater, or randomly in some older Walmarts. These little relics of a bygone era are usually filled up with claw machines and other “win a prize” games that are often rigged to lose. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find a really old Dance Dance Revolution cabinet to play.
In nearly all of these little arcade nooks, though, I’ll often find one or two cabinets for games I used to love as a kid: light gun games. Usually, in these situations, old Time Crisis or Virtua Cop cabinets. You know these games instantly when you see them; a couple of plastic guns hooked up to a machine, with the game guiding you on rails between various scenes where enemies pop up from behind obstacles and you need to shoot them. Incredibly basic by modern sensibilities, but still somehow satisfying to play.
When it comes to home consoles, though, on-rail shooters and especially light gun games are so rare that I wouldn’t forgive anyone for thinking its a dead genre. After all, half the fun of playing these games in the arcades was using the gun peripheral, and aside from a very small and brief return during the advent of the Wii and its various knockoffs, nobody is creating these games with gun controllers anymore.
However, there’s some games here and there that pop up and say that you don’t need to be holding a gun to play a rail shooter like this. Hell, your regular old controller is just fine! The game we’re looking at today is exactly this, a light gun-style rail shooter played completely on a standard controller.
Developed by Inti Creates and published in the west by PQube, Gal*Gun 2 was released on April 24th, 2018 for the PS4 and Switch. We were provided with a European Switch code for this review.
In Gal Gun 2 you play as a regular every day Japanese high school student, going through classes with your childhood friend Nanako and spending the evenings talking with your shut-in neighbor Chiru. One day at school, though, a mysterious app appears on your phone. When you open it, a box containing some kind of goggles and a vacuum cleaner-like weapon appears on your desk.
Upon putting on the goggles, you’re greeted by an angel named Risu, who tells you that you’ve been recruited to capture demons floating around the school. Until you help Risu meet her demon cleaning quota, you’ll be unable to remove the goggles. Unfortunately, wearing them also has a side-effect: you are now irresistible to the opposite sex.
The setup here is just as ridiculous as this game’s predecessor, Gal*Gun: Double Peace, but unlike that game, I found most of the story and character interactions here surprisingly dull. One of the major factors in that is your player character does not have a personality and, aside from some narrative choices you can make during cutscenes, is also completely mute.
In Double Peace, the main character of Houdai was basically just an endless stream of perverted comedy, which helped to make up for the rather simple plot and one-note characters around him. Removing the personality from the player character here in Gal*Gun 2 removes not only much of the comedy, but also any feeling of player agency in the story. Plot scenes consist of nothing but standing around watching other characters speak at you and with each other, with you rarely getting a say in what’s happening.
Hell, the rare narrative choices you do get to make don’t seem to have any bearing on the story. Much like Double Peace, there are multiple endings in this game mostly focusing on whether you wish to pursue Nanako or Chiru (or neither) as a romantic interest. Which path you end up on hinges entirely on which girl you give more collectible snacks to in between missions. There’s no debating between what to say or how to impress your chosen digital girlfriend, just feed her food until she likes you.
Don’t try that in real life.
A Mission for Pleasure
Gal*Gun 2, as I mentioned in the beginning, is a light gun-esque on-rails shooter. During missions, you’ll be automatically moved to various areas of your school, tasked with fending off hordes of women who just can’t wait to confess their love to you. Your main weapon, as in the previous game, is the Pheremone Shot. Hit a girl with it enough times to bring her to climax and remove the threat, or carefully line up a shot to hit a girl’s specific “pleasure spot” to eliminate her instantly.
Much like in the previous game, the shooting controls here remain precise and snappy. It took me a couple of missions to get back into the groove, but after that half hour or so, I was back to pleasing these women just as well as I had done in the past (and that was a weird sentence to write). You can zoom in your targeting reticle at the press of a button and slow it down with a trigger press, but you’re not able to use this to see through objects (or clothing) this time around.
New to Gal*Gun 2 is the aforementioned vacuum cleaner-like weapon, the Demon Sweeper. Some girls will have tiny demons attached to them that make them invincible to your attacks, so you have to shoot them off first, and then you can collect them using the Sweeper. Collecting demons adds to your total score for the level, as well as the demon collecting quota you have to help Risu hit as part of the story.
The structure of this game is a bit different than back in Double Peace. In that game, the stages were presented in a mostly linear fashion. Gal*Gun 2 is presented with a mission structure, where you’re able to select two missions per in-game day from your cell phone. These are split into Main missions following the core story, Side missions featuring Nanako, Chiru, and some returning characters from Double Peace, and completely optional Free missions.
Many of the Free missions, along with occasional Side missions, change up the gameplay a bit by offering some new play styles. Some of these missions task you with guarding a person or groups of people from swarms of demons, a mode which I found rather boring, as you are fighting in one location for about ten minutes rather than moving around a level. Others play like a scavenger hunt, tasking you with finding objects hidden around a room. These missions were, to put it bluntly, infuriating. You’re put on a timer, and the objects you’re looking for are extremely small and much too difficult to find. Seriously, aside from one required hunt mission in the Main missions, I was unable to complete a single one of these.
Between the mission structure and new playstyles, Gal*Gun 2 also feels like a much longer version of its predecessor…which I feel hurts it. Double Peace was a rather short game, with a runthrough only taking a few hours, and made to be replayed for multiple endings. Once the gameplay started wearing thin, it was over. Gal*Gun 2, if you choose to pursue anything other than the main ending, winds up overstaying its welcome, dragging itself out with the stages becoming repetitive.
A huge thing also missing here are the more unique battles from the previous game. Double Peace presented some really weird and entertaining fights, like having to get a girl unstuck from a window or fending off another who has been taken over by demons and turned into a sadist. The developers must have thought the guardian and scavenger hunt stages offered enough unique mechanics, as there aren’t any of these setpieces in Gal*Gun 2. Hell, we don’t even get unique boss battles, as the same one is essentially repeated at least five times throughout the game with little to no differences.
If there’s one thing that Gal*Gun 2 has improved on compared to its predecessor, it’s its graphical presentation. Without the worry of having to make the game run on the Vita like in Double Peace, this game has much cleaner and more detailed visuals. Unfortunately, the environments of the game quickly become just as repetitive as the gameplay does in the long term, requiring you to revisit the same areas constantly.
The game’s presentation overall, though, felt a bit odd to me when I first loaded it up. Between having the characters talk at you without text boxes, the layout of the narrative choices you can make, and the ability to look around freely during cutscenes, the game felt unusually like it was made for VR in mind. Lo and behold, apparently this game is built off the same engine as Gal*Gun VR, released late last year on Steam.
I don’t have all that much to say about both the music and the voice performances, as there really isn’t much to write home about here. The soundtrack was mostly forgettable, and the voices often felt like they were pulled from a generic trope-filled harem anime (with the performance for the main enemy demon, Kurona, being especially grating).
Overall, Gal*Gun 2 just feels like a step back from its predecessor. Double Peace took the perverted premise of these games and utterly ran with it, creating a hilariously awkward game with some relatively strong shooting mechanics that didn’t overstay their welcome. Gal*Gun 2 feels like it removed the game’s heart in order to replace it with more shooting stages.
Never once did I think it would be possible to make a game about shooting schoolgirls until they climax boring, but this game managed to do it. Removing the personality from the main character was a massive mistake, as the writing for the rest of the cast just isn’t enough to hold the game up. Excising the more unique setpieces and replacing them with scavenger hunts is also a design choice that utterly bewilders me.
It feels like Inti Creates wanted to shave the rough edges off of the franchise, but went way too far and scraped off some of the core that made previous entries so fun to play. If you’re a fan of the series, I’d definitely hold out for a discount.
~ Final Score: 5/10 ~
Review copy provided by PQube for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.