By Matthew Codd
My love of Gal*Gun: Double Peace is no secret. I wrote numerous articles praising its merits, and when New Zealand’s Office and Film and Literature Classification saw fit to ban it, I sought to have the decision appealed (unsuccessfully, sadly). I stand by all that; Double Peace obviously won’t be for everyone, but within it’s over-the-top lewd humour is a game with a lot to say. At the very least, it’s an accomplished rail shooter—a genre that you don’t see much of these days—with a surprisingly poignant story to tell.
Gal*Gun 2 feels like a step backwards in almost every regard. For every gameplay innovation, it abandons something that worked well in the previous game. The shooting itself is as good as ever, but everything around that—the level design, the game structure, the story, the satire, the dating sim elements—has been left behind.
Like its predecessors, Gal*Gun 2 is an on-rails shooter that casts you as a high schooler who, for reasons, becomes irresistibly attractive to every girl and women who sees them. To fend off their violently affectionate advances, you’re given a “Pheromone Shot” that can incapacitate your assailants in a burst of euphoria. In other words, you shoot projectile orgasms to stop uncontrollably horny classmates and teachers who are trying to ravish you.
In Gal*Gun: Double Peace, that made sense within the context of the game’s story: the main character Houdai’s condition was the result of accidentally being shot by a supercharged cupid arrow, but as a side effect he had to confess to his true love by the end of the day or be forever alone. The angel responsible, Ekoro, gave the boy a Pheromone Shot so that he had some way of fending off girls’ advances while trying to track down his true love and make his confession. Yes, it’s ridiculous, in keeping with the game’s B-grade aesthetic, but it made sense.
In Gal*Gun 2, you’re simply a kid chosen seemingly at random by another angel, Risu, to help her meet her demon hunting quota. To do that, you need to wear a special headset that lets you see said demons, but for unexplained reasons, this headset has the same effect as the cupid shot from Double Peace.
Why would the headset have such a side effect, except as a convenient plot device for Gal*Gun‘s defining characteristic? Why was this kid chosen, over literally anyone else? (There’s an answer to this in the game, but it’s very unsatisfying and feels like an afterthought more than anything.) Why can’t your character just remove the headset and get on with their life?
It doesn’t get much better from there, either. The main storyline begins and ends with helping Risu reach her demon quota (which is never defined; you just meet it when you get to that point in the story), with the occasional humorous interaction with the prank-loving demon Kurona. Unlike Double Peace’s Ekoro, Risu is almost completely void of personality. She’s just there to tell you what to do.
The two other main characters (and the two romantic interests) have a bit more presence. Nanako is your childhood best friend who’s long harboured an unrequited crush, but then things take a turn for the dramatic when she starts turning into a demon. Chiru, meanwhile, is your reclusive, shut-in neighbour. She’s a brilliant technician and a hardcore gamer (and thus the source of a lot of meta commentary on the game industry), but she suffers severe social anxiety.
They’re both interesting enough characters, but their stories rarely go beyond superficial entertainment—even in Chiru’s case, her social anxiety never goes beyond a character quirk. Lighthearted entertainment is all well and good, but you contrast that with Shinobu and Maya of Double Peace, and their insightful exploration of the bonds and struggles of sisterly relationships even within the game’s outrageous premise, and Gal*Gun 2 comes up very short.
Part of what made Double Peace tick was its structure: a single run was fairly short at a couple of hours, but the focus was on replayability through branching story and level paths and an arcade-style game loop based around high scores. As you played through the game, each level fed naturally into the next, often with a choice of which way to go. Meanwhile, dialogue options and stat management affected how the story played out, and whether or not you’d end up successfully making your confession.
Gal*Gun 2 is a much longer game, but every level feels completely isolated from everything else. The game plays out over the course of 20 in-game days, and you get to undertake two missions per day—so 40 missions in total. A handful of these are main story missions, others are side stories focusing on Nanoko or Chiru, and still others or optional requests from your classmates. Whatever the case, all the missions are just there in a list for you to choose from; whatever you ignore will be there next time, and the time after that, and the time after that.
If you play all the main story missions in sequence, or all the quests from a particular side story, they come together in a generally coherent way, but everything else just feels like filler. There’s nothing to tie one side story to another or any of the random requests to the main story aside from the flimsy narrative directive to eliminate add many demons as you can.
At the same time, Gal*Gun 2 has removed one of the more interesting parts of Double Peace, which were the optional objectives that you could attempt during the course of a regular mission for extra points. On an in-game social media network, your classmates would post requests for help—maybe to find some particular item, or to learn more about another student. Choosing which of these to undertake, and figuring out how to go about it, was a big part of getting a good score. To actually complete each objective, you had to pay close attention to environmental clues, lest you bypass it entirely on the way to completing the level.
In Gal*Gun 2, those requests each take the form of their own distinct mission, which—oddly enough—strips them of their individuality. Each of these optional missions takes the form of one of three different quest types, and then you simply go through the motions until it’s finished. Like I said, they feel like a way to pad out running time, rather than adding anything of note to the game loop.
The different mission types do at least vary things a little bit, though not always for the best. Most quests simply have you getting to the end of the level and shooting everything that gets in your way—standard shooter stuff. But there are alsp defence missions, in which you have to protect a girl (or girls) from an onslaught of demons; if they run out of health, it’s game over. (It’s never explained why the girls’ uncontrollable lust suddenly disappears during these missions.)
Finally, there are search missions, in which you have a limited time to find a certain number of hidden items. These quests are infuriating, because more often than not, they come down to trial and error: shoot every object in the hopes that something will fall down and reveal a key item, generally flail around until you find something, and then move on to the next area to do it again. If you fail, you start again, but this time armed with a few possible item locations so that you can focus more time on finding the others.
One other mission type only comes up in story missions and an optional character viewer mode, and that’s the infamous Doki Doki Mode. Sadly, it’s been watered down dramatically since Double Peace. In that game, it was a special move in which you, essentially, massaged one of your horny attackers until she let out an explosion of euphoria that cleared the whole area of foes. Now that it’s a separate mode, it serves little purpose, and this time it has you shooting your target’s moving weak points to exorcise demons—exorcise enough, and the girl’s clothes fall off, for some reason.
That euphoria explosion is now tied to a different mechanic, by which you stare longingly into a girl’s eyes until she faints euphorically. It’s a suitably odd idea for a Gal*Gun game, but it just doesn’t work in practice. While you’re busy staring into someone’s eyes, you’re usually getting attacked from someone else off-screen, so its rarely worth actually pursuing.
Gal*Gun 2‘s other new combat tool—the Demon Sweeper—fares better. As in Double Peace, girls in Gal*Gun 2 often find themselves possessed by demons, making them stronger and invincible until you shoot all the demons clinging to them. The Demon Sweeper lets you quickly suck up any demons that get caught in its path, Ghostbuster style, eliminating the need for precision shooting that those encounters usually require.
The Demon Sweeper has limited charge, though, so you have to be selective about when it’s going to be most beneficial. After reaching a certain point in the story, the sweeper gets powered up, and gains the ability to vacuum away girls’ clothes (this is Gal*Gun, after all), instantly eliminating them. But with this added layer of usefulness, there are also more opportunities to waste it and then find yourself with an empty Demon Sweeper when you need it most.
It’s a neat addition to Gal*Gun 2′s basic game loop, and the core gameplay is something that Gal*Gun still excels at. Shooting is robust and reliable, and the variety of enemies, with different weak points and different attacks to avoid—like projectile shouts of adoration, or hitting you with love letters—keep things interesting. The Switch version also includes optional motion controls, and surprisingly enough, they help a lot with precision aiming.
But even so, the rest of the game feels like it’s just going through the motions. Gal*Gun: Double Peace was a brilliant because of how well all its different elements came together to create funny, enjoyable, and heartfelt satire of a lot of anime game tropes. In contrast, Gal*Gun 2 is a mishmash of ideas, most of which feel under-cooked. If I didn’t know better, I’d never have guessed that this was the sequel to Double Peace, rather than the other way around.
Gal*Gun 2 is developed by Inti Creates and published by PQube. It’s available now for Nintendo Switch (reviewed) and PlayStation 4.
A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for this review.