• Gal Gun Returns Review

    Gal Gun is a light gun style game developed by Inti Creates which originally debuted on the Xbox360 in January 2011, with a PS3 version following one year after. Both titles remained the only ones available only in Japan till now. For the series’ 10th anniversary, Inti Creates, also celebrating their 25th anniversary, produced Gal Gun Returns, a remake featuring updated graphics and new game mode. This is a review of Gal Gun Returns.

    All Gal Guns start with you, the main character, being the unfortunate target of angels in training, and in this case Patako goes Starlight Breaker on you with 16 love arrows, making you WTFP, Way Too Freakin’ Popular. If by the end of the day you don't confess your love to your crush, you'll never find love among girls, boys, and animals. And why Starlight Breaker, you ask? Because Patako is voiced by Yukari Tamura, and those love arrows sure look like something Nanoha would fire.

    The effect of being Way Too Freakin’ Popular is that all girls in your high school swoon over you, and they will stop at nothing to confess their love. The only way to fend off these hordes is to pacify them with your pheromone shot; targeting a girl's weak spot will result in one-hit “kill” and more Doki Doki meter acquired.

    Doki Doki mode can be triggered when its meter shows at least one charge, and this will bring you and the targeted girl to a minigame in which you have to zoom in on her body, searching for her most sensitive part, and shoot. With your pheromone shot of course. Filling a girl's gauge will replenish your health, defeat all girls on screen, and expand the girl's profile.

    Before making your way through high school girls that would jump from the second floor onto bookshelves to confess, Patako will ask a series of questions to determine four stats, and these stats will increase or decrease at each Doki Doki minigame, based on the girl. If you want to reach the best ending possible, the true ending, you need to get those stats within certain parameters based on the chosen crush. Not only that, but your affinity must be above a certain threshold, see the optional past memory scene, and complete the final Doki Doi minigame. It's not as difficult as it sounds - choosing the initial answers based on the girl you are after almost gets the stats you need, and you can stop triggering Doki Doki mode once you see the four stats meters shining at the end of a stage. Getting affinity higher is a bit trickier, you need to do well in minigames and get enough good answers during the heroine's storyline.

    Completing profiles for secondary girls is harder, as rules for that are more nebulous. I think you need to trigger Doki Doki mode on a single girl three times during a single playthrough, and do that while she’s wearing three different kind of outfits, school uniform, gym clothes, and swimsuit. Simply swapping the school uniform for swimsuits in the dressing room won't be enough; you need to check the icon next to their names, and it's very rare to see some girls outside the school uniform, so completing every profile will take quite some time.

    The four main heroines have their own minigames; most are about hitting a tiny target and not the girl, but some are more elaborate. In any form, these minigames are a fun variation that gives some respite from the endless hordes of high school girls. Kaoruko's and especially Aoi's minigames are the more elaborate, requiring some thinking and not just twitch reflexes. Final battles against heroines are all the same, only with different elements thrown at you. Mastering Gal Gun Returns' shooting mechanics is very easy, but unfortunately the game lacks much of the variety of other light gun games, including other Gal Gun titles. This was the first in the series, and Inti Creates only made minimal adjustments to the formula, so there are no hidden Mister Happiness to get, the zoom in is only useful for aiming, and all locations only have one path to go through, making stages very samey.

    Gal Gun Returns is not a straight port of the original: there are more illustrations, and the existing ones have been updated along with 3D models, lighting, and textures, which are much more defined and less rough than on the X360. There are also minor differences between the two versions, like how skirts flutter, and Returns has more “kill” animations. Returns probably uses Double Peace's engine and assets, and not Gal Gun 2's Unreal, which is a strange decision, considering all Gal Guns take place in the same school and use the same cast. This impression is compounded by the fact that at the time of this review PC resolution maxes out at 1920x1080 and only allows for other 16:9 resolutions, a problem shared with Double Peace. On Switch there's no gyro aiming, which would really help in fine-tuning long-range shots.
    The in-game help also lacks descriptions about game modes, there is no explanation of the differences between Newbie Lover and Seasoned Lover; probably those are difficulty levels, but the game feels identical between the two. Returns features most DLCs that were made for the original, all available from the start.

    New to Returns is Doki Doki Carnival, a sort of epilogue chapter. Doki Doki Carnival unlocks once you reach the true ending with at least one of the four main heroines, and you can only follow an epilogue when you get the corresponding true ending. This mode sees the return... or introduction, in-game timeline wise... of Ekoro from Double Peace, here on Earth to get Patako back. Rather than a shooting gallery, Doki Doki Carnival plays more like a visual novel: in every stage you'll find a group of girls talking about something, like getting more people to join the swimming club, who gets to use the music hall, or the student council discussing with the teachers school regulations. Everything is a plot device to get Patako and Ekoro to deploy the Doki Doki field and, well, do the same thing as in the Doki Doki field of the main game, only with a group of girls, similar to Double Peace. Doki Doki Carnival drags a bit, especially in the later stages, mostly due to long narrative sequences that sandwich a Doki Doki minigame that lasts for 2-3 minutes. However it's a very nice addition story-wise, because no other Gal Gun gave this much attention to secondary girls, and some of the situations can be funny, if a bit cliched.

    The English translation (already available in the Japanese version, at least on Switch) is done by PQube, and it’s absolutely hilarious; I had many good laughs going through Gal Gun Returns. There will be no spoilers here, but just get to the end of Doki Doki Carnival mode. Only two things mar this translation. One is that some lines don't really make sense in English: for example during Kaname's storyline one of the possible answers is "Swamp Gas", while it was "Plasma" (as in the state of matter) in Japanese, and plasma ties with Kaname's backstory and the excuses you are making; swamp gas sounds like the obvious wrong answer... when it's the correct one. Second all textures and pop-ups during the shooting segments have been left untranslated, and that could have been very helpful. The non-plus-ultra would have been having the yonkomas in the gallery translated.

    Gal Gun Returns is the missing link for all western gamers that never imported either X360 or PS3 versions of the original. Gal Gun Returns comes short of Double Peace despite the new Doki Doki Carnival mode, and if you have never played anything from this series before, go for Double Peace. Returns is still a nice, light-hearted light gun game with a good amount of content, but it does feel a bit empty when compared to Double Peace, though it’s more enjoyable than Gal Gun 2.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mairus's Avatar
      Mairus -
      Thank you for the article!