Disclaimer: PQube Limited will be sending us the game’s Birthday Suit special edition for the purpose of an upcoming review. We will also be conducting a give-away of the special edition in the future.
Gal*Gun was originally passed over in the west when it first came out in 2011; surprisingly as an exclusive for the Xbox 360. However Inti Creates was kind enough to not forget about us when Gal*Gun: Double Peace came out in 2016.
Now, 10 years later western fans will finally get to experience the original Gal*Gun in the remastered Gal*Gun Returns; and with it all the fanservice we had missed out on.
Developer: Inti Creates
Publisher: PQube Limited
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 12th, 2021
Gal*Gun Returns belongs to a surprisingly niche subgenre of first person shooters; rail shooters. Most everyone has played one even if they don’t know the name. House of the Dead for instance, even Pokemon Snap and Starfox 64 count.
However instead of zombies, enemy starships, or Pokemon photos; Gal*Gun Returns players need to fend off a veritable swarm of lovestruck schoolgirls (and a few teachers) with a pheromone gun.
Players take on the role of 2nd year student Tenzou Motesugi. Tenzou is the target of Angel Trainee Patako, and is going to receive an “angel’s blessing” after being shot by Cupid’s Arrow.
However Patako accidentally has turbo-mode engaged on her crossbow and shoots Tenzou with not one, not two, but sixteen arrows. Imbued with that much divine charisma, Tenzou is now the most desirable man on campus.
But this popularity doesn’t come without a cost, and if he doesn’t get together with his true love by the end of the day, then the backlash of the sixteen arrows wearing off will make him as repellent for the rest of his life as he is attractive today.
So in order to meet with the object of his affection, Patako arms him with a pheromone gun to give his fellow classmates “euphoria,” and distract them long enough to meet with his true love.
But like everything else so far, things aren’t that simple. Each of his love targets is afflicted by some sort of trauma or doubt manifesting as “Guardians.” These Guardians stop Tenzou’s divine charisma and even if Patako initiates “Doki Doki” mode, the Guardians will undermine Tenzou’s efforts.
To the credit of Inti Creates, they don’t pretend that Gal*Gun isn’t a fanservice-oriented title. Even still, they manage to tell a somewhat compelling teenage romance through Tenzou’s attempts to dispel the Guardians surrounding his love interest.
The romance is arguably shallow, but it’s enough to get the players invested in Tenzou’s relationship with the main girls. Their feelings for each other go deeper than just the affects of the Cupid’s Arrow, and good players will learn the truth.
However getting a True Ending is harder than it seems, and frankly this is one of the game’s biggest flaws: stat parameters. Based on questions answered at the start, Tenzou is assigned scores for his Academics, Athleticism, Style, and Lewdness; and you’ll need to be within a girl’s preferred parameters to get her True Ending.
Gal*Gun Returns mixes dating simulation cutscenes in between rail shooting minigames and stages, knowing your love interest’s personality will help immensely. But it won’t mean much if your stats aren’t right.
It’s possible to change stats midgame, but you have to know the personalities and attributes of the initially faceless classmen that you shoot down with your gun. I say initially, because at first it’s easy to overlook that the “random” girls don’t just have consistent styles, they have names too, and you’re actually encountering the same girls repeatedly.
But without an encyclopedic knowledge of the other girls, it’s very easy to have virtually lost the true ending before you’ve even started the first stage. It’s doable, but it’s much easier to just reset.
So what do the different girls and stat adjustments have to do with each other? As Tenzou progresses through a stage, a meter on the right fills up, the meter is similar to bombs in Bullet-Hell style games and he can use them to clear the screen.
To do this, you select one girl on the screen to enter Doki Doki Mode with. There, players have to zoom in on “certain” body parts and build a gauge on the left until the girl reaches euphoria this way. Looking at a spot longer makes it more effective, but if you stare too long they’ll block you.
Girls can have secret “weak points” also, for instance one of the love interests Aoi is ticklish in her armpit. Gal*Gun Returns rewards players with an intimate knowledge of their classmates in more ways than one.
In addition to the right parameters, you’ll need to make the right choices during dialogues. Fortunately you’re given a sound cue after each answer, and here’s where knowing your love interest’s personality comes into play.
The rail-shooting aspects have a surprising depth for maximizing points. As if another factor of knowing your classmates, their “weak spots” are also relevant as they can be one-shot if blasted in the right area.
This spot can also be found mid-game by aiming over the character and waiting for an exclamation to appear. This can waste valuable time though, and in the wrong situation can cause you to take damage.
Some situations in stages can feel almost unfair at times, melee attacks from enemies (in Gal*Gun Returns this means being handed a love letter) can happen almost instantaneously. In contrast some enemies won’t even bother to attack you at all, you’re constantly forced to assess targets and go for the most efficient shots you can without being hit.
Stages are also interjected by boss-fights in addition to the dating sim scenes. Boss fights take on the appearance of minigames, in one route you might be trying to deflect iron balls launched by a machine, while another you have to shoot the right song lyrics to help your love interest.
Outside of the base game, there’s also Score Attack mode where players can aim for optimal runs through stages, and also the Doki Doki Carnival. Doki Doki Carnival gives a greater insight into the background girls who spend the rest of the game getting shot, they all have names, minor stories, and their own quirks to appeal to fans (my favorites are Meimu Ashihara and Maria Natsuki).
In Doki Doki Carnival, players spend the whole time in Doki Doki Mode but there’s a catch. Players have to juggle the euphoria meters of multiple girls and can number as many as seven at once.
There’s a level of strategy to this outside of the main game’s use of Doki Doki Mode as a “bomb”. While focusing on one girl, other girls float by in the background and a well timed shot can net some progress on other girls.
Visually, Gal*Gun Returns unfortunately disappoints. Part of it might be because my own monitor is too small (for reference I have a 1366×768 native aspect ratio) and the options only support 1280×720, 1600×900, and 1920×1080.
When launching the game, about a third of the screen is clipped off, but luckily there’s a workaround. After changing the resolution and changing it back, Gal*Gun Returns finally manages to stretch properly to my monitor’s size.
But the fact remains that the game can’t accommodate certain sized monitors and resolutions and the inability to even enter full screen without tweaking my system to force it to work is a failure on the game’s part.
Other than that, all the detail went into the characters. Character models have bouncy and fluid animations and asides from some stiff running it feels like a lively school.
But that liveliness contrasts sharply with the background models and textures. Some of the doors are so flat and blocky that it almost looks like PS1 era graphics. Luckily it’s only a problem when looking closely at certain objects, in large areas like outside the school or in the gymnasium the problem is ignorable.
Some more thought was put into outfits however. Players can change the school uniform, swim uniform, and gym uniform which enemies wear depending on where they are in the school. So those who want to see all the girls wear maid outfits all the time are empowered to do so (I replaced the school uniform with a bunny girl outfit for my second playthrough).
Gal*Gun Returns has some fantastic vocal tracks, particularly in Aoi’s route (which makes sense given she’s a guitarist). The opening theme ILLUMINATION LOVE RETURNS by Haruka Miyake (the voice of heroine Kaname Nonomiya) is nostalgic for the fanservice-heavy romantic comedies of the late 2000s with its high pitched beat and emphasis on vocals.
On the topic of voices, it’s easy to take for granted that every character is voiced. Yes, during the main game players might not hear much more than squeaks, moans, and interjections from the enemy roster; but they’re all given their chance to speak in Doki Doki Carnival.
In fact, some of the verbal tics of the more eccentric cast are audibly noticeable such as Neneko Kosugi’s contant use of “nya,” and foreign student Maria Natsuki’s poor Japanese pronunciation.
The background music can otherwise (and quite fittingly) be described as some kind of angelic porno soundtrack. In particular the high-pitched and ethereal tones when entering Doki Doki Mode are jarring before they quickly segue to a more subdued melody.
Ultimately, Gal*Gun Returns is straightforward with what it is: a rail shooter with heavy amounts of fanservice. It’s fun, lewd, and feels like a love-letter to ecchi anime that unfortunately we missed out on in 2011.
Gal*Gun Returns manages to hold interest for a while in spite of the repetitive stages and simple gameplay. Maybe that’s a testament to the tried and true appeal of love, lewdness, and shooting. While those who don’t appreciate fanservice or rail shooters might not enjoy this game, it’ll evoke a strange feeling of nostalgia for fans of “weird” Japanese games even though we never got to play the original.
Gal*Gun Returns was reviewed on Windows PC using a review code provided by PQube Limited. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.