Gal*Gun Returns – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Inti Creates and published by PQube, Gal*Gun Returns is a remaster of the original schoolgirl themed rail shooter that was exclusively released in Japan on Xbox 360 and PS3. This version of the game features all DLC that was released for the first version, alongside new artwork, enhanced textures and a new gallery mode for players to collect over 250 illustrations from the game. Gal*Gun Returns is available on the Nintendo Switch and Steam Service, links to both versions of the game will be at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I want to thank PQube for providing the copy of Gal*Gun Returns used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this article, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Mature Content Warning: this title is rated mature, with sexual themes, suggestive content and adult language. If you are below the recommended age or find any of the content offensive, please use your own discretion on whether or not you wish to continue reading.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review starting with the story.

Story – Gal*Gun Retrurns takes place at the Sakurazaki Academy. The apprentice cupid angel Patako has been tasked with shooting a chosen target with a Pheromone Arrow to graduate. Her target is Tenzou, a regular second-year student who has no experience with girls. However, there is a mistake and Patako accidentally hits Tenzou with over a dozen arrows, making him the most popular person at Sakurazaki Academy.

An unintended side effect of the Pheromone Arrows is that Tenzou has become attractive to every female in the school, with girls chasing him down trying to confess their love to him. But, there are girls from his life that he likes and he only has until sunset to confess his feelings to his chosen one. Now, Tenzou must connect with his true love by the end of the day or be resigned to a life of loneliness, all while navigating the dangers caused by being “Way Too Freakin’ Popular”.  

Gameplay – Gal*Gun Returns is an on-rails shooter, similar to the classic arcade light gun titles like Time Crisis, Virtua Cop and The House of the Dead. The core of the gameplay involves shooting the girls that assault the player while the camera moves on a pre-determined path. At the start of each new story mode playthrough, the player chooses one of four girls that will determine the main stages that appear and the story that unfolds.

Once the girl is chosen, the player will follow their route that follows a specific set of stages, with general paths that link the character specific areas together. The number of stages will vary depending on the path chosen, however each playthrough has character specific boss mini-games that add some diversity to the overall gameplay.

While traversing the various levels zones of Sakurazaki Academy the player will be under constant threat from lovesick girls. They are persistent and can attack the player in two ways, the first is by hitting the player with a gift and the second is a projectile shout that damages from afar. To defeat their pursuers, the player must hit them with the Pheromone Shot to give the girls “Euphoria”, rendering them incapacitated at that time.

There are three types of attack that the player can use in shooting stages. The pheromone shot by itself is capable of dealing with all enemies that can be encountered, although it is a little easier to defeat strong enemies by hitting their weak points. Each girl has two weak points that can be hit with shots, the first (called sensitive spot) deals increased damage and the second (called most sensitive spot) can incapacitate enemies in a single hit. This special attack is called the Ecstasy shot.

The last attack that is available is the Doki Doki Mode, a special mini-game that is activated by filling a heart on screen with each girl subdued. When in the Doki Doki Mode, the player can interact with the girls in a rather risqué way, zooming in and out like a camera lens and shooting weak points to fill a Doki Doki Gauge to give the target euphoria when full before the heart meter runs out. Success will give the player specific effects depending on the girl and activate Doki Doki Bomb, giving all girls on screen a sudden Ecstasy shot.

During stages the player will encounter four types of girl, each separated by color that determines their position in the academy and their overall strength/threat to the player. The classification of each type of girl is as follows;

  • Red – these are first year student, the lowest threat to the player and can be defeated in a couple shots.
  • Blue – these are the second year students, a little tougher than the first years taking more shots from the Pheromone shot to defeat.
  • Green – the toughest students that take a lot of hits to be defeated, these girls are the third year students and can be relentless when attacking the player.
  • Black – these are the toughest enemies that function like mini-bosses, they are mostly female teachers, but have some special variants depending on the route.  They take a hell of a lot of hits and have tough to hit weak points.

All enemy girls that the player comes into contact with can be hit with a shot from Doki Doki Mode, so effective use of the special attack can help clear large encounters and tough enemies quickly.

Outside of the core shooting gameplay, there are dating sim style mechanics that the player will encounter. When the player has chosen their girl of interest they will interact with them, having dialogue options that will either positively or negatively affect the progression of the story. This adds more depth to the experience when playing story mode, allowing for players to become invested in the narrative of each girl.

Along with the dialogue choices that affect the game, there is also a “quality” system, where the player will gain and lose points in four categories depending on specific factors. The initial score is set by a quiz at the beginning where the player answers questions about Sports, schoolwork, fashion and “adult” interests. The answers will determine that starting score and can impact the progression of the story for the chosen girl, but can be altered by strategic use of the Doki Doki Mode to manipulate the scores.

Away from the story mode, there are more activities that can be explored. The first is score attack, which is essentially arcade mode where the player chooses already completed stages or a whole route and tries to get the best score. Next are the collection and dressing room modes, two modes that allow the player to look up information on the characters in game if unlocked and to change their clothing styles respectively.

The last parts I want to talk about is the Gallery and Doki Doki Carnival. Gallery gives players the chance to use golden feathers earned from other modes, to unlock promo art, in game images and special features (that I won’t spoil). Doki Doki Carnival, which is also called DDC is an extra play mode, locked off from access unless certain requirements have been met. DDC is the major fanservice part of the game, while also being a tough and challenging experience in its own right, with its own narrative and I feel that it should be experience first- hand so I will end it there.

Now with the gameplay covered to a degree that I am happy won’t spoil it for players, I want to move onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – Gal*Gun Returns has a very simple yet effective control method, using the thumbsticks for movement, along with the face buttons and triggers for shooting, zooming, etc. The controls are all input focused, which unfortunately means a lack of motion movement being an unfortunate omission. When playing the game, the inputs have no lag but the movement is a little sloppy at times and cursor movement can be twitchy. However, the Pro-Controller and Joy-Cons provide a solid experience no matter the setup of the system.

Difficulty – there are two difficulty settings the player can choose from when starting story mode. The Newbie lover option is the normal setting where the player takes regular damage and most girls are taken down easily, the other is Season lover which increases damage and the girl’s health. During the stages the difficulty will increase over time, introducing tougher enemies for the player to battle and this feels natural, providing a good challenge to players regardless of the difficulty chosen.

Presentation – Gal*Gun Returns has the classic 3D anime style look to it, with big eyes, bright colors and the many tropes that are found in high school/harem anime shows. The use of fanservice, risque dialogue and revealing costumes that can be applied gives the game an ecchi (lewd) feeling, fitting the overall tone and presentation of the game well. The animations, artwork and overall visual quality of this release is very high, providing a solid experience with zero lag or framerate issues.

The sound design and voice acting for the game are excellent. The four girls that the player can pursue each have their own themes that fit their character well. For example, the guitar playing Aoi has a J-Rock style track that plays in several arrangements throughout her route and has a special ending version when completing a run (the same for the other girls too). The game is fully voiced for all female characters that are encountered, with excellently acted segments from all cast members that tie the whole experience together for me.

Final Thoughts – many years ago, I had the chance to try the original Gal*Gun release on the PlayStation 3 when the game had first been released, thanks to the region free nature of the system. What little experience I had made me want to play more of the game, but due to the language barrier I wasn’t able to do much. The release of Gal*Gun Returns has given players (including myself) a chance to experience the title that started the franchise, which translates very well to the Nintendo Switch, allowing for the action to be taken anywhere at any time.

The stories, gameplay and overall quality of the game are outstanding. The only negatives that I could find during my time playing the game were the shortness of some character routes, the twitchy movement of the controls and the lackluster attempts at humor in some parts. However, these minor issues don’t detract too much from the experience, so I can happily recommend Gal*Gun Returns to anyone who loves rail shooters and fanservice.

In the end, I give Gal*Gun Returns a final score of 4/5. The long awaited remaster of the classic high school themed shooter finally gets a western release, the action, story and characters are fun, with enough depth to keep the player engaged throughout. The remastered visuals, sound and overall quality of this release fit the Nintendo Switch and Steam perfectly, making the game worth the investment. If you want to check the game out for yourself, you can find links to both versions below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

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