Although Gal*Gun Double Peace has the trappings of an arcade-style light-gun shooter, there’s a lot more going on in the game than simply pointing and shooting.
We no longer live in an age where a release like Namco’s original PlayStation port of Time Crisis is acceptable to modern consumers, at least at full retail price; players need more than just a basic game that takes 20 minutes to play through from start to finish and doesn’t vary significantly each time you play.
Fortunately, Gal*Gun Double Peace has plenty to offer those who are willing to put some time in, and it’s a fine example of Inti Creates’ talent for creating games that are simple to pick up but tricky to master completely.
The basic structure of Gal*Gun Double Peace — just Gal*Gun hereafter for brevity’s sake — is pretty straightforward and par for the course with most light-gun shooters. Each level proceeds as a journey from one point to another, stopping for “shooting galleries” in several places along the way, but occasionally demanding you to take out enemies while in motion. At the end of the level you’re ranked according to how quickly you completed the level — there’s no time limit a la Time Crisis; each part of the level simply continues until you either complete it or run out of HP — along with how much damage you took and how accurate your shots were.
The action is broken up by event challenges that range from relatively conventional boss fights with predictable, learnable attack patterns to activities that generally involve getting one of the main heroines out of a sticky situation. In all these cases, the emphasis is generally not on simply blasting away blindly; it’s all about accuracy. In the case of the boss fights, each boss has an umarked weak point that does significantly more damage than elsewhere on their body; in the “heroine assistance” scenarios, meanwhile, the action typically alternates between accurately shooting small targets and using the PS4’s touchpad (or Vita’s touchscreen) to perform physical actions like pushing, pulling, rubbing or massaging. Like the main levels, you’re given a ranking following these events according to your performance, and this in turn contributes to your overall score for a playthrough.
So that’s the basics of how it works. For comparison’s sake, it’s closer to something like The House of the Dead than Time Crisis in that you can’t “dodge” incoming attacks (though you can counter some) — the safest way to proceed is generally to dispatch your enemies before they can do any damage to you.
Part of the depth in the gameplay of Gal*Gun’s standard levels comes from the fact that each and every incoming enemy — each of whom is a unique character with their own name, appearance and physical characteristics — has their own weak point, revealed by moving your aiming cursor over them until you get a popup of Japanese onomatopoeia saying something along the lines of “Kyun!”, “Doki!” and the like. Shooting a girl in one of these weak spots will take them down in a single hit and is known as an “Ecstasy Shot” — high scores are dependent on a combination of chaining Ecstasy Shots together and leaving as little time as possible between “kills” to obtain a Quick Bonus.
When you first start playing Gal*Gun, you’ll have to experiment to find out what each girl’s weak spot is. But after a playthrough or two, you’ll notice that these aren’t randomised: you can learn what each girl looks like (or what her name is, since it pops up when you move the cursor over her) and associate that with her appropriate weak spot. There are also a number of other aspects to the game’s interface that make quick identification of weak spots easy, most notably the colour of the onomatopoeia that appears: red is for head, orange is for neck and upper chest, yellow is for lower body and hips, pink is for legs. The game’s camera will also generally favour you being able to get these weak spots easily; for example, in a few scenes where the protagonist Houdai is hiding from the hordes, he crawls along the floor and only the girls’ legs and feet are visible. Conveniently, the girls that show up in these sequences have the “pink” weak spots.
Further depth (and characterisation — we’ll talk more about that in the next article) is added to the game through the “request” system. Here, you are able to browse the school’s message board “SakuraTalk” between levels and, from that, infer things that the various members of the cast might want you to do. These are usually cryptic in nature and generally demand that you make use of the game’s “zoom” feature to discover hidden objects or, in some cases, simply look at specific characters or scenery features. Completing the requests for the secondary cast members rewards you with Angel Feathers than can be spent on upgrades between levels; completing the requests for the main heroines, meanwhile, increases their overall affection levels towards you and makes you more likely to get their True Ending when you reach the finale.
The zoom feature is also used for another purpose: completing the various girls’ profiles, which forms the bulk of Gal*Gun’s overall metagame. In order to complete a girl’s profile, you need to know her name, some details about her (which can be discovered by shooting her student handbook, hidden somewhere in one of the levels) and her “big three” measurements: bust, waist and hips. In order to take these measurements, you have to zoom in on the relevant body part. Sounds simple enough, until you realise that you have to do this while they are 1) moving and 2) attacking you. Careful target prioritisation is key here; sometimes it pays to thin the incoming hordes a bit and not try to get too greedy!
Shooting and measuring girls is only part of the Gal*Gun experience, however; you also spend a significant amount of time talking to the various heroines in an attempt to develop your relationships with them. The first couple of levels of the game constitute a “common” route, and after the first time through the prologue and tutorial section can be skipped. Then, just before the second chapter starts, you’re given an explicit choice of which route you want to pursue, though only two are available from the outset: the two main heroines Shinobu and Maya. After completing these, you unlock further routes: a “harem” route where you pursue both Shinobu and Maya (which actually ends up being a whole lot sweeter than you might think), an “angel and devil” route (which splits halfway according to whether you choose to pursue your guardian angel Ekoro or the chaos-sowing demon girl Kurona) and, finally, a “true love” route where you have the freedom to pursue any one of the characters in the game as you see fit.
It’s perhaps the “true love” route that presents the most interesting twist on the standard gameplay, because it emphasises the importance of Houdai’s characteristics — his Intelligence, Athleticism, Style and Lewdness — and becomes more like a cross between a light-gun game and Parsley’s classic dating sim True Love. In the more story-centric routes, his statistics largely determine which dialogue options he has available to say in the visual novel sequences, but for the most part they don’t require a lot of manipulation in order to succeed. In order to successfully pursue the girls in the true love route, meanwhile, you’ll have to ensure all these stats are at their optimal levels, which vary from girl to girl.
Houdai’s stats can be manipulated in two ways. Firstly and most simply is by purchasing items between levels, which raise or lower one of his stats by a set amount. Secondly is by using the game’s “Doki-Doki Mode” in the shooting segments: this is charged up as you play and can be used at one of three power levels to take one, two or three girls into the “Doki-Doki Field” in order to give them “Double Peace”.
The benefits of using Doki-Doki mode are threefold: firstly, when you initially trigger it, all girls on screen are stunned, so this can be a good opportunity to get their measurements; secondly, if you successfully complete the Doki-Doki minigame by generally poking, prodding and rubbing the girls until they make unapologetically orgasmic noises, it sets off a “smart bomb”-like effect that clears the screen in one go; and thirdly, depending on the girls you took into Doki-Doki Mode, Houdai’s stats will go up or down by a significant amount.
It’s considerably more efficient to use Doki-Doki Mode to manipulate Houdai’s stats, but the downside is that, like the weak spots for Ecstasy Shots, you’ll need to learn which girls will provide the stat changes you want. Then you’ll need to wait for a suitable opportunity to bring as many of them as possible into Doki-Doki Mode. It becomes quite strategic if you have a particular girl you have your eye on, and with the size of the cast, everyone’s going to have at least one “best girl” from among the secondary cast.
Ultimately, Gal*Gun is such a delight because it provides all these different ways to play. The story-centric routes see you focusing on choosing the “right” dialogue choices to get the true ending. The true love route sees you manipulating Houdai’s stats to your advantage. For those who just enjoy the shooting action and the never-ending pursuit of high scores, there’s a Score Attack mode in which you can either play a complete route or an individual level. And for those who enjoy collection-heavy metagames, Gal*Gun most certainly has you covered with the sheer amount of data available to discover on each of the characters in the game.
Gal*Gun, then, is far more than a “once and done” sort of experience; allow yourself to be drawn in to its compelling depths and you’ll find yourself enjoying a game that has far more to it than might initially appear.
Gal*Gun Double Peace is out now for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC.
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