Gal*Gun Double Peace is memorable for a whole lot of different reasons: its contribution to the revival of rail shooters, its silly but touching plot and its striking audio-visual aesthetic.
Unlike many other anime-inspired games, the art and music of Gal*Gun are not the work of particularly well-known or established names — but there’s some decent pedigree there if you take the time to look into things a bit more deeply.
So let’s do just that, shall we?
Gal*Gun Double Peace’s character designs are the work of Masanori Ito, who was also the director of the project and the author of the overall story that forms the basis of the whole experience. These designs were then subsequently built upon by the team of Atsushi Honda, Takenari Nomura, Rie Oonishi, Fumika Matsuo, Hironori Suzuki, Yuka Murayam, Yuki Suzuki, Hirokatsu Maeda, Sachi Takagi, Chie Iwatsuki, Miho Terada, Ken Fujii, Eri Furukawa and Sayaka Yamanaka.
That may sound like a surprisingly substantial team of people just to design characters, but what you have to remember is that Gal*Gun Double Peace has a considerably larger cast of characters than your average dating sim. In total it consists of well over 70 characters, each with their own unique appearance, mannerisms, personality and background. And while some of these characters are more fleshed out than others — what you would consider the “main cast” is a much more manageable five people, including the perpetually off-screen protagonist Houdai — it becomes abundantly clear from reading the in-game character profiles that a decent amount of thought has gone into even the most minor of characters.
Ito’s characters and their in-game representations are quintessential moe. They’re all attractive — albeit in different ways, since the cast runs the gamut from diminutive, petite girls to formidable-looking athletic types and even a few mature ladies from the school staff — and all seemingly designed to melt your heart and just go “aww” at them at every opportunity.
Contributing to the overall feeling of pleasant contentment — almost euphoria, if you will — that the game’s art provides is the very style that it’s drawn in. Characters are clearly defined with a solid outline, but other than this, any harsh edges are otherwise kept to a minimum. Everything is designed to look smooth, almost silky, and satisfying, cute little touches like a slight flush to the female characters’ cheeks are added to emphasise both their own moe tendencies and the game’s core premise of them lusting after our protagonist.
The art is often suffused with a strong degree of bloom lighting to it, giving it a somewhat dream-like quality in places. This is particularly true in the ending images, which, in story terms, take place at the end of Houdai’s rather trying day just as the sun is setting. Sunsets are regarded as particularly beautiful, romantic images, so it’s entirely fitting that the most romantic, touching scenes in the game unfold in front of these delicious reds, golds and yellows.
In traditional moe style, the characters all have particularly large eyes, and for most of the game things are set up such that these eyes are gazing right out of the screen of your television or Vita to look directly at you. This helps foster a personal connection between the player and the main cast, which ultimately is what the whole experience is all about. Despite having the trappings of a rail shooter, Gal*Gun is a dating sim at heart, so it was always vital that the presentation should make the player feel like they are the most important person in the room — even if said importance only came about as the result of an unfortunate accident with an angel’s arrow!
Smaller touches about some of the characters — particularly in the main cast — give us further clues about them, some of which are explicitly referenced in the game’s script, others of which are left to us to figure out. The bells that Shinobu wears in her hair ribbons, for example, aren’t just for show; they enable her to maintain her focus and avoid becoming corrupted by the influence of demons. At one point in her route, she is separated from her precious bells, and her transformation when under demon Kurona’s influence is somewhat shocking, to say the least.
Maya, meanwhile, perpetually half-wears a Japanese-style mask that is designed somewhat like traditional Noh masks. It’s not an exact copy of an established design, but its overall look gets the general idea across. It’s never actually explicitly mentioned in the game script, but Maya’s revelation in most of the routes that, in fact, she is the more experienced, advanced demon hunter despite being Shinobu’s junior, makes its presence understandable: it’s a visual cue that she is more in touch with her traditional Japanese roots than Shinobu is. Not necessarily what you’d expect when you first see her.
Kurona and Ekoro are also not quite what you might expect when you hear “angel” and “devil”. Far from being the traditional blonde-haired, flowy white robes type of angel, Ekoro sports bright green hair and a stylish outfit and wields a pair of pistols rather than the more traditional harp or Cupid’s bow. Likewise, rather than being an imposing figure of sheer terror, Kurona is simply a precocious little girl, being one of the most diminutive members of the cast and also one of the most childish in terms of her behaviour. She is, for example, the most likely to burst into tears when things don’t go her way, which ends up making her one of the more sympathetic characters in the whole thing despite technically being “the villain”.
Gal*Gun’s music, like its art, is the work of a substantial team of composers: specifically, Ryo Kawakami, Tsutomu Kurihara, Hiroaki Sano, Luna Umegaki and Ippo Yamada. These may not be particularly well-known names compared to some of the more well-established, highly regarded composers in Japanese popular media, but chances are you’ve played some of the games they’ve been involved with. Between them, they’ve worked on a variety of titles including later installments in the Mega Man series, Azure Striker Gunvolt and even Street Fighter II. Those first two will probably be no great surprise given that Gal*Gun is the work of Inti Creates, who also produced a number of Mega Man titles as well as Azure Striker Gunvolt.
The team’s approach to Gal*Gun’s music is evocative of traditional, old-school dating sims such as Parsley’s True Love. The main theme that accompanies most of the on-rails shooting levels, for example, is similar in tone to “Theme for ordinary day” from True Love, featuring a catchy, optimistic melody that keeps things feeling energetic.
For the remainder of the soundtrack, again much like traditional visual novels and dating sims, Gal*Gun adopts a leitmotif approach, with individual themes being associated with particular characters. These themes are then manipulated and varied according to the situation and context in which the character appears.
Here’s the main theme for leading ladies Shinobu and Maya, for example:
This is then subsequently tweaked and altered according to whether you’re speaking to one or the other. Here’s Shinobu’s, appropriately dubbed “Headstrong Girl”, reflecting her somewhat tsundere nature rather well:
Maya, meanwhile, is initially set up to appear as a more “shy”, unconfident character despite her later revelations, and her variation on the sisters’ theme reflects this:
The title of this theme, “I’m Home!” is also a reference to the setup for Shinobu and Maya’s appearance in the story: Maya has been away from home for some time, and it has been a long time since Houdai has seen either of them. The events of the game are something of a reunion for them.
The distinct, recognisable theme makes a penultimate appearance at the very end of the game when you have to fight one, the other or both of the two girls as the grand finale to Houdai’s day of hormonal hell:
And then finally, when you clear the game, you get one of several variations on “Twinkle Twinkle Double Star”, according to which girl’s route you picked and whether you got the Good or True End. Achieving a True End rewards you with a vocal performance by the girl(s) in question, whereas a Good End gets you the instrumental version — in the Good End for each path, Houdai successfully confesses his feelings, but he’s unable to overcome the influence of Ekoro’s arrow, making him ultimately unsuccessful in his efforts as he becomes overwhelmed.
Elsewhere in the game, this theme shows up a whole lot in various forms:
It’s technically Patako’s theme — Patako being the “angel” character from the previous Gal*Gun game, who makes a cameo appearance at the very beginning of your first playthrough and the very end of your “character” playthroughs, with the strong suggestion that her meddling may have caused a lot of the strife poor Houdai has had to put up with over the course of the game.
That suggestion isn’t made completely explicit by the script, but if we take into account the musical accompaniment to the various event scenes, such as this one where a demonically possessed Shinobu acts as a dominatrix to a subservient (and rather scared) Houdai…
…or this one, where you’re attempting to get Shinobu’s arse un-stuck from a window in a distinctly suggestive manner…
…or this one, where you’re providing caring ministrations to an injured Maya…
…it’s kind of hard not to assume that Patako is involved somewhere with the whole thing.
Kurona gets the same sort of aural treatment with her distinctively Gothic-inspired main theme whose cheeky syncopation puts across her childish personality rather well:
This then gets a major key overhaul in her route, for what are probably quite obvious reasons from the song title:
…and, of course, the obligatory song version for her end credits sequence. Like the other routes, you get an instrumental version for her Good End, and a vocal version for her True End.
Gal*Gun’s soundtrack does a great job of complementing the on-screen action. It assists with our understanding of the characters outside of the main script, and it ties the whole experience together with an aurally pleasing and consistent sound.
Most of all, though, it has a number of highly infectious earworms throughout its duration which I defy you not to come away from this piece humming. Hey, if I have to suffer with these tunes rattling around my head all day, everyone has to suffer!
Gal*Gun Double Peace is out now for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC.
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