A game where you blast cute girls to quasi-orgasmic ecstasy while attempting to fend off the mischief of a cheeky young demon might not sound like the sort of experience that would have good worldbuilding, but the Gal*Gun series as a whole is full of surprises.
It’s clear that developer Inti Creates has taken a great amount of care over the course of the Japan-only Gal*Gun, its sequel Double Peace and Gal*Gun 2 to make the series something more than a throwaway joke game. Yes, it’s amusing; yes, it’s silly; yes, it’s cheeky, fun and sexy; but none of those things mean that it can’t have some depth or be well-crafted.
So today, then, we’re going to take a closer look at how the series as a whole builds that sense of a coherent world, and where Gal*Gun 2 fits in with all that.
While Gal*Gun, Double Peace and Gal*Gun 2 all stand by themselves in narrative terms and don’t require any knowledge of the others to enjoy, there is a sense of coherence to them that includes acknowledgement of the things that happened in the previous games.
In Double Peace, for example, which would have been most Western players’ first encounter with the series, the protagonist Houdai hears a number of rumours of the “Super Popular Legend” around the campus of his school — this was apparently a young man who was utterly irresistible to women in a very similar situation to that in which Houdai finds himself thanks to Ekoro’s mistake and Kurona’s mischief.
The “Super Popular Legend”, as you might expect, is based on the story of the first Gal*Gun game, whose protagonist Tenzou was hit by too many divine arrows as the then-trainee angel Patako attempted to bring him some luck in love. Tenzou managed to escape and, according to the player’s actions, find his true love from among the main cast, but his story lived on in the hearts and minds of the game’s setting, Sakurazaki Academy.
Sakurazaki remains the setting for both Double Peace and Gal*Gun 2, and it’s clear that the name “Sakurazaki” has some importance to the setting as a whole. Look closely at things like the clocks on the wall and you can see that they’re manufactured by Sakurazaki, for example, and the school’s front courtyard is dominated by a huge bronze statue of a twintailed girl apparently named “Kaoroku Sakurazaki”.
If you played the first game, you’ll know that Kaoroku was one of its romanceable characters, and the eldest daughter of the Sakurazaki conglomerate — apparently a big deal in the town in which the school is situated. (Evidently they, at the very least, make wall clocks for schools.) She’s not mentioned directly in either Double Peace or Gal*Gun 2, leading us to assume that she has presumably graduated by the time the subsequent games roll around. It’s clear that she is held in a certain amount of reverence by some members of the cast, though, and evidently she was important enough to the school to be honoured with a statue. Also, rather peculiarly, said statue shows up in a toilet cubicle at one point with no explanation — we can perhaps assume that Kurona may have had something to do with this.
The actual setting of Sakurazaki Academy is surprisingly well crafted in itself, despite not being freely explorable in any of the games. Both Gal*Gun and Double Peace see you moving throughout the school and its environs on predefined “rails”, while in Gal*Gun 2 each mission unfolds in a specific area of the school, with you moving from predefined location to predefined location as you complete each “encounter”. The nice thing is that the school is rendered consistently between all three installments — so much so that its various environments become recognisable enough that you could quite feasibly freely navigate your way around it after playing any of the games a bit.
The games teach us that Sakurazaki Academy is situated on Sakura Road, which is a rather scenic, pleasant area that is, as you might expect from the name, flanked by cherry trees. An artificial-looking river or canal divides the two halves of the road, with a number of bridges leading from one side to the other. Almost directly opposite the school and across the river is a series of steps leading up to a large park, which is an important location in a number of the games’ different narrative routes.
Pass through the school gates and the Kaoroku statue is directly in front of you, with the main school building just behind. To the right are some smaller outbuildings and areas of greenery, while to the left of the entrance courtyard and circling around to the rear is the sports field, featuring a large running track. Behind the school building is another courtyard with a fountain, a car park and the gym building. It’s clearly a campus that has had a lot of money spent on it — and a recent construction.
This level of detail continues once you’re inside the school buildings, too — over time, you become familiar with how different locations relate to each other, and even how one might traverse the distance between different areas via somewhat unconventional means if one finds oneself, for example, beset by horny young teenage girls who won’t take “no” for an answer. Each of the games feature their respective protagonists hiding in all manner of peculiar places in an attempt to avoid this unwanted attention — including leaping out of windows, into airvents, climbing lampposts and even hanging ninja-style in a corner of a room above a doorway. Gal*Gun 2 particularly highlights these comedic situations by prompting you to move from one position to another with wireframe depictions of “you” in the position you’ll end up in.
There are subtle touches from which we can infer things around the place, too. The gym, for example, has what looks like cardboard scenery and props scattered all around it, suggesting that part of the school is gearing up for some sort of performance or festival. The school’s “new building” has caution tape over its doorway, suggesting it has only recently been built and perhaps isn’t ready for people to use just yet — it also includes a “forbidden room” that is never explicitly explained. Oh, and as we discover in Double Peace, there’s a big hole in the ground that leads to a cave beneath the school; this has seemingly been there for a while, since a number of lockers, chairs and other items of classroom furniture can be found down there.
Japanese teens are often depicted in anime and other popular media as a superstitious lot, hence the existence of things like Sakurazaki’s “forbidden room” and suchlike. One common trope used in this regard is the idea of a school’s “seven wonders” — this idea is often used in narratives with a supernatural element, and Gal*Gun is no exception.
Over the course of Double Peace, Houdai is continually contacted by the school newspaper club to investigate supposed sightings of a ghost around the campus. These sub-missions are extremely tricky and require a keen eye to complete — but careful observation will reveal that Sakurazaki does indeed have a spirit in residence named Yuko Yureino (her last name being a pun on the Japanese word for “ghost”, yuurei) who, we discover in Gal*Gun 2, died in an accident when she was trespassing and fell off the roof. She seems pretty content with her current situation, however, tending to play her role as “ghost” almost ironically and with good humour rather than actually attempting to scare or haunt anyone.
Yuko could have easily been left in as a simple Easter egg or an objective for these missions, but she’s fleshed out as a character in her own right — and indeed in Double Peace’s True Love route as well as Gal*Gun 2 she’s a character you can get to know and attempt to romance. In the latter in particular we learn that one of the main reasons she’s stuck around is because she specifically wants to become one of Sakurazaki’s “seven wonders”, but is continually somewhat frustrated by the fact that her existence keeps getting overshadowed by new “legends” such as Tenzou and Houdai’s experiences.
Yuko is a good representative for one of the best things about Gal*Gun and its worldbuilding in general: the fact that its entire cast of characters has been thought about and hand-crafted, with every single person you meet being unique. There are no “generic enemies” in Gal*Gun; every girl you encounter has their own name, appearance, measurements, background, personality, voice and things to say to you in various circumstances. And Gal*Gun 2 provides one of the best means to explore this aspect of the game’s setting through its “Rendezvous” mode.
Each in-game day, you’re given a choice of missions to complete. “Free” missions involve the extended cast outside of the main heroines — the messages they send you requesting these are another great way of finding out a little about what sort of people they are — and completing these tasks successfully rewards you with the phone number for whoever made the request. Once you have her phone number, you can call her up and meet her in a number of different locations around the school during the daytime, or, if she likes you enough, call her to your room at night.
Once you’re together, you can talk to her, look at her from pretty much any angle you can physically get to (though if she doesn’t like you much, staring at her boobs, up her skirt or even standing uncomfortably close to her will cause her to get upset and leave), ask her to change her outfit, get her to perform any of her “attack” animations (which include options for her to knock you to the ground and grind her foot into your bits… or just, y’know, kiss you) and feed her snacks. These snacks are the key to building your relationship with her; fill her with enough sugar and she’ll be head-over-heels for you in no time, though given the game’s premise one might question how sincere she really is about this.
There’s no real “point” to Rendezvous mode in mechanical terms since it doesn’t provide any sort of benefit — it’s just something fun to play with. And it really is surprisingly fun; between the little profile you can call up to find out about a girl’s background, the way all the characters stare right into your eyes in a way quite unlike any other game in recent memory, the things they say to you (including a number of delightfully obscure cultural references, such as a Swedish character having a thing for Moomins) and the ways they react at different affection levels as you look at them from different angles and distances, you can figure out a surprising amount about each girl without them having an explicit “story” as such. Once you spend some time with a girl in your room, you can even hear what the ever-present angel Risu has to say about your partner for the evening after she’s left, which can lead to some rather entertaining conversations… and some somewhat awkward implications.
And then there’s Doki-Doki Mode. In Double Peace, this was a mechanic used mid-level as a form of “smart bomb” — build up a meter, drag up to three girls into your Doki-Doki Field, then poke and prod them until they all squeal with “Double Peace” joy, then they explode in a cloud of passion, taking everyone around them out at the same time. In Gal*Gun 2, meanwhile, Doki-Doki Mode is used in a number of missions, but can also be indulged in at any time with any girl you have the phone number for through the Rendezvous system.
Doki-Doki Mode is a thinly-veiled metaphorical depiction of a sexual encounter. Shoot a girl with your pheromone shot and you’ll see a “blip” emanating from a weak point. Shoot this repeatedly and mini-demons will pop out until she clearly, uh, feels something, accompanied by the sort of “i-it’s coming out!” comments you’d expect to hear in a good hentai. Repeat this process until she has a particularly big… feeling, and then you get two golden weak points to shoot. Blast these quickly enough and her clothes will explode, leaving her in her underwear. You can then continue shooting demons out of her while admiring her from any angle until time expires.
Outside of the missions where Doki-Doki Mode is essential, it’s utterly useless in gameplay terms — regardless of how many demons you shoot out of your partner and suck up into the Demon Sweeper, you won’t earn any points for your indulgence. But it is fun, and more to the point — and this is a significant aspect — it’s surprisingly erotic, too. More specifically, it’s a means of allowing you to feel like you’ve had an intimate experience with the characters without the game having to show anything more explicit than a girl in her lingerie. The ways the characters react and the things they say to you afterwards make it abundantly clear that yes, this absolutely was a sex thing, and make no mistake about it — but that also there’s nothing to be ashamed of here; everyone had a good time and it brought you closer together as a result.
That pretty much sums up the Gal*Gun series in a nutshell right there. They’re games that want you to have some fun — some sexy fun, more accurately — and they very much want you to fully embrace the experience without feeling bad about it. Gal*Gun 2, as well as providing a fun story to enjoy and some solid game mechanics to engage with, lets you indulge your whims, fantasies and desires in a way few games can match, and I love it for that. There’s not a malicious bone in its body; it’s a game designed without shame, and with pure enjoyment in mind.
These days, that’s exactly the sort of thing everyone needs now and then.
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