The MoeGamer Awards 2018: Best Romantic Comedy

The MoeGamer Awards are a series of “alternative” awards that I’ve devised in collaboration with the community as an excuse to celebrate the games, experiences and fanbases that have left a particular impression on me in 2018. Find out more and leave a suggestion here!

This award was suggested by Toon Vandendries.

This is a topic Chris and I very much want to discuss on the podcast at some point in the near future, but I’ve also written about it in the past, too.

I’m talking about the idea of genre. And not genre as it is typically used when talking about games — to describe purely mechanical elements — but rather genre as it relates to the core subject matter in a game; its central themes, style and overall feel. In the early days of gaming, this was not really something we could discuss with much confidence, but as games have become more ambitious in terms of their storytelling and overall sense of worldbuilding, we most certainly can now.

So with that in mind, what was the best romantic comedy game I enjoyed over the course of the last year?

And the winner is…

Gal*Gun 2

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in to Gal*Gun 2. I knew that it had had a fairly significant shakeup in terms of structure from the original, but beyond that it was hard to determine exactly how it was going to play compared to its predecessor.

Thankfully, I didn’t have anything to worry about, because although Gal*Gun 2 is quite a different experience from Double Peace, the two complement one another nicely, providing two enjoyable twists on both the romantic comedy thematic genre, and the first-person shooter mechanical genre.

Gal*Gun 2’s main twist over the original game is that you are no longer playing a named character with a predefined role to play in the narrative. Instead, you are playing “yourself”. This idea is emphasised in a number of ways.

Firstly, the game unfolds from a first-person perspective, and you have the freedom to look around freely during conversations and battle scenes. Movement is restricted to you being rooted to the spot in predefined locations — much like VR games that use a “warping” system of movement — but you are otherwise free to look in any direction, crouch or lie down, lean around corners or stretch up on your tippytoes. It’s clear that the game was originally intended as a VR experience — and indeed the PC version did get a VR patch down the road — but it works perfectly fine on the flat screen.

The second way the player is brought into Gal*Gun 2’s world is through the way they interact with the characters. There are no completely “hands-off” dialogue sequences in the game; whenever “you” are required to speak, you always have to make a deliberate choice to say that thing. Okay, sometimes there’s only one “choice”, making that particular line effectively pre-scripted, but you’re always made to feel like you take ownership of the main character’s destiny. And indeed, the fact you have a decent amount of freedom to choose the events you engage with over the course of the game backs this up.

Gal*Gun 2 has several different narrative paths that unfold according to various conditions. Depending on your actions, you can conclude the game in a relationship with any of the leading ladies, and each storyline is well worth exploring, offering some enjoyable insight into the main characters Chiru, Nanako, Risu and Kurona.

Where Gal*Gun 2 particularly shines is in how fleshed out the rest of its world feels. Every minor character in the game is a unique character model who is instantly recognisable, and thanks to the game’s “Rendezvous” feature, you can spend some one on one time with each and every one of them once you have acquired their phone numbers by completing a side mission for them.

The Rendezvous mode allows you to admire the character using the standard looking around controls, but you can also circle around them and walk towards or away from them. The characters respond according to how much they like you and where or how you are looking at them; spend too long staring at the chest of a girl who doesn’t like you much and she’ll berate you or perhaps even storm off; gaze longingly at the thighs of a girl who is well and truly into you, however, and you will get various comments of varying lewdness according to her personality.

There’s nothing actually explicit in Gal*Gun 2 — it is a console game at heart, after all — but the game’s implementation of “Doki-Doki Mode” is clearly intended to represent a sexual encounter, especially given the ways the characters respond after you’re all done with “blasting demons out of their body”. These sequences are charming, entertaining and eminently silly, and highlight the fact that sex can (and should) be fun and enjoyable for everyone involved.

The whole thing is infused with sharp wit and entertaining dialogue that often incorporates subtle cultural references and digs at common anime tropes. One character even makes a reference to The Moomins at one point, which was an unexpected delight. The banter between the main characters is interesting and varied, and you get a strong sense of all their respective personalities by the ways through which they interact with one another and with you as the player-protagonist.

Like its predecessor, the tale Gal*Gun 2 has to tell isn’t especially deep and meaningful, but it is charming. Those who particularly enjoy shows that blend slice-of-life tropes with elements of the supernatural (Gabriel Dropout is an eminently apt comparison) will most certainly get a kick out of Gal*Gun 2’s story, but you by no means need to be deeply immersed in anime culture to enjoy all the chaos that unfolds.

Gal*Gun 2 was a highlight of my year, simply for how much it made me smile. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Sakurazaki Academy and the similarly incompetent forces of both Heaven and Hell.

More about Gal*Gun 2

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.

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