Review by Matt S.
Since I’ve already covered the Japanese version of Gal*Gun: Double Peace, I won’t run through a lot of that material again for this review of the English version. You can check out my more in-depth analysis of the narrative behind the game there. I’ll use this more formal, scored, review to address other issues, but the main thing to get out of the way from the outset, though, is that I am so impressed that this localisation happened at all.
Related reading: My review of the Japanese release of Gal*Gun is supplemental to this review. Please read both for my full thoughts on the game.
PQube has done a generally impressive job of the localisation, which should go down well with the kind of fans that these ‘pervy’ games tend to attract. Such fans generally don’t like seeing localisation outfits make edits to the content in order to make a game culturally relevant to western audiences, and PQube’s localisation team has clearly gone in with the intent to be as literal as possible with the translation. It means that some of the context is lost in places, and some of the satire falls flat. It means that the game writers and artist’s intent doesn’t come across quite as intended in the English release, but I think it’s important to remember that this is what the fans wanted; an exacting translation, rather than a game that reflects the deeper meaning behind what the developer, Inti Creates, was aiming for.
It’s probably also worth noting that I don’t think there is anything that the developer could have done to make the game contextual to a western audience. This is a very Japanese game that deals with very Japanese themes, and uses very Japanese language to do so, so the lost in translation effect was probably inevitable.
So, despite losing a little of the cultural context, Gal*Gun still offers a entertaining little story about a guy that got blasted with a bit too much cupid power and is now attracting all the girls at the school to him like a magnet. It remains a game that, through satire, highlights the kind of harassment masquading as admiration that women experience in real life as a fact of daily life. Plenty of jokes do still land home in English, and the situation itself remains fundamentally funny, so I’m not really criticising the game’s storytelling here, but rather acknowledging that the localisation team at P-Qube must have felt the tension between doing the game’s culturally specific justice and meeting expectations of fans.
Again, I must state that I admire PQube for taking on this game at all, because it is surely a game that the more mainstream critics are going to have a field day with. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Gal*Gun, it’s an on-rails shooter in which the wayward hero, after being struck by the aforementioned angel power, needs to fight off hordes of girls at his school that are now looking to profess their love for him. He needs to do this because as a consequence of the angel power he now only has a single day to find and romance the girl of his dreams, else he be destined to be alone forever afterwards, and if the other girls are able to “wound” him with their own passion enough, he’ll end up stuck with the wrong person for life.
He fights the girls off by using his ability to concentrate pheromones into a powerful “bullet” that, after striking a girl enough times (or hitting her, uh, critical spots) will fill her with esctacy and knock her out. His other ability is to “zoom” in to a girl to line up a precise shot. This has the added benefit of making the girl’s clothes transparent, so he can check out the underwear that she’s wearing at the same time. Not because there’s a reason to be able to do that, of course. It’s just a visual perk of the guy’s new powers.
What a variety of underwear it is, too. This game has dozens and dozens of unique girls to combat, and each girl has her own taste in lingerie. One of them even wears the same green-and-white stripes that Hatsune Miku does. She’s my favourite. You won’t get too much time to actually check the girls out, because the game moves at a fairly fast pace and the girls tend to attack quite quickly, so you’ll need to take them out fast to avoid a the game over screen, but it’s truly staggering the attention to detail that went into this part of the game.
If that wasn’t enough to highlight for you why PQube should be bracing for some backlash over the game, the super attack will. By playing well you’ll slowly build up a meter that, once filled, can be used to target an enemy girl (or girls, you can build the meter up three times over) for a special attack. This pauses the main game and takes you to a minigame where the targeted girls are posed in a such a way that there isn’t much left to the imagination, and your job is to figure out where on the body they like to be poked and prodded, and then tap and rub on the PlayStation 4’s touch pad until they hit a special level of estacy. And, yes, you can poke, prod, and rub them everywhere. This is why the game has a button input to activate a “mom” mode which you can activate if someone walks into the room while you’re playing; the joke of having the feature aside, this is not a game I can imagine people feeling comfortable playing around company.
Each run through of the game is brief, and realistically possible within a single sitting. Levels are over in a couple of minutes and there’s only around a dozen to complete in order to reach the end. However, the replay value is high, with different paths through the levels, multiple endings and girls to chase as your preferred partner.
On a purely mechanical level, it’s also a really well made game. The core shooting action is well balanced, and on difficult settings it’s challenging. There’s an attempt to throw some statistics building in there (your hero can develop four stats over the course of the game, which can impact on the responses he has available to questions directed at him during dialogue sessions between levels), and this is more of a misfire, as there simply isn’t enough run time to make character statistics worth playing with, but otherwise this is actually one of the better examples of the rail shooter genre we’ve seen for some time.
It looks the part, too. Environments are quite simple, but they’re used well, and the way your character moves around them is really quite funny – he’ll be crawling around benches to hide from the girls and peeking around corners to see if the coast is clear. The girls themselves are of course the star of the show, and they are well drawn, well animated, and are amusing in design. As far as ‘perv’ games go, nothing is going to be able to top Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 any time soon, but to compare the artistic vision of something like Gal*Gun to other satirical games like Hyperdimension Neptunia is to compare it favourably.
Much of the game’s DLC is already available, though at time of writing the power up that boosts the power of your zoom to effectively remove the clothes of the girls rather than just fade it out, is not. That piece of DLC was infamous for being as expensive as a game in itself in Japan, and I would expect that to be the case here too, once it lands. For what is available now, the DLC is all unnecessary to the game, but certainly fits with the theming of the game, and enhances the silliness of it all. I imagine the two most downloaded pieces of DLC will be the two items that either add significantly to the size of each girl’s breasts, or alternatively shrinks them a couple of sizes so that most of them become pretty flat chested.
Related reading: It must be said that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 really is the greatest game of all time in this particular niche. For people who like digital bodies, it’s utterly essential.
It’s truly a good thing that there are localisation outfits that are willing to take on games that are going to be as sharply criticised for their content as Gal*Gun. With western development really doubling down on hyperviolent power fantasies, I like that the Japanese industry is providing alternatievely-themed games instead. Although the satire doesn’t localise as well as I might have liked, the game’s not as straightforward in its perversions that a surface level analysis makes it seem, and I’ll be disappointed if there aren’t at least some people that recognise this.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld