A decade ago when news came out about a rail shooter that involved high school girls screaming in joy as players shoot them with pheromones and zoom in on their bodies few would have thought that the series would ever actually make it to the West. For the most part, they were right as the original game was never released in the West but low and behold, the sequels and even a VR version were eventually released many years later. Now in celebration of the ten year anniversary for the series Gal*Gun has been remastered as Gal*Gun Returns and released with nearly every piece of DLC that was released for the original. So now that the game that started it all has finally closed the gap, is it worth your time?
An Angel Trainee by the name of Patako has one task left to properly graduate and become a full fledged angel, help a human fall in love with the help of a Cupid Arrow. She sets her sights on Tenzou Motesugi, a high school boy, only to accidentally set her crossbow on overload and blast him with sixteen Cupid Arrows making him completely irresistible to nearly every female that sets their eyes on him. This blessing quickly turns out to be a curse as Patako informs Tenzou that this newfound charisma only lasts a day and once it wears off every girl, even female animals, will hate him for the rest of his life.
As such, Tenzou only has the rest of the day to try and confess his love to one of four heroines that he is already somewhat close to. Only problem is, these girls are the few that happen to be resistant to Tenzou’s charms as each of them appear to have their minds elsewhere or have bigger problems than someone trying to find love. As such, players will need to make their choice of character to pursue and find themselves locked into that route as they run through the game, interacting with the girl through various dialogue choices and taking part in a number of different styled shooting games in an effort to try and woo their chosen heroine.
The characters in Gal*Gun Returns are rather straightforward in nature and many longtime fans of anime or any of the standard tropes will know what to expect when it comes to most of the character developments that take place but the interactions between Tenzou and the girls are still rather enjoyable despite their predictability. It is also worth noting that every girl has more than one ending and players will need to try harder than usual to obtain a “True End.”
Once players obtain a proper true ending they will unlock an additional story mode that serves as an epilogue of sorts called Doki Doki Carnival. This sees Tenzou dealing with the fallout of his post-admiration school, encountering another angel, and trying to hold onto the girl he has fallen in love with which will vary depending on the True Endings that the player has obtained. Doki Doki Carnival works well as quite replayable post-game content that also gives the regular girls of the school some personality and time to shine, even if it is still kept to a minimum. The standard story routes and epilogues do provide quite a bit of content but it is a bit unfortunate that it pales in comparison to the story content provided in the sequels.
With Tenzou drawing the attention of every girl in school, including a few members of the teaching staff, he has to defend himself against the waves of girls by using his “pheromone shot” to give them euphoria and put them temporarily out of commission. Every girl can take a few shots before going down though players can try to aim for a “sweet spot” for an instant takedown with each girl in the school having a different location on their body that will result in the ecstasy shot. This allows for some interesting instances where players can begin to recognize which girls can easily be taken down first in a wave since every character appears quite frequently given how long an average run through a story route can be.
Girls can damage Tenzou’s willpower by confessing their love to him up close with a letter, something which is far more limited compared to later games, and shouting confessions from a distance where their words can be shot out of the sky. If the player ends up losing all of their motivation gauge then he will suffer defeat and end up with the girl that managed to deal the finishing blow. Thankfully Tenzou has the ability to recover health whenever he uses “Doki Doki Mode” on a girl. Everytime a girl is defeated the player will fill up a heart meter that can be built up to four times and trigger the aforementioned mode. Here players will take their target into a pink world where they will target various parts of a girl’s body to make them explode with happiness and then take down every other girl on screen all while refilling Tenzou’s health.
Outside of the standard rail shooting gameplay players will also encounter various “boss” stages that involve either taking on the heroine of their choice or completing a mission objective alongside a character. These range from helping change boos to cheers at a concert, shooting metal balls out of the air, breaking a cage loose from a helicopter, and more. These help change things up from time to time and keep things fresh and even the Doki Doki Mode is expanded upon a bit more in the Carnival section of the game as players will need to manage to take down up to six girls at a time while limiting their meter usage to properly succeed. None of this is exceptionally difficult but one thing that may throw some players off a bit is the stat system.
Anytime Doki Doki Mode is used on a character Tenzou’s base stats; Intelligence, Athleticism, Style, and Lewdness will change depending on the girl that they used it on. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if it weren’t for the fact that each of the four main heroines have different preferences and players will need to make sure they keep their stat values in line or risk missing out on a True Ending even if they made all the correct dialogue choices. Considering players are rewarded with information about the background characters and even access to them in the gallery the more each character is targeted, it is a bit counterintuitive at times.
It is also worth noting that for longtime fans of the Gal*Gun series, this is easily the tamest game in the franchise so far. Perhaps the developers were unsure what they could get away with originally and then took things further from there but things such as seeing through clothing while zoomed in or vacuuming off their uniforms are no longer a thing and the most players will generally see are glimpses of underwear when targeting a character in Doki Doki Mode or when they fall in standard gameplay.
Visuals & Audio
While it may not be as varied as its sequels or quite as impressive looking, it is clear to see that the developers have done their best to improve the graphics from the original release and while the stages are fairly simplistic in nature a lot of attention has been given to the character models. The main heroines are all given solid designs and look great while all of the standard students have unique looks to them, allowing players to easily recognize who they may need to target. It is worth noting that thanks to this version of the game including all of the DLC players will be able to change the main heroines into a few different costumes and alter the standard characters’ uniforms, gym clothes, and swimsuits to vary things up quite a bit, especially since some of these outfits are more varied for each character.
The game features only the original Japanese voice work but it is nice to note that the entire game is voiced with every character given proper subtitles, even during Doki Doki Mode/Carnival. As for the soundtrack, the game features a re-recorded version of the previous opening theme and a number of new pieces of background music. Those playing through Aoi’s route will also find some rather enjoyable vocals mixed into the music during certain stages as well.
By going back to the beginning Gal*Gun Returns may be simpler than its sequels and doesn’t take its fanservice quite as far but it is still a solid rail shooter that offers tons of unlockable content, multiple routes to enjoy with enough variations to keep things feeling relatively fresh, and plenty of fanservice to still enjoy. This results in a game that remains very enjoyable but perhaps not the first stop newcomers should take when it comes entering the Gal*Gun series.
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