I can’t even begin to fathom how many quarters I put into games like House of the Dead, Jurassic Park, and the other on-rails shooters in my local arcade once upon a time – but it’s got to be a huge number. Those kind of games were my jam, and whenever I saw a gun accessory attached to an arcade cabinet I was there.
Fast forward a few years, and here I am reviewing an on-rails shooter once more… though this time it’s not just in my head, and without the obligatory “awesome” and “cool” overuse child me would’ve offered. That’s not to say that the game isn’t awesome and cool though, so let me tell you about my first foray into an ecchi on-rails shooter on a portable – and how it completely won me over. Before we get to the mechanics and opinions behind it all however, first we need to lay out the story.
It all begins on what seems to be a normal day; birds are singing, the sky is blue, and you (as protagonist Houdai) are on your way to school. It wouldn’t be any kind of fun if things just went along normally however, and that’s where things get a little weird.
While you’re walking to school, another scene is playing out in parallel. An angel named Ekoro is in the middle of her cupid exam when she notices that a demon is also targeting the same human as she is; you! In an attempt to beat the demon to the punch, Ekoro accidentally lets loose a super-charged arrow – hitting you square with it. Now, with all the girls who see you falling madly in love with you, you’ll have to sort through the potentials and find your soul mate by the end of the day or you’ll forever be doomed to a life absent of love. Holy high stakes, Batman!
As for the gameplay, it mainly consists of visual novel bits, on-rails shooter bits, and the doki-doki mode touch-based bits.
The visual novel bits play out like any interactive (read; not pure, branching) visual novel. You’ll have a general narrative that plays out, with branching paths based on choices that you make throughout the game. The only difference here is that in addition to choices driving the story, the scores you get in the non-visual novel bits also help determine the results.
As for the on-rails shooter bits, they play out pretty much as you’d expect – again with a few little tweaks. The on-rails bit means that you’re along for the ride and don’t move your character, though you are able to aim the pheromone gun he holds. In Gal*Gun however, the only way to fight back (since it’s not nice to hit a lady) is to shoot your pursuers with pleasure-inducing pheromones, pushing their excitement into ecstasy and disabling them in a spent clump on the floor. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Well it gets better, as there are additional “rules” to this shooter. Hidden items and things that will match up with the title’s request system (a sort of message board feature) can be found in every level, and using the right trigger you can “zoom” which will also let you see through doors and other in-the-way objects (including clothing 😉 ). If you want a good score you’ll have to keep an eye out and shoot the hidden things too, not just the obvious ones.
Additionally, the demon your angel beat to the punch isn’t taking things lying down – and has “infected” some of the girls at your school with her demonic power. These girls will have a nearly invisible demon attached to them (you have to be looking right at it to see it), which must be shot before you can take out the girl.
Lastly, there’s doki-doki mode. I kind of get this mode, but either I’m missing something or I’m just horrible at it as I can only seem to get the regular ones to work right. The basic premise is that you need to use your cross-hairs to find spots that are “begging” to be touched, with those spots identifying themselves via little floating stars or heads that move in a pattern. Once you’ve found a clump, you shoot them until they’re gone, and them engage in a touch-based swipe game. Doing this multiple times will render you successful, or at least it seems like that’s the case.
For the life of me however, I can’t seem to max out the final doki-doki and reach any of the proper endings. No matter how fast I move, how accurate I am, and what my scores are otherwise I simply can’t get it to work. I’m not sure where the problem lies, but I have a feeling it’s with me and not the game – unless it’s in the instructions. I’m pretty sure I followed ’em to a “T” as I even took screens and went through them on my PC while I played, but still no luck!
Moving on from my failure in that one aspect however, the game is one that doesn’t baby you or punish you (too much) and I think that’s a big part of why I like it so much. It’s exactly what it looks like from the outside, it’s very accessible (if you can take the subject matter and genre), and it has such a wide birth that it gives you a lot of room to grow. Every time I picked up my Vita it felt like I was getting better at the game, and that’s a good way to keep people coming back. You’ve really got to appreciate it.
Another big part of why I enjoy Gal*Gun is the shooter controls, which actually work really well on the Vita. No physical gun accessory is a little jarring for someone that has played these kind of games almost exclusively that way, however a little time with the Vita’s analog stick and the sensitivity settings and I was good to go. It definitely helps that the controls are simple as well, with triangle activating doki-doki mode, square shooting pheromones, the left trigger slowing the cross-hairs, and the right trigger zooming in. Bar having some sort of “gun” in my hands, this is how I want to play on rails shooters; simple should be standard issue!
Speaking of standard issue, Double Peace gives you plenty of ways to enhance your gameplay through the Academy Store and the angel feather currency. By completing levels, raising your ranks, and completing requests on the message board you can earn angel feathers, which can then be used to buy items that can help you. There are items to up the power of your shots, up your HP, up your stats, protect you from the girls, and even help you do pervy things (like scan for the girls’ measurements) – so you’ll have to get as many angel feathers as you can if you want to access all the good stuff!
Speaking of the good stuff, the game isn’t limited to the story mode – and there are other ways to enjoy your time with the girls of Double Peace. The most notable way is through score attack, which is basically a perma-death version of the on-rails bits of the game. You pick a scenario and play with one life, the game running until your life is depleted. No visual novel bits or mandatory doki-doki mode here!
The other ways to enjoy the game are actually not really playable per-se, but are options that will let you get more intimate with the girls (the Student Roster), learn more about your gameplay so far (My Data), get a better look at the pivotal images you’ve seen (Gallery), and even change up the girls’ clothes. You’ll find the first three of those in the Collection menu, while the last falls under the Dressing Room menu – both of these top end options available from the main menu of the game. It kind of sucks that you can’t change their clothes on the fly, but I digress. 😛
Moving on to the way it runs, we have to touch on graphics – and graphically, Gal*Gun: Double Peace is serviceable. It’s obvious that they’ve sacrificed a little bit of fidelity in order to get the game running as smooth as it does, but you’d hardly know unless you weren’t paying attention to the task at hand. Things often move so quickly that there’s no time to stop and take in the sights, which is helpful in keeping you from looking at those jaggies, and hiding those frame drops.
Thirty frames per second and native resolution this is not, but putting those things aside the way the game runs and looks does not at all detract from the gameplay. In fact, I often didn’t notice these issues unless I was overtly looking for them.
As for the audio, the game offers a clean Japanese voice-over track, as well as some quality sound effects and background music. They don’t really stand out for any reason (other than the moaning, haha), but that simply means that they fit in a way that’s unobtrusive. Also, while the game doesn’t offer English audio, it does offer subtitles – though their quality (or complete-ness) is something that’s a bit of a hot point.
The English subtitles for Gal*Gun: Double Peace are fair enough for what they provide, but that’s part of the problem; not everything has subtitles. Certain sections of the game (where your character isn’t using a visual novel style box to relay their words) don’t include a translation of the spoken content at all, and as such there are bits where you’re left scratching your head. In the grand scheme of things the missing lines don’t seem to matter a whole lot to the story (I understood fine without them), however it’s a little troubling that they’re missing at all.
Another troubling bit that comes to mind is the loading, and I’m not just talking about between missions. Starting the game is akin to ordering at a drive-thru window – neither quick, nor painless – and you’d be better off starting the game way before you intend to play. Jump-in friendly this is not! In my opinion that’s a bit of a big negative, as on-rails shooters have always been jump in games. It used to be that the quarters would barely hit the bottom of the slot before I was expected to shoot, and now you want me to wait? You’re lucky there’s a good game and some fanservice on the other side of that loading.
Okay; so the subtitles are a bit absent here and there, and loading is slow – but is this a good game? For the most part it most certainly is. The visual novel aspect has opened up multiple routes in a way that’s a little more obvious to the player, the subject matter has given the genre a nice twist of “new,” and the gameplay itself is pretty solid. For an on-rails shooter where there’s no gun accessory for the player to aim with, it’s surprisingly accurate and responsive if you tweak the settings a little.
In the end, the game itself is neither the ending, nor the sum of its issues; it’s the enjoyment you get – and in that aspect this is a definite recommend from me. Even when failing or doing poorly, I never once felt like putting the game down. It stuck with me even in the busy times, and I often lost myself to a bit of gameplay when I only meant to jump back into an in-progress game for a moment. I even found myself reloading saves to try the level over again and get a better score, or to have one more go at that final doki-doki with Shinobu (the best girl).
There’s nothing like being sucked in like that, and that’s why I can honestly recommend Gal*Gun: Double Peace; not because it has the elements you want, or because it’s perfectly crafted to the system – but because even though it’s not perfect, you can’t stop enjoying it.
Are you up for a nice helping of enjoyment? Hands where we can see them, and grab yourself a copy. 😉