Review: Gal Guardians: Demon Purge
Developer: Inti Creates
Available On: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
Editor's Note: Due to a Trademark dispute, all title references in this written review were changed to the newly recognized one of Gal Guardian: Demon Purge. When an update for the game is released to alter the watermark on screenshots, the pictures will also be changed at a future date. Thank you.
DEGENER-MANIA?! - Introduction
As a series, Gal Gun is one of those anime-centric adventures that a couple of folks might be shy about enjoying in public. It’s a franchise that doesn’t only dabble in risqueness but also takes a headfirst plunge into the sexualization of its female NPCs. Hell, there’s this certain ambiguity regarding their ages, though I’m sure they’re young adults. Regardless, I forever firmly believe that the released trilogy is made of competent and, frankly, entertaining on-rail shooters. They’re bloody delightful. While I understand the stigma behind fan service, there are genuinely good ideas inside the naughtiness. Besides, the reality is sex sells, but if that weighs heavily on your mind, there’s now this SFW spin-off. Surprisingly, unbeknownst to several, Gal Guardians: Demon Purge stars the protagonists of Double Peace. Inti Creates channels its expertise in the vania genre, but does it manage to pay off?
NEWBIES WELCOMED! - Writing
For anyone curious, the general premise is precisely as outlandish as you’d think. Shinobu and Maya are hunting demons, and we follow their journey as they trek through a menacing tower. I will note that prior knowledge of Gal Gun lore isn’t necessarily required as the story is standalone. That said, if you feel inclined to, going back might clue you in on a handful of references. This game doesn’t outline the backgrounds of the returning cast, either. It assumes you’re already diehard. By proxy, those ever-so-brief snippets of personality that the other characters show, aside from the playable pair, might go amiss. Without context, they come off as highly cliche. Don’t get me wrong, even if you’re familiar, they’re still drenched in tropes. It’s just that, with background, it’s easier to appreciate how it remains true to who they are in the mainline series.
I have to applaud the localization because it’s mint. The narrative is concise and straightforward to read. The only issue I encountered was the sporadic word missing from the dialogue. I adore it otherwise, primarily thanks to the sass Shinobu and Maya sling at one another. It’s superb, perfectly replicating the sibling relationship. They tease and share in lighthearted banter when they’re not massacring fiends or slicing off limbs. Their conversations have charisma, helping to carry the session forward. Most crucially, I didn’t roll my eyes at the ridiculousness or feel it was cringe. Then again, I’ve also been predisposed to the sheer lunacy on offer. I won’t lie; that’s likely the reason for my immunity if you will. I freely concede that a couple of lines could provoke groans. Still, for what it’s worth, the literary side is a vast improvement to Gal Gun proper.
Now, don’t come in expecting emotional peaks and valleys. Silliness is on the menu, and it’ll be the focal point of the script. Now, nothing is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but the corners of my lips indeed curled slightly. There was this strange comfort in seeing the quirks of the characters I met years ago on display. I suppose in that way, Gal Guardians: Demon Purge is weirdly nostalgic - it’s a love letter to fans. That’s enough waffling, though, because I’m relatively sure the burning question on everyone’s mind is if there’s perversion. Well, I can unequivocally confirm that, yeah, it’s here, but it’s not gratuitous. It doesn’t feel shoehorned and there for the sake of it. It reads like a typical hormone-filled teenage discussion instead. The male asks for a naughty item, like a pair of bloomers, as an unimpressed expression washes over the faces of Shinobu and Maya.
KICKIN’ IT OLD SCHOOL! - Gameplay
From the trailers, a common assumption I’ve seen is that Gal Guardians: Demon Purge falls under the Metroidvania umbrella. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Backtracking isn’t necessary, as there are never new areas waiting to be discovered. Sure, a few doors sprinkled in need a specific ability acquired through natural progression to open, but doing so doesn’t branch off to new paths. It’s more akin to a shortcut. In other words, the linearity is undeniable. It boils down to being optional, with the only reason someone may want to do it is to satisfy their completionist itch. See, there’s also this built-in achievement system. Sadly, there’s no reward linked to finishing them. It masquerades more as a bundle of further goals. There are juicy incentives to return trips, though, like these upgrades to strengthen Shinobu and Maya. Grabbing them doesn’t trivialize the balance, as I still had a rough go.
That’s right, murdering these denizens of evil, even after beefing up the girls, doesn’t suddenly turn it into a cakewalk. The sweet embrace of death still got a hold, gently caressing me more times than I’d admit. The cause was a mixture of my kamikaze tendencies and the knockback that follows taking damage. It doesn’t sound horrible at the surface level, and it isn’t, at least on an extended platform. If an enemy pushes me to the edge, and I fail to evade the incoming strike, or if I’m on a small one that moves, it’s curtains. I must remain alert, which is why it didn’t frustrate, exciting me in lieu of continuous fatalities. I reckon it’s due to the mercilessness being a call back to the 90s. I felt like a snot-nosed kid again, bettering myself with every death. The gameplay loop is super fun, too, which helps.
To really hammer the nail on the coffin regarding Gal Guardians: Demon Purge being an homage to a bygone era, every enemy has an attack pattern. Boss monsters, especially, are notorious for having an exact sequence that I either took to learning or tempted fate and threw caution to the wind. I suggest the latter as the fast and furious nature of their offensive promises that, at least once or twice, the darkness bellows my name. Luckily, dying is pretty forgiving. Well, it is on Normal, anyway. Picking any higher difficulties voids the capability to revive a fallen sister with the other. I lose in a snap, encouraging me to stay attentive during battles. It’s engaging and pumps the adrenaline. This trial-and-error approach isn’t the deterrent it seems. I hungered for victory, and as I got it, serotonin rushed through my body.
Gal Guardians: Demon Purge also has an element of strategy that’s fused into its side-scrolling DNA. Shinobu and Maya have distinct fighting styles, with the former being a savant with pistols while the latter is efficient with melee weaponry. This aspect has me enthralled, even now. Because aggressors come in different shapes and sizes, their movements always differ. For instance, whereas one species may charge at you in a zigzag motion, another is a straight shot. Each girl has a sort of specialty, if you will, and can efficiently dispatch certain foes the other has trouble killing. If one succumbs, her demise triggers an artificial increase in toughness. Again, it’s worth reiterating how Goddamn engaged I was. I would be sticking out my tongue as concentration swallowed my face. Their motions were quick and frantic, and without the suitable armament, they’d dodge any attack of mine.
SUCH SILKY MOVES! - Performance
It shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that when it comes to framerate, there isn’t an ounce of stutter to mention. Each swing of Maya’s sword or spear is pure fluidity. Every bullet that explodes from Shinobu’s pistol is a free-flowing stream of destruction. When I press a button, the action immediately initiates. It’s a good thing it does because the platforming parts that I occasionally stumbled on command precision. Collision detection is also on point. I had to be extra vigilant and prepared to leap over projectiles. When they hit, I sure as hell felt it. What’s most crucial is that Gal Guardians: Demon Purge bathes in the coveted peanut butter smoothness and never lets go. I tried everything to force a hard crash, but my efforts were futile. The stability is a dream and a Goddamn rock.
OUU, PRETTY! - Presentation
These pixelated sprites have me in awe, thanks to their careful and refined detail. Since the cast comprises most heroines that have appeared in the franchise, it’s critical to ensure I or any player can immediately recognize who they are. I’m proud to announce that not only is that possible, but hell, their distinct hairdos stay intact. The coloring and design of their clothing are downright gorgeous, meticulous, and polished. It’s evident that buckets of charm were poured into the visuals of this game. The Gal Gun trilogy is arguably a flagship for Inti Creates, so it’s terrific to see that it gets the utmost respect. The environments are reminiscent of the SNES generation, transporting me to, and I apologize for repeating myself, my younger days. There’s a raw nostalgia in the visual fidelity, and I vibe hard with it.
YOU CAN TALK?! - Sound Design
Upon booting up Gal Guardians: Demon Purge, I’m greeted by voice acting. It caught me off guard if I’m honest. I didn’t think it would have it, although it's not substantial in the sense that it doesn’t cover the whole script's worth of text. It’s usually one-liners or groans that echo out after executing an attack. I can’t really judge the overall quality because of how little is on offer, but I can say that it adds a bit of life as you’re meandering through the tower’s corridors. It’s clear and crisp, too. I can comprehend what’s said as soon as it’s uttered. As for the soundtrack, it’s decent. The melodies fit perfectly with the aesthetic. It’s difficult to explain properly, but it just works. Yeah, I wouldn’t classify the score as revolutionary, but it’s definitely adequate, especially thriving when connected to some speakers.
AND THE PHEROMONE VERDICT IS…
Gal Guardians: Demon Purge is a sublime tribute to Castlevania, perfectly mimicking the iconic formula. While it doesn’t try to reinvent the genre or innovate, what it accomplishes still deserves an ovation. I was giddy with enthusiasm every minute I spent inside this world. Even though the voice clips are frequent, they didn’t become grating or annoying. I reckon the short length is responsible for that, as this game doesn’t overstay its welcome. With a duration of around six to eight hours, if not less, it’s a lovely weekend romp. Inti Creates has masterfully crafted a true-to-form side-scrolling action adventure. Without a doubt, this is the definition of a hidden gem - its unfiltered enjoyment. The combat’s exhilarating, and even though it looks relaxed, there’s zero denying how merciless it gets. I may not think it's a must-buy, but I sure as hell say it’s worth purchasing, even at full price.
GAL GUARDIANS: DEMON PURGE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Special thanks to the Publisher for the review code used for the purposes of this coverage