Gal Guardians: Demon Purge (titled Grim Guardians: Demon Purge mostly everywhere else) is a spinoff of the Gal Gun series. The Gal Gun series is one that has a certain *ahem* appeal that I can appreciate. Sadly, I’ve never had the capacity to check out the series. Luckily, you can hop into this spinoff with no knowledge of Gal Gun. It’s recommended you do. Inti Creates did a phenomenal job capturing classic Castlevania’s best elements, adding one of the coolest features from one the series’ later titles (Portrait of Ruin), and giving the plot a hilarious tone that never takes things too seriously despite the gothic horror backdrop.
Gal Guardians stars the sisters Shinobu and Maya Kamizono. By day and by most nights, they’re average high schoolers. However, when dark forces threaten the lives of them and their friends, they turn into demon hunters. Their latest adventure has them investigating a massive castle where their high school once stood. The castle is filled with demons and monsters of all shapes and sizes. The Kamizono sisters need to eradicate the dark, save their classmates, and look as cute as possible while doing so. That last part isn’t written in the plot, but it’s strongly implied. The story and writing in Gal Guardians is silly, slightly pervy, and all around hilarious. The script often breaks the fourth wall to remind the players not to take the game too seriously. Things might be on the hilarious side but that doesn’t mean the writing isn’t less tight. I really got to know Shinobu, Maya and the rest of the cast throughout the journey. Everyone has a lot to say, which I appreciated.
It’s easy to feel like a pro once the game starts. This is especially true if you have any familiarity with “Classicvania” styled games. Extra advantage will be given to those that have played Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. You will play as both demon hunting sisters as they move from stage to stage fighting monsters, collecting power ups, rescuing their classmates, uncovering secret routes, and going up against towering bosses. Shinobu and Maya have their own life bar. If one falls, the other will be returned to a checkpoint. You can then navigate to the fallen sister and perform CPR to bring her back with half health. It’s a nice feature for those that play on Veteran difficulty.
Shinobu and Maya’s skillset is diverse; there’s usually a better sister for certain enemies/situations. Shinobu is a long ranger fighter that uses a machine gun. At the start of the game, it’ll have 100 bullets. This amount can be upgraded via hidden upgrades. Double tapping on the down direction will reload her bullet clip. Shinobu’s sub-weapons play to her long range abilities. She’ll get a throwing knife, a hand grenade, and rocket launcher just to name a few. Maya’s attacks are done at close range. She hits harder, but can’t take as much damage. Along with a standard three-hit combo, she can create platforms, freeze enemies, and use a parasol to protect herself from attacks from above. As the sisters take out their enemies and collect medallions, they’ll build up a meter called the Pride Gauge. With the push of a button, this full meter will empty and the sisters will unleash a powerful attack that takes out every enemy on screen. It requires precise timing, so there’s a lot of risk vs. reward with it. All of this, plus a few more features that get unlocked the further you get, make Gal Guardians a fresh, addictive, and easy to play adventure. The moment I started, I had a hard time putting it down. There’s a severe case of, “Just one more stage…” syndrome.
If I had to be critical, then I’ll point out that the game can get repetitive after a certain point. The developers did their best to keep things fresh, but going back through the same stages and fighting the same bosses to see the truth behind all the events can get old. Personally, I didn’t mind it because it meant more 2D action. It also meant more viewing of Inti Creates’ graphical handiwork. The 2D pixel art maestros did a standout job once again in Gal Guardians. The characters, the monsters, the stages, the bosses (dear gods the bosses) and everything else you can think of look splendid. There’s something satisfying about seeing Shinobu or Maya killing their enemies and seeing said enemies’ blood splattering by the gallons on the castle walls. Sadly, this level of praise doesn’t apply to the music. The music isn’t bad – it’s just forgettable. I came into Gal Guardians expecting some bangers and got regular. Voice acting, on the other hand, is excellent. There are two options: English and Japanese. I would alternate between the two at random. Both are great choices.
Gal Guardians has multiple endings, a somewhat hefty post-game where you’re going through the same stages again while looking for missing panties (I’m for real) and multiple difficulty levels. The main game itself will range in time depending on player skill. Casual mode can be quite challenging if you don’t learn enemy and boss patterns, or take the time to know when to switch between the sisters and their sub-weapons. My first time through on Casual was about 15 hours. I’ll likely go through the game again on Veteran and anticipate it being longer. Obviously, there’s a lot of bang for your buck in Gal Guardians. And there’s a lot of folks that will enjoy this. The way it combines gothic horror, high school humor, shojo anime and classic 2D gameplay really make it one of a kind. Anyone that likes any of those aforementioned things will gobble this little gem right up.
Overall, 8.5/10: Join Shinobu and Maya in another inspired Inti Creates title. Gal Guardians: Demon Purge showcases how to properly tackle retro-inspired gaming.