As a spinoff of Gal Gun: Double Peace, the 2D action-adventure game Gal Guardians: Demon Purge (previously named Grim Guardians: Demon Purge) departs from the cute, on-the-rails shooter of its original Gal*Gun series with disturbing sound effects and grotesque monsters. The game’s visuals bring to mind retro video games, with a difficulty that is both enjoyable and challenging.
The presentation of Gal Guardians: Demon Purge calls to mind the Castlevania series with its aesthetic and progression systems. Mastering each character’s fundamental playstyle is the key to victory, and each unlockable sub-weapon is a new tool to the player’s overall strategy. The game doesn’t pull its punches, but each major victory will feel earned with its trial-and-error boss battles and relentless enemies.
▍A Campy Adventure When Modern Meets Medieval
Players familiar with the Gal*Gun series will recognize some faces right from the beginning, as they take control of Shinobu and Maya Kamizono. Coming from their most recent job as demon hunters, these sisters find themselves suddenly transported into the Demon Realm on their way to school.
To make matters worse, Kurona of the Demon Academy has transformed their beloved Sakurazaki Academy into a medieval castle infested with demons and fiends. With the student body out of commission, it’s up to Shinobu and Maya to save their school and stop Kurona from permanently fusing the human and demon realms together!
Gal Guardians: Demon Purge wastes no time in tearing away the light atmosphere created by the sisters’ over-the-top antics and casual banter. Killing the first enemy you come across releases blood and entrails that are sure to surprise Gal*Gun fans and newbies.
The game’s overall premise isn’t anything groundbreaking in the adventure RPG genre, but the voice acting goes a long way in adding personality to each character you meet; sadly, this title only has Japanese vocals for the main story dialogue, and English voice acting exists only for gameplay purposes.
▍Two Distinct Combat Styles To Choose From
As demon hunters, Shinobu and Maya rely on their weapons and techniques to defeat any foes that get in their way. Each heroine has different strengths they rely on, but only by combining these strengths can the player progress through the castle; exploring with just one of the heroines is a quick way to reach the game-over screen!
Shinobu is well-suited for beginners of Gal Guardians, as she has high HP and long-range attacks to whittle down enemies. The elder sister also has plenty of sub-weapons that can handle specific enemies, like a bomb to deal with shielded foes and a dagger that can hit pesky mobs on the ceiling. Her low attack power, taller height, and ammo system are her major drawbacks, but otherwise, you can’t go wrong with using her to learn how the game works.
Maya is better for experienced players, as mistakes are much more punishing when controlling her. With her powerful melee attacks, the player will need to be much more careful to avoid attacks as her small HP pool means she can’t take very many hits. Her sub-weapons lean towards utility, as she can use her origami to create a shield around herself, and even platforms to maneuver around enemies!
By engaging in combat and collecting Pride, the player can build up the Purge Gauge; fill it up to max, and the hunter duo will unleash the Purge Shot; a special attack capable of temporarily destroying reality, as well as inflicting unworldly damage to all enemies on screen! The extra invincibility frames from this attack are a bonus to keep in mind while exploring.
▍Tough But Fair Difficulty Curve
Gal Guardians: Demon Purge offers two difficulties to the player once they begin the game; the simple, low-risk Casual difficulty with endless lives, or the challenging Veteran mode, with limited lives and other conditions that can seem daunting to new players. However, your choice in difficulty isn’t too important, as you can switch anytime; just be prepared to restart at the beginning of the stage you are on if you do.
The sheer number of enemies, their variants, and their interactions with the environment are the bulk of this game’s difficulty, as each stage adds more quirks and hazards to keep track of! Progression in this genre is more of a marathon rather than a sprint, as recklessly rushing through each stage can easily deplete your HP unless you know what you’re doing.
On the other hand, Gal Guardians: Demon Purge has several features that encourage trial-by-error learning, which is one of the game’s high points. If one of the Kamizono sisters gets KO’d, you’re given the chance to return back to the location and revive her, rather than being trapped in a bad situation. Some rooms can be absolutely brutal with the number of enemies that can knock you down into a bottomless pit!
Bosses will also regenerate a portion of their HP based on the progress made in your last attempt, and the game will even provide a hint if you struggle with a boss long enough. You can’t let your guard down, not even when their HP bar is reduced to 0, they might unleash one final attack that can end your run!
Also, obtaining a new sub-weapon will spawn you in a room with unlimited weapon points, letting you try out your new addition for as long as you like!
The levels of Gal Guardians: Demon Purge come off as well-suited to the game’s Veteran mode, and new players shouldn’t be afraid to try it out with how easily you can swap between difficulties. Mistakes are definitely punishing, but each victory feels earned with the number of tricks the game throws at you!
▍Lovingly Crafted Pixel Visuals
Pixels and sprites may not be for everyone, but it is clear that Inti Creates did an excellent job in Gal Guardians: Demon Purge despite stepping out of their comfort zone. Each locale fits the overarching medieval theme, yet is visually distinct from each other; it never feels low-effort, and calls back to the Castlevania series with each location you visit.
The environment is another high point in Gal Guardians, as it interacts with the player’s exploration. Innocent-looking plants might react violently to blood, and an enemy might suddenly break through a window!
Boss Battles are given the emphasis they deserve, which is a feat considering the limits of pixel medium. The heroines are also well-animated during attacks and movement, and each pose adds a bit of flair to an otherwise mundane technique. What did surprise me is that Maya’s sprite features her with green hair despite her portrait showing her with black hair; perhaps this was a beta design that was left in.
▍Gal Guardians is a 2D Shooter that Doesn’t Disappoint
Gal Guardians: Demon Purge may not excel in any specific area, but its blend of gameplay difficulty and an old-school anime plot make this an entertaining adventure that knows not to take itself too seriously. Players looking for more vibrant graphics won’t find what they want in this title, but fans of the Gal*Gun and Castlevania series will have a blast playing Gal Guardians if they give it a chance.
*This review is created based on the PS4 version of Gal Guardians: Demon Purge. The game is currently available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam