Inti Creates is well known for their strong record of platforming games, but they’re also well known for Gal*Gun, a series of lewd shoot ‘em ups. With that in mind, an eventual Gal*Gun platformer was an inevitability. That inevitability has arrived to us in the form of Gal Guardians: Demon Purge, and it’s a whole lot different than I’d imagined it would be.
Editor Note: ‘Gal Guardians: Demon Purge’ was titled ‘Grim Guardians: Demon Purge’ on release, and was changed shortly after release due to a complaint from the owners of the trademark ‘Grimguard’. Some references on this website may still refer to it by the previous name.
Climb the Demonic Tower
Contrary to what the series’ origins may suggest about it, Gal Guardians is a gothic and bloody action platformer fashioned very closely after Castlevania. More specifically, it bears a great resemblance to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. You’ll make your way through an enormous tower and contest with a wide range of enemies all out to kill you. Most enemy motifs you see here are analogues to what you would find in its inspiration. This includes zombies that spawn from the ground, skeletons that throw bones and swords in an arc, and lots of plant monsters.
Each stage has a different theming and enemies are appropriately made to match their surroundings. There are your usual castle corridors, a haunted greenhouse, a concert hall, and more. There’s also a clock tower, because there always has to be clock towers in these kinds of games. Each stage is defined by fairly unique gimmicks to add layers to their theming. At the greenhouse level, you’re avoiding man-eating plants and running mandrakes. In the clock tower, you’ll be ascending using gear-operated platforms. At the end of all of these stages are boss battles that combine epic presentations with aggressive final tests on the player’s understanding of the stage’s mechanics.
It’s not just like the Castlevanias of old in look, but in function, too. Gal Guardians: Demon Purge is a relatively slow-paced and ponderous affair, with emphasis placed on moment-to-moment precision. It’s a far cry from the high-speed and frantic pacing of what usually defines Inti Creates’ work, but they knew what they were doing with this new style too. Each jump, attack, and sub-weapon has a large amount of windup and end lag, leading to the player needing to carefully consider which options are the best at a given time.
Overall, the game does an excellent job of capturing the well-considered and tense ethos of nail-biting platformers from the 80s and 90s. Through the game’s Veteran Mode, which I played, you can even add things such as attack knockback and a lives’ system. If you want something more modern, you can turn on Casual Mode where those elements are removed.
Kamizono Sisters, Move Out!
The stars of this show are Shinobu and Maya Kamizono, heroines of Gal*Gun: Double Peace. Taking up their roles as Demon Hunters, they come with an assortment of unique skills to tackle the Demon Tower. As the default, Shinobu is a fighter focused on long-ranged combat, while Maya is the opposite. Shinobu also has a fairly large hitbox, but a high HP pool, while Maya is far smaller and has much less HP. While they might appear to have a generous amount of HP at first, don’t let that fool you. Enemies hit hard, and it usually doesn’t take more than three hits for one of the sisters to go down.
While you can only play as one at a given time, you can switch between them at the press of a button. Again, if you’re familiar with its inspirations, this is a dead ringer for the partner character mechanic from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. If you happen to have a buddy who wants to play alongside you, there’s a 2-Player mode that allows both players to use both sisters simultaneously.
The primary distinction between Shinobu and Maya beyond their default attributes is in their sub-weapons. After clearing each main stage, you’ll be granted a new sub-weapon for both sisters, opening up new options in both combat and exploration. Some of these are analogues to sub-weapons from Castlevania, while others are completely original and work to accentuate the unique aspects of Shinobu and Maya’s playstyles. Due to the volume of sub-weapons at your disposal, some have more niche uses than others. Paper cranes can create floating platforms for you to walk over, homing missiles can destroy fast enemies, and mines can destroy platforms to reveal hidden passageways.
There is one snag when it comes to this dual character setup, and it’s in the level design itself, and character respawns. There are many instances throughout the game where you need to use a character’s ability to reach a hidden area. For example, while both Shinobu and Maya can crouch, only Maya can crawl into hidden areas. If Maya happens to die in those areas, one would think that her body would be left where Shinobu can reach her, right? Wrong. Maya is stuck in the secret area, and the player is left without an important component of gameplay until they either let themselves die as Shinobu or retry the level, sacrificing progress.
It also can occur in smaller ways. There are many barriers that can only be destroyed by using the correct sub-weapon, which the player might not have yet. I counted more than one instance where I used one sub-weapon to reach an area, only to get stuck because I didn’t have the other sub-weapon needed to progress further. The setup here is good, but it’s moments like these that show it’s still far from fully tapping into its immense potential.
One Weird Story
The tower you climb throughout Gal Guardians: Demon Purge is actually a school transformed after a demonic prank of unevenly high proportions. As such, one of your main objectives throughout each level is to rescue any students you can find. With each girl you meet, the “uniqueness” of Gal*Gun’s universe becomes all the more apparent. Nobody is taking what’s happening all that seriously, in spite of the danger. Everyone is so accustomed to the weird and unusual that it takes more time to poke fun at itself. The story is self-aware in all the right ways, leaning into its own absurdity for the sake of a series of gags and fun character interactions.
Despite having never played a Gal*Gun game myself, Gal Guardians seemed to take a lot of pride in its home series. There are juvenile jokes, a share of lewd references, and an overall refreshing and sincere reverence for otaku culture. Considering the shift in subject matter and focus, there’s inevitably no visual fanservice to speak of, but that’s fine.
By the end of the story, I’d grown surprisingly more attached to the characters than I had expected. I’m particularly a big fan of the younger sister Maya Kamizono. Her oftentimes deadpan and straightlaced observations of the absurd situation the girls find themselves in made for many hilarious moments that quickly endeared me to her.
Gals Gone Gothic
Despite their excellent-looking Gunvolt titles from last year, I think Gal Guardians: Demon Purge may take the crown as my favorite-looking Inti Creates game yet. Using a 32-bit aesthetic reminiscent of 2D titles from the PS1 area, it uses highly detailed drawings to create imaginative, colorful, and varied locales. This richness also extends to the characters who inhabit these locations, who are in themselves very well drawn and use an impressive number of unique frames for different actions. There’s a nice smoothness to the whole experience, helped further by buttery-smooth performance and razor-sharp resolution.
My favorite part about the game’s visual make-up is actually in the way characters and enemies react to things. While it’s normal for an enemy to be sliced in half when you kill them with a sword attack, it’s a lot more cathartic to watch them explode like a blood-filled pinata. That sounds morbid, but watching as their blood splattered and stained nearby objects and their limbs flew about the scenery created a very strong sense of atmosphere.
Adding to this atmosphere is the music and sound design. Music uses the usual gothic flair you would expect of titles like these, with emphasis placed on piano, organ, and acoustic guitar. When tensions flare up, tracks switch over to energetic rock. The real star of the show is the sound design, however. There was a strong emphasis placed on ensuring that each locale could be felt through use of dynamic and realistic sound effects. Characters’ voices and sound effects echo inside large caves, the roar of distant waterfalls becomes louder as you get closer to them, with the clanging and clamoring of gears denoting an old factory having come to life. If you plan on playing this game, do so with headphones—its already surprisingly strong immersive quality is improved greatly by that.
This game may yet be my favorite Inti Creates title of this era. A well-considered, refined, and lovingly realized tribute to Castlevania combined with the quirky, yet fully sincere personality of Gal*Gun makes for a one-of-a-kind platformer. Although I do have some grievances with the overall execution of parts of its level design and partner system, the smile I had on my face the majority of the time outweighs that many times over. Stylish, funny, and breezy all at once—Gal Guardians: Demon Purge is an easy recommendation.
GAL GUARDIANS: DEMON PURGE IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Inti Creates for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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A hobbyist who took up the pen to write about their favorite pastime: games. While a lover of many genres, Isaiah Parker specializes in Platformers, RPGs, and competitive multiplayer titles. The easiest way into his heart is to have great core gameplay mechanics. Self-proclaimed world’s biggest Sonic fan. Follow him @ZinogreVolt