Gal*Gun Returns revolves around a simple but decidedly niche concept: an arcade-style on-rails shooter a la House of the Dead where instead of being chased by zombies through a haunted mansion, you're fending off the advances of every woman in your school by using powers imbued by a cupid to knock them out in ecstasy. Suffice to say, this premise isn't for everyone. In my own playthrough, I came to look at it as an extremely hyperbolic satire of the ecchi genre. I'm wholly unsure of whether or not that's what the developers intended, but that mindset definitely helped me progress through the more, well, questionable aspects of the game. And while I could definitely talk about my personal beliefs pertaining to what a game like this represents or ruminate on the limitations of creating games that solely target a niche audience in this manner, that's beyond the scope of this review. So let's turn away from how I feel about this game and instead focus on what I've observed.
Gal*Gun Returns is one of the laziest remakes I've ever touched. Aside from being a western release of Gal*Gun, it is differentiated by its predecessor only in a few superficial ways: some of the DLCs are free, its assets are updated to a somewhat modern quality, many lines now have voice acting, and the addition of a new “Doki Doki Carnival” arcade mode that is somehow an even more intensely perverse alternative to its story mode. It can be argued that the lack of changes in Gal*Gun Returns is an attempt to stay as faithful to the original as possible, which is understandable seeing as this is the first time it's seeing the light of day outside of Japan. However, even dismissing the lack of any new challenges, locations, or prominent characters, the absence of gyro controls in aiming is inexcusable. The choice to implement this feature should have been clear as day: any arcade-style on-rails shooter ported to the Switch should have it. Developer Inti Creates could have strived to bring that arcade experience into the privacy and comfort of the living room, but instead was content holding itself back with slow, unwieldy joystick controls.
But let's talk about what is here: an on-rails shooter with a smidge of dating sim on the side. The shooting sequences take up the majority of the game, which really isn't that commendable considering that for the $40 price tag, you're only given four individual hour-long paths, each being connected to one of the four romanceable characters. Within these paths, you'll wind your way mostly through a dull high school setting that is not novel or visually exciting in any way. The game claims to have over 70 unique models for the girls who come at you during the game, but they rarely stood out to me as more than mindless mobs to be taken down. The game offers nothing by way of a challenge in these sequences, either. Not only does it not seem to matter how much you miss, with infinite ammo and no need to reload, but the mobs alone present zero threat. I am famously horrible at shooters, yet in this one I never came anywhere close to losing. Aside from that, you've got the dating sim aspect of the game, which seems more like an afterthought than anything else; spliced between combat segments are short segments where you answer questions or play minigames that utilize the same tired shooting mechanics rather than offering something new.
More than anything, the issue I take with Gal*Gun Returns is that its gameplay could have easily been made a bit above average. It's not far-fetched to find some places where simple improvements could have been implemented to either help the game stand out or make it more interesting and exciting to play. Instead, the shooting feels like moving through molasses, and the dating sim aspects don't have much weight or consequence to them – it seems like you can do whatever you want without much variance in the outcome. In summary, Gal*Gun Returns has despicably dull gameplay, a tired art style, so-so graphics, and an unmemorable soundtrack. For its price point, I can only recommend this game to those who consider themselves in its target audience.