Throughout the years, rhythm games have seen a sort of rise and fall. Nowadays, the most popular games in the genre seem to come from Japanese developers as the Western scene has died down with the fall of plastic guitar-shaped peripherals. As someone fairly acquainted with rhythm games such as Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Elite Beat Agents, Ouendan, and DDR, I was excited to see Gal Metal on the Nintendo eShop. The game’s interesting application of the Joy-Cons left me intrigued as I’ve always wanted to learn how to play drums.
The game starts off with a boy and a girl getting abducted by an alien ship run by a sentient octopi. In a contrived twist of fate, the aliens fuse the two of them in the strangest possible way. The boy essentially gains control of the girl’s body, while the girl is relegated to a mere observer trapped within her own body. To me, this stands as a very awkward setup in what I can only see as a way for the assumed male demographic to have a male surrogate in a female-centric storyline. It’s a real disappointment to see this as it makes the experience somewhat discomforting and also very bizarre if you think about its implications.
Besides this huge narrative misstep, the game’s story is fairly generic. It’s a mix between slice of life and monster of the day conflicts. The game maintains a humorous rhythm that’s highlighted in the very Persona-style interactions of social link-like events and texting based conversations. Gal Metal stars a quirky all girl metal band with five members, including the boy controlling the girl’s body. The story never goes beyond the surface jokey layer and it’s probably better that way.
The aliens are susceptible to the power of metal, so the band has to play music to defeat them. The premise is very tongue in cheek in the way it’s presented, but it essentially allows for the plot to be more action-oriented. However, the plot failed to really grab me and I found the game’s strength to lie more in the micro-scale interactions. The main storyline as a whole really didn’t feel worth playing through, while in contrast I was always eager to see how the band interacted with each other. It’s as if the action sci-fi plot was jammed into a music slice of life when it really shouldn’t have.
The dialogue is funny at times and wouldn’t be all that out of place in a slice of life anime. Each character has an admittedly archetypical personality. They come off as endearing at times, though in the end, they are mostly forgettable. Regardless, I had fun seeing the characters interact in the event-based dialogue.
Gal Metal’s gameplay is a music RPG hybrid with a shallow version of Persona’s time management system. The RPG aspect allows you to allocate your time to events that raise specific stats and hang out with band mates. However, it’s mostly just menu navigation and occasional character events. Admittedly, it was enjoyable to improve character relations to the point where another character event would appear. Unfortunately, stats didn’t feel like they made a real difference and the time management just felt like a way to pad out the game.
When it comes to the actual rhythm-based gameplay, I’m left rather conflicted. Here we have a game bold enough to let the player free to jam out with their Joy-Cons acting as drum sticks. However, it comes at the cost of proper structure and grading as well as the questionable accuracy of the motion controls. When playing through the campaign, it was never a true challenge due to the extremely forgiving scoring system and the bar being set particularly low. Luckily, repeated playthroughs amp up the challenge in what could have simply been difficulty options.
Visually, the game is solid. The art is heavily inspired by manga to the point where cutscenes appear in manga form. The artist, Toshinao Aoki, does an excellent job with presenting the characters in a very cutesy manner,.reminiscent of your everyday slice of life anime. During performances, the game uses dated 3D models that only slip through the cracks due to the anime aesthetic.
The music itself is fairly average, though there are occasional memorable moments every now and then. Nothing screams out to me as absolutely amazing, but it’s definitely serviceable. The background music for cutscenes is effective and the performance tunes function well as the player’s palette. When compared to other games of the genre, however, the tracks just feel generic in comparison. With the lack of vocals tracks and distinct metal compositions, I was left underwhelmed by the music.
Gal Metal is an average rhythm game that definitely falls in the “lost potential” category. With the huge falter that is the main plotline, the most appealing part of the main campaign would be the character interactions. Gameplaywise, Gal Metal is a novel concept that is ultimately limited by the accuracy of the motion control hardware.