In the late ‘90s and early 2000s most rhythms games were quirky titles, such as Space Channel 5, Um Jammer Lammy, Amplitude, and Gitaroo Man (my personal favorite) – all of which had fairly limited audiences. In the mid-2000s, peripheral-based games like Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band exploded and brought music games to the mainstream audience. However, after 4 or 5 years of extreme over-saturation, that market seemed to dry up. Who didn’t grow tired of having to store large plastic instruments in our homes? With the exception of the Just Dance series, most of these titles have returned to their quirky roots, and Gal Metal certainly fits this mold.
Gal Metal is a drumming game that is perfect for the Nintendo Switch. Quite simply, you air-drum with the detached joy-cons, the right for the kick drum, the left for the snare drum, and together for a cymbal crash. Unlike most other drum and music games you are not matching colored icons or following cues on the screen. Instead you are learning, discovering, and utilizing different drum patterns, or rudiments during the songs. Instead of accuracy, points are awarded for variety, combos, and creativity. Real drummers should find this easy to pick up and play, but for gamers without musical backgrounds like myself, the game will teach you some of the basics of drumming.
The story is ludicrous, but at the same time amusing. You are abducted by The Octoids, aliens who seek revenge for sending music towards their planet via the Voyager spacecraft. They despise music, especially Metal; however they return you to Earth with the promise of conquering the planet in two days. In a twist, they put you, a male high school student, inside the body of a female high school student, Rinko. You control her body and must assume her role. This provides plenty of socially awkward moments. As luck would have it, Rinko is the drummer of a school metal band, K.M.G. As you learn how to drum, you get to know the other four members of the band, all with varying degrees of personality and attitudes. You practice together, learning the basics of drumming and inform your band mates about the pending attack.
There are 13 total songs in the story mode. Each is a vocal-less, guitar-heavy metal version of a classical music piece. There is a required point total you need to obtain in order to defeat the attacking aliens. Points are awarded throughout the songs based on your drumming ability and creativity. You’ll want to experiment a lot, all while keeping with the rhythm of the song. Even if you have little idea on what to do, the first several levels are quite easy to pass. The more you play, the more rudiments you’ll learn and you can leave the main game to practice any drum pattern at any time. During later music stages, you can be directly attacked. For example, when fighting off the squid-aliens, they can shoot ink at you, rendering your L stick useless. You must repeatedly crash your cymbals together to get rid of the ink. After the successful completion of the song the aliens will again threaten you and warn you of their next planned attack. The Octoids have several allies that also aid in the attacks, all of which are sea life-inspired aliens such as squids and shrimp. Each stage takes place in a different setting, sometimes locally in Japan, and sometimes in outer space, like on one of Jupiter’s moons.
The drumming and the music stages are of course what make this game fun. Unfortunately there is a lot of filler in between the main event. The story between you and the Octoids, as well as any key interaction with other characters is presented in a comic book-style. There are also extremely long-winded group text conversations between you and your other four band mates. There are a number of pretty funny moments, but most of this is pointless drivel. Luckily any of this can be skipped.
The other large part of the game plays like a really lame Punch Club. There is a city map, and you have the options to visit many establishments like the arcade, clothing store, school, the park, and many others. There are five parameters – morality, creativity, guts, activity, and passion – each having a number, which can be increased or decreased depending on how you spend your time. Increased stats can help you in the music sequences, but are not required. You begin each day with a stamina number of 40 and each activity you perform lowers it until eventually it runs out and the day ends. Usually there are two days in between attacks, so during that span you choose how you want to spend your downtime. You are not actually doing anything when you visit these places, however if you choose to spend time with any of your fellow band mates, like seeing a movie with Shindori, you’ll earn badges and can unlock short events with each them, getting to know their characters better. All of this is pretty dull, and you’ll look forward to getting back to the music.
Visually, you get what you expect from a rhythm game. Most of the story is told through comic book pages and the text messages. All of the characters are colorful and their expressions and dress styles help establish their characters. The music stages themselves are well presented, and the camera work is excellent. You’ll have plenty to look at while you are drumming away. The classical music merged with a hard rocking style sounds great. Just don’t be misled by the title Gal Metal – you’re not going to be playing versions of Megadeth or Iron Maiden tracks. I might have expected this going into the game blind. The game’s controls are precise and feel pretty smooth. Playing with the detached joy-cons is the only true way to enjoy this game. Playing in handheld mode is just silly and offers zero challenge or fun.
It took me a little bit to get the hang of the freestyle controls of drumming. I’ve gotten so used to matching icons on the screen with games like Taiko Drum Master and Rock Band. After several songs, and practicing different patterns over and over, the game became really enjoyable for me. The music is great and the main story is pretty fun with a good mixture of humor. However, the long group text messages and the passing the hours and days between songs is tedious and offers little excitement. The game may seem short with only 13 songs, but once you unlock all of these, you can simply replay them and try to increase your scores and develop new techniques.
Gal Metal Review
- Graphics - 6/106/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
At $29.99, you must really have an appreciation for music games. I honestly still prefer drumming on Rock Band – especially given the variety of songs in those games. However, who wants to really hook all that bulky equipment up? Gal Metal is a very creative music game, but is held back due to lack of song choices and lots of boring sequences in between stages.