Gal Metal (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 23.12.2018

Review for Gal Metal on Nintendo Switch

Despite being a decidedly very... "Japanese" product, and although it took quite some time to get released outside of Nippon, Gal Metal is set to finally land on the west through the Nintendo Switch. A product of DMM Games, this was produced by former Konami employee Tak "Extreeeeeeme" Fujii, known for his eccentric presentations at past events. Sadly diagnosed with cancer, the man known for his work in the sound department at Konami is still very much alive and kicking,and poised to deliver - what else? - extreeeeeme experiences to players around the globe, and we have XSeed Games in North America and Marvelous in Europe to thank for bringing this strange-looking title in the west against all odds. Here's the verdict on whether 'strange'can meet quality at the end of the road.

On a day like all the others, a nameless Japanese high school student, the player, gets abducted by alien Octopi, along with a female student named Rinko Hoshino, to act as emissaries representing earth that is about to be destroyed by said aliens in retaliation for the near-destruction of their own world. When did that happen? The answer is: when space probe Voyager flew by their world with a golden record on board. What history kept silent all these years is that the record did not contain classical music... but metal! Metal turned out to be unbearable for the space Octopi so it's now revenge time! Since there can be only one emissary, the two humans are fused into one so that the boy wakes up inside Rinko's body the next morning, while Rinko's mind is stuck inside as a simple spectator.Later in class, the alien talk to them by telepathy to reveal that the attack on earth will take place the very same evening. Something must be done to prevent Earth from being destroyed!

How will they do that? By using that same power of metal that these aliens are weak to,of course!It just so happens that Rinko's school club is a bona fide metal band, so over the course of 13 chapters, labelled as 'gigs,' it will be up to the player to play the drummer in said band,and perform one track per chapter to repel the repeated assaults of the Octo-jerks against Earth. The story is, really, as nonsensical as it sounds and not only takes inspiration from other similar alien/school/music themed manga like Urusei Yatsura or Beck for its humour and overall theme, but it also never hesitates to reference western pop culture things like Independence Day. Furthermore, real world brands of music equipment are plastered throughout with big names like Roland or Yamaha featuring front and centre in the visuals-a Roland RD-2000 keyboard is seen used in every performance (a piece of kit no high school student could ever afford) and the music tracks themselves are metal covers of classic musical pieces like Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" or "Pomp and Circumstance March No.1" by Sir Edwar Elgar.

The mixture of influences there is as unexpected as it turns out to be extremely pleasant, wacky and what makes the whole experience so endearing. Each chapter plays mostly in the same fashion and opens with a story segment that's designed as a manga,with basic animations,and the plot being told through the appropriate use of text bubbles. There is, sadly, no voice acting there. After each story segment introducing every chapter, this goes through a simulation segment where, while waiting for the actual alien attack to happen, the player gets to engage in various social activities (solo, or with other band members) to help raise stats that will later influence score calculation during performances. These segments resemble what can be seen in dating sims like Tokimeki Memorial, where each activity taken around the city consumes time and stamina in exchange for points added to some stats, or sometimes deduced from others.

Screenshot for Gal Metal on Nintendo Switch

These activities are completely passive and are merely represented by a shot animation which may or not involve the other band members, and even sometimes trigger some conversations that further develop each character's story but also deepen the bond between the drummer and her comrades. Gal Metal encourages the player to seek out these encounters as it lists which events have been witnessed as a sort of collection that can be later watched again at leisure. Interestingly, this seems to have a DLC section where additional band members may be purchased but at time of writing, before the actual release, DLC was yet unavailable so this unfortunately cannot be commented on. However, Gal Metal is, at its core, a rhythm game, which is what the actual gigs involve. The most important thing to note about the latter aspect of it is that it forgoes the usual expected formula common to most products of the same genre.

Instead of expecting one to follow a predetermined pattern of music notes or beats to reproduce identically to what is displayed on screen or heard through the speakers... Gal Metal expects players to choose themselves from a series of beats that the game is programmed to recognise, and organise them as they see fit so that it goes well with the music. This is where Gal Metal plays the card of originality since the player is therefore tasked with drumming in rhythm with what the rest of the band is playing so listening to the music is of utmost importance. Ideally, the same patterns should not be repeated too often so as to add variety to the whole composition and more importantly than anything else, the timing has to go with the different tempos used in each track on offer of course. Moreover, the player is also allowed to edit said series of beats or create their own should the presets already on offer not prove to their taste. This can prove a bit intimidating on paper, but before each performance, the hero/heroine will suggest a series of "hot" beats to choose from that can be practised both in solo but also with the rest of the band, during the simulation sequences in between each performance.

Obviously in order to perform the required actions well, the player needs control options, and this offers several of those,but the main one that one is expected to use out-of-the-box is the JoyCon. In fact, players will not be able to start playing or change the control set-up in the options unless they use the JoyCon on first boot-up. In this set-up, the right JoyCon the bass drum, while the left drives the Snare. Combining both at the same time crashes the cymbals while still registering an input on both sides. The JoyCon mode has two further refined sub-modes in the form of Noodle Mode and Drum Mode. Drum mode is meant to replicate the feel of using actual drum sticks but proves also harder to use for casual drummers as a result. In that mode, the "hit" on either of the drums gets registered right as the player stops their downward motion, as if to reflect the actual hit on a drum, and not as soon as the player starts moving downward, which induces a certain amount of anticipation that actual drummers will have no trouble to adjust to.

Screenshot for Gal Metal on Nintendo Switch

In Noodle Mode, however, the "hit" gets registered as soon as the JoyCon is moved downward with a sufficient force for the movement to get detected, which proves a little easier for casual players. This removes nothing of the difficulty of actually drumming in rhythm, successfully pulling off the different combinations of drum hits,and coming up with an actual composition and structure of their own - it just makes the controls easier to approach for people who have trouble with the default option. JoyCon movement detection works mostly fine,yet some may occasionally not register properly, but a sensitivity setting is there for the player to toy with and fine-tune it so as to keep those few instances to a minimum. Setting the sensitivity too low may result in movements not being detected at all, while setting it too high may result in "misfires" or two drum hits to be detected when only one was intended but, by and large, a setting slightly higher than the default one proved to be the best.

The other control options involve simply pressing buttons to accomplish the same thing, which works in both handheld and docked mode. The buttons actually offer a wider variety of possible drums and cymbals to use to make compositions more refined, but it should be noted that using those does not seem to amount to a better score in the end, as the game monitors mostly the main rhythm drummed by the player using the bass and snare anyway, but the option is there, using a controller, to use more varied sounds for exhibition purposes. Lastly, in handheld mode, the touch screen offers on last option by allowing the player to tap the on screen overlay representing the full drum kit. This at least as the benefit of offering the player the guarantee of zero input lag as opposed to any wireless option, since the touch screen is right on the system itself. Not that input lag is ever noticeable otherwise...

With that being said, however, this does warn of possible lag induced, not by the software or the Switch system themselves, but by the TVs or monitors used in docked mode, which may add some lag to image and sound. For that purpose, Gal Metal itself will prompt the player in docked mode to undergo a latency test, by having the player press a button as soon as they hear the sound coming out of the TV, and it will then adjust its tempo detection to keep the detected lag in mind, which is pretty fair on its part. The product does recommend the use of headphones anyway, preferably plugged into the headphone jack on the system for a guaranteed lag-free experience.

Screenshot for Gal Metal on Nintendo Switch

Playing through the main story does not require a whole lot of creative spark and simply performing well some of the preset drum beats will be enough to get through it all,so long as the player is capable of following the rhythm of the rest of the band. When a chapter gets completed, it unlocks and becomes available in the practice and free play sections, so that you are free to play around some more with each song. The practice mode allows each song to be practised without the cost of any of the stamina required in the story mode, while the free play mode tasks the player to meet some much harsher score targets than in the story mode over four difficulty levels, all higher than anything ever encountered while enjoying the story. The story mode is meant to be achievable for virtually anyone with at least some musical inclination, but the free play mode is where the real challenge is at.

As a rhythm game at core, naturally the target audience will be fans of the genre, but the story mode itself can be enjoyed by fans of manga of the comedy genre, all the same, without requiring too much skill. At the end of the day, however, it's somewhat short, and for a game priced the way it is can prove too thin, and, even as an introduction to the genre, it is perhaps a bit too different from other similar titles to properly serve that purpose as well. For fans of the genre, however, because it is so original compared to others, it will certainly prove attractive enough. It is a bit sad that the motion controls can sometimes get a little bit in the way of the enjoyment because it's really with motion controls and a pair of headphones on that this game proves to be the most enjoyable.

The visuals themselves are nothing to write home about and mostly get the job done in terms of design. 3D models and scenery are only used during gigs,and practice sessions with purely 2D visuals and menus used everywhere else, but when 3D is on the screen, its simplistic presentation allows it to run at a butter smooth 1080p 60fps in docked mode and 720p 60fps in handheld mode, as should rightly be expected. With that being said, players will not be looking at the visuals all that much while playing however. Similarly to something like Rhythm Heaven, the best performances will likely be delivered eyes closed and focused on the sound, and not so much on what is happening on the screen, especially since the visuals do not seem to reflect much of what is happening in the audio sections and is purely there for show.

Screenshot for Gal Metal on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Gal Metal not only offers a hilarious interactive manga story,but also an original approach to the rhythm game genre that shakes things up enough to set itself apart from pretty much everything else. The only real drawbacks? The occasional lack of response from the JoyCon,and a price that may be a bit too steep,depending on how hooked players get,and how willing they are to extract every last bit of creative musical freedom that this allows. Those only wishing to casually experience the story may not get much for their buck, while avid fans of metal and drum beats looking for a challenge to their creativity should not have any regrets. It is not a very long experience, but to the right audience, it has virtually infinite replayability.


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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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