There is beautiful simplicity to DMM Games’ Gal Metal — a rhythm game without burdensome pre-set melodies or on-screen prompts, or licensed music for that matter. All that exists is a quirky alien invasion story, an adorable artstyle, and percussion-based gameplay that will really speak to any skill level, provided that you can carry a beat. In a notably busy Fall, Gal Metal is the game you need to take the stress off and relax in-between more robust gaming sessions.
More specifically, what is Gal Metal? As I mentioned above, the title is a rhythm game for Nintendo Switch that leans heavily into the ingenuity of the player. Without providing on-screen prompts like a Donkey Konga or Taiko no Tatsujin game, Gal Metal expects you to decide which drum patterns fit best to a song and mix up the combinations to your liking. No two drum sessions are going to play alike, and the game feels easy to pick up but genuinely challenging to master.
To make the beat, players will swing their Joy-Con controllers like a drumstick, with the ability to customize hits with the press of buttons. Although I was initially worried about sensitivity and each swing registering correctly, I never found any issue playing in Tabletop Mode. With that said, DMM Games pre-empted this issue for those who will have it by giving different methods to swing the Joy-Cons, as well as a customization setting.
Each set is going to be broken up into multiple sub-divisions, where you rack up multipliers by switching up the beat. Even better for novices (like myself), freestyle (aka “Rudiments”) is considered a combination and that can be literally anything. So, essentially, it is possible to score a perfect combo even when playing only 50% of the score correctly.
Meanwhile, high-level play carries some nuance — explicitly being able to remember rhythms and know where they fit best in a song. For a good idea of what high-level play looks like, you can check out the recording below:
The entire game is couched in a frankly ridiculous story mode that scratches an itch I’ve had for non-serious story arcs. Aliens have come to conquer Earth, mainly because–get this–the Voyager Golden Record. After introducing the octopus-based aliens to music, many of them went made simply from the sensory overload of it. As retribution for their fallen brothers, they have come to take over and/or destroy Earth. The only thing that can drive them back? The power of music.
If you think that is the weirdest aspect of the game, you are dead wrong. Starting Gal Metal as a typical male protagonist, the game begins with a Freaky Friday-esque body swap where you take on the body of the president/drummer in an all-girl metal band. With this in mind, you have to play the role as her, infiltrating her friend group, getting close to her friends, and leading them to victory among the alien invasion. The whole thing is cheesy but lovable in execution.
Once the game starts rolling, its 13 chapters follow a back-and-forth of playing a gig against an alien invader and then taking part in some Persona-like afterschool adventures. While you can spend that time practicing your sets ahead of a show, it is seemingly always better to go from location to location earning personality points and bonding with members of your team to grow your affinity with everyone. Comparatively, the mechanic seems shallow generally, but a nice wrinkle to break apart the drum sessions.
One of Gal Metal‘s high points is the actual art style, which feels like it pulls from a retro anime/manga aesthetic. I definitely caught Speed Racer or Ranma ½ in the cutscenes, and it isn’t an artstyle overly popular in the 2018 gaming scene. I love to see DMM go for something unique, and the manga storytelling technique works better for it.
With that said, there are some particular spots for improvement — namely, the limitation on gameplay modes. Anyone who studies the back of the box will notice that there is only a one-player option to Gal Metal, which is a bit of a shame. Not only is online multiplayer not supported, but there is no local multiplayer either. Off the top of my head, I can tell that this would become a hit at some of my parties if there were a back-to-back drum session competitive mode. Or, perhaps, if there was an option for two players to alternate different sections of the song with their own beats.
Also worth noting, there is no great way to save and share your best sessions online once you have them saved. Not that I am ever particularly great at holding a beat, but there were plenty of times I would have loved to share my progress on Twitter. This may be added in the future, but until then you can throw it onto the pile of things I wish Gal Metal included (like licensed music).
While there may be plenty of things I’d like to change in Gal Metal, the core of the game is an unmistakably fun time. With so many heavy hitters on the market in 2018, sometimes you need to just sit down, unwind, and out-play alien invaders with electrified versions of classical music.