Inti Creates often ends up being known for two kinds of games. One is the 2D run-and-gun sorts of titles along the lines of Azure Striker Gunvolt, Blaster Master Zero, and Mega Man. The other is the fanservice-filled Gal Gun on-rails shooters. So… what happens if you mash those two together? It turns out, you get a 2D, stage-based, Castlevania-like affair starring characters from Gal Gun. While it doesn’t hit the heights of the always impressive Azure Striker Gunvolt, it can be quite fun.
Set in the same world as Gal Gun: Double Peace, both Shinobu Kamizono and her younger sister Maya are demon hunters and high school students. When Kurona gains infinite power, she uses it to bring the demon world into the real one, transforming Sakurazaki Academy into her castle and leaving students captured inside. The sisters use their unique spiritual abilities to find out how Kurona developed these abilities, defeat the monsters and demons lurking throughout the building, and hopefully restore a sense of normalcy.
Remember how Inti Creates worked on both Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon games? You will after you play Grim Guardians: Demon Purge for a while. While I’d say both are superior, the same sort of DNA is infused into this project. While you will eventually get weapons and abilities that will make returning to completed levels attractive, each area you traverse is essentially treated as a separate “stage” of the castle. This makes it feel more like some of the older Castlevania sorts of titles, rather than a true Metroidvanias.
Shinobu and Maya each feature unique abilities, much like the characters in Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, which offer more tactical options when approaching situations. Shinobu can attack from a distance and tends to equip subweapons that inflict damage from far away. She also has more health. However, her ranged gun will eventually need to reload and doesn’t deal as much damage as Maya’s more direct attacks. Meanwhile, Maya is more frail as far as health goes, but she hits much harder and has subweapons that can create protective shields that damage enemies or deal more stationary, close-range damage.
Having two heroines means different approaches to levels too. There is a two-player co-op mode, which allows people to take on the challenge together. When both sisters are alive and a gauge is filled, you can use an overpowered special attack to damage all foes ahead of them onscreen. However, if you play alone, then you can swap between the two heroines. This also allows something of a “second chance” system, as if one dies, the other will appear at the start of the most recent room you entered and be able to go to her sister and perform CPR to “revive” her with some health.
I’d almost say that this, as well as other elements, can leave Grim Guardians: Demon Purge feeling a bit easy. It isn’t terribly long, as I ended up beating its eight levels in almost seven hours. The characters eventually grow in strength, which makes them more formidable. Shinobu even takes on a bit of a healer role after a point. The boss fights feature rather predictable patterns, and it wasn’t until the last fourth of the game that I started sweating. It’s also generally very straightforward, and as long as you lean into characters’ strengths and swap often, it’s never too creative when it comes to level design or enemy approaches.
However, Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is great about referencing its source material. As a nod to this being a former school, and one filled with female students, you’ll often find classmates to rescue! In addition to Shinobu, Maya, and Kurona, other characters from the Gal Gun series appear. When they do, they’re cleverly referenced. They’ll also end up in occasionally recurring placements, so you still get to see your “friends” around. Even though there’s something of a minimalistic approach to sprites, returning cast members are distinctive and familiar. There are also multiple endings, which is a fun bonus.
I’d say Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is a good snack for people who enjoy Inti Creates titles, the Bloodstained: Circle of the Moon spin-offs, or games that are Metroidvania-adjacent. It’s a brief diversion, which isn’t a bad thing! In a world where so many games can be 20-40 hours long, sometimes I want something silly and fun that will keep me busy for one or two evenings. I really appreciated what Inti Creates accomplished with the generally delightful Grim Guardians: Demon Purge.
Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.