Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is an unusual joint from Inti Creates, where they have combined several of their past ideas. It is a spin-off featuring Shinobu and Maya Kamizono from Gal*Gun Double Peace. The gameplay is like another Inti Creates’ joint; Blood Stain: Curse of the Moon and its sequel– two games that were spun-off from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night; a spiritual successor to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Inti Creates is no stranger to making high-quality, retro-style action platformers. They have made a long career out of it since 2002 when they made the Mega Man Zero games for Capcom, as well as Mega Man 9 and 10. They have also been responsible for the Blaster Master Zero trilogy and the Azure Striker Gunvolt series.
Inti Creates’ pedigree is unmatched when it comes to these kinds of games. With so many action platformers under their belt, how does this latest “linearvania” stand out from the rest? How does the Gal*Gun cast fit into the story? Find out in this Grim Guardians: Demon Purge review!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Grim Guardians: Demon Purge
Developer: Inti Creates
Publisher: Inti Creates
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: February 23, 2023
Grim Guardians: Demon Purge follows Shinobu and Maya; high school demon slayers from the Gal*Gun games and their latest run-in with their arch nemesis; Kurona, a junior-year demon. In past games, Kurona’s mischief was usually harmless, but this time her latest prank may have gone a bit too far in a few places.
Kurona transformed Sakurazaki Academy into a massive castle and all the students are all being held captive throughout. Some girls will be found by reaching the end stage boss and others will require players to return to previously completed stages to explore the alternate routes.
The premise begins simply enough and is as complex as any Castlevania game. Getting to the top of the highest spire of the castle is where a major twist is revealed and the true big bad takes over the plot. The story becomes less about spanking Kurona and more about helping Houdai (the protagonist of the Gal*Gun games), get his groove back.
The halfway point is also where Grim Guardians: Demon Purge becomes less of a stage-based “linearvania” and more free-form. Players will be able to freely jump to any stage to replay them to collect some plot coupons to get a chance to confront the main villain.
Maya and Shinobu will have to work together to save their classmates and vanquish the evil from the horrible night. Maya plays like a ninja; she has a powerful close-range combo that would make Richter Belmont wince and she can crouch very low and crawl like a Metroid ball. Like most ninja high school girls, she’s glass cannon and can’t take as many hits as Shinobu.
Shinobu can’t crouch as low or crawl, but she gets her signature MAC-10 anti-demon machine gun that has a lot of range. It does need a second to reload with a double tap of down on the d-pad, but she also gets the ability to fire upwards later on and can charge shots with rockets.
Where Maya and Shinobu drastically differ is in their sub-weapons. Both girls get six unique sub-weapons that have varying utility and can be powered up later in the game. Some of these are more useful as traversal tools than as a weapon, like Maya’s umbrella which can help her glide long distances or catch the wind and send up skyward.
Shinobu gets more damage-dealing sub-weapons and artillery, like bombs, mines, and even a rocket launcher. Her most interesting tool is a grappling hook which can stick to most surfaces. It can help get to hard-to-reach places or can grip foes and pull them towards her.
like any Castlevania-inspired action-platformer, Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is a tough game. The two difficulty modes are either easy or normal and the only differences are that the easy mode gets no knock-back from damage and infinite lives.
In normal, lives can be earned by earning them from defeating foes and that is a fair way to balance the challenge. The knock-back is something every classic Castlevania fan will be aware of and depending on who you are, you might be deathly afraid to play with it on or you’re a maniac with a sack that scrapes the floor when you stride.
In any game with death pits, getting hit with knock-back means instant death. Inti Creates seemingly are aware of the cruelty of this feature and have thankfully made it optional, even if playing on “casual” is a disgraceful mark of shame.
Stages are appropriately very gothic and “vania” themed. Intie Creates surprisingly did not run out of ideas for level design from the two Curse of the Moon games. Every floor’s theming and varied platforming is very tight and carefully paced. There are plenty of breakable walls for hidden areas or ammo for sub-weapons.
Enemy placement is nowhere near as sadistic as Dracula’s Curse gold DraculaX, but it makes up for it with way harder boss battles (Dracula notwithstanding). In Grim Guardians: Demon Purge, when a boss’ life bar is depleted, be ready for them to do their last-ditch desperation attack. Inti Creates got very creative and cheeky with these and some of them are ambitious.
One boss’ desperation attack becomes a chase to the top of a staircase as they charge their attack. Another boss may try to grab Maya or Shinobu and try to eat them, leaving the remaining girl to have to save her partner. These moments are extremely tense, especially because you’ll probably be on your last bars of life and the desperation attack could kill your chance of victory.
Dying on a boss isn’t too bad, since the checkpoint is always the room before and the boss recovers from some of their lives. It is a little tricky though because the girl who died fighting will need CPR to get a second chance and only with some health restored.
Like all Inti Creates games, the pixel art is excellent and is on par with some of the best Castlevania entries. There is very little corner-cutting; there are a lot of frames of animation and unique students to save who have a lot of personality in their brief appearance.
The attention to detail impresses and skirts and coats flutter fluidly. The windy stage even has Maya and Shinobu with unique idles as the rushing wind blows their clothes and the girls hold their skirts down. It is too bad there is so little fanservice in this game; the potential was there. It is especially shocking since this is a spin-off to a lewd shooter that is famous for panty shots and upskirts
The background art is meticulous and lush with ornate decorations that befit the gothic atmosphere. It is never gaudy and the colors are very tasteful. Regretfully, Grim Guardians: Demon Purge does mix elements with the visuals and they clash, hideously. Portraits, text, and HUD would have been preferred if they were consistent with the rest of the pixel art style.
Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is not a metroidvania, it is a level-based action platformer that encourages replays. This ensured that there is a sense of flow and rhythm in each location and prevented the repetition of going back and forth between the same areas over and over.
It is too bad that the music is nowhere near as memorable as anything from the Castlevania gold Curse of the Moon games. Grim Guardians: Demon Purge certainly looks the part and fits in the visual style of those games, but the music does not stand out or make an impression at all.
With a more energetic soundtrack, funnier dialogue, better GUI, and a more useful super move, Grim Guardians: Demon Purge could be one of the best. Even with these nitpicks, expect another excellent Inti Creates game that is on par with some of the classics it is inspired by.
Grim Guardians: Demon Purge was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by Inti Creates. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. One Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.