For more than 30 years, Nihon Falcom has stood as one of the premiere developers of Japanese RPGs. While they have never reached the size or prominence of the likes of a company like Square Enix, more and more English localizations of Falcom's titles - such as the Ys, Trails, and Xanadu series - are giving Falcom just a little more room in the spotlight across the sea in recent years. Outside of Falcom's major franchises, sometimes the developer likes to experiment a little bit.
Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure is one such title. Originally released as a Japanese PC game in 2004, the title has found its way to PSP and Steam, and now the team Mastiff has worked to port the title onto Nintendo 3DS. RPG Site never got around to reviewing earlier releases of Gurumin, but we got the chance to delve into this latest version.
Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure features the young Parin as she travels to Tiese Town to live with her grandfather. However, Parin is told that there are no other children in town that she could be friends with. Parin decides to explore town anyway to find a friend and stumbles across the hidden Monster Village nearby, whose town and residents cannot be seen by adults.
Gurumin both looks and feels like a game from the era of the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation. Just one glance at the game or its boxart, and it's quite apparent that Gurumin offers something a little bit different than the typical JRPG.
While it is often described as an "Action RPG", Gurumin is more like a 3D platformer with light action RPG elements.
Parin visits various levels in the monster world by selecting them on a world map screen. Any given level ranges from about 10 to 20 minutes in length, where she uses her drill to break pillars and pots for money, and of course defeat enemy phantoms and rescue the friendly monsters. These locations include a variety of locales such as ruins, forests, and icy mountains.
Combat is done in real time with a relatively simple action system. Parin can either attack, jump, or dodge as she tackles various types of Phantoms in these levels. Sometimes by performing certain stick movement and button press combinations, Parin can unleash special abilities - such as a shockwave.
While the camera mostly works without issue, in smaller rooms it sometimes starts to misbehave and gets in the way of combat or platforming.
The game is not especially quick or flashy, but it doesn't need to be. None of Parin's combo attacks are overly intricate or difficult to pull off. It's a just simple yet solid action combat system that suits that game very well.
Parin does not have stats or levels as you would typically find in an RPG. Instead, there are several ways to improve Parin through upgrading or obtaining new equipment. One such method is through purchasing headwear that activate various effects. For example, wearing Goggles can reduce the damage she takes from water, or a Headband can increase her damage output. These head pieces can also be upgraded in the town shop to boost their effects.
Parin can also improve her drill by purchasing various parts from Tiese Town. New parts can be used to add an elemental effect to the drill, and Parin also gets new attack combos through these purchases.
Further, when Parin takes out Phantoms without taking damage within a level, the strength of her attacks slowly increases, ultimately allowing her to shoot "drill beams" when her drill reaches full power.
The scoring system works but can be a little irritating at times. Especially later in the game when levels are a bit more lengthy, it's always annoying to see you missed one single pot during your run, preventing you from getting the best medal for that level.
If you are the type to acquire all possible gear in the game, you may find yourself redoing levels more than once in order to find all the hidden pots and enemies.
Outside of some small scoring issues, everything about Gurumin just feels so very 'appropriate'. It's charming in how it looks and how it plays. The story carries on like a good children's cartoon, and combat is satisfying without getting too complex.
Gurumin's musical score is also very well utilized. The masters at Falcom Sound Team certainly did not slouch when it came to writing up the many catchy music tracks used throughout the game.
Even most of English character voices are well done and fit the tone of a cartoony world, although a few lines here & there come across oddly flat at times.
Clocking around 25 hours in length for one playthrough, Gurumin is a sweet romp through a colorful world that doesn't overstay its welcome. While you wont find deep gameplay or a complex narrative, Gurumin is worth checking out for its wonderful charm and satisfying yet simple combat system.
Versions tested: Nintendo 3DS (on New Nintendo 3DS XL system)
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.