Nihon Falcom has found quite a few of their games hit the PlayStation Portable via several different companies. Newest on this list is Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, not from Konami or Bandai Namco, but from Mastiff Games, who also brought the RPG world La Pucelle Tactics shortly after the release of Disgaea. Unlike Falcom’s other PSP titles, however, Gurumin is not a hardcore-style RPG that the Ys titles or the Legend of Heroes games are, but a very lighthearted romp through a world that could come straight out of a Miyazaki film. Quite simply, Gurumin is an incredibly charming, if simple, Action RPG that should appeal to casual gamers… if they own a PSP.
Gurumin follows a tween girl named Parin as she moves to a mining village and finds herself the only child in thid quaint town. Her grandfather, the mayor of the town, has been saddled with taking care of her while her parents adventure. After acquainting herself with the villagers, all of whom are charismatic if relatively cookie cutter characters, Parin stumbles across a young monster named Pico, whom she follows through a small crack in a village wall into the world of the monsters. However, these monsters are facing a dire fate with attacks by a band of enemies, also monsters themselves. With these attacks, the monster world has found itself covered with a dark mist, which Parin must fight; all the while the mining town remains unaware of this world’s existence. The setup for Gurumin is quaint and is perfect for the sort of casual game that Gurumin is. It might not appeal to the 18-25 year old market Sony advertises to, but other owners of PSPs will probably enjoy the style.
Aurally, Gurumin is a cut above most games on any of the portable platforms. The voice acting is far from heavy handed and adds quite a bit of pizzaz to the already likable characters. Sound effects are quality as well; Parin’s drill cuts down enemies with the whirrs one would expect from a power tool. The soundtrack blends into the game incredibly well, though there aren’t any tunes that I found to be instant classics – or even slightly memorable.
Falcom’s latest American release has combat that’s not nearly as visceral or twitch-based as its heralded Ys series, but is entertaining nonetheless. Most of the combat moves in Gurumin involve spins or twitches with the analog stick, keeping combat from being the same ‘mash the buttons’ style that many ARPGs have by design. Parin’s drill also gains power as she combats enemies, and much like Link’s Master Sword, finds itself firing bright beams of light when it has reached its full power. The move list is surprisingly diverse and is pretty forgiving, which is good since many enemies have pieces of armor that must be knocked off before they can be damaged. While there are occasional pains in regards to the combat, often times when attempting to do non-combat tasks, it’s a pretty effective battle system.
Parin fights these battles as she traverses stages in an attempt to remove the dark mist. Most of the stages are short, often taking less than ten minutes apiece, and Parin collects gold and equipment that she’s knocked off of monsters. There’s a fair amount of backtracking and stage repetition in Gurumin, but it’s not incredibly debilitating. The items that Parin acquires throughout the game can be upgraded in town, though the game doesn’t divulge right away the sort of improvements you’re paying for. Players will also have to retrieve items from the monster world to return to town in order to advance the plot. There are also several mini-games in Gurumin that fit in quite well and extend the life of what is a rather short quest.
There’s a fair bit of platforming involved in Parin’s quest, and the camera’s slow response can sometimes make it frustrating. For younger players, there is a welcome beginner’s mode that will assist with the platforming. For older players, a playthrough on normal will be fairly easy, though a completion of the quest will unlock higher difficulties. There are also several unlockable costumes for completionists to hunt for on multiple playthroughs. Players will also be graded at the end of every level, and true fans will want to seek out the S-rank on every stage.
Technically, Gurumin’s visuals are nothing spectacular and look like a hybrid of PSOne and Dreamcast graphics. However, the simple character models animate incredibly well and fill out the anime-styled cliché fairly well. The environments are one of the only truly disappointing parts of Gurumin, and tend to be simple if not bland. Much like the characters and voice acting, the graphics in Gurumin end up being ‘charming,’ if nothing else. It certainly won’t impress people who like Killzone: Liberation’s isometric animation or Grand Theft Auto’s sprawling environments, but fans of those games probably wouldn’t touch Gurumin.
Gurumin is a simple game, though it is certainly entertaining. It doesn’t have an incredibly lengthy quest or a massive skill system for hardcore RPG fans to dig their teeth into, but Gurumin is the type of game that will snag the attention not only of a core gamer, but also of the younger sibling or sometimes-gamer significant other. Combined with Mastiff’s excellent localization, Gurumin is something that PSP owners should look into; after all, it’s not as if there’s a whole lot of quality RPGs playing on the console right now.