There has been a pretty large void in the gaming industry that used to dominate the market. Back in the days of the N64, PSOne, and even into the Gamecube and Xbox era, a lot of the best selling games were platformers or action games starring colorful characters. It seemed like every company was represented by some sort of cutesy character in an effort to capture what Nintendo had started on the NES. Players were graced with characters like Banjo and Kazooie, Gex, Ratchet and Clank, just to name an extreme few. Each game was treated with tender care, often making major strides in game development. Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure is an attempt to capture that magic, but ultimately falls short in its execution.
Gurumin 3D stars Parin, a little girl who has recently moved to a mining town while her parents are off treasure hunting. Bored in this dull town, she desperately wants other children to play with, eventually discovering a secret society of monsters that only children can see. After Phantoms attack these monsters and destroy their home, Parin must wield a legendary drill weapon to combat evil and restore the town to its former glory by recovering objects and other townsfolk to increase their happiness.
Developed by Nihon Falcom Corp and published by Mastif, Gurumin was originally released on Windows PCs in 2004, later got a PSP port, and is now available on Nintendo 3DS. This is due to the fact that Nihon Falcom is primarily a developer of computer games. Unbeknown to me before this review, Nihon Falcom is an incredibly well known creator of JRPGs, being probably the third most popular development team, beaten out by only the giant Squaresoft and Enix. Of course since, Squaresoft and Enix merged to become Square Enix, this essentially makes Nihon Falcom being the second most popular JRPG developers in the world. Nihon Falcom is probably best known for their Ys, Legend of Heroes, and the Dragon Slayer series. I was amazed to discover such pedigree for Gurumin 3D, which may have made my expectations higher.
For starters, Gurumin 3D is incredibly charming. The plot is average at best, but simple with lots of pretty solid voice acting, especially for the 3DS. Each of the characters are well designed and have quirks that ultimately lack depth, but are still fun to interact with. Rebuilding the monster town brings me back to rebuilding the island of Digimon World on the Playstation. Speaking of PlayStation games, Gurumin’s style seems to be influenced in part by Megaman Legends, which was an excellent 3D adventure game at the time.
Players will be going back and forth between the mining town and the monster town to find the monsters that slowly return to their home. Action segments take place in small dungeons that are accessible from the overworld map. At the end of most dungeons are items that have sentimental value to the monsters. Bringing these items back to the monsters increase their happiness, which opens up more areas on the map.
Dungeons are where Gurumin shines and begins to fade out of what could have been excellent into something more forgettable. The action is real time, allowing players to swing Parin’s drill weapon at foes in various, simple combos. Special moves can also be unlocked throughout the game, giving Parin a few different ways to approach the fairly stale combat. The Phantom enemies often are equipped with human items as armor and weapons, so Parin has to charge her attack to break those items off. She can also collect those parts as junk to upgrade her accessories which grant her various effects like taking less damage in water or avoiding poison damage.
Here is where the 3DS version struggles. The framerate for enemies in particular is eerily janky, making each blue blob look out of place. I thought it could’ve been a style choice, being that they are called Phantoms, but after watching other players go through action segments on the Steam version, I’ve determined that not to be the case. For some reason, the 3DS version chugs at many points in the game. Note that the 3DS version is a port of the PSP version, not the PC version. Even in cutscenes though, enemy animations are glitchy and just look strange.
It also doesn’t help the game’s case that there is a lack of variety in the enemies. Most of the game is battling the same array of blue blobs, gray cubes, and janky bats. Of course, the boss battles shake things up a little bit. However, I found the combat to lack depth to the point that when I came across these tough enemies I wiggled by thumb between jump and attack to win in seconds. The game is also incredibly easy, as I only used a healing item once or twice in my entire experience. For those into completing games, there are tons of costumes and items to find, which can make the fun last a little longer.
This is sad, because I like the overall charm of Gurumin’s world. Unfortunately this 3DS port of the game was just handled poorly. It’s not like I was using a 2DS either, I played the game on the New 3DS, which handles games like Super Smash Bros. and Ocarina of Time perfectly. Maybe this is due in part to the game being a digital title, but I doubt that.
For gamers who miss the simple days of Playstation era action and adventure, check out Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure. Just consider playing it on Steam instead of the 3DS. Unfortunately, this game lacks the depth of many of those classics, growing stale in the late stages of the game. Younger players will probably have a better time than nostalgic ones.