The 3D Action/Adventure game is a genre that offers a lot. They can bring great stories with charming characters and worlds all the while blending a number of solid game mechanics in some refreshing ways.
In 2004, Falcom and Mastiff released the PC title Gurumin: A Monsterous Adventure which blended gameplay featured in action role playing games with 3D Zelda and Mega Man Legends. The title was a critical success and later got a PSP release and a updated PC release which improved the games visuals.
Recently a 3DS version released of Gurumin called Gurumin 3D. This version adds 3D support, extra features with the 3DS touch screen and some visual effects added in the PC release. But does this charming action/adventure game hold up on 3DS?
The story opens up with our main character Parin traveling to Tiese Town while her parents are away doing excavation overseas. While exploring the town, she discovers that there are no children to hang out with, so she gets a bit annoyed, but spots a little girl walking how tells her about the monster world.
She enters the world and quickly befriends the monsters residing in Monster Village but it gets attacked, scattering the monsters around Phantom World outside the Village. Using a powerful drill which was once used by a powerful hero, Parin explores the Phantom World and collects items for the monsters which makes them happy.
The set up here is very simple and it remains focused on a main goal (stop a prince and his followers from taking over the Phantom World) but what makes it so enjoyable is the writing. Many of the characters are filled with personality and heart. A cat monster who is very friendly but a bit shy towards Parin, a French Monster who has a bird living in his top hat, a pair of Mole brothers who have a thing for Parin and more make up the diverse case and I loved interacting with them.
This is further supported by a great localization as the English cast for Gurumin matches the characters very well. I also enjoyed how much of a kid Parin was honestly, as she isn’t afraid to get her point across and is open to adventure. Parin having so much character just adds to the experience.
Design & Gameplay
The structure of Gurumin pushes you to explore the different dungeons of the Phantom World and once you complete the dungeon, you get a item that the monsters had. Once you give it back to them in either Monster Village or the Human Town, they get happier, restoring more of the Phantom World.
This is simple approach to level structure is both linear and open ended, as you normally have many options to pick from regarding which dungeon you want to visit first. It gives the game an added level of choice that makes your path through the game more personal.
You also have the human town to visit where you can purchase sweets (health restoration items), special hats (which offers buffs and damage protection) and upgrades for your drill (which can unlock new combat moves to pull off). Talking to NPC’s is encouraged as it gives context to changes throughout the game. One example is the lady who owns the bakery having her cakes stolen from her and it gets to the point where she starts blaming you for this and charges very high prices for her sweets.
Gameplay in the dungeons is composed of you running around in a 3D plane with your main combative tool being the legendary drill. You can hold down A to charge the drill up and once you charged enough, you can do a powerful forward spin that lets you drill through many objects at once. The drill also gets stronger the more you drill, attack foes and break objects. Once it hits level three, you can shoot an energy blast by just tapping A. You also have a 3D Sonic-esc homing attack that you can pull off by jumping in the air and pressing A when a circle is over a foe.
Other attacks you get include a powerful spin attack and being able to dash into foes then press A for a set of combo attacks. Combat has a surprising level of depth, as you get a lot of moves over the course of the game. It makes each encounter quite fun and the bosses are well designed, making them a treat to fight.
Exploration in the dungeons is solid too, as it functions like a 3D Zelda game or Mega Man Legends. You run around, press switches/solve puzzles and get gear like healing items. It makes exploration fun and rewarding. I enjoyed running round drilling everything to get coins and metal’s (which let you upgrade your hats), giving you an incentive to explore and drill everything in sight.
The only real issue I had with the gameplay was the camera controls, as they can sometimes get in the way of combat or make things hard to see when in tight spaces. In the more open dungeons, this isn’t an issue but it can be annoying. Thankfully you can use the 3DS C-Stick if you have a New 3DS/New 3DS XL (though I am not sure if the Circle Pad Pro is supported for Original 3DS/3DS XL devices).
Gurumin will take a long time to play if you want to see everything, as you have various difficulty modes to play through which offer special rewards if you beat the game many times. But for a single playthrough, the game offers a lot of content.
There is a large number of dungeons to complete and bosses to fight, while maxing out all your hats will take some time. Each dungeon is ranked as well, with the highest rank being offered if you smash every pot and chest. Trying to get the highest ranks for each dungeon can be a challenge and the reward for getting higher ranks is metals, which you can sell to your uncle for more money (Bronze & Silver) or special hats (Gold).
Overall Gurumin offers a lot of content and for it’s 3DS price pointing costing 14.99$, you are getting a lot for your money.
This title is visually quite colorful, with the cell-shading for the character/foes you fight carrying over from the PC release. It helps the characters to stick out and adds some nice detail to the character models. Locations themselves sadly show some age from the game’s PSP origins with muddy textures at points but they still look quite nice on the 3DS thanks to being touched up a bit.
Animations is something to note though, as to ensure stable performance on the PSP, Falcom made your character move at 30FPS but other objects & NPC’s run at 15FPS or lower. It is a design choice that adds some charm to the games world, as the characters stuttering when moving around look like claymation a bit to me. I don’t mind this appearing again in Gurumin 3DS considering the game maintains a solid 30FPS most of the time but slowdown does happen at some points in the game when action gets frantic.
Gurumin 3D has stuttering issues when entering new locations that goes away quickly but one odd audio bug I noticed is that the game’s audio pitches higher/lower at very odd spots. It makes drill sound effects and even the player character sound a bit off. This happens enough to be an issue but not distracting enough to be something that could ruin the experience.
Music is one part of the game that shines very brightly, as the score is fantastic. Each track is oozing with energy and has this bouncy tone to it, making each romp through a dungeon or visiting your friends in Monster Village even more enjoyable. The voice cast for the English release of the game is solid too, with many names coming from famous works in the past. Each character’s audio is high quality and match the personalities/writing.
While some small audio bugs and minor slowdown is a bit of a problem, the is still a nice looking game for the Nintendo 3DS.
Story: 4 out of 5 / Design & Gameplay: 4 out of 5 / Lasting Appeal: 4.5 out of 5 / Presentation: 4 out of 5
Gurumin 3D is a title that is a welcomed addition to the 3DS family. It has some issues with camera controls, a minor audio bug and some slowdown at a few points but they don’t take away from the high quality of the game. Gurumin 3D is a game that is very charming and offers a lot to the player that spends time with the game. A fun story, great cast and some drilling action create one unique action/adventure game you will be hard pressed to miss.
Overall: 4 out of 5
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS with a review code provided by the publisher. You can also play this game on the PSP, PS Vita (through PSP version) and PC. All music cited and linked are under the copyright and trademark of Falcom and Mastiff.