All of the monsters are missing
Over a decade ago, Nihon Falcom released Gurumin for the PC to average critical reviews. It subsequently released on PSP and Steam some time after, garnering above average scores, perhaps the result of nostalgic value. Approximately 12 years after its initial release, Gurumin set to take handhelds again — but this time in 3D. The question, however, is can the game hold up to today’s higher critical standards?
So what is Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure? The narrative follows the young girl, Parin, as she arrives at her new home of Tiese Town to live with her grandfather, the mayor. Shortly after arrival, a bored Parin stumbles upon a poor little girl chased by a dog. Once the ordeal is finished, the child introduces herself as Puru, the monster from the town next door (and invisible to the eyes of adults).
Fortunately for them, Tiese Town is inhabited strictly by adults. At the monster town, Parin meets a handful of new monsters; as thanks for saving one of their own, the monsters give Parin a special drill spear.
When Parin leaves for the evening, the heinous villain known only as the Prince decimates the monster town and kidnaps its inhabitants. From there, Parin must liberate the monsters, collect their precious items, and rebuild monster town, all while pushing back the Prince’s mist and defeating his minions.
Gameplay in Gurumin 3D works as an action game with a few RPG elements. You control Parin with the left joystick and move the camera with either the right joystick (on the new 3DS) or the L and R bumpers. If you’re ever in a tight situation, the camera can be refocused by hitting the B button; jumping uses A, dodging Y, and attacking X.
By holding down the attack button, you can charge Parin’s attack and cause massive damage or break heavy objects. With the point of the game being to explore and track down items and monsters, destroying objects in your way is vital. Lastly, Parin’s attack power levels up based on the amount of enemies dispatched, the damage dealt, and, inversely, the damage received (you can lose levels if incurring too much damage).
Parin’s exploration comes down to selecting revealed locations on an overarching world map. As you clear stages and return items and monsters, the Prince’s mist exposes further territories to explore.
Most of these stages end up as continuations of already cleared areas, limiting the settings that you’ll see; however, each addition adds new visual content, so it’s not as two dimensional as initially suggested. Plus, after a certain amount of exploration, you’ll fight a boss at the end of any given set of stages.
Now, there are a few variables to the Gurumin experience that spice it up. For example, Gurumin 3D allows you to find and equip different elemental aspects to your drill. Likewise, Parin can equip various items to add special effects to her character.
Ultimately, however, Gurumin’s combat is fairly stale and limited; outside of the need to charge your attack to knock off armor, there isn’t much to do in combat but smash the attack button. And while rebuilding the monster town and uncovering more information about the Price can be enticing, the ultimate experience is pretty lacking.
The major flaws with Gurumin 3D lie within its technical issues more so than gameplay. Now, Gurumin 3D isn’t the best looking game, and it definitely doesn’t have a good soundtrack (though some songs are great, others are cringe worthy). Its 3D optimization is decent, though with the flailing camera and speed of combat, the viewing can become difficult on your eyes.
What concerns me the most, however, was the frame rate issues. When perusing Tiese Town, after having a bit of time to load, Parin can scale the city with ease. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. When Gurumin 3D loads, or when the map changes, or, really, when more than Parin is on the screen, the frame rate of the game drops significantly.
In the cases of running through Tiese Town or the remnants and rebuilding of the monster town, any frame rate drop is hard to notice (outside of the soundtrack, which stutters incessantly over itself). It’s hard to notice, that is, unless you’re playing in 3D. In 3D, the frame rate issues caused my eyes to hurt and my head to spin; it’s not a welcome feature.
With that said, I played the majority of Gurumin 3D… in 2D. Still, even this wouldn’t necessarily deter me (after all, 3D is just a flick of a switch away). The real killer in regards to frame rate is gameplay. It’s difficult enough to actually judge the spacing of your enemies, inducing many missed attacks. Once the frame rate issues join in, competent combat flies out the window.
Considering the entirety of Gurumin 3D, it’s hard to not like the childish charm the game boasts. The combat, while thin in content, is at least enjoyable. The game is not terribly long, clocking in at 9 hours for the main storyline.
Casting all of the positives aside, however, Gurumin 3D suffers from near game breaking technical issues — including the eye-bogging 3D function that nearly defeats its own purpose. The story of Parin is probably better played on Steam or, if you still have it handy, your PSP. While the whole experience is present and able to be enjoyed, the disastrous technical issues severely harm this port.