Gurumin 3D - Out now on eShop! [ScreenGurus Review]

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OrangeRakoon
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Gurumin 3D - Out now on eShop! [ScreenGurus Review]

Post by OrangeRakoon » Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:15 pm


Wikipedia wrote:Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, known simply as Gurumin in Japan, is an action role-playing game developed by Nihon Falcom Corporation.
Here is my ScreenGurus review:
http://www.screengurus.com/2016/10/31/g ... view-2016/
Gurumin 3D is something of a curiosity. Developed by Falcom, more famous for the cult series Ys and The Legend of Heroes, Gurumin is an old school action JRPG (emphasis on the Japanese) with some platforming elements. Immediate similarities to Zelda are obvious, with the hero wielding a legendary weapon pulled from a stone pedestal that fires out beams at full power, levels scattered with simple box-pushing puzzles, and boss battles that reward the player with heart crystals to increase their maximum health, but there are elements of several different games here, and Gurumin manages to carve out its own unique and coherent identity.

Originally released on PC in 2004, and with its first western release on PSP in 2007, Gurumin does show its age somewhat in its game design. Not that this is a bad thing – while things like the world map and manual saving may seem dated they never adversely affect the experience, and those looking for a more old school action adventure experience will not be disappointed. Gurumin 3D follows the game’s re-release on Steam last year, and like that release very little in the game has been changed in the porting process. This is probably the largest complaint that can be levelled at Gurumin 3D as it underutilises the 3DS’ unique features as a result.

The game plays out entirely on the top screen, and while the bottom screen is used for four menu shortcuts the majority of the screen estate is taken up by a static image from the game’s art and a needlessly large help icon. Even the menu shortcuts provided are quickly forgotten – where the touch screen could have improved the game by offering a quick method of switching between equipment, it actually ends up being easier just pressing start and using the original menu that still lives on the top screen. Anyone familiar with Gurumin from the Steam release will also notice that this version lacks the “beat” bar, part of the system for delivering critical hits by attacking in time to the beat. Why this is missing is unclear, although the 3DS shares this with the PSP version where the beat bar also did not feature.

As the name suggests, one change that has been made for this port is the addition of 3D. Largely this has been done well, with the environments looking just as nice in 3D and having an effective sense of depth, which is no doubt helped by the game’s cartoonish art style. Unfortunately the 3D support is let down by a badly thought out implementation of the HUD, which hovers above the action at the front of the screen like in many other 3DS games. This leads to problems with the UI for things like enemy lock targets or character speech bubbles as these elements sit over the screen rather than at the same depth as the game element they are attached to.

The focus switching required is ugly and cumbersome which led to me quickly turning off the 3D effect and playing through the game in 2D, which is a shame. Playing in 2D is probably for the best however when it comes to frame rate – just like its PSP predecessor, Gurumin can suffer when there are an above average number of enemies on-screen, with some especially noticeable slow down on enemy attack animations. Luckily, unless you care especially about these things, this doesn’t happen often enough for it to be much of an issue in enjoying the game, and I can only think of one occasion where I felt the game was a struggle to play until I killed a couple of enemies.

In Gurumin the player takes the role of Parin (although like Link you can rename the main character to your liking), a twelve-year-old girl who arrives via train in the remote mining town of Tiese, sent away by her parents to live with her Grandpa. As a mining town Tiese lacks any other children, leaving Parin to entertain herself. Luckily she runs into some monsters, invisible to human adults, who lead her back through a portal to their own world, and quickly they become Parin’s friends. Unfortunately another group of monsters known as the Phantoms attack and destroy the monster village, kidnapping the monsters who live there. This prompts Parin to set out on a quest to rescue her friends, rebuild Monster Village, and defeat the Phantoms once and for all. The setup is reminiscent of something from Studio Ghibli, with more than a hint of Spirited Away, and while the plot never gets much more complicated than this initial premise it’s engaging enough and a suitable motivator for progressing throughout the levels. Character interaction is the real focus of the narrative, and a strong translation with whimsical and humorous dialogue (often in the form of Parin’s sharp wit and observations) underpins the game’s charm.

Parin herself is an easily likable protagonist, brimming with character through her animation and dialogue, and the exemplification of the game’s cute style. Every time you jump a cartoonish boing noise accompanies the action, while jumping on the spot has Parin throw her arms and legs out in a star-jump motion. A few different idle animations provide some variety, and short voice clips are a constant accompaniment to Parin’s attacks. The other characters in the game are also well designed and animated, with fitting voice acting (the game’s cut scenes are all fully voiced in English, a bonus for a 3DS game). One character, Poco, is a particular favourite, constantly dancing to his music in his house in Monster Village, but there are several fun characters to meet across the world.

The game’s levels are accessible from a world map, with further areas being unlocked as Monster Village is rebuilt. Each level is mostly a linear affair, consisting of a set of rooms to progress through containing enemies, simple puzzles and occasionally simple platforming challenges. The game never offers up too much challenge, although for the completionist higher difficulty levels significantly push up the damage inflicted by enemies and environmental hazards. Roughly half of the levels are also remixes of the same areas you have already explored, played through mirrored and in reverse with different enemy and puzzle placements, but thankfully this doesn’t feel too much like repetition or cheap design thanks to the changes.

Combat is a simple hack-and-slash affair, with a few learn-able combos that involve no more than two presses of the attack button and some circle-pad rotation, but it’s fun and satisfying, with changeable attack elements adding some complexity. Parin’s main weapon is a drill around which much of the game’s design is centred, both mechanically and aesthetically. As well as regular attacks the drill can be charged up, letting you knock off pieces of enemy armour to open them up to attack, or more importantly letting you destroy most parts of the environment. This can be used to destroy potential hazards, open up pathways, or even find secrets, but most of the destructible scenery only exists to provide you with money. Think of how you destroy most of the scenery in any of the Lego games to collect studs and you get the idea – it’s a simple system that has an addictive OCD pleasing feedback loop.

Most of the levels can be raced through in only a few minutes, but thanks to the constant appeal of destroying everything in sight to earn some money and to not miss out on any secrets (the game ranks you at the end of each level, so you’ll want to find every last hidden element you can), they typically range from about 8 to 18 minutes in play time. This suits the portable 3DS well as a level can often fit perfectly into the time of say a bus journey.

On first play-through you are presented with either easy or normal difficulty, and completing the game will typically take you around 10-15 hours – a good length for a game that never outstays its welcome. Gurumin lends itself to replaying quite heavily, however, with plenty of content (including many alternate costumes, a boss rush mode and even a secret alternate character) locked behind multiple playthroughs at unlockable higher difficulties. To see everything the game has to offer would take a considerable time investment.

One area particularly where Gurumin shines is in its music and art direction. For a game from 2004 Gurumin looks especially good, thanks to the cartoonish style with bold, flat colours and deliberately undetailed textures that ages well. It’s easy to draw comparisons with other games such as Wind Waker of Mystical Ninja. The music is upbeat and kooky and a definite highlight, with some great earworms that you’ll easily find yourself humming along to. Thankfully the 3DS is capable of handling these without too much issue too – the only real jarring complaint is that the music judders every time you transition area through a (very short) loading screen.

If you’ve already played Gurumin before then Gurumin 3D brings little new to the table, but for those that haven’t (and that’s most people) Gurumin 3D offers a great chance to play an underrated gem – full of charm, brimming with cuteness, and crafted with love, care and attention. I heartily recommend anyone even mildly interested to check it out – you probably won’t be disappointed!

Has anyone else picked this up? Or anyone planning too? Gurumin has been one of my favourite games since I played it back on PSP so I have been very happy playing it again on 3DS.

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