About ten years ago, I was walking through Best Buy searching for games to justify my PSP. Among the available titles, one game jumped out at me, prompting me to ask, “What is this doing here?” What I saw looked like it belonged on a Nintendo DS. That game was Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure. And as of October 13, with “3D” amended to its title, Gurumin finally made its way to the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure is a 3D action-adventure platformer with RPG elements that resemble the feeling of N64 games like Banjo Kazooie and Mega Man 64 — without the retro-style aspect. It sets a good mood with its graphic and sound choices and, even with the sometimes cheesy and chewed lines, dialogue. Using all of these elements, the game tells the story about Parin, a young girl who has moved in with her grandfather while her parents are working as excavators overseas. Bored in the mining town of Tiese, Parin runs into some mischievous young monsters who appear invisible to the other townies and cause scenes, like making cakes float in a local bakery. The monsters, who invite Parin to play with them in Monster Village, are soon attacked by a band of villains called Phantoms who destroy their home and kidnap its residents. The player takes charge of Parin who, after taking a “legendary drill” from the center of Monster Village, has decided to save her new friends and restore their town.
One of the first things players will notice as they step into the overworld are the dark clouds looming over most of the map. New areas are locked away under these clouds, which are washed away by rescuing townsfolk from available dungeons and then making them happy by finding and returning their furniture and possessions. The monstrous residents and their items are each hidden in vegetable-themed dungeons — Potato Ruins, Asparagus Lake, Eggplant Caverns, to name a few — which are broken down into stages called “paths.” Traversing paths isn’t too difficult. Gurumin 3D makes use of its 3D space to create a nice little handheld platformer/puzzler where the player spends time looking for switches and jumping between pillars or platforms floating over water, mud, air, etc. None of the puzzles pose too tough a challenge, though they sometimes become a drag; each time Parin progresses through one unlocked gate, another one comes down for another puzzle. What makes this part dull is that some dungeons feel like the same handful of puzzles: find the switch, jump the platforms, move the box, kill all the enemies. However, developer Nihon Falcom did throw a few one-offs into some of the stages. For example, one dungeon asked me to “show [it] my power” by performing a special move, while another asked me to solve a riddle. Those types of encounters excited me, but the remaining dungeons followed the same rinse-and-repeat formula outlined above. The great reward for completing most of these paths is a piece of furniture, which, when returned to its rightful owner, unlocks subsequent stages.
But what about rescuing the owners of all the neat stuff you find, like a phonograph or hat rack? Every once in awhile, one of the paths will lead directly to a large staging area with the monster-kin locked in a cage guarded by one of those pesky Phantoms. After beating up a bunch of weak little spiders and spinning blue monsters, the large bosses are actually a welcome challenge and distraction. Each one is incredibly unique in design and fighting style, making none of the fights derivative or boring; I found each one engaging and fun, and the hammy pre-fight dialogue brought some humor to the affair. The first boss fight is an interesting one (for reasons beyond the fact that his name is Bob) as it teaches the player about the drill’s ability to knock armor off of enemies. A key feature to this particular fight is using the charged attack of the drill to knock off the boss’s breast plate in order to deal damage to the soft tissue beneath. As far as boss fights, this aspect is unique to Bob. Other bosses require players to utilize other skills against them.
True to traditional platformer boss mechanics, many attacks require learning patterns and precision timing. For example, Bob will launch himself into the air to crash hard onto the platform, stunning Parin and leaving her open to a powerful attack. That is unless the player can time her jumps in order to avoid Bob’s paralyzing ground crash. Even jumping too soon can result in being on the receiving end of his hard landing. Perfecting combat timing actually took some getting used to as jumping in this game is bit floaty compared to other platformers.
Additionally, if the player places Parin near a wall when jumping, she will run along it a bit, though this has no substantial effect on level progression. But I wouldn’t pin the little wall run as a negative; it’s a nice detail that gives the game some charm, much like the cute split Parin does at the height of her jumps. In addition to jumping, Parin can perform a guard dash, a quick forward-spinning dash which is useful to move quickly and maneuver out of tight corners and hairy situations. For instance, if an attack is about to hit Parin as she guard dashes, she will simply pass through it unharmed — like a sidestep. The guard dash becomes increasingly more useful as more special attacks become available to Parin, as many use it as their starting point.
As previously mentioned, Parin uses the “legendary drill” as her primary weapon, which she swings around like a sword or club for her standard attacks. But it can also be used while jumping. In fact, successfully landing an aerial attack on an enemy rewards Parin with an extra jump. This allows her to use a similar “homing attack” pattern like those seen in recent Sonic the Hedgehog titles or move to higher platforms or over gorges. Players can even create such opportunities by using Parin’s launch attack which, as the name implies, launches an opponent into the air. Her other starting move is the charge attack, a more powerful prolonged stationary drilling motion that chews through armor; when charged to the max, Parin is propelled forward like a short range drilling missile. Unfortunately, Parin cannot jump while charging her drill which makes this attack a bit risky.
To keep Parin’s moveset from getting stale, new weapon skills become available for purchase in Tiese as she progresses through the game. These moves can be executed using combinations of stick rotations, guard dashes, attacks, etc. Investing in these attacks helps tremendously as many of them act as powerful short-range projectiles or push enemies back. Attacks can be modified by attaching elemental parts found hidden throughout the monster world, giving Parin’s moves an advantage over certain enemies.
To counteract enemies’ attacks, Parin can equip upgradable headgear that complements a player depending on their play style. For instance, the goggles featured prominently in the game’s promotional art and on the start screen give Parin resistance to water. And each subsequent upgrade to the goggles offers immunity to water, increases defense, attack power, and other stats. For players not confident in their platforming skills around water, this gives them the edge they need to not fuss over falling in. Each piece of headgear has its own immunities and power-ups. Personally, I quite like the Vampire Kit, which replenishes a bit of Parin’s health each time a critical hit connects with an enemy.
Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure only has a few real flaws and two mild nuisances. The first of notable issues is the soundtrack loop. For example, the background music for each path sounds nice, but there is a distinct end to the track, followed by four seconds of silence. Hearing the same track loop about five times in one path becomes unnerving. The other small issue is also sound related: the jump sound effect. In the heat of battle, the sound effect is negligible as my concentration is elsewhere; however, it is the most obnoxious “boing” spring sound effect and becomes quite grating in any portion of the game where it is heard every other second. The real flaws that actually do make a difference to the game are the framerate and camera angles. While 3D visuals are nice — a transition that was not expected in a port of this game — it is also plagued by framerate drops and audio glitches, especially during area changes or frames with three or more moving enemies. This can, for the most part, be alleviated simply by turning off 3D. Overall, camera angles are good. However, there are a lot of parts where the camera cuts out too much of what is ahead of Parin. The player controls the camera’s rotation along the X-axis, but sometimes the camera is too zoomed-in, keeping important information about enemies and items from appearing in the same frame. Implementing the ZR/ZL buttons to control the Y-axis could have alleviated this problem.
All in all, Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure is actually quite well-balanced and nicely put together. And considering it was originally released in 2007 for a completely different console, it’s held up well against time and any hazards involved with being ported to Nintendo’s handheld. This game definitely caters to the type of person who enjoys a good platformer, and its reigned-in difficulty makes it easily accessible to those not too confident with the genre.