You're probably not alone if you've never heard of Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure. First released as a PC game way back in 2004 and a PlayStation Portable title shortly after, Gurumin has stayed largely off the map since its initial launch. Despite the favourable reviews that it received, this action-adventure RPG never saw a sequel, and it mostly faded into obscurity while retaining an almost cult following. That is, until now.
Originally developed by Nihon Falcom, Gurumin's North American localization and publishing for the PSP release was handled by Mastiff Games. Almost 10 years later, Mastiff is once again behind the release of Gurumin 3D, an update to the forgotten gem releasing exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS eShop; there's a remaster minus the '3D' that was released on PC in 2015, too. It may be coming out very soon, but we were lucky enough to get our hands on an early build; we sure are glad that we did.
As previously mentioned, Gurumin is an action-adventure RPG that implements real-time combat and puzzle solving. It's almost like a Zelda game, but much cuter and grounded in RPG and customization elements. Players take control of Parin, a young girl tasked with protecting Monster Village from the attacking phantoms. Sure, why not? Parin's attacks and abilities can be upgraded and customized through both leveling up and by donning special equipment. The customization system is simple, but there seem to be enough equipment options to truly make your character feel like your own.
The controls work well and feel natural on the 3DS, making use of the console's full array of inputs, including the touch screen to access menus and equipment. Some added functionality was present for the New 3DS specific controls as well, mostly allowing us to rotate the camera using the C-Stick. Combat is smooth and a little repetitive, but this is a game that revels in its simplicity, not putting a major emphasis on combat. From what we played, it's good clean fun that can be picked up and put down without forcing its players to be too invested.
One thing that we weren't expecting is just how great Gurumin looks on the 3DS. The world and characters are vibrant and colourful, and this shone through on the portable's small screens. The audio design was also a pleasant surprise, featuring an upbeat soundtrack and the full voice acting from the original release. If you're still on the fence about this one, it's worth noting that this game features the voice talents of Amber Hood, Dee Bradley Baker and Tara Strong, just to name a few.
While the game played well and looked great in our limited time with it, the one thing that we can't avoid mentioning is an apparent framerate issue. More than once were we subjected to some stuttering, an issue that was exacerbated by the use of the console's 3D display. It wasn't game breaking by any means, but it was definitely noticeable. We don't want to harp on it too much because we were playing an incomplete demo, but it is something that we hope can be addressed in the final build.
The one thing that Gurumin 3D does best is that it stays true to its original release. Sure, the camera controls may have been optimized and small tweaks were made to hide its age, but the core of this game has been preserved – and so has its charm. We haven't had the chance to play the final game, and the build that we did play at PAX West wasn't without its faults, but we're remaining hopeful that there's still time to fix those minor concerns.
The full release details have yet to be revealed, but we do know that Gurumin 3D is going to be a bargain priced at $14.99 and could land in October; we'll have a full review for you when it lands.