Playstation Portable
Reviewed: 02/24/2007

An RPG for PSP that’s actually quite good? What?

Gurumin is a cute 3D action RPG starring a young girl named Parin. Being a preteen female in a Japanese RPG, Parin was clearly getting to the time in her life where she was due for an adventure. Enter her firends, the breakdancing ghosts. These guys are just trying to keep it real, but Parin quickly learns that in the world of the undead, there are good ghosts and bad. In a Sword in the Stone-type sequence, Parin yanks a magic drill from its rocky resting place and is ready to let the phantoms know what time it is.

The story stays kiddy all game long in about every way, but that’s not to say it’s a game only for kids. Its gameplay delivers for all ages of fans who tend to enjoy action RPGs. Parin uses her drill to vanquish foes, and like many games of this genre, hitting the attack button several times in succession will form a combo. Other combinations and special attacks are available by doing things like rotating the PSP’s analog stick and attacking, holding the drill button in and releasing, and so on. Some sweet arial moves can be done by attacking an airborne enemy, then hitting the jump button, then repeating. This manuever is also incorporated into a few platforming situations within the game, and finding where a given chain of enemies will lead Parin is part of the fun.

Gurumin‘s developer, Falcom, is best known for the Ys series, and those who enjoy those titles will probably also like Gurumin. The boss battles use the old tried-and-true action RPG forumla of figuring out the enemy’s movement and attack patterns, then striking at the opportune moment, sometimes with an exact type of blow. It may be an old recipe, but its use in Gurumin is still very good. Plus, using a drill as Parin’s weapon opens up some unique abilities.

Screen Shot
This boss gave me all kinds of hell the first time, but the second time, I killed his ass while only getting hit once.

Gameplay consists of talking to townsfolk in the game central village in order to open up new dungeons and other areas on the overworld. After completing an area, the player will get a rating based on how well s/he performed, and one is almost always welcome to try for a better mark.

Part of the fun here (though optional) is in checking out the new outfits, masks, and other aesthetic items with which to play dress up. Most of these little trinkets have nothing to do with how Parin handles, aside from a few of the masks, but all have something to do with making the player–male or female–feel like a little girl.

The most notable flaw in Gurumin is that it’s sometimes difficult to judge distances when jumping. In an action RPG, this flaw can prove costly. In much the same way a stricken (non-helium) balloon starts out flying fast, but comes to a sudden halt before falling, it’s easy for the player to see Parin soaring, but somehow fall short of her target. It seems to be a combination of game physics and the camera angle just not being suited well enough for some of the platforming situations that show up in the game.

Screen Shot
Pedophiles everywhere approve.

Load times are not an issue in this game. Players will be kept waiting for the PSP standard of six-to-ten seconds when switching areas, but that’s about it. There is no slowdown during the hacking and slashing of the gameplay and area switching really doesn’t happen that often.

Gurumin‘s graphics are great. The sort-of cel shading that was used in the original version (PC) of this game has been ditched, which was a good move. Cel shading looks nice sometimes, but in this case, the PSP version has a much better look about it. Camera rotation is allowed in most places, which is also useful, though a little more control over the level of zoom might have been nice.

The game includes an unlockable boss rush mode and secret character, which are kind of nice. Still, it’s an action RPG and the gameplay flow and feel will stay pretty much the same during extra playthroughs. A gripe to this end, for the US version, is that it includes the Japanese voices, but one needs to play through the game with them in English to unlock them. If you’re going to include the Japanese voices, give gamers the option to choose them from the beginning and switch back and forth when they please.

Unexpectedly, Gurumin turned out to be a darn good game. It might have an unusual look for most gamers, [and come to think of it, have an awful lot in common with another obscure action RPG starring a redhead called Napple Tale (including the distance judgement problem)], but it’s fun to play, and that’s what matters most.

-Heath Hindman

Score Breakdown
Very Good
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Great
Story Average
Graphics Great
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Below Average
The Verdict: 7