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Game Reviews


The PSP game so popular it was reprinted, Falcom’s whimsical adventure endears itself to everyone!

If you’re looking at the time-stamp on this particular Impression, you might be thinking of two things. First, why has it taken so long for something about this game to get put up? Or you might realistically be wondering “What’s Gurumin, anyway?” Games of a particular quality for Sony’s PSP happen to *ahem* few and far between, but after a slight dry spell in stores, both above questions are answered quite magnificently with the release (and subsequent re-release) of Falcom’s Gurumin.

Only recently did I have a chance to finally play Gurumin for the PSP, which was developed by famed Y’s creators Nihon Falcom and published by Mastiff, an action with a blend of RPG elements and your typical anime look and feel. Although the wait’s been long and sometimes frustrating, Gurumin is an otherwise highly enjoyable RPG that’s easy to pick up and enjoy that will probably appeal to most looking for a good diversion on the platform. With all due respect to the portable’s line-up, this was one of the few PSP titles that I’ve found myself losing time over.

The game’s story may seem juvenile, but it’s actually very sweet, as it involves Parin, a little girl who moves in with her grandfather, thanks to her parent’s line of work with archeology. Everything about her grandfather’s village seems dull as dirt (literally), that is until she happens to save a girl named Pino…who actually turns out to be a monster. Sure enough, Parin finds herself befriending the Pino and her monster friends, and faster than you can say ‘original plotlines’, will be on their way to saving the world from the evil Phantoms as well.

Gameplay-wise it plays like your standard action RPGs, with areas and dungeons to navigate through. There are plenty of minor puzzles and mini-games to solve although none are too difficult to get through, and it’s all laid out in a simplistic manner but it doesn’t end up too stale; which is good in this case and adds some replay value. Besides some mini-games there are a number of side-quests that add a couple of hours to the game. There is some complexity action-wise, as your main weapon is a drill which can be charged for stronger and more effective attacks. The real emphasis is to not get hit during attacks, as the more attacks to do the better your moves will be. By getting hurt at least once, you’ll have to build up a portion of your power again. This does turn out to have a bit of welcomed urgency when dealing with enemies, because you’ll typically be surrounded by several baddies at once.

Enemies are usually protected by armor and this adds a small layer of defensive and offensive strategy to the battles. Not only that, but you can collect fallen armor that enemies drop, allowing for a fairly entertaining trade-system in the game. By drilling armor off of enemies to defeat them, you can also take whatever they leave behind and sell it for some extra money or equipment. Nothing ground-breaking, but this does give the game another layer of depth and helps shatter the image of Gurumin being just another simple, childlike anime RPG. Of course, with all this junk-trading, expect to see a lot of back-tracking and repeating of scenery. This can be annoying from time-to-time, especially when advancing the story requires it, so just a word of caution.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the controls easy to pick up, although a little unresponsive from time to time. Performing chain attacks was easy enough, especially when combining charge attacks into the mix. After constant complaints with the PSP controls, Gurumin actually surprises and handled these shortcomings quite well. Even with some minor delay in actions, I was very impressed.

The graphics did the job, with a universal theme having a soft anime look to things. For the most part the main characters have that certain cute look that’s popular, but still have enough detail to be distinguishable from one another. Large environments like towns and dungeons are detailed and extremely colorful, most having a distinct presentation without looking recycled. The game’s special effects add a nice touch of pizzazz to the proceedings, especially during the many battles and encounters. All said, a very colorful and wonderful looking visual package.

But all this eye-candy comes with a few cavities, as the screen gets cluttered in some key areas, making battles against multiple enemies more difficult than it should be. But the more painful of conditions has to be with the excessive loading times, which really bring down the vibrancy and seamless feeling the game otherwise has. 15-20 seconds may not sound like much, but it can occur to often that it begins to feel like forever. When you factor in the game’s necessary back-tracking, you’ll be seeing plenty of downtime.

A lot of noise has been made about the game’s audio, but that’s really what most of it just is – noise. While it’s nice to hear voice-acting in some games, and it’s even better when the producers go from professionalism, whether or not the end result is needed is a matter of opinion. A few reports have claimed this is the first Falcom game to feature voice-acting…something that our own Mr. Universal says just isn’t true (apparently Falcom’s own Y‘s Book I & II, III all featured voice-acting for the PC-Engine CD/TurboGraphx-CD). Still, with these voices mainly gleamed from other videogame and voice-over gigs, there’s no real name-brand talent worth bragging about…but on the plus side nothing too embarrassing, either (Hello Sephiroth!)

The rest of the audio is your standard forgettable collection of compositions and sound effects, and certainly fits the whimsical mood the game’s graphics do a good job of representing. To be honest I wasn’t very impressed with the voice-acting, but then again I’m not exactly the demographic the game’s shooting for!

For the most part I can see why Gurumin has a such a following with the PSP crowd and beyond. With good gameplay mechanics, a decent amount of replay value, and remarkable graphics, the entire package hold up fairly well. The portable console is often maligned for its lack of original titles, and it’s in this regard the game succeeds by offering owners something truly unique, with more than enough depth to justify its existence. The problems most often cited, namely the excessive loading times and questionable slowdown should be directed not so much at the game, but the hardware (as these issues plague most PSP titles).

Those gripes aside, anybody who’s looking for a good game to add to their collection, or perhaps just missed out because of the limited supply of the first print back in February, go and pick up Gurumin before it disappears again. While the game may seem geared at the younger set (in particular young girls), there’s more than enough depth and replay value to melt the heart of even the grumpiest guss. It’s worth it.

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About the Author: Herman Exum