Gurumin is developed by Y’s creator Falcom and localized for the US market by Mastiff. The game has a quality pedigree to it with Falcom’s many years of action-RPG development on various consoles through gaming history.
The story is about Parin a young girl who is sent to live with her eccentric (read: senile) grandfather Hyperbolic in a remote mining town. Unfortunately she’s the only child her age in town with nobody to play with. One day while exploring the streets she happens upon a lost monster. As it turns out only a child Parin’s age can still see monsters, and she soon befriends a village of monsters beyond the walls of your village.
Shortly after tragedy befalls your monster friends as their village is destroyed by an unknown enemy. You must now embark on a journey to retrieve the belongings of your friends, and to help rebuild the monster village.
And so begins our long and storied adventures.
Throughout the game you will enter various dungeons via an over world map and embark on a quest to rescue a monster friend, or retrieve one of your monster friend’s stolen belongings. Completion of this task, and returning to the Monster Village to return the citizen or belonging unlocks further dungeons on the over world map.
Each dungeon is excellently designed to last around 15-20 minutes, which is perfect for portable gaming sessions. You can clear a dungeon or three on the bus; depending on the length of your trip. Save the game, and go on your way.
The action is pretty straight forward hack’n slash. You won’t find an elaborate combo system here if that’s your cup of tea. You have an attack button that can be pressed multiple times in sequence to create a simple combo. You have a jump button. A dodge button which can be pressed three times to perform increasingly acrobatic evade maneuvers. You have buttons to rotate the camera, and lock on to enemies. Both the d-pad and thumb stick are used to moving Parin.
You can also find new element parts to attach to your drill weapon which will bestow you electrical, fire, or ice attacks which are useful against certain enemies. Additionally you can upgrade your drill to perform awesome special attacks moves. Each elemental part has a special combo you can level up with gold, which involve a Street Fighter-like motion on your control pad, and pressing the attack button. Some of the attacks shoot off a blast of elemental power forward, another sends out a spreading blast shot, and others deal area damage. Some of these attacks are almost too powerful, but considering I love spamming enemies with powerful weapons, that’s not something I am inclined to complain about.
Gurumin grades you on the amount of time of time you have spent clearing the dungeon, the number of enemies you’ve subdued, and the number of breakable items in the environment you’ve successfully destroyed. Spending less time in a dungeon, breaking everything, and defeating all of your foes will earn you a ranking IIRC from D through S. D being low, and S being the highest you can achieve. An S Rank dungeon will earn you a Gold Medal, A Rank Silver, and below Bronze. These medals can be exchanged by your grandfather Hyperbolic for new wardrobe accessories which will bestow you newfound abilities. For example the Monkey Hat gives you a bonus to the amount of money you earn in a stage, and you can level up each of these wardrobe items at the shop in town to increase the stat bonuses for Parin.
It’s also worth noting that whenever you equip or use an item from the menu screen you get a cute animation from Parin. For example if you eat a cake to restore your health, you’ll see her cram the cake into her mouth with both hands and chomp down like a competitive eater. Equip a new hat, she’ll reach into her pockets, somewhere and pull out a hat and put it on. The same goes for drill parts, equip a new elemental part and she’ll screw on the new part. It’s not a big thing, but it’s little details like this that I really dig in video games. The more incidental animations, the better!
A few of the later dungeons have some rather harrowing narrow path navigation skill sections. There is a series of stages set on snowy mountain where the developers created a series of paths that are just slightly wider than your character. Some of the sections are covered in ice. Slippery, deadly ice. Add to that armored foes that appear, and you quickly lose interest in doing battle and merely whacking the enemies off the ledge, sacrificing the Junk and gold you could be gathering in favor of merely surviving; or mercifully just getting out of the offending level.
Strewn throughout the game in NPC populated sections there are some mini-games that you will need to clear in order to get an NPC to assist you, or obtain an item. These mini-games all run off the standard game engine. So for example you need to play whack-a-mole on one stage by drilling a certain amount of monsters before the time runs out.
There is a Hoccer mini-game which runs the risk of possibly ruining every pleasurable experience you’ve had with the game up until that point. Eventually I gave up on Hoccer. I was punching furniture, walls, and suppressing the urge to snap my PSP in two.
The music of Gurumin also shines. After a few hours of playing the game, I was humming some of the themes while at work. The music is light hearted and fun to listen to. Overall complimenting the ambiance of the game. Some folks may disagree, but in my estimation; any game music that sticks in my head to the point of humming the tune is a classic. See also: Street Fighter 2 and the Streets of Rage intro theme for examples.
Having said that, the ending of Gurumin makes up for all the frustration of Hoccer, the ice stages, and failed attempts at defeating the mysterious Black Bean character. Prepare to have your heart strings tugged.
Overall Gurumin is a must own original PSP Action RPG title. It lasted me around 16 hours total, without completing all of the mini-games and some of the boss battles. Once you complete the game, you can load your save data with an unlocked costume and give another go at unlocking further costumes and obtaining more items.
Considering you can find Gurumin at most retailers for $19.99 new, there’s no reason to not add this fantastic game to your PSP collection.