A girl, a drill and a world of friendly monsters clash together in Gurumin. This past summer Falcom, the brains behind the Legend of Heroes games, released Gurumin for the PSP in Japan. Mastiff who localized La Pucelle Tactics before NIS America formed stepped up to bring Gurumin to the USA. What makes Gurumin so special? Mastiff enlightens us.
Siliconera: Gurumin was just released for the PSP in June what made the title appealing to Mastiff?
Mastiff: We looked up “no-brainer” in the dictionary and there was a picture of Gurumin. We figured that was a good indication that the game was worth considering. Seriously, Gurumin is one of the very best action RPGs available for the PSP and one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful game on the system.
Siliconera: Gurumin is the first game by Falcom to have voice acting, what about the game made the company decide to add in voices?
Mastiff: That was a monster-driven decision. The game is full of monsters, but we needed to make them both friendly and very different from one another. What with the negative perception monsters have, and the tendency to lump all monsters together, that was something of a storytelling challenge. Adding voice was one of the tools we used for overcoming that challenge.
Voice also allowed us to throw in a neat little extra: when you find and use costumes, the fighting and defensive sounds will change to match the costume.
Siliconera: Is the original Japanese language track being added in as a bonus?
Mastiff: Rumor has it that it will be an Easter Egg…
Siliconera: There are some Japanese puns in the game and cultural humor in the game. How is Mastiff handling the localization of the title?
Mastiff: Puns: Although meaningful direct translation of puns is, of course, impossible we were able to reweave the material into something that worked nicely in English and stayed true to the spirit of the original. For more detail you are going to have to play the game.
“Cultural Humor:” Pretty much everything in the game worked as-is, with the moderate exception of the puns.
People laugh at anything that is unexpected or out of place. Humor varies from culture to culture because expectations are different. For example, it might be funny to us if a character suddenly puts a bone through their nose because it’s unexpected, but for tribes that actually do this it would be matter-of-course and not humorous in the least. Might even be funny if someone didn’t have a bone through their nose.
All a good localizer needs to do is provide enough context clues so the audience knows what is and isn’t expected (if it’s not obvious or culturally shared) and then pretty much everyone can enjoy the same thing. Given a reasonable amount of context, game audiences tend to be smart and flexible in their willingness to see things as funny.
Siliconera: Originally Gurumin was released as PC game in Japan, how has the title evolved on the PSP?
Mastiff: Gurumin on the PSP not only features tons of extra content that wasn’t available on the PC, like new costumes and a boss rush mode, but the controls have been polished for the PSP version, and the game delivers an action-RPG experience that simply can’t be had anywhere else on the platform.
Siliconera: How would you describe ten minutes of gameplay of Gurumin?
Mastiff: At its heart, Gurumin is a story-driven action RPG; however, the player has a lot of freedom to choose where they want to go. After traversing the world map and entering a stage, players are dropped into a variety of environments and pit against the evil Phantoms.
Luckily, the main character is equipped with a fearsome weapon, the legendary drill. From the beginning, the player can perform many different combo attacks, launch enemies into the air, and even perform a charge attack to destroy enemy armor and equipment. As you level up your drill by fighting and destroying the environment, your drill becomes stronger and you gain access to powerful special moves.
While exploring dungeons, you can break through walls and discover secret areas and hidden items. There are many environmental puzzles; for example, the player can attach elements to their drill and freeze lakes and rivers, or melt frozen enemies. In order to circumvent traps and other hazards, the player must don headgear which can protect them from specific types of damage. This equipment can also be leveled up to provide additional bonuses.
Throw in some tough boss battles and addictive minigames, and that about sums up the “Gurumin Experience.”
Siliconera: Is there anything extra in the game to discover once you beat it?
Mastiff: There are a ton of extras, like three additional difficulty levels, a boss rush mode, and 19 collectable costumes, including some holiday-themed ones! There are also two completely different endings and a few ‘hidden’ stages.
Siliconera: Specifically for the North American release is Mastiff adding in anything extra?
We’ve assembled an all-star voice cast and put a ton of effort into polishing the already-amazing script. We’re hoping that fans of Falcom’s previous work, and fans of action RPGs in general will check out Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure. The game will be released on February 13th, 2007.
Speaking of the all star voice cast we spoke to Amber Hood who voices Parin, the star of Gurumin.
Siliconera: How did you land the role as Parin?
Amber: Well, Kris Zimmerman is the voice director as well as the casting director. I had worked with Mastiff before on La Pucelle, years ago, along with Kris Zimmerman.
They ultimately did not hold auditions for Gurumin. Kris and Mika went through their “vocal archives” ( I suppose is a good way to put it) from other projects they had done, and hired the voice actors they thought would fit the characters. So, they cast me in the Parin role. I feel very fortunate to have landed the role of Parin!!
Siliconera: What is Parin like as a character?
Amber: Parin was a great challenge and a total blast to play. She looks really cute on screen, but she is strong, aggressive and smart. I think she is different in that she reacts to things that happen to her objectively, versus emotionally. She is a great advocate of her monster friends and tries to save them throughout the game. She was a great challenge for me because I had to use a deeper vocal range, and that is not something I do often! So I enjoyed doing something
Siliconera: Have you had a chance to play Gurumin yet? What do you think of the title?
Amber: No, I have not had a chance to play, but I am looking forward to playing, especially with my nephew.
Mastiff is extremely confident about the game, but I’m wondering if it’s going to be able to capture a market. Even if the game has great voice acting and solid gameplay I don’t know if US PSP owners will pick it up. It looks like the PSP’s is more marketed to people who want to pick up SOCOM and tweaked versions of Grand Theft Auto. Sony itself has been reluctant to publish any RPGs for the system. NIS America and Atlus had to step in to publish Blade Dancer and Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner while SCEI published both titles in Japan. On the other hand the PSP desperately needs more original content like Gurumin instead of stripped down, overpriced UMD movies. Look for Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure on February 12, 2007.