Review by Psycho Penguin
"The biggest musical adventure since Yellow Submarine."
Every once in a while, something will come along and completely blow me away and surprise me by its quality. Video games tend to do this every so often, and recently I was witness to this very phenomenon occurring. There was a game released for the Sony Playstation a while back named Rhapsody, a cute strategy RPG game that got by on its musical charm and unique storyline.
Unfortunately, I never got a chance to play this game, until recently, when I discovered a port/remake was coming out for the Nintendo DS. I excitedly obtained this game, and was completely amazed by the quality. It is surprising the game went relatively unnoticed for so long, but hopefully this port will change people's minds, and the game will become a cult classic like it rightly deserves.
The alluring aspect of Rhapsody, and one that will draw the game a lot of its attention, is the fact that it's so cute and loveable. I can't think of any other way to describe it. Everything is so cheery, from the satisfying music to the cute graphics, and the script is funny as hell. I was amazed by some of the stuff the writers thought up of, and the writing is some of the better quality writing I have seen in a role playing game. One classic example is "Don't you know that if you lose, you'll get a game over, and then you'll have to watch this scene over again?" The game breaks the fourth wall so many times, it left me wondering if there was even a wall left to break by the end. I never laughed so much when playing a game before.
Cornet is a relatively normal young lady who meets a charming prince, and the adventure begins. Yeah, you've heard it all before. The prince will have to save her from the evil bad guys, right? WRONG! After the opening sequence, where he actually does do this, the game takes a unique turn. Cornet is now the one that has to save the prince, as he has been turned to stone from an evil curse of a witch.
To do this, Cornet has some unique special powers in her arsenal. She can use horn skills, which range from healing to attacking the enemies. If you build up the meter enough, you can unleash special attacks. These special attacks are truly adorable, and include my new favorite attack in the history of video games, Pancake. Yes, you can summon a large group of pancakes to topple the enemies during battles. It's stuff like that, that makes Rhapsody such a charming game.
Cornet can go around and collect various puppets in her quest, to help her along through the battles. Each puppet has their own skills and uses, and she can bring up to three along in time during battle. I liked how I didn't really have to stick to the same three puppets all the time, although at times I did. Like I said, each puppet has their advantages, and you will find that no matter what combination you use, you will have success. Some of them are physical fighters, while others can heal, and yet others can use magic spells. It's nothing terribly unique, but it's good to know that each puppet can be used to help you out. I never was in a situation where I felt that most of my puppets were completely useless. That kind of balance was appreciated.
The puppets can even become stronger later in the game, as you can fulfill certain requirements, and have them go on little side quests. This helps flesh out their storylines, makes them stronger, and gives you a little but of extra gaming time. It only took me about eight hours to beat the game my first time through, and eleven the second time simply because I took the time to do all of their quests. Outside of the quests, the game has a lot of replay value for me simply because it's so much fun to play and so short. I already went through it twice, and plan to go through it several more times in the future.
The battle system is a breeze and definitely my favorite aspect of the entire game. The battles play off like normal turn based affair. You choose your commands, then they play out. The cool thing is that the battles move so quickly, that it's one of the fastest battle systems I have ever seen. Since random battles tend to occur a little much at times, it's nice to know that they will go by relatively quickly.
The problem with the random battles is that most of them are simply way too easy, and I got by a lot of the time by selecting Auto and watching my team completely destroy the competition. It wasn't so bad, since I wasn't in the mood for a challenging game, but those of you that are wanting a challenge may want to look elsewhere, although there are some tough bosses that will actually make you pay attention and occasionally heal as needed.
The dungeon designs couldn't be simpler, as well, as most of them are a few rooms connected together, separated by various floors. I don't remember any particular puzzles, as most of the dungeons are simply go from room to room, following the mazes, fighting random battles. I have to say I liked this idea a lot, since a lot of role playing games rely heavily on puzzles and confusing dungeons, and this one really doesn't.
Of course, I'd be stupid if I forgot to mention the thing I liked most about the dungeons, and one of the bright spots of the game. This game uses the top screen capabilities of the Nintendo DS flawlessly, as it will show a map of where you are. The maps are some of the best I have ever seen, as they are basically little square rooms that connect. For instance, let's say you are in a town. It will show you the town, and each square that's connected will be a house or other area you can enter. I really liked this style of map, as it made everything a little bit easier to find.
So, that's pretty much Rhapsody's big problem, if you want to call it that. It's way too easy. I never got a purposeful game over in the nearly two times I played it, but that's really not a bad thing. It's simple, cute, and light hearted, but the challenge level was just about perfect for it. It's a great game for role playing beginners, or those of us that are sick of sixty hour marathons.
Unfortunately, for such a simple game, and a relatively linear one at that, the game sometimes leaves you off in the middle of nowhere, and you'll have to figure out what to do next. I got stuck once or twice before realizing you literally have to talk to EVERYONE, and you're constantly having to go back and forth between towns to progress the storyline. I remember one particular instance where I had to find a kid, and the guy kept saying he was in Mothergreen, but he wasn't, and it turns out I had to talk to someone in Mothergreen to find out where the kid REALLY was, and that place was somewhere I had been way earlier and would not have thought to look at.
Another problem I had with the game, although it is minor, is the fact that everything's a bit plain at times. The graphics are simple 2D, but sometimes you will have a "been there, done that" feeling. The areas are designed well enough, and each theme fits the idea of the area (grassy areas, snowy towns, desert areas being barren, etc.), and the graphical concept was fine for me, but some people might not be impressed with the graphics all that much.
It's not really a huge deal, but what was a huge deal to me was the music. The music is great, but there's simply not enough of it. There's one song for dungeons and one song for towns, and the songs play over and over again! The battle theme even changed at one point for heavens sake! I did like the songs in the game, but some more creativity and variety would have gone a long way.
Also, since the game is based around music, you will notice that there's a few songs in the game, and this time they are sung in Japanese, so those of you that appreciate Japanese will be pleased to know that. They are subtitled in English for those of us unfamiliar with the language. I heard the reasoning behind this was because they couldn't get the original voice actors to sing some extra scenes. Take that for what it's worth, though.
Of course, the big controversy surrounding Rhapsody DS is the fact that the extra scenes weren't even included! I know a lot of people are complaining about the fact that a lot of "extras" that were promised in this game simply aren't there, but that's not a big problem for me. I was amazed by the quality of what was here, and appreciate the developers for porting it over to the Nintendo DS, so those of us that never got to experience the game will be able to do so for the first time. This was a great game, one of my favorites on the DS, in fact, and I highly recommend it to all role playing game fans.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/09/09
Game Release: Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (US, 09/23/08)
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