Review by theswillman

"A perfect port of a PS1 classic- but perhaps a little TOO perfect?"

(Note: this review was written using the Asian Region 3 version of the game, which can be switched completely into English (like the region 2 Japanese release), besides the network functions, which are still in Japanese.)

Finally, a PSP game with some semblance of taste! I don't know much about the PSP, but I do know that almost every damn time you see someone playing it, they've got Liberty City Stories put in, which is a tragedy too great in scope to discuss here. Japan, as usual, gets better games in greater frequency, and this port of PaRappa the Rapper to the PSP is one of them. Released there in December 2006, SCEA have taken their sweet time in deciding whether or not to localize it (a term used loosely, since there's nothing to actually localize), and now the game is due for a July 2007 release date.

For those who don't know about PaRappa, or just dismissed it as another stupid PS1 game back when it came out and happily went back to playing their N64 (*cough*), it's a game where you play a dog wearing a beanie who raps along with paper cutout cartoon characters. it's very, very short- six stages, each consisting of one average-length song are available, with a seventh that opens up if you only do excellently on the first six.

The game can literally be beaten in an hour or two your first time through, but it's a fun ride. The graphics are pleasant, the songs are great, and the control works well. I'm not going to get into heavy details here, as I want to concentrate on how this port is different from the '96 PS1 version, and also that there really aren't very many details to talk about- this a light, pick up and play rhythm game that's easy to take in shorter or longer bursts.

About the PSP port: the designers have done nothing at all to enhance the game. Graphics that looked great ten years ago on 1994 hardware still look nice today, but they have noticeably aged. Actual polygons are far and few between, and the 3D sprites that make up most of the graphics are rough-looking and pixelated. I have nothing against keeping a port as true to the original as possible, but with this large disparity between the original hardware of the game and the new hardware it's running on, I would have liked to see an "Arrange" version of the game with redesigned graphics that take advantage of the PSP's hardware. This way everyone would be happy.

The sound quality is very good, but listening close with headphones reveals that the music sounds a bit metallic and poorly compressed. With these new 1.8 gig UMD's, and such a miniscule amount of music in the game, I expect uncompressed audio in the highest quality possible on the PSP. The only excuse I can imagine for this is that the porting team wasn't given access to any higher-quality sound elements, and if that's true, the blame falls on NanaOnSha for being so negligent.

In fact, shortly before I got the PSP port, I was working my way through the original game in the PSP's excellent PlayStation emulator. And as I played the new port, I noticed how startlingly close it was to the original. One of the weirdest options in the game I found was the choice between playing in the PSP's native 16:9 aspect ratio, or the original 4:3. Why would someone knowingly want to just chop off part of the screen to play it as it was presented in 1996? If you're that much of a purist when it comes to this game, you should just be playing it emulated. I honestly would not be surprised if this isn't the original PSX game running in its own custom emulator with some extra fluff to try to cover it up. Maybe someone will go through the files and see if I'm right with my theory.

Sony decided to add one extra little thing to this port to keep it from being completely lazy- you can go online and download 8 additional arrangements (not remixes! There's a difference!) of the songs from stages 1 through 5. The arrangements break down like this: Stage 1 has four new arrangements, while stages 2 through 5 have one new arrangement each. Why so uneven? I don't know. As for how good they are- they're good. They are interesting arrangements of the original tracks, though they're not superior in my opinion. They give the game a bit more variety and playability to try and perhaps get a COOL rating while playing on an arranged version of a song.

However, the way to obtain these eight new arrangements is strange and baffling. You must connect to the internet and download them from a special Sony Computer Entertainment web page. What I want to know is- why? There is no good reason whatsoever why these remixes could have been included right in the game itself. This seems like a cheap way to get people to connect to the internet through their PSP, and as a result, trick them into thinking they're getting some special supplementary material from the WWW, when they really aren't. Hey, what if some people don't have WiFi? How are they going to get these new tracks that are out there in cyberspace instead of being stamped right into their UMD? This was a dumb and poorly thought out way to shoehorn some sort of internet connectivity into a game rather needlessly.

Now, if Sony had done something cool and perhaps implemented a way to have rap battles with people over the internet, that would have been a valid use of internet connectivity, and I would applauded them for it. As it stands, the internet function in this game is, in short, a sham.

Multiplayer has been reproduced from the original game. You can rap battle with up to three other people (who must have their own copy of the game) over an ad-hoc network. You can also send someone a demo of stage 1. Nothing special here.

In conclusion, PaRappa the Rapper for the PSP is a fun game that is still worth giving a spin after these past ten years. However, a lazy port and even lazier WiFi functions keep it from offering very much at all over the original PSX release, which as I've stated can be played emulated flawlessly on the PSP. If you can pick it up cheap, around the $20 USD level (let's hope Sony gives it this price point come July), it's worth your money to have PaRappa conveniently on a UMD, and playing in 16:9. The bonus arrangements, while stupid in their presentation, are another nice touch for this PSP port. But for most people, simply playing it emulated will do, as the experience is virtually identical either way. The fact that this is simply a very fun and pleasant game is its biggest savior.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 05/31/07

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