Review by IdiotOnDaStreet

"What I've been waiting for"

When you've loved a certain genre of game for a long time, you can trace it back to the game that got you liking the genre in the first place. In this case (music games), I can trace it all the way back to a quirky music game on the PlayStation called PaRappa the Rapper.

Originally released in 1996 in Japan and 1997/1998 elsewhere, the game was one of the first wave of modern music games, and was responsible for the upsurge in popularity of music games like Dance Dance Revolution and such. Its popularity also resulted in the game having two sequels- a spiritual successor named UmJammer Lammy, and a direct sequel named (surprise) PaRappa the Rapper 2. If you ask me, though, neither of these games were as good as their progenitor.

In the ten years since the game's release, porting older games to handheld consoles like the GBA seems to have come into vogue. So when Sony announced that they were going to release their own portable console, it awoke a sort of hope in me that the game would be rereleased onto the PSP. And here we are, 3 or so years after the release of the PSP and my wish is granted.

So what's the verdict? It's a perfect port of the original, and nothing more.

PaRappa the Rapper's plot is about an anthropomorphic, rapping dog by the name of PaRappa. He's out to win the heart of Sunny Funny, a girl who resembles a sunflower. The six stages of the game revolve around PaRappa's quest to try to catch Sunny's eye. One stage has PaRappa training at the dojo of Chop Chop Master Onion, an archetypal kung-fu master in every way except for the fact that his head is an onion. Another has him working at a flea market in an attempt to get enough money to repair the family car which he had wrecked. The market is run by a frog named Prince Fleaswallow, who has a laid-back personality and a vaguely Jamaican accent. Does that give you any idea of how quirky this game is?

The first thing that stood out about PaRappa to me when I first played it was its unique graphical style. All the characters in the game are a sort of paper-thin 2.5D- an art style later copied by the Paper Mario games. The style is well suited to the PlayStation, due to the fact that the console's polygon capabilities aren't exactly that hot. The PSP port doesn't upgrade the graphics significantly- the game looks just about the same as it did 10 years ago.

The concept of this game, however, is simple enough that it would work even if the game had no graphics at all. Each stage has a rap master who raps lines. As the master raps, a series of icons representing which buttons you need to press is shown at the top of the screen. Repeating the button combo at the top of the screen causes PaRappa to rap the line as well.

Depending on how well you reciprocate the master's line, you will gain or lose points. If you do particularly badly, your rank (represented by four words on the right side of the screen- COOL, GOOD, BAD, and AWFUL) will drop. If, at the end of the level, your rank is below GOOD, you will fail the level. If your rank drops below AWFUL at any time, you will fail the level immediately.

Getting to COOL, however, results in the level's master leaving PaRappa to rap by himself. If the level is finished while the rank is at COOL, the level will have an alternate ending sequence, and the cinema transitioning to the next level may be different.

Since this is a music game, the songs in the game make or break it. In the case of PaRappa the Rapper, there's nothing to worry about- the game's music is excellent. The musical style of the game is obviously rap, but each stage has its own style- for example, Chop Chop Master Onion's stage music has a definite Asian influence to it, and Prince Fleaswallow's stage is much like reggae. My personal favorite song in the game is the final stage, which has a sound like that of late 80s and early 90s rap.

The only real complaint with it that I have is that some of the lyrics are rather inane- a good example of this is "Whatever you like's in the middle, fiddle/Seafood cake comes just like the riddle." from the fourth stage. Even then, the game's music makes the simple concept of the game much more fun than a simple game of Simon Says.

So if this is a fun music game with great music, why does the game only get seven points from me?

First, the game's difficulty level. The first three stages are quite easy- I was able to get through them the first or second time I played them. But as soon as you get to the fourth stage, the difficulty ramps up to a very high level. I can't count the number of times my rank dropped on the fourth stage on the last or second-to-last line of the song, resulting in me failing the stage. After you finish the fourth stage, though, the difficulty returns to a more manageable level, and the sixth stage is easy again.

Perhaps adding to the game's difficulty is its inconsistent scoring system. Sometimes you can get a line exactly or almost exactly right and lose points or lower your rank. Sometimes when you horribly mess up a line, the game will give you points and may even elevate you to COOL rank. Perhaps this system is implemented to encourage you to freestyle the lines, but it can get awfully irritating.

The final complaint I have about the game is that it doesn't have that much replay value. Once you go through the game, there's not really that much incentive to go through it again. The PSP port attempts to rectify that by offering arrangements of the songs in the game for download. I haven't tested this function extensively, but so far I haven't heard any arrangements of the songs that I really like yet.

So is this game worth the $30 asking price? Well, it depends. If you loved the original PaRappa like I did, then you should go ahead and purchase it. If you've never played this in its original form, then you might do well to rent it. If you don't like music games at all...well, then steer clear of this, because it's probably not going to change your mind.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/03/07

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