PaRappa The Rapper Review

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Publisher: Sony
Developer: Sony

Platform: PlayStation, PSP
Reviewed on PSP

PaRappa, a typical anthropomorphic puppy in a world of paper-thin animate plants and animals, seeks to win over Sunny Funny (a typical teenage talking flower) by becoming a hip-hop hero. With competition like the cheesy (but glamorous) Joe Chin, the only way this pup can get Sunny Funny's attention is by rapping his way through martial arts lessons, cooking practice, and swap meet sales. He might wreck his dad's new car, but to make it through these trials, PaRappa just has to believe!

Kyle Ackerman

If you were a gamer in the late '90s, you remember PaRappa The Rapper. There's simply no way to forget a game simultaneously so innovative and bizarre. The fundamental game design by Masaya Matsuura established the whole genre of rhythm/action games. The art was created by Rodney Greenblat, a contemporary of Keith Haring, who provided the design for these wacky, stylized and paper-thin (that's what "PaRappa" means in Japanese) characters. And while those aspects were influential on games that followed, that's not what most gamers remember about PaRappa The Rapper.

Anyone who got their hands on a demo disc (or, more impressively, the full game) for the original PlayStation can remember sitting in slack-jawed wonder at the strange graphics, goofy lyrics and surprisingly difficult Simon-Says–style play of PaRappa The Rapper. How many games have players rapping to move to the front of the bathroom line? Many gamers from that era can still quote the immortal words of Chop Chop Master Onion from the first (demo) level:

"Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind
If you wanna test me, I'm sure you'll find
That all the things I'll teach ya is sure to beat ya,
Nevertheless you'll get a lesson from teacher now
Kick!... Punch!... Chop!... Block!"

A Group Guffaw

PaRappa The Rapper was influential. But once you mastered the underlying style of play, it was fairly simple to run to completion, with timed button presses occasionally interrupted by out-of-this-world cut-scenes and accompanied by an hallucinogenic assortment of colors and lyrics that vaguely tied the whole thing together. What made PaRappa The Rapper fun was sitting together in a big group, taking turns with the controller and making fun of the lyrics. Half the experience was nudging a buddy to ask, "Did he just rap what I think he said?" Or just shouting out "I gotta believe!" when another gamer friend was around to hear.

On the PSP, PaRappa The Rapper is a nostalgic, but not entirely satisfying, experience. It's fun to relive the kitsch of gaming's early glory days, but PaRappa The Rapper was really a social experience. The PSP is, by design, a solitary gaming experience. PaRappa The Rapper isn't new, so it isn't so sweetly shocking, and even if it were, you can't easily share your shock or awe.

"I Gotta Believe!"

A decade after the release of the original, PaRappa The Rapper on the PSP doesn't stand up as well as the original. As gamers, we've become jaded. We've pushed around our katamaris and run roughshod through peoples' psyches in Psychonauts. The lyrics seem less off the wall (or astoundingly deep) then they did and more like a mis-translated console role-playing game. Sure, PaRappa still shouts "I gotta believe!", but that's not enough anymore.

If you never played the original PaRappa The Rapper, the PSP version reformats the rap sequences for the PSP's 16x9 screen, making everything look a little better and sharper. Unfortunately, the old cut-scenes are presented as a small box in the middle of a tiled background, making them seem tiny and antiquated. Still, it's worth taking a look at the new PaRappa The Rapper if you missed the influential original. If you did play the original, the PSP version allows you to download new mixes or even compete online.

Revisiting a Classic

Much of the game is exactly like the original. PaRappa The Rapper requires a high degree of precision to progress. Most players find that they easily climb through the stages until they reach a level of difficulty or syncopation that stops them cold. If you are extremely skillful, the game can be very short, but since you must restart an entire stage if you fail, certain stages can take ordinary players a long time. Of course, if you have no rhythm or just aren't sure where the buttons are on the PSP, even Chop Chop Master Onion's "Duck, Duck, Turn!" can feel more like "Duck, Duck, Goose!" The graphics, lyrics and plot are exactly as goofy as the original.

There is one major disappointment. The PSP version of PaRappa The Rapper promised eight new downloadable mixes. If these had included new button sequences, it would have more than doubled the rapping PaRappa fans could enjoy. Instead, these downloads include the same vocal tracks and key presses, with different background music that usually doesn't work as well. Four of the mixes are for Chop Chop Master Onion's dojo, and they tend to do things like change Prince Fleaswallow's Jamaican Rap into Surf Rock with a Rasta-rapping vocal track.

There are also some changes that it would have been nice to see in the PSP version. The game could have used an autosave (instead of manually saving after each stage) and it would have been nice to have upscaled the original cut-scenes. Even so, PaRappa The Rapper stands up remarkably well after a decade of disuse.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 17, 2007 9:06 AM.

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