Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: September 23, 2008
Nippon Ichi is best known for its work with the Disgaea and La Pucelle: Tactics series. This acclaimed JRPG developer got its start in 2000, with a quaint RPG for the PlayStation called Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. I recall playing this title and singing along to the undeniably cheesy songs from the title, even though the songs were intended for the opposite gender. Since the game was overshadowed by the PS2's release, not many people got a chance to experience the magic. Now, more people have the chance to be blessed by the girly nature of Rhapsody with a DS port.
As stated before, the game is intended for young females. The story revolves around a young girl named Cornet, who can talk to puppets and can make wishes come true with a magical horn. A key puppet friend of Cornet's is the fairy, Kururu, who acts as Cornet's mentor and guardian throughout the story. With a snappy attitude and quick to smack Cornet in the head with a paper fan, she grew on me in both iterations. Together, they go on a journey to rescue Prince Ferdinand, who was accidentally turned to stone by "the most beautiful witch in the world," Marjoly. Both Cornet and Marjoly fall in love with Ferdinand at first sight, and it's up to the player to help Cornet's dreams come true.
In comparison to the original Rhapsody, both versions share the exact same story line. A slight change in the DS version is in the title's musical numbers. Since this is a musical RPG, rather than including FMV cut scenes, there are instances in the story where Cornet and other characters will sing songs. These musical interludes made the game feel like a rejected Disney movie.
In the PlayStation version, all of the songs had English voiceovers, but in the DS version, there was an announcement of expanded content and the original cast couldn't be reunited to perform for it, so NIS stuck with the Japanese cast. Unfortunately, the expanded content wasn't included in the American release, so it was all for nothing. This alone was my primary complaint with the DS version, as I remembered the songs primarily for the English voices. I shouldn't be complaining as much as I am because I felt I was becoming more feminine for each minute that I played this game.
Fortunately, I didn't completely transform into a girl, as the game is really short and easy for a seasoned RPG player. I've heard news that LBP only lasts about five to 10 hours, which is short. Throughout the course of the game, Cornet will encounter a variety of puppets that Cornet may recruit by playing her horn. These puppets will join Cornet's party, but only three puppets may join her in battle at any time. The rest will wait in a queue and can be switched out between battles.
A major change to the gameplay between both versions is the battle systems. The original Rhapsody featured a turn-based strategy system that would later be adopted in future games like Disgaea. In this version, battles take on the form of a classic 2-D battle system, such as the one included in the first three Final Fantasy games. This change makes battles very simplistic, whereas the original system required a bit more strategy. I believe the change may have been brought up as the result of this iteration's use of the touch-screen for various actions. You simply touch the area you want Cornet to move to when in towns or dungeons, and touch the command and target when in battle. Of course, traditional button controls can be used too.
Going back to the battles, some of the commands were modified in this version too. Every character has a selection of attack, a magic/special attack, and item commands. In the original, Cornet had the horn command, which now resides in the magic/special attack command, and it allows her to power up the party and give herself appreciation points. When enough of these points were acquired, Cornet can unleash devastating food attacks, such as dropping giant pancakes and flan on top of enemies. These points are renamed as the Kansha Gauge, which fills up the same way. Another addition is that Kururu is now a playable character in battle, whereas she just flew around the screen in the original. One thing I noticed was how overpowered Kururu was in comparison to everyone else. The once-strategy-driven battle system has been simplified to appeal to a larger audience.
In addition to pulverizing predators with puppets, Cornet will travel to various towns and villages to chat with the locals and stock up on supplies. I discovered that tons of items could be acquired by randomly searching every nook and cranny of every building in every town or dungeon. With that said, I hardly had to invest any of my money into healing items at the local item shop. As with the rest of the game, these recovery items boast "cutesy" names such as MediCandy and HealCocoa. Regardless of how these items were acquired, I never had to resort to using them, since healing spells proved to be more efficient. Sure, they required SP to use, but that and HP can be restored at the abundantly placed goddess statues throughout the world. These statues are basically the Starbucks of Rhapsody, as they're basically everywhere, and I've even seen two statues directly across from each other. Typically, I would devote my battle earnings to purchase accessories for my party with the intention of bolstering their strength and defensive stats.
What would a role-playing game be without constant character interactions? The dialogue these characters have can be humorous, such as a castle guard who informs you that you must be really bored to climb to the top of the tower to talk to him, or a village of frog people who offer you insect cuisine. These bits of dialogue are what make Rhapsody such a charming title.
Another major factor in what makes Rhapsody memorable is the soundtrack. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's the best soundtrack ever, but it includes some tunes that you may find yourself humming unconsciously. Aside from the vocal tracks, which the game includes as an encore feature for your viewing pleasure, the background music is pretty good. While there's not a huge variety for the music, I found myself enjoying what was provided. Sound effects were acceptable, but I found the chime that played every time I pressed "OK" to get annoying. Other than that, the audio was probably the highlight of the title, despite the Japanese vocal substitutions.
Going hand in hand with the audio, and the graphics consist of cutesy character sprites and colorful environments. The original game is what I believe sparked the trend for Nippon Ichi to utilize 16-bit character sprites for all of their future endeavors. It doesn't bother me that much, as I'm a fan of the retro appearance. On the DS, these graphics work for the game style and coordinate well with the theme of the game.
In closing, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is a cute, charming RPG that feels as a great gateway game for people who are interested in the genre. It's not quite as good as the original title, but it's a nice alternative to searching eBay for a mint condition copy of the PlayStation version. The game is very "little girl fantasy-esque," so I wouldn't recommend it to guys. However, if you happen to be a female or have a female friend who isn't really into gaming, I'd recommend checking out this game.