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Parappa The Rapper

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 4
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCE
Release Date: July 17, 2007


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PSP Review - 'PaRappa the Rapper'

by Geson Hatchett on July 27, 2007 @ 2:25 a.m. PDT

Parappa The Rapper features all the characters, levels and songs from the original, increasing the franchise's social appeal by offering a host of new features, including the ability to let up to four players rap head-to-head in ad-hoc battles.

Without PaRappa the Rapper, the world of video gaming would be a very different place. It'd be a little less funky, a little less soulful. Nobody would know about the world-changing power of groove. Worst of all, no one would know that sometimes, you just gotta believe.

In 1997, Sony decided to take a chance and publish a PSX title the likes of which the North American market had never before seen. In this game, you didn't jump, fly, fight, shoot, or play sports. No one was trying to Save the World through the power of huge swords, existential angst, or gratuitous fan service, and there were no combo meters or energy bars at the top of the screen.

Instead, you played as a sort of strange and weak-looking puppy trying to win the love of his girlfriend-to-be by bettering himself through the power of music. Nothing went right in PaRappa's life until he decided to believe in himself. With the power of hip-hop as his motivation, you and PaRappa "rapped" along to a song's beat and prompts using the buttons on the PSX pad and your own sense of rhythm. With the rap boom of the '90s, you could say that PaRappa's release was well-timed, and its subsequent popularity made sense. Still, it was an experiment at the time, and one that paid off in sales and the enrichment of the game industry as a whole.

Given the game's history, I'm mildly ashamed to say that I would not experience the wonder that is PaRappa until early last week. The good news is that, even being no stranger to music games as I am, PaRappa still won me over quickly with its catchy tunes and beats, quirky rhymes, and interesting play system. Said play system encourages people to freestyle with their raps as opposed to just following a pattern or beat, in order to maximize their scores and/or rating. It was, and still is, genius.

It was so much genius, in fact, that I was left wondering why we haven't heard a peep out of the series for half a decade. Well, once I finished PaRappa, I hunted down a copy of the PS2 sequel, and now I know why: PaRappa the Rapper 2 is downright horrible, and arguably killed the franchise single-handedly. The songs were bad, the beats were bad, the game mechanics were utterly destroyed, and the story was stupid to boot. Fortunately, this review isn't about that abomination, so we'll leave those gripes right here.

In what could easily be seen as a stab at competing with iNiS' cheer-tastic offerings on the Nintendo DS, Sony's re-released PaRappa the Rapper for the PSP. This rendition of the original PaRappa comes with a few enhancements, such as the noticeably improved graphics. Everything's cleaner and anti-aliased — though not so much so as in PaRappa 2, jaggies are still a thing of the past. The game's presented in widescreen, and even better, the timing has been made slightly more forgiving to eliminate those pesky "argh what the heck just happened I know I pressed those buttons on-beat?" moments.

The original six stages are presented in all their glory, with their freestyle and "Cool" rating potentials intact. This time around, there are remixes of each stage that you can download once you beat the originals. It's a shame that 99 percent of them suck. A hard rock rendition of Master Onion's stage? Rappa, please.

Finally, PaRappa comes with a multiplayer mode (ad-hoc, of course: "infrastructure" is a dirty word on the PSP), but let's face it. PaRappa is easy, especially compared to today's rhythm game fare. In a world occupied by the furious virtual fretwork of Guitar Hero or the frantic tap-fests of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and its brother Elite Beat Agents, PaRappa just doesn't contain the difficulty to have any competitive viability. Anyone can complete the game in a couple of hours, and anyone can utterly master it n another three to five. There's not a lot of gameplay layering to pull back. It coasts by solely on its charm, such that a multiplayer mode is largely unnecessary.

Is PaRappa the Rapper worth playing? Yes it is, without a doubt. However, at roughly two hours of play before you've beaten everything, and not much novelty to the multiplayer, is it worth buying at a $30 price tag? Well ... you be the judge of that. PaRappa is a piece of history, and its songs and gameplay are such that you'll want to revisit it from time to time. However, its replay value is a far cry from the likes of Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents. It's your call. What would have made this game a far better value would have been to somehow revamp PaRappa 2's songs to the original PaRappa engine, or even better get the original PaRappa team back together to create all new, just-as-catchy songs. Such a thing would have even been worth a price hike.

Despite the aforementioned low replay value, however, I'm glad PaRappa the Rapper was released. It still holds up even today, and perhaps having some renewed attention given to the Hip-Hop Hero will convince Sony to have a development house revamp PaRappa the way it should have been revamped, instead of the horrific sequel we got five years ago.

INiS? Harmonix? You folks listening out there?

This is your chance — nay, your cue.

Score: 7.5/10

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