Review: PaRappa The Rapper

PaRappa_PSP_pkg.jpgPlatform: PSP
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEJ
Release Date: 7/17/07
Genre: Music/Rhythm
Players: 1-4

“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…”

Anyone who has ever played the late 1990’s PS1 rhythm game classic PaRappa The Rapper likely has these opening lyrics to the game’s very first stage ingrained in their brain for all eternity. It may not read all that fancy on paper, but when heard in game it is one of the catchiest damn videogame songs ever. Hell, it’s been something like eight or nine years since I had last played PaRappa on the PS1, yet when I recently received the new PSP remake I was reciting those lyrics from the moment I booted up the UMD as if I’d just played the original the day before.

That just goes to show how memorable and iconic PaRappa The Rapper is. Even after all these years, the music, oddball characters, outlandishly hilarious story and distinctive paper cutout art style are still as fresh and endearing as they ever were. Even more so on the graphical front thanks to the PSP’s beautiful widescreen display. The gameplay also holds up fairly well on the PSP overall, although with rhythm games like Elite Beat Agents, Gitaroo Man and Guitar Hero taking the genre to innovative new heights in recent years, the simple “tap the indicated face/shoulder button as it crosses the top of the screen” play mechanics do feel a tad too basic at this point.

As much good fun as PaRappa can still be to look at and listen to, two flaws that weren’t in play back in the day now stick out like a sore thumb and show the game’s age. The main drawback here is that there’s so little to do. There are only six stages in all, which means you can flow through the set in no more than an hour if you’re a skilled player. If you aren’t so much a skilled gamer, the six stages will definitely last much longer, but that’s only because the game’s difficulty is so ridiculously unbalanced.

On easy, each stage is a cakewalk (only three stages are available in easy mode too). You can miss notes regularly and there’s never any hint of danger. Yet on the normal difficulty only a single missed beat will leave you scratching to survive the rest of the song – there’s just no middle ground to work with (and the included Practice mode does little to ease any of the pain). In a perfect world, it would have been a tremendous boon had Sony implemented a third difficulty: keep the easy mode in place, move the current normal mode up to hard, then add in a REAL normal mode. But alas, that just didn’t happen.

Attempts were made to take advantage of the PSP’s wireless technology to give PaRappa new life at least, including four-player Ad Hoc play (with GameSharing) and Infrastructure support for downloadable remixes of the original songs, but unfortunately neither feature delivers much staying power and both ultimately just feel tacked on.

It truly pains me to sound so negative about PaRappa The Rapper on the PSP, as all the components that made the original such a legendary gaming achievement way back when are still in place and just as charming. But at the same time, the lack of content and inaccessible difficulty make the game a tough sell at its lofty $30 price point. By all means give it a rent; just don’t expect to get your money’s worth should you decide to go with a full purchase.

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Pros:
+ Music, characters and art style as charming as ever
+ Basic gameplay is still fairly entertaining

Cons:
– Short game with very little replay value
– Unbalanced difficulty is either way too easy or way too hard

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!