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Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind,
And this old game, I’ll sure you’ll find,
That it used to amuse ya and also confuse ya,
It feels dated now, muchmore than it used to.
*That was an improvised rap from the game, I’m not just a weird person.*
So, PaRappa is hopelessly in love with his flame, Sunny Funny. How a dog and a walking flower would work in a romantic sense, I don’t know, I don’t think we’re not meant to judge. In order to win her affections, he must participate in a number of rap battles with dojo masters, driving instructors and cooking programme presenters.
PaRappa is one of those iconic video game characters that just made it big in the 90s. He was recognizable to a lot of people then and many were familiar with his catchy rap tunes (not least of all his Master Onion rap). However, for a game to be iconic is not necessarily an assurance of quality. PaRappa may be a pretty popular guy, due mainly to his early contribution to the rhythm action game genre, but his first outing was not without it’s flaws.
Players participate in rap battles against opponents in order to progress the rather bizarre story. These battles range from the incredibly easy, to the freakishly difficult, all over the course of six stages. That’s right, just six. And, strangely, it really is only the first stage that can be easily completed. The following five take a lot of time and effort to master, and will probably cause a lot of frustration for players.
Simply pressing the buttons as you are prompted on screen just doesn’t seem to be the object of the game. Each button you press makes PaRappa talk and his rapping has to sync up with his opponents. This is made tricky because there are lip syncing issues that even the PSP version isn’t able to smooth over. It’s satisfying when you actually get a rhyme going, but that will probably occur less than half the time until you sink many, many hours of practice in.
The most redeeming feature of the game is the catchy nature of its songs. While it is tedious to have to replay levels over and over (and over and over and over and arrRGHH! Stupid flat dog!!), the music softens the blow. The tunes are infectiously catchy and it is very likely that you’ll catch yourself humming them while on the bus or at work. Even as these words are being written, I have the last song stuck in my head. And I haven’t played it in weeks.
The graphics are also a big standout feature. Because of the 2D character models in 3D, it has barely aged at all, still impressing with it’s unique art style in a modern context. It’s a bright and colourful game to match it’s bright and colourful tunes. However, a minor issue I had with this is that, because your eye is focused on the button prompts, you miss a lot of opportunities to take the beautiful visuals in.
Due to the insane level of difficulty of some levels, the mere six stages will probably last considerably longer than you might think. I spent months rapping for supremacy just in an attempt to use the TOILET on stage five! No one likes being in a constant state of Game Over, so this method of extending gameplay is hardly a plus. Good, but short is an infinitely preferable experience to long but tedious.
You will almost certainly keep playing because, despite the repetition, it is addictive stuff. The stages are short enough that you will always be within sight of the end, prompting the inevitable ‘I was SO close…one more!’ But there are only so many times you can hear the words ‘You Lose’ before dropping the controller in frustration.
There was a lot I liked about PaRappa The Rapper but at its heart, it is a tease. It had a great sense of fun and plenty of quirky humour. However, the highly imbalanced levels make it a bit of a slog to play through. Even if you are a talented rapster, six stages aren’t going to satisfy you for long. For the time it was released, it’s a good attempt and there are some really interesting gameplay elements at work that had never been seen before. For that reason, it is plain to see why PaRappa became the icon he is today. In a modern setting however, it really is only worth a quick glance at best.