Long before Harmonix formed their Rock Band, Red Octane became a Guitar Hero and everybody ignored Frequency, there was PaRappa the Rapper. Released almost exactly ten years ago, PaRappa the Rapper was one of the very first rhythm games released in the United States. But if you're one of those people that missed the game the first time around (or you love the game enough to take it with you) there's good news, Sony has decided release a portable version for their PSP. What am I ever going to do with all of those crazy characters, levels and rap songs in my pocket? Oh wait, I know, I gotta believe!
PaRappa the Rapper tells the timeless story of a paper-thin dog (PaRappa) who falls in love with a paper-thin flower (Sunny Funny). Unfortunately our young hero isn't nearly as smooth as he would like to be, so he sets off on an adventure to become the kind of man (dog?) that the woman (flower?) of his dreams will fall in love with. Along the way he will meet up with a bunch of musical strangers who will teach PaRappa a life lesson, from karate to driving to selling junk to cooking seafood cakes.
The PaRappa story is presented in short (and often comical) cinemas full of memorable characters, great voice acting and giant cliffhangers. If you were just to listen to the songs in the game it might be hard to figure out just how each of these tunes fit into a larger story, but Sony has crafted a story that is not only weird, but also funny and endearing. While it's not the kind of thing you can make a feature length movie about, the PaRappa story is cute enough to warrant a play through from beginning to end.
PaRappa the Rapper is essentially an elaborate game of Simon Says. Before you start each of the six levels you will be introduced to a different colorful character who will want you to rap about something that is important to them. Once the song starts your teacher will start off by saying one thing and want you to repeat it using the four face buttons (triangle, square, circle and X buttons). Hit the buttons at just the right time and you'll be rewarded with points (and a congratulatory record scratch), miss the beat and the game will take points away.
In each song you will have a four-tier rating meter to deal with. When you start the song you will be on the second best rating ("GOOD!"), but if you start to miss notes you'll get bumped down to "BAD!" and then the, heaven forbid, "AWFUL!" rating. On the flip side, if you manage to play the songs perfectly you will be upgraded to the "COOL!" rating, which will allow you to freestyle and earn extra points. One thing that is especially cool about the different ratings is that they actually change the way the songs sound and how the teacher character reacts to you. For example, in some levels if you are doing poorly parts of the background will fall down on you or the other character will come out of the television set and scold you. And if you do too poorly the teacher will stop the music and tell you to try again. Some of the changes are a bit subtle, but they definitely add a lot to this simplistic music game.
If there was ever any problem with PaRappa the Rapper it was the game's short single-player mode. With only six songs it's conceivable that somebody could go through the game in around twenty minutes, which is definitely on the short side. Of course, most players will take a little longer than that because they'll have to play through the songs more than once, but there's no denying that this is a short (albeit interesting) game.
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