The music and rhythm genre of games has come a long way, and one game in particular was instrumental in making it a success with players all over the globe. In 1996, a little title called PaRappa the Rapper made a big impact and paved the way for the future of rhythm games. Despite never playing it before, I was well aware of its popularity at the time and how it’s still appreciated today. The game has now been remastered for the PS4, which is a giant jump from its original console, the PS1. Does it still hold up or does it fade to black?
Punch, Kick, it’s all in the mind
In a nutshell, PaRappa the Rapper is an eclectic game featuring the weirdest selection of characters in an over-the-top setting. You play PaRappa, a dogboy character who is trying to win the affection of Sunny Funny, a literal flower girl. PaRappa thinks that in order to win her affection, he needs to become a hero, or a Hip Hop Hero who is the king of rapping. So he sets off to learn different skills with different masters in an attempt to impress her. You’ll visit a fighting dojo, go for a driving lesson, learn to cook and perform on stage. Each master will not only teach PaRappa a life skill of sorts, but also how to rap, and that’s where the game comes in.
[pullquote_right]For the first few levels this is relatively easy, but from level four and on, this is a tough challenge[/pullquote_right]There are a total of six stages in the game and PaRappa needs to either impress or best his master in order to proceed. During the rap battle, there’s a rap sheet at the top of the screen that shows which button you need to press and when. First you’ll be shown the teacher’s line and then you need to copy that. If you do it successfully, you’ll hear a good scratch at the end of the line. If not, you’ll hear a bad one. The idea of the rap is to get a high score and maintain a Good or Cool rap rating. There are four rap ratings: Cool, Good, Bad and Awful. If you get two bad lines in a row, you’ll lower your ranking. If you go below Awful, the rap will end automatically and you have to start over. To win, you need to at least have a good ranking. For the first few levels this is relatively easy, but from level four and on, this is a tough challenge.
Can you feel the beat?
This is where one of my biggest gripes about the game come into play. I’m pretty good with rhythm games and timing my button presses with good accuracy, but that just doesn’t seem to work with this game. In PaRappa the Rapper, it’s more about following the beat of the music than perfect timing on the screen. For example, I know I’d press the button at the right time and get a bad scratch. But if I just jumble it up, even pressing the wrong buttons, I’d sometimes get a good scratch. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The third level is where I picked this up. There’s easily the most amount of presses in the third level and sometimes I can repeat the same word in one line and get a good rating, whereas I’d follow the correct string of words and muck up monumentally. I don’t get it, but I somehow used the nonsensical method to get myself through the game. I suppose PaRappa is more about feeling the beat than knowing when to make it.
[pullquote_left]There are a lot of cutscenes that happen between the rap battles and these scenes are not pretty[/pullquote_left]The part of the rap battles that I liked the most is definitely the music. I’m not a rap fan, but the songs were fun and very inventive. My favourite of the six is definitely the second level, where you face off against a Moose driving instructor. To me, that level has the best rap and actually sounds like an actual rap song. It’s very Missy Elliott and that’s what I liked about it. If you manage to complete any level on Good, you can replay the level and try to get a Cool rating. If you manage to get the Cool ranking, the master will leave the level and you can freestyle. Once again, this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as I could throw the same words over and over and maintain a cool rating, but at this point I stopped trying to figure the game out. I did have a lot of fun making up my own nonsense lyrics.
OMG, my eyes!
One facet of the game that I can’t comprehend is why the cutscenes weren’t remade. There are a lot of cutscenes that happen between the rap battles and these scenes are not pretty. It really goes to show you how far we’ve come visually and how awful they were back then. The animation is bad, very very very bad. It’s a shame that it wasn’t completely remade as I do think it brings the game down more than raise it up. On the flip, the animation and high res visuals of the rap battles are super cool. It’s vibrant, slick and pops in your face. Although everything is paper thin, it’s lively and crisp and I only wish the cutscenes looked as good. Seriously, it’s bad.
There’s not much in terms of a shelf life though. I’m definitely not the target audience for this game, and I definitely found it to be lacking content. The main campaign will take you a couple of hours and if you go for cool, maybe another hour or two. There are a few remixes to the songs and a bonus level to unlock, but not much else. I can barely see more than 6 hours of content here. And I might be a bit generous with that.
Playing PaRappa the Rapper for the first time and seeing the game that pretty much lit the bonfire of music games, was an experience. It wasn’t as mystical as I’d imagined it to be, but it was still fun and catchy despite not really knowing how the controls work. I don’t see this as a game for everyone, but if you enjoy rap music and rhythm games, then you might want to give this one a go. You gotta believe! (I swore I wouldn’t put that in there, but oh well)