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PaRappa the Rapper (PSP) artwork

PaRappa the Rapper (PSP) review

"Each opponent is quite bizarre. For example, you'll first face a karate master shaped like an onion. He busts rhymes about kicking and punching, and you have to respond in kind. The other key characters are a driving instructor that looks like a moose, a reggae-loving frog at a flea market and an obnoxious chicken that hosts a television cooking show."

When it came to the original PlayStation back in 1996, Parappa the Rapper made quite an impression. It featured heart, humor, challenge and compelling gameplay that could keep a person trying to conquer a stage for hours before he realized how much time had passed. Developers seem to have trouble fitting so many great qualities in a single game even now, but Sony did it years ago despite the original PlayStation's hardware limitations. Now, that special experience has been packed into a tiny little UMD. Best of all, the port is pretty much perfect!

Of course, that doesn't mean that Parappa the Rapper is right for you. Those who aren't impressed by quirky characters or rhythm games certainly won't find it appealing, and those who own the original probably won't care to pay for the same general experience a second time around. For that matter, neither will those who measure a game's value by the time it takes to complete. Everyone else, however, is encouraged to give it a shot.

The basic premise behind Parappa the Rapper is that you're a little animated pup who likes hanging out with his friends at the movie theater and local diner. One day, after watching a superhero flick at the cinema, Parappa and his pals--including a flower-shaped creature he fancies a great deal--head out to dinner, only to have their peaceful evening nearly ruined by two bullies. Fortunately, a dashing fellow comes to save the day. It's at this point that Parappa realizes he wants to be that sort of guy. You'll spend the game's remainder helping him to meet that objective, more or less.

Despite its simplicity, the plot provides one of the biggest reasons to play Parappa the Rapper. Story sequences bookend each stage, and they're so zany that most people watching them unfold can't help but laugh. Voice acting is cheesy to the max, but in a decidedly good way. Animations are crude yet charming, like an old “Rocky & Bullwinkle” cartoon. Somehow, those unlikely components work well together and really help a person to empathize with Parappa.

That's good, because to get the little pup through his adventure, you'll need to out rap four difficult rivals in a total of six environments. Each opponent is quite bizarre. For example, you'll first face a karate master shaped like an onion. He busts rhymes about kicking and punching, and you have to respond in kind. The other key characters are a driving instructor that looks like a moose, a reggae-loving frog at a flea market and an obnoxious chicken that hosts a television cooking show. The final two stages bring everyone together under amusing circumstances.

When a rap battle begins, a meter appears at the top of the screen. Your rival will provide a few quick lines of his or her rap, then leave you to duplicate them. You do so by watching an icon slide quickly from left to right while passing over buttons that you must press in time with the beat (each will cause Parappa to voice a simple word from the song). The lower right corner of the screen includes an indicator that lets you know how well you're doing. If you nail complicated lines, you'll maintain the 'Good' rating you need to have when the music stops. If you botch things up too badly, you'll drop down a level and must quickly recover to rectify the situation. At several points throughout a given stage, your progress is checked and you'll either be allowed to proceed or forced to retry.

As you might suppose, Parappa the Rapper is simplistic and has limited scope. The six stages will stick in your mind long after you finish them--and can be accessed whenever you like from the 'level select' menu once you reach them--but there's not really any fresh content after the first few hours. You can head online to download free variations on the background music (though vocal tracks remain untouched), but none of the nine selections presently available are any better than the default tunes the title has offered right from the day of its original release. It's all elevator music.

Even factoring in those optional tracks, most players would be able to see everything Parappa the Rapper has to offer in less than an hour if it weren't so difficult. Not only is there definite variety in the different songs you'll have to master, but nailing the timing just right on even the simplest segments can prove extraordinarily difficult. Sometimes you'll swear you hit things perfectly, yet your rating will drop sharply. Then the next time you play a round, you won't change your strategy at all but will suddenly perform significantly better. Progress feels almost random. After awhile, you'll learn to compensate for the delay between a button press and the actual response on the screen, but until then you might be yelling at the PSP screen (and you won't be screaming “I gotta believe!”).

In the end, it's difficult to recommend purchasing the game unless you happen to find it marked down somewhere. It's simply too short. If you don't consider length a factor, however, the situation changes considerably. Though a lot of solid competition has become available in the years following its release on the original PlayStation, Parappa the Rapper remains one of the most refreshing experiences on the market in any genre. You won't spend much time with it, but the few hours you do share will be something truly special. That has to count for something.

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (September 27, 2007)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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