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Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (DS) artwork

Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (DS) review

"Sugar and spice and all things nice. That's what little girls are made of, and this game might seem as if it has been designed for girls only. The heroine, Cornet, is a horn-playing 16 year old lass who falls in love with a Prince; her constant companion is a pretty doll that speaks, called Kururu; and when she has to fight monsters her main attack spells are made of cake or pancakes! In fact, even the the kingdom of Marl is ruled by a queen, and the story revolves around a witch called Marjoly,..."

Sugar and spice and all things nice. That's what little girls are made of, and this game might seem as if it has been designed for girls only. The heroine, Cornet, is a horn-playing 16 year old lass who falls in love with a Prince; her constant companion is a pretty doll that speaks, called Kururu; and when she has to fight monsters her main attack spells are made of cake or pancakes! In fact, even the the kingdom of Marl is ruled by a queen, and the story revolves around a witch called Marjoly, and her all female family. Also, in keeping with the sweet motif, the game is short, and easy to pick up and play. Yet, the appeal of Rhapsody goes way beyond this.

The spice is found in both the story and the script. Conventional fairy tales are cleverly subverted, since the girl has to save the Prince from the clutches of a much older and wilier woman. Marjoly, the beautiful, but far from pure or youthful, witch, lusts after the Prince and accidentally turns him into stone. After that, it's a race to see who can rescue him, as Cornet and Marjoly's gang attempt to find five stones, which will reverse the spell. Prior to these events, Cornet takes part in a contest to find a bride for the Prince, and has to demonstrate her skills as a singer and fighter, and show off her physical assets in a beauty contest. No swimsuits are worn, but her main rival is a wealthy girl called Etoile, who buys up all the dresses in the kingdom, so Cornet has a struggle to find anything suitable to wear...

She might not be the prettiest or cleverest girl in the Kingdom, but Cornet's great asset is that she can talk to puppets. These doll like creatures are found in various places throughout the world, and will join her fighting team. These include a rabbit from the underworld, various warriors, three Eggs, a bear, a dog, two frog lovers, and so on. Each one has unique skills, which are unlocked as they increase in experience, and each one also has a specific quest that will yield a new skill for Cornet. Finding all these is part of the fun, and most of them will be found fairly easily. However, this is where the game can become more challenging.

The conditions for completing these quests, and for finding all the places you're supposed to explore are not that clear. This is one of those games where you have to talk to everyone and pay close attention to what they say if you want to find clues about what to do and where to go. People might complain about this lack of clear direction, but given that there are only a few towns, and a few people in each one, I don't think it's that much of a problem, and besides, I actually wanted to talk to everyone, since you never know when a new, and even funnier line will pop up. Townspeople talk like real people. They make comments about picking their noses, Marjoly's lack of underwear, or show off their mathematical expertise. Even the items in the various houses can yield some laugh-out-loud moments. When checking a box I got this message: "You found a mouse, but it won't help you beat the game.", and another one gave a long and very detailed description of a world beating horn weapon for Cornet, and then added: "just kidding". There's a lot of that, and the script sparkles as if someone is winking at you.

What adds to this impression, is that all the characters faces are lovingly depicted with each change of emotion. Etoile's triumphant laughing face, or Marjoly's furious face, made me smile, and Cornet has a grumpy annoyed face that made me laugh. This attention to every detail makes the game feel very alive, despite the graphical style of the original Playstation game, of which this is a remake for the DS. Each town is unique, though small, WhiteSnow is covered in snow, BlueCat is a port with sailors and a ship at dock, Kerokero is populated with frogs and has thatched houses on stilts.

Dungeons are less varied, as they mostly follow the same arrangement of tunnels and dead ends with only a few floors to explore. However, exploration is made beautifully simple with the addition of neat top screen maps for everywhere, including the towns and castles. Once a new location opens up, you simply move directly to it from the world map, and there is no tedious traipsing just to get from A to B. Also, you can buy teleporter items cheaply, which enable you to leave a dungeon at an instant. All of this goes a long way towards making the game friendly and fast.

But, don't be fooled into thinking that the cute graphics and comic script mean that the game is always easy. There is a degree of challenge which can catch you out if you try to rush through too fast. Although battles are turn-based, (they dumped the slower strategy system used in the Playstation game) and you can even set them to auto, there is no revival spell or item. This means, that fast and powerful enemies (especially those that inflict status disorders such as sleep) could kill off a couple of your team of four, leaving you very vulnerable. You cannot replace dead puppets during a battle, and I nearly got a game over when a boss used an instant death spell on one of my team that I really was not expecting. Fortunately, all puppets will gain in experience even if not in your active team, (though at half the rate), and so you can use any combination of puppets and their skills, for any battle.

There is a huge range of skills to choose from. Some of your 16 puppets are powerful physical fighters, and other specialise in spells, both for healing, defence and attack. Each one has an elemental strength, with a familiar range of water, fire, thunder, holy and so on, although in practice I didn't really give much thought to these, despite the fact that enemies also have elemental strengths and weakness. It's not rocket science to use water spells against fire enemies, but mostly you can get by with just physical attacks. You gain cash (Inotium) and some items from enemies, but apart from buying some accessories to boost defense and attack, there isn't a lot to buy, and shopping won't take up much of your time. So it's not really a girly game at all!

But it is a musical game. At various intervals Cornet (sometimes someone else) will break into song, and these songs are really very good. They are all in Japanese with English subtitles, and in the original game the songs were in English, but I liked the addition of not understanding the sung words, especially as the voices match the characters so well. Some songs are serious, with themes of courage, or love, but others are upbeat. There is a cute sequence that plays from the menu screen showing Cornet having a bath, as she sings a jolly tune. You can choose to skip the music, and it's all there from the main menu screen as well, together with Kururu's delightful descriptions of all the enemies, just for good measure.

Kururu might be just a pretty talking doll, but in fact she's at the heart of the game, and her comic chiding and comments on the various events, make her a wonderful companion on this musical adventure. I never grew tired of her, or the game, though you might think that's just because it's so short. And that may well be true. Sometimes it's nice to kick back, take it easy, and eat cake with a few friends, and you don't have to be a girl to enjoy that! And what are little boys made of? Frogs and snails and puppydog tails!

threetimes's avatar
Community review by threetimes (January 13, 2009)

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