Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Parappa the Rapper
(Sony for PSP)

By Michael Palisano

Sony's classic rhythm-music title Parappa the Rapper has been re-released and formatted on the PSP system with some modest updates. The game is exactly as you remember it from a decade ago on the PS1 and retains its charming, humorous approach. Original characters like Master Onion and Sunny Funny who made the original so appealing return as well. The simple, yet addictive gameplay hasn't been changed, either but the game remains appealing and enjoyable. A few minor online additions, such as the ability to download new songs, share demo levels and multiplayer modes keep things current, but this is still the Parappa you remember.

Upon its release nearly a decade ago, Parappa the Rapper stood out like a sore thumb. The game's unique music-rhythm based play was immediately accessible, and its humorous, light hearted approach and brightly colored characters stood out from the sea of dark, violent games. It met a positive reaction, and was probably one of the most memorable titles released on the original Playstation. This new edition for the PSP stays true to the original game in almost every aspect, and is more like a port than a remake. On the one hand, it's nice to see the game getting a second chance, but slightly disappointing to fans of the original who won't find much in the way of new content here. Parappa stays true to its roots and the gameplay has remained largely unchanged. You basic objective is to follow the patterns and moves of your Rap Master teachers in order to make a perfectly flowing rap. You begin with a short segment from the Masters, then you need to repeat their moves in time. As you perform each song, the game ranks your performance based on your accuracy. This can drop quickly since mistakes have a way of piling up on each other. Once you lose your timing during a song, it's hard to get it back. Since the song ends if your score drops too low for a period of time, it can be frustrating because Parappa makes you restart that song from the beginning. However, once you get into the flow of things and learn how to freestyle, the game begins to open up and becomes a much more exciting experience. What initially feels like rote memorization quickly becomes a shout and call match where you can add your own personal touch to each song, which is really fun.

At first glance, the music game mechanics seem fairly simple and they are, but the timing makes a huge difference between winning and losing. Mastering the moves and learning when to press your keys takes a lot of practice and makes the game much more challenging. The early levels offer relatively simple patterns to copy, and the gaps between notes are long enough that most players should be able to get through the early levels with little problem. Later on, the notes appear on the screen faster and become more complex, giving you less room for error. When you find yourself faced with these combinations, it can make things harder to memorize, but the key is to break the songs up into smaller pieces and memorize them before trying to piece the entire song back together. Adding to the challenge is the fact that you need to freestyle notes as well in order to reach the highest score. This requires you to stay in time with the main song and add your own notes and flourishes between notes while not messing up the main flow of the song. The game is quite picky when you do this, and penalizes you heavily if you mess up. Its definitely a tricky balancing act and one that gets harder as you get deeper into the levels.

Despite the difficulty the later levels present, everything in the game remains accessible throughout. You can choose to play it straight and stick to the meters or go on your own, though playing conservatively means you miss out on a lot of cool animations and extra moments where the game shines. The majority of the action takes place in these rapping duels, but there's also an engaging backstory about Parappa's quest to win the heart of his girl Sunny Funny that unfolds between rounds. A unique cast of memorable supporting characters and wacky situations adds to the fun and makes Parappa's rap sequences almost make sense within their context. Parappa's storyline remains appealing in a light-hearted, surreal way that brings you right into the characters. Since everything has been designed with its humorous characters and environments, this makes for a brightly colored and engaging world that should appeal to younger players. As you might know, everything in Parappa looks like Paper cut-outs and is designed in broad strokes to give it a unique and cool feel. This approach has held up surprisingly well over the years and the game looks great on the PSP's screen.

Obviously, the music is one of the key elements of Parappa's enduring appeal and the tunes remain as hummable and enjoyable as ever. The memorable tracks showcase a talent for rap and their humorous, almost nonsensical lyrics have aged surprisingly well considering the shifts in popular music. The songs are a bit more kid-friendly than you probably remember, and this should make it even more broadly appealing. While there are only six levels in the game, each poses a unique challenge that should take plenty of time to fully master. As stated earlier, these are the same levels and songs that appeared in the original game and Parappa is basically a port of the original. However, this edition includes several online additions, such as Wi-Fi play and downloadable song remixes that should extend its replay value. The bottom line is that Parappa the Rapper is a pretty solid port of the original game that takes advantage of the PSP's smaller size to make for a more accessible title. The brightly colored, paper-cut out visuals, wacky songs and simple gameplay have held up well over the years and that keeps the game feeling fresh. While not offering much new material, Parappa is a cool game that still offers some enjoyable and occasionally challenging gameplay that should appeal to a broad audience.

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