PaRappa the Rapper holds fond memories for me. It was, and still is, a great advert for PlayStation doing different, offbeat things in gaming, but even then, it was an extremely limited game. So will a return to where it all began 20 years later further cement its place in PlayStation history? Or will we be treating the rapping canine like he’s Cujo once nostalgia wears thin?
For those who missed out first time around (and that’s likely a large number given some folk playing games now were less than a distant twinkle in their papa’s eye when PaRappa arrived on the scene), PaRappa the Rapper is a rhythm action game where our titular hero wants to impress his flower girlfriend Sunny Funny (because of course) by becoming a better all round pup than the entire cast of Paw Patrol. To do this he could have fought her seven evil exes to the death, but instead he does the slightly more sensible thing by learning karate, driving, cooking and more by rapping along with an eclectic mix of strange characters acting as mentors, for each given task. Quite famously you begin by getting taught karate by an onion in pyjamas, and somehow being taught to drive by a moose just after that is the less weird thing. The character design is a big part of why PaRappa is so revered, but you rarely hear much about anyone else beyond Chop Chop Master Onion when you root around the internet.
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The tentpole of this festival of nostalgia remains the songs. The raps are ridiculously catchy, and they’ve stood the test of time more than anything else in the game. From Chop Chop’s iconic ‘Kick, Punch…’ opening to the rasta-inspired jam from the fleamarket stage, hearing them again, all crisp and polished, is enough to warm the most arctic of hearts. If anything has kept PaRappa in the minds of fans for so long, it’s no doubt that the songs are the reason. If only everything was as timeless about it.
Revisiting the PSOne adventures of a 2D hip hop pup for the first time in years, with promise of refreshed visuals to make it stand tall, I was almost instantly dismayed by the cutscenes being shunted into a small rectangle, and left untouched for all to see in their muddy, ugly, badly-acted er…glory. Thankfully, the promised visual polish can be found in the actual game, with everything looking lovely and smooth. The 2D style means the art has aged quite well, and a bit of HD scrubbing up makes PaRappa The Rapper Remastered look relevant. Then you get to the risible cutscene quality again, and that relevance fades.
Then there’s the way PaRappa plays. With everything that has happened in the rhythm action genre in the past 20 years, PaRappa feels not only simplistic, but dated also. Long-term fans will of course, expect this and accept that as just being what it is, but for newcomers, it’ll be a bit of a struggle to understand why this was ever considered ‘good’ The response timing for hitting PaRappa’s lines was always a little off, but a lack of comparable titles meant it mattered less then. Now, with rhythm action games often having inch-perfect precision, and clearer ideas of your hitbox for hitting notes, PaRappa’s simplicity begins to appear clunkier than before. It’s by no means broken, but weaning yourself off what is done these days and going back to that is strange to say the least, and it could well annoy or worse, it could just leave you cold.
Still, there’s just something endlessly endearing about PaRappa. Even if his game has become a bit of a relic, it’s short and simple enough to get through and find some joy in it no matter what your relationship with the beat dropping beagle is.
It’s hard to genuinely recommend buying PaRappa The Rapper Remastered for the current price point, even for fans. While it was nice to revisit an early hero of the PlayStation brand, he’d be better served by getting a modernised reboot.
PaRappa The Rapper Remastered Review code provided by publisher.