Returning from the feel-good 90s is everyone’s favorite paper-thin street poet, PaRappa the Rapper, in his first appearance on the PSP. A classic franchise and arguably one of the highest impact titles of the rhythm game genre, PaRappa’s entrance into the handheld world should herald a high point for the PSP’s already stout library.
Originally debuting in the mid-90s, PaRappa captivated fans in both the Japanese and U.S. markets. Combining storyline with street rap, the game follows PaRappa in his quest to gain the favor and focus of his #1 honey, Sunny Funny (heh, this rhyme game isn’t so tough). With friends P.J Berri (a portly teddy bear DJ) and Katy Kat (an overly intelligent and somewhat belligerent feline), PaRappa overcomes many obstacles with music. Over the course of 6 different levels, PaRappa is challenged by numerous lyrical heroes to follow their lead. What this entails, exactly, is following what his musical mentors spew in time with the background beat. Each button corresponds to a word in the verse, and when activated at the appropriate time creates entertaining verse and modifies the cool factor of your rap. If the sequence is not followed correctly, an unintelligible babble will result.
The control system is fairly simple. PaRappa and the player are shown each line once just before they are expected to perform it. A bar at the top of the screen displays buttons at certain parts of the verse. When the verse starts, a small icon indicating which rapper is performing will scroll from the left end of the line to the right end. As these icons pass over the buttons that are spread along the line’s length, players are expected to press the indicated button in order to engage the proper words for the rap. While this system may have worked well in the PSX version of the game, the PSP’s smaller screen makes the task a bit more daunting.
Players, and in turn PaRappa, are rated on their word-spinning throughout the course of each performance. Four different rap ratings are available on the U rappin’ scale: awful, bad, good, and cool. Each song starts the player at the good rating, and it is modified from there based on how each line is completed. Modifications to the scale usually only occur after two consecutive lines of a relatively similar quality. For example, in order to move up the scale, players must complete two lines to near perfection. The same system usually applies to downward motion, as well, with one notable exception. If PaRappa significantly screws up a given verse, downward motion can occur based on that one line. This creates an environment where it’s better to be good than lucky, as it takes skill and consistency to achieve a decent upward momentum.
The PSP’s layout and controls are not necessarily the best for PaRappa. Often times timing the activation of lyrics is difficult if the user relies mainly on the screen. The activation indicator on the note bar moves quickly, and it seems that beginning to press the button when the indicator is on the one you are using will still result in a poor performance. Players will most likely have better luck if they rely solely on the beat for timing, and use the button indicators only to tell them what buttons to press and in what order. One other mildly frustrating control mechanic is the inclusion of the L & R buttons as main game components. While these may work out for seasoned PSP vets, excitable players, or those who really get into a song may find that activating these buttons will cause them to change the orientation of the screen, and may cause the player to miss crucial notes & lyrics.
Original PaRappa fans will notice some distinct similarities to the PSX counterpart. The game is in fact a direct port of the original, with a few add-ons, such as download play for those friends who aren’t lyrical jamsters yet, and downloadable songs for those who are truly down with the flow. Those expecting a completely new experience may be disappointed, but the bottom line is thus: PaRappa the Rapper is a port of an insanely popular game. If you are thinking of purchasing this game for any reason other than to re-live a classic genre-shaping game, or even discover it for the first time, you should probably reconsider this financial transaction.
PaRappa for PSP also offers a few extras worth noting: additional songs, ad-hoc play, and download play. After dabbling with the download remixes, I must say that while these add-on songs are interesting, they do not extend or modify the replay value for PaRappa. The background music seems to be the only difference. The words all stay the same, as does the beat, and even the buttons used on each level. The ad-hoc multi-player will allow you and your friends to engage in somewhat Disney-esque rap battles. Given the proper circumstances, this could be quite entertaining. Many players may even use the multiplayer, as PaRappa also offers download play, allowing other PSP users to download the first level to try out or battle with.
All in all, this author feels that PaRappa the Rapper is a strong addition to the growing PSP library. If you’ve never played a PaRappa game before, and are curious enough to make the $40 investment, check it out. If you lost your copy of PaRappa for the PSX, this title is just what you are looking for. If you are looking for a completely new game, or want something that is blazing new trails for the rhythm game genre, PaRappa will NOT offer you this. Those with high expectations need not apply.