I still remember checking PaRappa the Rapper out on a demo disc shortly before it released in 1997. I grew up with an NES, Sega Genesis, and a Super Nintendo so I was down with 2D graphics but I remember thinking that PaRappa the Rapper looked so weird when I first saw it. There were 3D objects but the characters looked like they were cardboard cutouts. The PlayStation had a big 3D push and so it was so weird seeing something that appeared to be trapped between two styles being shoved into the spotlight–or so it seems. Once you actually boot the game up and experience it you quickly realize that it isn’t trapped between two generations or art styles. No, instead its art style is unique and its own while complimenting its fun nature and zany attitude with the perfect visuals that strengthen the overall presentation.
PaRappa the Rapper was the first rhythm game that I had ever played and it always stuck with me. I think that helped make the genre popular for many other people my age. I was seven years old when it came out but it stuck with me the entire time. Years later when I was setting up a PlayStation emulator on the family computer one of the first games that I played on it was PaRappa the Rapper. When Guitar Hero and Rock Band were announced many years later I still thought of PaRappa the Rapper immediately. I simply thought to myself “Oh, this is PaRappa the Rapper but with guitars.” I know that I’m not alone in thinking that either because when it was re-released and optimized for HDTV screens and the PS4 I saw it being discussed all over social media in video game circles. It may be an older game but there’s a reason that people still yell “I gotta believe!” when the game opens with the question “You gotta do what?!” and it’s for that very reason they still believe in the magic of PaRappa the Rapper.
PaRappa the Rapper is a simple game at face value. There’s a fun little story to go along with it but at its core it’s a rhythm game and one of the reasons it succeeds as much as it does is because it doesn’t try to be anything else. It’s brave and completely admirable in the fact of 3D releases that PaRappa the Rapper embraced its quirky visuals while wearing its genre right on its sleeve loud and proud. PaRappa the Rapper will have you rap through a few different tracks as you see PaRappa grow and learn to win the heart of the girl he loves named Sunny Funny. The raps start off simple enough but grow increasingly difficult over time.
The raps are all fun and focus on a variety of different subject matters as PaRappa learns karate, how to drive, how to cook and much more. It’s an interesting premise and you’ll find yourself humming along and even reciting lyrics after playing through the songs just a few times. This will happen for two reasons: one, you’re going to want to replay these songs. You’ll even want to buy the soundtrack on PS4 and throw it on a mobile device. I know I did! The second reason though is that as tracks get increasingly difficult you’re going to fail and need to replay them multiple times to pass them–and that will just be to complete them at an acceptable difficulty. You’ll be so hooked on the jams and getting better ratings for your performance that it won’t be long before you replay stages for better ratings. The good news is that even though the stages will get increasingly difficult, the songs get better and better as you progress through the game.
I really don’t have a lot of complaints with the game other than there not being any kind of calibration method in the options in the re-release. I don’t remember it being in the original version either but it definitely needed it then and it needs it more than ever now. The cooking stage (stage four) has an incredible song but it will take most people forever to complete successfully because of how off the button prompts are with what you see on screen. The entire game suffers from this and audio/video calibration would have done wonders for not only the performance but also the artificially inflated difficulty as well.
This game was a lot of fun back in the day and it’s just as fun on the PS4. Audio/Video calibration would have helped a lot but you’re still getting an incredibly fun game from twenty years ago that has aged very well. The remastered graphics are nice too, though I do wish they would have remastered the cutscenes as well. This game is only fifteen bucks and is well worth your time. Just be prepared to deal with the prompts being off from the game a bit and join the rest of us in hoping for an update on a game five months after its remaster released.
PaRappa the Rapper
- Fun songs that demand to be heard even when you're not playing
- Consistent atmosphere throughout the experience helps support the characters and the story
- Steady difficulty that ramps up with each stage
- Sharp visuals back in the day really helped the remaster look good twenty years later
- Audio/Video calibration option desperately needed to improve performance
- I hate stage four because of the calibration being off and I always will.