Shaun Munro reviews PaRappa the Rapper Remastered…
As a common fixture on PS1 demo discs, PaRappa the Rapper is ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of gamers, many of whom perhaps didn’t even play the full title. The legendary 1997 rhythm game marks its 20th anniversary with a glossy 4K remaster, which while doing little to remedy the original game’s frustratingly obtuse nature at times, is still no doubt a welcome dose of retro fun.
The game stars a rapping dog by the name of PaRappa, who wishes to win the love of cutesy flower Sunny Funny by first bettering himself. Through half-a-dozen songs, PaRappa will train with an onion-headed sensei at a dojo, get his driving licence, learn how to bake a cake and much much more.
The nostalgia factor will of course be PaRappa‘s prime selling point, but it’s important to consider how the game has aged, and the limited steps that have been taken to update it for the modern gaming sphere. The original title had a fairly nebulous approach to rhythm and accuracy, where it wasn’t always clear if you were rushing or dragging to match the game’s beat, and this is only exacerbated by the advent of HDTV and this new version’s disappointing lack of calibration options.
For me, the best approach often seemed to be hitting the button slightly before you think you should, and freestyling can get you out of a tricky jam during some sequences. Force feedback support has also been added in an attempt to allow the player to “feel the beat”, though honestly it can prove more distracting than helpful during some of the tougher songs.
The core of the game is still the vibrant, infectiously catchy blast it was in the late 90s, though is naturally going to be a much cosier proposition to those already acquainted with its quirks. There’s so much charm here with the wild cast of characters you encounter throughout the six songs, from your sensei Master Chop Chop Onion to a driving instructor moose named Instructor Mooselini, and a frog that works at the flea market called Prince Fleaswallow, to name just a few.
The game’s endearingly bizarre personality shines through thanks to strong voice work, which has aged well here, and sharp visuals, making the most of the HD upgrade even if the game’s pared-down, South Park-esque art style makes it no graphical powerhouse.
The core “campaign” can be easily beaten inside of an hour, and the only level likely to give players trouble is the infamously difficult fourth song, where PaRappa must bake a cake with a cranky chicken and discerning the correct rhythm can become immensely frustrating. For added value, eight add-on remix tracks from the 2006 PSP enhanced port of the game have been included, though rather than spread the love, half of them are simply re-toolings of the opening Chop Chop Master Onion Rap. Also, they seem markedly less difficult than the campaign versions, which is a little disappointing.
As great as the game looks and fun as it is to play, it’s clear that much more could’ve been done with this opportunity. For instance, trying to top your high score has an addictive quality, but the lack of online leaderboards feels like a ridiculous omission given the potential.
Other aspects of the remaster meanwhile feel outright rushed or careless; the UI is archaically awkward and you’ll routinely find yourself pressing the wrong button because it’s so clumsy to navigate. Also, the original game’s cut-scenes have been lazily pasted into this version, with a giant border to compensate for the lesser resolution. The scenes naturally look horrible today, and it’s a shame they didn’t splash some cash to remake them.
PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is a simple enough proposition for fans of the original, and to that end delivers exactly what’s expected, though it would’ve been nice to see a few more refinements to update it for 2017. Retailing for £11.99 on launch day – or £9.59 for PlayStation Plus members for a limited time – the asking price feels at least a few pounds too steep for a game that doesn’t even have 90 minutes of content.
Yes, you may want to replay the songs every now and then to top your high scores and view the alternate sequences should you achieve a coveted “cool” rating – also, there’s a platinum trophy for glory hunters to hoover up – but the price still feels a little steep, especially with no effort being put into bringing the cut-scenes up to date.
Though time may have drawn greater attention to PaRappa‘s opaque win conditions and sometimes wonky sense of rhythm, it’s still a ludicrously enjoyable blast from the past and a decent remaster from an aesthetic perspective. It definitely could’ve done much more for the asking price, but if you’re a fan of the original, this is a slam dunk regardless.
+ Superbly catchy songs
+ Charming characters and overall personality
+ Sharp visuals and art style
– Cut-scenes are lazily recycled from the original
– It’s incredibly short for the price
– Awkward UI and menus
– No online leaderboards
Reviewed for PS4.