PaRappa the Rapper
|PaRappa the Rapper|
Japanese cover art
Japan Studio, epics (PSP/PS4)
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 4|
PaRappa the Rapper (Japanese: パラッパラッパー Hepburn: Parappa Rappā) is a rhythm game developed by NanaOn-Sha. It was published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation in 1996 in Japan and other countries in 1997. Created by music producer Masaya Matsuura in collaboration with artist Rodney Greenblat, the game features unique visual design and rap-based gameplay and is considered the first true rhythm game. It was ported to the PlayStation Portable in 2006. A remastered version of the original PlayStation game was released for PlayStation 4 in 2017 for the game's twentieth anniversary.
The game spawned two follow-up titles; a guitar-based spin-off titled Um Jammer Lammy, released in 1999 for the PlayStation, and a direct sequel, PaRappa the Rapper 2, released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. An anime television series based on the games aired in Japan between April 2001 and January 2002, with a short spin-off series airing from October 2016.
PaRappa the Rapper is a rhythm game in which the main character, Parappa, must make his way through each of the game's six stages by rapping. As the teacher raps, a bar at the top of the screen will appear, showing symbols that match up to the teacher's lyrics. The player must then make Parappa rap in response to the teacher by pressing the buttons with the correct timing to match the teacher's line. During gameplay, a "U Rappin'" meter determines the player's performance, ranking it as either Awful, Bad, Good or Cool. By consistently staying on beat, players will stay in the Good ranking area. If the player performs a bad line, a lower ranking will flash, and if the player performs badly twice in a row, he will drop to Bad, followed by Awful. To regain a higher ranking, the player must play well twice in a row to move up a rank. To clear a stage, the player must have a Good ranking by the end of the song. If the player ends the song on a Bad or Awful ranking, or drops below Awful ranking at any point in the song, they will fail the song and have to start over. After the game has been cleared once, the player can attempt to achieve a Cool ranking. This is achieved by freestyling in a manner different from the predetermined lyric. If the player performs a successfully impressive freestyle when the Cool rank is flashing, they will enter Cool mode. In this mode, the teacher will leave the stage, allowing the player to rap freely and earn some large points. If the freestyling fails to impress twice in a row, the teacher will return and gameplay will resume in the Good ranking. Ending the stage with a Cool rank often results in a special level ending, and clearing all stages on Cool Mode unlocks a bonus mode with characters Katy Kat and Sunny Funny.
Rank-changing aspects of a level are only apparent during the first of every two lines. If the player successfully times the first line of a pair, but fails on the second, the rank meter will not blink Bad or Awful. Likewise, once the game has been cleared, a Good play is only necessary on the first of every two lines to be able to get Cool mode on the second line.
The player takes on the role of PaRappa, a paper-thin rapping dog, who is trying to win the heart of a flower-like girl named Sunny Funny. However, he is intimidated by the presence of Joe Chin, a rich, narcissistic dog who goes overboard with his attempts to impress Sunny. To impress Sunny Funny, PaRappa learns to fight at a kung-fu dojo, and takes a driver's education course to get his license. However, when he crashes his dad's car, he has to earn money at a flea market to pay for it. When Sunny's birthday comes up, PaRappa has to get cake, but ends up ruining it after an encounter with Joe. He makes a new one by watching a cooking show and proceeds to eat a lot of it on the day. When spending some time alone with Sunny, he is suddenly overcome with the need to go to the bathroom and has to rap against his former teachers to get to the front of the queue. Then one night, PaRappa is invited to Club Fun, and asks Sunny to go with him, to which she agrees. PaRappa then raps on stage with everybody, rapping solo at the end of the song and expressing his feelings for Sunny.
The unique visual style is that of Rodney Greenblat, an American graphic artist who is popular in Japan. Similar to the Paper Mario series, all of the characters appear to be two-dimensional beings cut from paper while the surroundings are primarily three-dimensional. On his website, Greenblat remembers that the idea to make the characters flat was Matsuura's idea, after creating a mock-up with characters from Greenblat's Dazzeloids CD-ROM. The game's title is a word play referencing the flat characters; "PaRappa" is a variant of the Japanese word for "paper thin". The game also is one of the first PlayStation games to use in-game motion capture in order to portray more realistic character movement for characters such as Parappa and the teachers.
Matsuura went through multiple ideas while designing a music game for the PlayStation, such as having a game centered around singing or playing the guitar. The game's soundtrack was made using samplers rather than MIDI synthesizers, which were common at the time. The lyrics were written in Japanese by Matsuura, and then translated by rapper Ryu Watabe while he was freestyling.
PaRappa the Rapper received positive reviews. It sold 761,621 copies in Japan by 1997, making it the 7th best-selling game of the year in that region. As of 26 December 2004, the original version of the game has sold 937,976 copies in Japan, while its PlayStation the Best re-release has sold 306,261 copies meaning it has sold nearly 1.4 million copies total. IGN wrote that "while the words (lyrics) may seem a little strange (...), this just adds to the quirky nature of the game. The music is top-notch as well."
At the first annual Interactive Achievement Awards in 1998, PaRappa the Rapper won the awards for "Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Design" and "Outstanding Achievement in Sound and Music", and was nominated for "Interactive Title of the Year". In the final issue of the Official UK PlayStation Magazine, the game was chosen as the 3rd best game of all time.
PaRappa the Rapper Remastered received mixed or average reviews. It was praised for keeping the charm of the original game while improving on the graphical quality, but was criticised for only improving the graphics of the gameplay and not the cutscenes. Caitlin Cooke of Destructoid wrote that "The remastered version does not include a calibration setting. This works very much against PaRappa's favor as there’s an extremely noticeable lag throughout each of the levels, causing havoc when trying to hit the notes on time." Stuart Andrews of Trusted Reviews wrote "I love PaRappa and his ‘I gotta believe’ attitude, but this early rhythm action game no longer holds up" 
PaRappa the Rapper was followed by a spin-off titled Um Jammer Lammy, which was released on 18 March 1999 in Japan. The game featured a new cast of characters, multiplayer modes and focused on guitar play, but very similar game play. A bonus mode was included in which the entire game could be replayed with Parappa as the protagonist, complete with his own versions of the game's stages. An arcade version of the game produced by Namco was also released. A direct sequel, PaRappa the Rapper 2, was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001 in Japan and 2002 in North America and Europe. A smartphone game is currently being developed by ForwardWorks.
PaRappa the Rapper was released for PlayStation Portable in Japan in December 2006 and in North America and Europe in July 2007 for the game's tenth anniversary. The port, developed by Japan Studio and epics, features ad hoc multiplayer mode for up to four players and the ability to download remixed versions of the existing songs. In conjunction with the PSP release, Sony, for a limited time, freely released the soundtrack. In a 2008 Famitsu interview, Masaya Matsuura revealed that a brand new song created for the PSP release, "Believe in Yourself," was cut due to development time constraints.
A remaster of the game by SIE Japan Studio for PlayStation 4 was released on April 4, 2017. The port features graphics of up to 4K resolution, and includes all the downloadable songs from the PSP version. A playable demo was released on December 3, 2016, celebrating the game's 20th anniversary. Homebrew developers found that the PS4 port was actually the PlayStation Portable version running inside an emulator and with high resolution textures.
Appearances in other games
PaRappa appears as a playable character in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, released for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita in November 2012. His play style revolves around using his karate taught to him by Master Onion as well as moves inspired by his love of music and skateboarding.
Rodney Greenblat, the man responsible for PaRappa's art style, was asked about PaRappa being a playable fighter in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Greenblat was happy to see PaRappa return to video games, but he was not happy to see him in a violent game. "I'm very happy that PaRappa is making a bit of a comeback, but not so happy about him being in a weapon-filled battle game. Actually the Battle Royale game is fun, and I have to do what I can to get PaRappa back in the game scene. My hope is that Sony realizes the golden true potential of PaRappa and asks me to design some new games. I've learned a lot, and I think PaRappa could be great again", said Greenblat.
In popular culture
A 30-episode anime television series based on the game franchise, produced by J.C. Staff and Production I.G, aired in Japan between April 14, 2001 and January 14, 2002. A new anime series was announced. A short anime series by Doga Kobo, titled PJ Berri no Mogu Mogu Munya Munya (PJベリーのもぐもぐむにゃむにゃ PJ Berri's Munching Mumbling), began airing in October 2016 as part of the #Hi Paul variety show, following a pilot episode which aired on August 18, 2016.
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