PaRappa the Rapper
|PaRappa the Rapper|
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 4|
PaRappa the Rapper[a] is a rhythm game developed by NanaOn-Sha. It was published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation in Japan in 1996 and worldwide 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 in celebration of its 10 year anniversary. A remastered version of the original PlayStation game was released for PlayStation 4 in 2017 for the game's twentieth anniversary.
The game was very well received by critics, who praised its music, story, animation, and gameplay, though its short length was criticized. It 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. Several publications list it as one of the best video games ever made.
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, they 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 her a 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 game was designed by Masaya Matsuura who at the time was a musician in the band PSY.S, Matsuura hated appearing in music videos and began working on interactive software as an alternative outlet. Game development started in 1994, before the release of the PlayStation. At the time Sony was attempting to produce as many games as they could, which were worked on in two divisions. One division worked on popular genres and the other, internally known as "Division Zero", according to artist Rodney Greenblat, "just did whatever". Parappa was a product of Division Zero.
Greenblat got involved with the project after an SCE producer suggested that he and Matsuura work together, having both expressed interest in working with the PlayStation console. Greenblat had already worked with other divisions within Sony and was fairly popular in Japan, particularly for his CD-Rom Dazzeloids. 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 making 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".
After deciding on designing a music game Matsuura went through multiple ideas such as having a game centered around singing or playing the guitar. Matsuura was particularly inspired by the musical practice of sampling and claimed "the most interesting thing about sampling was people’s voices", and thus wanted to create a music game using actual voices and by extension one based around rap. By the time Greenblat began working on the game, the basic structure of the game had formed. Greenblat would create characters based on outlines created by Matsuura. Several of the main characters were already designed and owned by Greenblat, including PJ Berry and Katty Kat. One of the first designs Greenblat created specifically for the game was that of the main character, Parappa, who initially took the form of a shrimp. Occasionally Greenblat's designs would cause the game's story to change. For instance, after Greenblat came up with the idea of an onion for the Karate teacher character, the idea was changed to make him an onion master. The game's soundtrack was made using samplers rather than MIDI synthesizers, which were common at the time. Initially all of the teachers' songs used sampled vocals. These could, however, not be used in the final game and were redone "while maintaining the concept of each tune". The lyrics were written in Japanese by Matsuura, and then translated by rapper Ryu Watabe while he was freestyling. All of the music was recorded at a studio in New York. The game also is one of the first PlayStation games to use in-game motion capture in order to portray more realistic character movement.
Promotion for the game proved to be somewhat of a problem. Prior to Parappa there had been no similar games, and the team struggled with what genre to market the game as. Many staff members at Sony felt that Parappa did not qualify as a game and Matsuura himself recalls initially being unsure as well. The game, however, became massively successful, which prompted SCEA, despite having a strict policy against 2D games, to release the game in North America. According to Greenblat, SCEA did not know how to market the game and aimed its marketing primarily at children, a demographic he noted would have trouble completing the game.
|Game Informer||(PS) 8.25/10|
|Next Generation||(PS) |
|The New York Times||(favorable)|
PaRappa the Rapper sold 761,621 copies in Japan by 1997, making it the 7th best-selling game of the year in that region. In May 1998, Sony awarded the game a "Platinum Prize" for sales above 1 million units in Japan alone. 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.[better source needed]
The game received near-universal acclaim from critics, who hailed PaRappa the Rapper as a unique game with irresistibly catchy songs. Dan Hsu of Electronic Gaming Monthly commented, "Several of the tunes are so catchy, you'll be singing them for days." Hsu also made it his pick for "Sleeper Hit of the Holidays". IGN wrote that "while the words may seem a little strange ... this just adds to the quirky nature of the game. The music is top-notch as well." GamePro concurred: "The melodies are funk phenomenons, and the raps are so silly, they'll make you laugh in spite of yourself." The graphics and animation were also widely praised. GameSpot remarked, "All of PaRappa's characters are comically animated paper dolls moving against colorful 3D backdrops, a simplistic and charming visual design that never would have worked but for the game's theme and some brilliant camera motion." Multiple critics also commented on the well-crafted story and charming title character. Next Generation summarized that "The game is so well-produced and carried out that you won't even notice that the gameplay itself is based on the most primitive of concepts. Simply put, style over substance has never been better done than in PaRappa." The one common criticism was that the game is too short.
At the first annual Interactive Achievement Awards (now known as the D.I.C.E. 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."
In 1999, Next Generation listed PaRappa the Rapper as number 36 on their "Top 50 Games of All Time", commenting that "PaRappa has to be played to truly understand how wonderful it is, and it appeals to both young and old, men and women, hardcore gamers and people who have never held a controller before in their lives."
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. In 2016, Sony's mobile studio ForwardWorks announced they were working on a smartphone version of the game; no further details have been released since then.
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 Japan Studio for PlayStation 4 was released on 4 April 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 3 December 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".
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 14 April 2001 and 14 January 2002. 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 18 August.
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