Review: PaRappa the Rapper Remastered (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: PaRappa the Rapper Remastered
Format: PSN (1.1 GB)
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Original PSOne Release Date: December 6, 1996 (JP) / November 17, 1997 (US)
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: SIE Japan Studio
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

A specific date range escapes me but at some point during the mid to late 90s, we had finally done it. My brother and I convinced mom to take us to Toys R Us and get a PlayStation. I was about 10 years old and very susceptible to that era’s marketing.

I worried we’d made the wrong choice since Nintendo’s machine was double the bits. Of course I had no idea what the hell that meant but our cousins assured us that the PlayStation would more than make up for the power deficit with a much stronger software lineup.

I knew we couldn’t afford to get both systems and mom wasn’t too keen on spoiling us with accessories so it was a life or death decision and whatever I got had to last. We made it home with the packed-in controller and demo disc while managing to sneak in a copy of Crash Bandicoot. We would have to make do until we figured out a way to get another controller, a memory card, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and Resident Evil.

Shoutout to my older brother Al who always supplied us with a fresh demo he’d rip out of a PlayStation Underground magazine, usually during a trip to the grocery store while I served as the lookout. The struggle was real. Throughout our childhood, these courageous feats earned him the nickname of Ballz, an alias that sticks with him to this day. We apologize to anyone who may have purchased a magazine missing a demo.

One of the more memorable titles on the demo discs was PaRappa the Rapper, a game about a rapping dog creature who would hone his skills as an emcee through his training with various rap masters and ultimately win the heart of his lifelong crush, a flower-person named Sunny Funny.

I played that demo hundreds of times and I don’t believe I could ever forget the words to Chop Chop Master Onion’s verses as long as I live. Somehow, I’d never go on to play the full game until about twenty years later when it would be remastered, re-released, and assigned to me for review.

… it simply does not hold up in a post Rock Band/Guitar Hero world …
Gameplay:
My eyes nearly welled up with nostalgic tears as I clicked through the title screen and entered Chop Chop Master Onion’s dojo again, this time in stunning 4K. Unfortunately, the nostalgia factor and the fresh coat of paint are about the only things the game has going for it.

In each level, the PaRappa icon will scroll across the top of the screen and your task is to tap the corresponding button when the icon reaches it. Each button press correlates with a word or lyric that PaRappa will say but he never raps with any fluidity regardless of how accurately timed your keystrokes may be. He sounds like a voicemail prompt trying to piece together phrases to create ridiculously corny rap lyrics.

Because this game originally released before the rhythm genre existed, it simply does not hold up in a post Rock Band/Guitar Hero world. The remaster apparently doesn’t come with any retooling of the mechanics or adjustments to the timing with modern TVs in mind.

I used any and all equipment in my house after failing miserably, dozens of times, trying to rap and bake a fish based cake with Cheap Cheap the Cooking Chicken on her TV show. I tried using the TV speakers, a soundbar, headphones, and I even played on mute before deciding that any advancement I made in the game would be contributed to pure luck.

I tried to consistently tap the buttons too early, too late, and on time finally succeeding with some arbitrary mixture of those techniques that I probably cannot replicate.

… the cutscenes that take place between rap sessions and advance the narrative have not been retouched …
I quickly felt how woefully outdated the menu system is as I fumbled through it, unsure of what options I had selected and how much of my progress was saved. I tried cranking down the difficulty in hopes of progressing further but only the first three stages are available in easy mode.

There is a worthless practice option in the help menu that not only failed to assist with my timing challenges but served to confuse me even more. It felt like I was being guided to time my presses with specific audio cues rather than the visual ones. In any case, these two indicators didn’t match up with each other.

Somehow, I beat the game but I am unconvinced that I’d done anything different on my successful runs with the “U rappin’ GOOD!” rating. At times, I’d drop down to “BAD” or “AWFUL” when I thought I’d nailed it. Conversely, I’d button mash out of frustration on occasion and increase both my score and rating. Getting the “COOL” rating involves freestyling and charting your own course to beat that stage’s teacher at his/her own rap. Before watching this incredible feat on YouTube, I was convinced it was a myth.

Visuals:
Even when the original released in 1996, the art style was one of PaRappa the Rapper’s highlights. The character models are cute and quirky 2D images that almost jump off of the screen with the crisp, new resolution.

Much to my dismay, the cutscenes that take place between rap sessions and advance the narrative have not been retouched. They play out in their original form in a small window centered on the TV screen. It’s a jarring contrast to the beautifully updated gameplay portions of the experience.

… the mechanics are borderline broken and the rhythm genre has since evolved …
Audio:
Every stage features a couple of rap verses that are just brilliantly catchy. I challenge anyone that plays this game to not be infected by the earworm that is PaRappa’s struggle to build self-confidence. This remaster includes extra music and gives players the option to play the stages with different background songs.

The lyrics absolutely ooze with charm and there is even some subliminal messaging you might expect from cartoons of the era encouraging the player to believe in oneself, focus on safety, and behave amicably. The honking noise that infinitely loops on the “try again” screen will also antagonize you when you aren’t performing so hot.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
While PlayStation’s decisions may not always seem to make the most business sense, I wholeheartedly value the risks they take, the fan service they provide, and the love with which they handle certain franchise darlings. For me, the appeal of remastering PaRappa the Rapper comes by way of how appreciated I feel as a PlayStation gamer and how proud I am to have been here since the beginning.

I cannot recommend this game to anyone who is unfamiliar with the source material because the mechanics are borderline broken and the rhythm genre has since evolved to a point that’s made this game obsolete. But if you have fond memories of the original, PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is a welcome trip down memory lane providing you the opportunity to support the initiative that brings back these obscure, all-but-forgotten games.

Score:
4.0
* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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