It's all in the mind
Early on a Friday afternoon when our final exams were finally over, my college roommate and I decided we were in serious need of some bar hopping. We were both short on funds, so she traded her blood for cash at the local Plasma Alliance, and I sold my copy of Parappa the Rappa. It was a sad day, the day the music in me almost died.
[image1]But that night, well, if all my sad days turned into nights like that one, I'd be happy to be sad any day of the week. Besides, I realized I could just buy the game back later. And my roommate was already making new blood cells (almost as quickly as the both of us were killing brain cells), so all was well... or so I thought.
For all those who don't know, Parappa the Rappa was a revolutionary, ground breaking game. Released in 1997, it was basically the first music-based, rhythm video game ever. Its popularity opened the door for a whole new genre in video games - this was before Bust a Groove or Dance Dance Revolution, way before anything even resembling Guitar Hero. The PS game tested your ability to follow a pattern and stay on beat. A simple concept, but the execution was excellent. Cute graphics, funny cut scenes, a hero you could root for, catchy songs, interactive, dynamic play, and a positive message - "I gotta believe!". It was one of the few video games that brought me pure, unadulterated joy without having to beat up, shoot, or kill an opponent.
[image2]I had every intention of buying Parappa the Rappa back. Little did I know I would spend the next ten years rifling through the resale racks in video game shops looking for a used copy. It was a vain and futile attempt. So when I saw that Parappa was being re-released for the PSP, I was overjoyed.
If you are unfamiliar with the PS game, basically each level introduces you to a rap 'master' who will guide you through their rap. Follow their lead, stay on the beat, and check your progress on the "U rappin' meter". If you can get through the song with a 'GOOD' score on the meter, you will unlock the level and move on to the next stage. Once you've unlocked a level, you can go forward or you can back and replay, this time, adding your own freestyle to the rap masters' suggested rap.
The PSP game is exactly the same as the original PS version. I'm not exaggerating. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. The game isn't exactly the same. While Parappa PSP offers no new characters and no changes to the graphics or story line, there is a downloadable feature for acquiring additional songs. Downloading is simple, but the ultimate outcome is disappointing. The additional songs aren't new, just remixes of the existing ones. The rap is the same, only the music has changed, and usually not for the better.
[image3]Gameplay is not as smooth as I remember it to be on the PS. Maybe my memory is biased. Perhaps I have a sticky key or two on my PSP console. Whatever the case, this lag between a key press and recognition makes the game frustrating. Once I unlock a level, I cannot seem to meet the minimum requirements to freestyle and get a 'COOL' on the meter, and it's not for a lack of skill on my part. It's definitely a key lag issue.
Another frustrating point is that you cannot exit or restart a level. If you see that U be rappin' BAD or AWFUL, you have to either suffer through or intentionally do worse on the song until the rap master decides you need to start over. The game only lets you save after you have unlocked a new level. This means that if you go back and replay a level and get a higher score, there is no way to save this new data. There is a high scores area on the menu, but since I can't save any new scores, I don't even know why they bothered. It's the kind of thing that's there just to make you mad.
I am not quite as overjoyed as I was the moment before I tore the shrink wrap off the game. I must admit that it was nice to see all the old masters and have a chance to rap beside them again. It was nice revisiting the Dojo (Kick, Punch, It's all in the mind!), getting driving lessons, and selling junk at the flea market. It was like having old friends come to visit for a spell. But these old friends are all quirky and weird now, and they smell funny. The technical shortcomings give the game very low replay value, much different than the original. To use a quote from Parappa the Rappa himself, "I gotta believe!"... I gotta believe I'll find an old copy of the original someday soon.