If anybody from the original PlayStation’s hayday could remember their first music game, they might just say PaRappa the Rapper. The game is ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of gamers, many of whom perhaps didn’t even play the full title. The original 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 resident flower Sunny Funny by first bettering himself. Through six songs, PaRappa will train with an onion-based sensei at a dojo, obtain his driving licence, learn how to bake a cake and 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 modern gaming. The original title had a fairly hazy 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. Seriously, it’s pretty bad.
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, and when it’s your turn to rap, the controller never pulsates. Beyond simply following your instructor’s words and hitting the appropriate button, PaRappa is about laying down your own rhymes that follow the beat. This makes explaining PaRappa the Rapper difficult, since you’re suppose to feel the beat and input accordingly, instead of simply mashing buttons or doing what you want. Not only is this style of play hard to explain, the game does a poor job of explaining it.
The core “campaign” can be easily beaten inside of an hour time window, and the only level likely to give players trouble is the infamously troubling fourth song, where PaRappa must bake a cake with a 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.
Other aspects of the remaster meanwhile feel outright rushed or careless; the UI is archaically awkward and you might 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. So yeah, 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 at $14.99, especially with no effort being put into bringing the cut-scenes up to date.