Some things are just best left in the past, even when you harbour fond memories of them. Perhaps even more so, in fact.
I’ve always held PaRappa the Rapper close to my heart since its release in 1996. In fact I still have a PS One copy of it in pristine condition. To my knowledge, it was the first music rhythm game ever made, and so playing it was a unique and eye-opening experience that would go on to give me a lifelong love of the genre.
When it was announced that it was getting the remaster treatment then, I was absolutely thrilled. I’d finally be able to play PaRappa the Rapper on a modern console with enhanced visuals and maybe some extra pizzazz. Unfortunately though, playing it now after all these years, it really hasn’t stood the test of time.
Sure, the visuals have been adequately spruced up; PaRappa’s world has never been so crisp and colourful, and performance is rock solid too. The only thing letting it down visually are its cutscenes, with their shimmering and blurriness constantly remind you that PaRappa the Rapper is indeed an old game. It’s the gameplay that disappoints the most though. While it was new and exciting in 1996, today it just feels dated and – dare I say it – a little bit broken.
Over the course of six songs, rap masters fling their wonderful lyrics at you, and with skill, you reply with your own. The trouble is your words don’t flow like you’d expect them to, frequently feeling awkward and disjointed in their delivery. Even when you perform songs perfectly they rarely sound like it; the abruptness of the vocals and the way they often cut off those spoken just previously is very jarring. All those years ago such issues would have been overlooked because there was nothing else on the market like it, but now, it’s hard not to be put off by them.
The difficulty of the game is all over the place too. The timings don’t seem consistent between and even within songs, leading to moments of frustration as you’re sure you’re pressing the buttons at the right time but see your performance meter ever declining. The fourth stage, Cheap Cheap’s cooking rap, is by far the hardest, forcing you to play it time and time again until you figure out when exactly it wants you to press the commands to be awarded with a good performance.
Fans of the game will already know that it only takes about an hour to complete. Although, if you skip the cutscenes, there’s actually less than 30 minutes of gameplay. Extra longevity is afforded by a number of unlockable alternative music tracks for an assortment of stages, and you’ll also need to revisit songs after completing them once if you want to achieve a ‘Cool’ rating by showing off your freestyle rapping skills. Even then though, you’re not really getting a great deal for your money – it’s a shame that this remaster doesn’t feature any ‘making of’ videos or interviews to give fans more of an insight into its creation.
What’s most perplexing is that there are no calibration options to adjust for audio or visual lag. That’s a pretty glaring omission for a rhythm game in my book, considering modern TVs exhibit wildly different response times which can have a damning effect on the gameplay.
All in all, while you can still have some fun with PaRappa the Rapper Remastered, I’d by lying if I didn’t say that it’s a bit of a disappointment. A lack of extras and the realisation that by today’s standards the gameplay is rather lacking really puts a downer on things. Still, it’s possibly worth buying if you’re a huge PaRappa fan wanting a nostalgia trip. Just be prepared to have your fond memories of the title tested somewhat.