Fake fact: 8 Mile was based on PaRappa the Rapper Remastered – Eminem was just some unknown white guy who just so happened to get the part as there were no rapping dogs to hand, just celloists and beatboxers. Ha ha – boxer is a breed of dog…
PaRappa the Rapper is a classic. If you were around the time of the PlayStation launch, about 2:30 pm, you would have known about this little pup. It wasn’t an actual launch title, but it is synonymous with the PlayStation exclusives at the time like Crash Bandicoot, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey and Destruction Debra. Intentional typo. Least, those are some of the games I remember at the time, but PaRappa wasn’t for me – I thought it was a kids game.
Fast-forward some years, and after a few alcoholic beverages, a friend of mine dug out his old PlayStation so we could all have a game. My apartment was the nerd cave and where we hung out after a booze session as I was the only one with a console at the time (PS3), but he wanted in on the action and got this out before it was called a retro machine. Most of the games he had were his wife’s, and she had karaoke games, dance games – all those Wii titles you see when someone is selling one at a car boot. They got out PaRappa the Rapper and suggested I try it. I sucked.
Drunken (Rap) Master
PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is the same game I played that drunken night, only super-duper with HD graphics and a better standard controller than the PlayStation. You take on the role of PaRappa, a rapping canine who’s chasing flower skirt, Sunny Funny. She’s a bit of a tease if you ask me, but PaRappa likes her, and the relationship has potential. Regrettably, some schmuck arrives on the scene called Joe Chin, another dog but he doesn’t (or can’t) rap. His special move is flashing the green, and this throws PaRappa off his game. Your role is to get PaRappa through a series of events to impress and get the girl.
Each stage is represented by a rap battle of sorts where PaRappa will have some guidance from another character to learn a skill and improve on his rhythm. The first stage, probably one of my favourites, has PaRappa attend a kung fu session and the teacher will tell him how to do the moves. As a rhythm game, the onion sensei (yep) will rap and tell you how to perform a step. You will then repeat the process by pressing a corresponding button in time with PaRappa’s head that scrolls along the top like a demented hip-hop Disney sing-a-long.
As a concept, it’s super simple and was quite unique when it first came out. However, to get the timing right is a different kettle of fish. There are four ranking types during each stage: cool, good, bad and awful. If you time everything perfectly, you will get a cool ranking. Get muddled up with your two left feet, and you’re be flirting with an awful rank. The ranking system is real-time so you could have a couple of bad moves but turn it around. Likewise, you can be playing it cool all along, only to fudge it in the second half of the song. More importantly, to progress to the next stage in PaRappa the Rapper Remastered, you need good or cool.
My first time playing it wasn’t the best experience. I’d like to blame it on the sauce, but in reality, it was my poor timing. I couldn’t get past the second stage, no matter how hard I tried. When I got PaRappa the Rapper Remastered for the PS4, it wasn’t so bad as I completed it, but only just. The last stage (there are six in total) was a mess. I’d do great until about two thirds in and finish on the bad ranking at best. Now I’m seeking trophies – see my trophy hunter feature thingy – I went back to PaRappa but other than unlocking the trophy for completing the practice mode, I haven’t progressed any further. I’ll get there, though. I gotta believe!
This brings me to the visuals. The style was already the mutts nuts – I hadn’t seen anything like it. PaRappa and his friends were in this 2D aesthetic that looked like the characters were made out of paper. Other than Paper Mario, there isn’t really anything I can recall that appears like this. Not that it matters so much, but the visuals were, and still are, gorgeous in PaRappa the Rapper Remastered. There’s something unique – almost retro-like about the style that I made a point of finding out if the graphics were influenced by any particular artists. Well, it works out that the artwork was designed by an American artist named Rodney Greenblat. I’m not familiar with him, but he appears to have been well known in Japan at the time having designed an album cover for Shonen Knife, whom I am familiar with. Like, I know their first names too.
Effortlessly easing our way into the next paragraph with a music reference noted above, PaRappa the Rapper Remastered has one of the best, and catchiest, soundtracks in gaming history. Unless you’re a nut, you won’t be listening to this in the car, but it’s such a 90s nostalgic smoochfest of hip-hop, albeit, with family-safe lyrics – no bonking, capping or dissing nobody in these tunes, fool. If I had a webcam setup to stream me playing this game, I’d get locked up for poor rhythm, but also for bouncing around like a pleb, thinking I’m a hippity-hop dawg, dawg.
If the graphics are crisper, shiner and silky to touch, the music revamped and clearer and caress your shell-likes, would there be anything else thrown into the pot to make is ‘remastered’? Yep. There is a new feature that lets you see and feel the beat of each level. With ‘see’ PaRappa’s head is larger on the scrolling beat, but it’s too distracting. Feel the beat is a vibration that hums through your opposables up to your jelly between your ears and makes timing a little better. There’s also an online manual that I clicked on out of curiosity and to be honest, it was quite a surprise as it has tips and some back story. This might have been in the original manual included with the game, but as I’ve never owned a physical copy, I can’t verify. It was a nice addition, nevertheless.
With only six stages, the game is quite short, as are the songs (there are alternative versions of the songs included as well), but there’s enough to come back and play periodically. Like my friend before me, it’s great to whip this one out as a party game, after a few beers or bird watching. If that’s your thing. The irony is the people who don’t play games are so much better at PaRappa the Rapper Remastered than most gamers. Sure I can play rhythm games like Thumper or Guitar Hero, but the timing on this game, in my opinion, is ruthless. Sometimes I don’t care so much about the score, I just want to get through the song as it’s so enjoyable. It makes me want to spit out a lyric about my life on the streets, but my life on the streets is bubble wrapped by driving in a BMW, so I don’t know jack. Plus I can’t rap. Or sing. Or dance. I can make a great cup of tea, though, and that’s what the game is all about. Don’t hate the playa, right?
Last bit to wind this up. PaRappa the Rapper remains a classic for the Sony faithful and anyone who likes a good beat. Arguably, PaRappa the Rapper Remastered, well, the original, is the godfather of the modern rhythm. Or should I say, dogfather? You see, not only is my finger on the pulse with all that is cool, but I can make references to rappers top of their game. Oh wait, doesn’t Snoop Dogg do reality shows with Martha Stewart now? Maybe I’ll just head back to my cave. My cave of rap!