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PSP Fanboy review: PaRappa the Rapper

We all have fond memories of PaRappa the Rapper when he first arrived on PlayStation 1 a decade ago. Now, our beloved rapping puppy is back on the PSP. However, nostalgia doesn't make a good game. Although PaRappa fathered the modern music game genre, it simply doesn't offer enough content or gameplay to compete with modern games.

The problems with PaRappa the Rapper on PSP are clear from the get-go, many of which aren't forgivable considering its full retail price. Were the game a downloadable title off the PlayStation Store, its flaws would be far more forgivable. Unfortunately, players are expected to pay full price that is barely enhanced over the original.

In terms of presentation, we were frustrated by the presentation of the cinematics. These endearing and charming sequences tell the story of PaRappa's quest for love, and they certainly retain much of their appeal. Unfortunately, the video is bordered on all edges, and still remains poorly compressed. We wish that Sony could've remastered these sequences to take advantage of the full resolution of PSP's magnificent screen. Rather, we're given video that takes up less than half of the PSP's screen ... it simply doesn't look good.

The menus are hard to navigate as it strays far from conventional design. Instead of having a universal forward and back button (usually X and O respectively), the game has players navigating to specific options and then pressing a context-sensitive button. Certainly, not very intuitive.

The actual gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, as well. Each level has PaRappa following the lead of a rap master. PaRappa must repeat the button presses that appear on top of the screen. There are a couple of problems inherent with this style of play: firstly, the PSP's widescreen isn't utilized to give players viewing room for the button commands. In the later songs, the game abruptly throws buttons at the player, with absolutely no lead time. We don't mind games that test reflexes, but this feels more like memorization than actually following a rhythm. Were the full width of the screen utilized, we think this problem might've been resolved. In addition, there isn't immediate confirmation of whether or not your button commands were timed right. Rather, at the end of a sequence, an audio signal will tell players of their performance. Without immediate response from the game, it's hard to know where the player failed. Modern music games, like DDR give players a clear, constant signal of their performance.

The gameplay hasn't aged very well, but the music has -- the various songs in the soundtrack are still enjoyable, retaining a simple charm. Unfortunately, there isn't too much to listen and play through. Even novice gamers will be able to beat the game in about half an hour -- the half a dozen songs in the game feel like a tease, making the game much too brief. At $30, the game simply doesn't offer enough music. Sure, players will be able to download additional tracks, but they're slight variations of the same music in the game -- don't expect to download brand-new levels. These alternate mixes don't carry the same weight as their originals, and don't provide nearly enough "newness" to the game.

Overall, we recommend against buying PaRappa the Rapper on PSP, at least at the price it's currently being offered. If the PSP game included the sequel on the same UMD, it would've been a much better value. However, with less than an hour of antiquated gameplay, we can't say PaRappa offers much. If you're looking for a music game on PSP, might we suggest the sublime Gitaroo-Man Lives! instead?

PSP Fanboy score: 4.0

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