PaRappa the Rapper (1997)
Ah, the things we do to try and impress a woman. When I learned that my wouldbe missus was a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, I thought I was in. All I’d have to do is reference California and drugs a million times, and I’d get a result, right? Well, it took a bit more than that. Any old fool can reference the classics., but being as simpering as I was, I had to go deeper.
So, I downloaded all of their albums (she wasn’t to know of this piracy), obscure B-sides and all, and proceeded to try and learn the lyrics of every single one. I’d put together one big playlist, then start a long endurance race on Gran Turismo or a full-length race in F1 2013 and try to become an RHCP expert by osmosis. How thirsty is that?
I eventually did seal the deal, although this was more to do with the fact that I was able to get her on her own and shove as many cocktails down her throat in one sitting as I possibly could. That’d get me into awful trouble nowadays if I was famous, but at only a fiver a pop and with plenty of disposable income in my pocket at the time, I could hardly afford not to.
It’s all about experimentation to see what works, you know, and titles don’t come much more experimental than PaRappa the Rapper. If you were around in the mid to late 90s I imagine you had a demo of this game, the one where you do rap battle with the kung fu sensei onion. This is about as Japanese as it gets, but then it gets dubbed into American English with a selection of rappers doing the voicework, and the end result is a mad, paper-thin soup.
The game chronicles the misadventures of a rapping dog named PaRappa, and his constant attmepts to win the heart of his sunflower friend, Sunny Funny. Don’t dogs urinate on flowers? But anyway, you should see the cutscenes in this game – they’re absolutely off their face, and if you’re partial to shrooms I’d advise you to steer well clear because you may never be the same again. But let’s run through the levels in turn to see how PaRappa self-improves, shall we?
Since just about any man out there who’s ever resolved to self-improve can relate to PaRappa, but moreso because the game is so criminally short, we might as well run through every one of the six levels here and see how PaRappa endeavours to get the girl. Even from the opening cutscene, when he’s out at the cinema with friends and they all hit up the burger bar afterwards, he’s on top of his mental game. While his pals order giant spicy fries, chunky burgers and lemon pies, PaRappa merely orders water. Anyone who’s ever had to be figure conscious will understand immediately.
Level one and, sick of being intimidated by local thugs and wanting to batter any have-a-go heroes, PaRappa decides to learn self-defence. I like this, because the game could easily go all childish and discourage violence against bullies. But no, PaRappa knows that nice guys finish last and that he’d be all the more attractive to even a nice girl like Sunny Funny if he could throw hands. So he visits the dojo, and this is where you’ll learn the gameplay – the master spits a few lines, and you gotta believe, you gotta match their timing and you gotta use the right buttons.
Nail all that, and you’ll pass the bar. No, I don’t mean the legal bar, I mean whatever nonsense lyric you’re spouting. If you do well, then you’ll be rappin’ GOOD, and you get to live. Start spitting dirt though, and you’ll drop to BAD, and then to AWFUL. When that happens, well, you won’t be the most dateable dog in Christendom, put it that way.
Next, he needs his driver’s licence. This is an important one, because you can’t very well go out on dates by bus, can ya? I’ve tried it before, and it stinks. My best mate was right when he said that a car is essential for motting, so PaRappa goes and – hopefully – aces his driving test.
So he’s tough and skilled, but when he takes Sunny Funny and friends out on a roadtrip, he starts having thirsty fantasies, and before you know it, he’s had a head-on collision with an articulated lorry. Well, we’ve all been there. Nobody is hurt, even though PaRappa’s father’s car literally disintegrates. But that’s alright, because he’s gotta believe, and after a 10-minute shift at a flea market with a reggae-loving lizard (the best rapper in the game), he’s somehow covered the costs.
I’ll skip ahead to the fifth stage: our hero’s finally managed to get Sunny Funny alone, and the scenario is one that probably every young man’s fantasised about with his crush – it’s just the two of you out in a balmy field, with the prettiest sunset you’ve ever seen, enveloped by a red sky, and it’s almost impossible to balls it up.
Eventually it’s time to go home, but I must say that given PaRappa’s massive car accident in the third stage, if I was Sunny Funny I’d never get into a car with him again. Turns out this little pup is never far away from an accident, because now he’s got to drop the proverbial kids off at the pool, that is, he needs to lay some cable, or should I say, he needs to pinch a loaf. Know what I mean? Talk about relatable: the Final Fantasy games had grandiose plots, sure, but they never had to deal with the heartbreak of badly needing the toilet when there’s a massive queue.
Going back to the fourth stage sees PaRappa baking a cake for his belle. I suppose that’s pretty progressive for 1997, although let me tell you that this is where things get a lot more difficult, especially if you’re playing the PS4 Remastered edition of the game. I’m convinced the timing is absolutely broken here, because the levels either side of it are pretty easy.
So PaRappa can pass his test, hustle enough money to pay for a wrote off car and even do the hardest thing of all – hold in a vicious call of nature. But when it comes to baking a cake, he gets it wrong in seconds and the chicken lady instructor gets so angry over it she gives birth. I just want to know why she’s cracking eggs to make a cake if she’s a chicken herself. Next time you hear somebody refer to someone as ‘babycakes’, be very afraid.
PaRappa’s positive attitude is infectious, even if he does live in an actual dreamworld most of the time. Anytime he’s confronted with any sort of hardship, problem or dilemma in life, he just says “I know, I gotta believe!” and then everything works out well – assuming he can beat his opponents in the ensuing rap battle.
Anyway, that’s the whole game. Yes, I’m sorry to say that as memorable as this game is, there’s not much to savour. You can genuinely be done in twenty minutes, and even then most of your playtime will be spent on the wretched fourth level. The supposed remaster edition is available cheaply, but even at 15 bones it probably isn’t worth it.
They only updated the graphics during the levels, not the cutscenes, although I’m not complaining about them not touching those hokey scenes. There was going to an extra song, but it was apparently cut from development due to “time constraints”. What?! It’s a remaster of a game that had come out yonks ago, it’s not as if it had to be ready for the holiday season or something.
No, the poor rapping dog hasn’t been shown an awful lot of love in the last twenty years. He did get his own little anime series, if you can actually believe that, although I rather get the feeling that getting your own anime in Japan is a bit like pastors and evangelists in America getting a show or the top farmers in Ireland getting a radio series, as in it happens all the time.
PaRappa and his antics are guaranteed to put a smile on your face, although the game’s wonky timing could just as easily wipe your smile and leave you frustrated. Still, I think this is a game that everyone should play at least once. Just imagine it, if everyone could become a casanova in thirty minutes with some rapping nous and a bit of belief… all the gyms would go out of business overnight. Actually, sounds great to me.
7 August 2020