Japanese developer NanaOn-Sha was behind this 1996 PlayStation game. It’s thought of as the first rhyme video game. And it’s as surreal as they come. Hurray!
A Bit About PaRappa the Rapper
Righto, this game became a cult hit back in the late 1990s. Fondness for it was so strong, there was a remastered release for the PS4 in 2017.
We remember back on its release just being quite startled by how surreal it is.
Being 12 at the time of its release in Europe in 1997 (the Japan release was in late 1996), we’d not quite seen anything quite as weirdly creative.
In the game, you star as PaRappa the Rapper (a dog in a beanie hat) and you have to take on some rap challenges. The first is against Chop Chop Master Onion.
Right, so the idea is to hit the PlayStation pad’s buttons at precise times in line with the game’s beat.
This is more addictive than it sounds (and has been managed perfectly in recent indie classics such as Runner2) and poses a serious timing challenge.
Rhythm games really took off in the 2000s, so this creation was way ahead of the curve.
It’s quite simplistic, we suppose, in terms of gameplay. The main draw was the crazy visual style and sense of fun. It’s a fun game for all ages, basically.
We didn’t own a PlayStation, but were impressed by the imagination with this one. We played it around our mate Craig’s house.
Musician Masaya Matsuura designed the game. He was also in a band at the time and hated having to appear in music videos, so designed a cartoon version instead.
Then Sony offered the chance for a rhythm game. The company at the time was promoting the likes of Tomb Raider with Lara Croft.
One of the main draws there was she had ridiculously oversized breasts to bring in pubescent teenage boys.
So asides from the fuss about Lara, Sony also wanted titles like PaRappa the Rapper to try and create interest in new genres. And it scored a surprise hit with this one.
Matsuura wrote the lyrics and they were translated by rapper Ryu Watabe. The songs were recorded in New York.
It met with largely positive game reviews, but was more of a commercial darling as its weirdness caught the public’s imagination across the world.
For the remaster, Sony released this bizarre trailer to go with the launch. It features some of the worst “I’m playing a video game, me!” acting we’ve ever seen.
On a final note, the game’s name is a bit of wordplay (obviously). It very apt but “PaRappa” is a variant on the Japanese word for “paper thin”.
Also, we must say we can’t stand rap as a music genre (up there with country music for us), but there’s something rather lovely and good fun about this game.
So, no big surprise it led to more bits and bobs.
About the Sequel—PaRapper the Rapper 2
A sequel followed in 2001 on the PlayStation 2. There was a spin-off game first in 1999 called Um Jammer Lammy, before PaRappa returned to its beanie hat roots.
The sequel features a more advanced visual style, by all the same surreal humour. Plus, instant noodles. Lots of them, for some reason. The dog actually wins a century’s worth of them.
The plot advances the oodles of noodles theme as it turns out the local town is having all its food turned into noodles. Bugger!
Anyway, you must rap your way out of it once again. Which must be tough going, because not many things rhyme with “noodles”. Poodles?
This game is also on the PS4 so, yeah, if you want your cutesy rapping fix these titles are all for you, like a great big stew, cooked by our mate Stu, who once did a really big… you get the idea.