On rapping paper dogs

I was browsing the PSN store about a month back, to see if anything good was on sale. When clicking into the PS+ deals, I noticed that I was able to pre-order a remastered version of PaRappa the Rapper at a discount. I didn’t really stop to think about it, and immediately locked in that preorder. I love the soundtracks to PaRappa and its spin-off, Um Jammer Lammy. Why would I pass up the opportunity to get an HD-quality version of the game?

The game was released this past Tuesday and the answer to that question, my friends, is that PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is almost unfairly difficult, and as a result, is not all that fun to play. It’s a rhythm game that arbitrarily rewards or punishes you for matching the rhythm, despite that ostensibly being the goal of the game. This was the same thing that kept me from ever really getting into the original release.

Now, if you are completely unfamiliar with this game or perhaps the genre at large, it’s actually very simple. Each stage is a song, wherein a character will rap a phrase, and then you have to rap it back at them. This is accomplished by pressing corresponding buttons that appear on a bar at the top of the screen as PaRappa’s icon passes over them. Typically, you want to hit the button right on time, but every other rhythm game will allow a little wiggle room in either direction. You know, because rewarding only perfect timing would be more maddening than fun.

PaRappa… doesn’t follow these rules at all. I spent maybe and hour and a half with the game, and I still have no idea when it actually wants me to press the buttons. It seems completely arbitrary, as even when I hit every note with (as far as I can tell) perfect timing, there’s a 50% chance that the game will see fit to detract points from my score. Sometimes it seems like the game would prefer me to hit the button a little bit ahead of the cue, sometimes a little bit after. This appears to change not even with every song, but with every phrase. It’s literally impossible to suss out what the game really wants from me. At this point, I think it might be actively trying to infuriate me.

Compounding the problem is that PaRappa’s vocals will accompany each button press, and they will totally throw you off. If your timing is imprecise, his raps will be stuttery and incomplete. If your timing is perfect, they’ll flow like a river. But in my experience, the better his rhymes flowed, the more likely the game was to penalize me. For whatever reason, the jumpy stutter-rapping scored better more often. There are options to “Feel the Beat” (enable rumble) and “See the Beat” (I noticed no difference), but they didn’t help at all in figuring out the correct timing.

It’s all really too bad, as the rest of the game is wonderful. The weird paper style of the visuals is a little dated, but I still think the game looks rad. The story that goes along with those visuals is a little formulaic, but it’s cute and usually pretty funny. And like I said before, the music is excellent. These are tracks that I often listen to independent of the game.

If PaRappa was a little more forgiving, I could see myself going back to it to play for trophies and maybe even just for fun, but as it stands, I almost feel like I’ve been swindled on this one. Admittedly, I should have known better, because I’ve been frustrated with PaRappa before on more than one occasion, and I’ve spent countless hours trying to get in the groove with Um Jammer Lammy, which has all the exact same issues. I suppose that I was just hoping that the HD remaster would have a softer touch.

The worst thing about it all, though? I’ll absolutely buy Um Jammer Lammy Remastered as well, if it should ever happen.

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