Welcome to yet another edition of Celebrating a Series, in which your beloved PlayStation Lifestyle staff members pontificate about hypothetical sequels to installments in the PlayStation canon. Most of them so far have been the big guns, from Uncharted to Horizon, with a little Kingdom Hearts on the side. This time, we’re taking a look at something with a bit less stability in the foundation department. It’s time to talk about a little dog child who lives a small town life, dreams big, and always finds ways to stay positive. He can also spit freestyle bars with cosmic superpowers and got a driver’s license far earlier than any young person should. It’s time to make a case for PaRappa the Rapper 3.
It’s hard to tell what exactly Sony’s stance on PaRappa the Rapper is, as an IP. The character himself seems to have value. You can hop into a GameStop right now and find PaRappa plushies, figures, and weird stuff like coasters. The first time I went to E3, I tried to be a serious, no fun journalist boy, but I did end up in the PlayStation Gear booth to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning an official PaRappa the Rapper beanie. You can spend money right now on PaRappa stuff, is what I’m saying. But the games don’t have as much of a presence.
The 2019 State of PaRappa
PaRappa the Rapper was an early PlayStation game, and it saw one sequel on the PlayStation 2. (A spin-off of sorts, in Um Jammer Lammy, also appeared on the PlayStation). The original game has been ported to the PSP and “remastered” for the PlayStation 4. The second game was ported to PlayStation 4 as well, as part of the console’s small roster of PS2 Classics. PaRappa also showed up on the ill-fated PlayStation All-Stars roster. The remaster of the original game is the most recent development and frankly, it was kind of a waste of time.
Turns out, the PS4 “remaster” of PaRappa the Rapper was pretty much just a beefed up emulated version of a past release. The North American release didn’t even get a physical retail edition, which doesn’t seem right for what should be a classic, exclusive PlayStation IP. The title wasn’t included on the PlayStation Classic, but the less said about that thing, the better. It seems like the series has enjoyed more popularity in Japan, with the remaster seeing a physical release and a children’s anime series even airing in 2001. It feels like little effort was spent on the remaster release and marketing it. Frankly, I don’t really blame Sony for phoning it in.
It Ain’t Broke, So Why Fix It?
PaRappa the Rapper isn’t really a game in need of a remaster. Its low-fidelity visuals, which are based on character designs from artist Rodney Alan Greenblat, are already evergreen. It’s also hard to justify the remaster when the other versions are still readily available. Input lag was an issue with the PSP version, and this carries over to the PS4 version too (although not as glaringly). Music rhythm games are also in a weird spot in our post-Rock Band world. However a new game, with proper backing from the people developing and publishing it, could use the same sort of nostalgia energy fueling the likes of the Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and Medievil remake to make it a success.
PaRappa the Rapper doesn’t exactly have a canon to adhere to. The first game is all about PaRappa learning life lessons, such as driving a car, exercising, fiscal responsibility, cooking, and waiting in line at public bathrooms. The sequel has a weird sci-fi plot about a machine that turns everything into noodles. It’s all silly stuff, and each stage exists in its own pocket universe. The real appeal is in the series’ unique rhythm game mechanics, which require players to do more than what’s displayed on the on-screen prompts to do well. You don’t just want to be rappin’ Good, you want to go off the beaten path to rap Cool and enter a flow state of cool rappin’ to experience the expanded music tracks.
All we’d really need with a new, numbered PaRappa game is more PaRappa. Engineering a new game would circumvent the lag issues born from porting a rhythm game made to play on CRT televisions, and making a new game would also make room for new takes on the classic Greenblat visual style. By virtue of being new, you’d have the natural appeal of modern fidelity powering the quirky visuals, a more contemporary musical style, and possibly things like multiplayer and trophy support. If a more expanded scoring system or other longer-term play mechanics were to be implemented in this theoretical PaRappa 3, it would be a great title for game streaming as well.
U Rappin’ COOL?
Speaking of longer-term play, one area in which the PaRappa series could be significantly improved is with its difficulty. At face value, PaRappa isn’t really a challenging game. The lines aren’t complicated, compared to many later rhythm games, and the real challenge is in finding your way to rappin’ Cool. But that’s an abstract system and doesn’t necessarily make sense out of the box. A difficulty selection on top of that, with more immediate gratification in the songs, could go a long way to broadening the PaRappa appeal. Expanding the freestyle system and making it a little more front-facing could also be a big boon to the gameplay.
PaRappa the Rapper has value, but not as much value as I think it should. Sure, my judgment is clouded as a long-time fan, but I think there’s room for a revival. It would need to be something that gets a legitimate push, with resources and a similar presence to the other major PlayStation remaster projects. But instead of a remaster (that’s basically an emulator) or a remake, I think only an actual sequel, a PaRappa the Rapper 3, would do the trick. I will continue to pray to my PaRappa beanie that it actually happens.