Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind, if you wanna test me, I’m sure you’ll find
The things I’ll teach ya, are sure to beat ya
Nevertheless, you’ll get a lesson from teacher
The year is 1996: The Macarena is on top of the Billboard Charts, Independence Day and Twister are the highest grossing films of the year, and rap is still in an awkward state as far as its place in American culture is concerned. While Black America had embraced the genre, white people still had a major issue with the genre and it was nowhere near as universally accepted as it tends to be now.
Which is why Sony and NaNaOn-Sha’s newest project got largely overlooked and not given the fair shake that it should have. You have to give it to them though, they tried. A few of the initial Playstation launches featured a demo disc that contained the first level of Parappa the Rapper on it. This received a little love, but never really got any promotion and was left in the dust unless one really fell in love with said demo. If you were one of the ones who decided to purchase PTR, congratulations, you played the first ever rhythm game in video game history.
Parappa the Rapper followed the story of a two-dimensional rapping dog who tries to impress his would-be Girlfriend, a talking flower named Sunny Funny by trying to prove his manhood. He does this by: trying to learn karate to protect her from bullies, get his license in order to drive her where she wants to go, sell items at a flea market to repair his Dad’s broken car (long story), baking her a cake when he drops the one he spent his money on, and finally taking her on a date (hilarity ensues). All of this done through the help of 5 different teachers Parappa comes across.
The gameplay idea was simple: when the song starts and the teacher starts rapping, you follow along with pressing the buttons as they appear on time. If you hit the buttons on time, you get points and keep rapping, when you mess up, you move from rapping “Good” to “Bad”, “Awful” and then game over, requiring you to start over. Note that I said the idea was simple, PTR had some of the most dubious hit boxes when it came to response. So on a few levels it wasn’t out of the ordinary to lose a few times.
But one of the best things about this game was its charm. It never, at any point, took itself seriously. It knows its plot and premise are ridiculous, it knows that the story makes almost 0 sense, but it just wants you to have fun. The beats are good, the rhyme schemes are simple, but the songs all together are catchy.
Sony released a second edition in 2001 that featured production from De La Soul of all people, and their influence can be heard as early as the title screen:
If we’re keeping it 100, I think PTR2 is way better than the original version, simply because it took the premise, improved the timing, the music and the charm. PTR2 ramps up the ridiculous a notch by informing you that Parappa has won a lifetime supply of noodles and has grown tired of eating them. When he ventures out to actually get some other kind of food, he learns that all of the town’s food is turning into noodles. Dead serious. Is it gut-bustingly hilarious? No. Is it chuckle worthy? Absolutely. And you’ll nod your head the whole way.
The original Parappa the Rapper is a rare find, but it IS getting a remaster for PS4 that will be released in March. It’ll be the first time the game has been available to the market in 20 years. On the flipside, you can play Parappa the Rapper 2 now if you have a PS4, it’ll cost you a little less than $10. I highly recommend you play it, you owe yourself some happiness.
At least look up the videos on youtube. Jerk.