PaRappa the Rapper

   Mind-altering drugs. An extremely warped sense of humor. Creative desperation. Alien mind control. Many theories have attempted to explain the origins of PaRappa the Rapper, a mystery some consider even more puzzling than the question of what killed the dinosaurs. In any case, it's hard to believe a concept as off-the-wall as PaRappa ever got approved, let alone developed into a playable (and addictive) game.

   For those of you just waking up from a two-year-long coma, PaRappa is a paper-thin, rapping dog, replete in ghetto threads and an old-school skully-cap. His name is a pun -- "parappa" not only sounds like "rapper," but is a Japanese word meaning "paper-thin." His mission? To win the heart of Sunny Funny, a humanoid sunflower in a dress. And no matter how many hardships he encounters, PaRappa never forgets his motto: "I gotta believe!"

   In the course of believing, PaRappa raps his way through six stages, each with its own "Master Rapper" and bizzare environment. PaRappa will come across everything from a flea market run by a Jamaican frog to a line outside of a bathroom that he must desperately rap his way by. Rapping is acommplished by tapping various buttons to mimic the rhythmic patterns rapped by the instructors. Do so correctly and you'll maintain the "U rappin' GOOD" rating needed to continue to the next level. Rap poorly, however, and your rating drops to "BAD" or "AWFUL - and yo' gotta do it again.

   After completing a stage, you can return to it and embellish the raps with your own style in an attempt to earn a "COOL" rating. As soon as you start rapping "COOL", the stage changes -- Chop-Chop Master Onion kicks down the walls of his dojo and you rap on the roof, or PaRappa warps into another dimension and chases a moving toilet along a railroad. Now, you can start rapping freestyle, combining words and phrases into your own funky flow. Fragments can be combined to create such memorable lyrics as "M.I.X. the crack" or "I will try to sell money!" Earn "COOL" on all the levels to unlock a rather lame "level" in which you just watch Sunny Funny and Katy Kat dance.

   Simply describing the gameplay, however, doesn't even begin to touch on what makes PaRappa such a classic. A major part of its charm lies in its almost surreal character design and storyline. No other game features characters like PaRappa's rival Joe Chin, who buys Sunny a birthday cake over 40 stories tall, or P.J. Berri, the donut-eating teddy-bear D.J. Taken out of context, the events really aren't all that funny, but when run together in the game, they all follow a certain sort of weird logic that makes them hilarious. The lethally catchy soundtrack is also a big winner -- just a few hours of playing will permanently embed the songs in your brain, where they will annoy your friends and family for hours on end.

   When it comes right down to it, no game is really worth playing if it's not fun. And if fun could exist in a crystallized form, the result would certainly be PaRappa the Rapper. Few other games can still provide consistent entertainment a year and a half after its release. You can beat the game in thirty minutes -- it's certainly not the type of game you'd play every day -- but that's not the point of PaRappa. PaRappa is there for you to pick up and enjoy when you're looking for something entertaining. If you've had a bad day, all you have to do is switch on the PlayStation and start rapping -- it's hard not to crack a smile at the adventures of our favorite canine and his buddies.

   The appeal of all this is obvious to PaRappa veterans. Outsiders, however, may wonder why so many people are enamored with PaRappa's antics. Unfortunately, no one can be told what PaRappa is. You have to play it for yourself. The game simply defies all conventional standards of evolution -- which, of course, is the point of the game.

   In advertising PaRappa the Rapper, Sony frequently used a quote from Entertainment Weekly: "Sound like nothing you've played before? That's why it's so good." We couldn't have said it any better ourselves.

Retrospective by Fritz Fraundorf.
PaRappa the Rapper
Developer Sony Music Entertainment
Publisher Sony
Genre Rhythm
Medium CD (1)
Platform PlayStation
Released 11.1997
PaRappa ther Rapper FAQ
36 screenshots
Character art
Audio clips / PaRappa the Rapper Toaster