Widely credited with creating the rhythm-game genre, 1996’s PaRappa the Rapper paved the way for music game mega-hits such as Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, and Just Dance. Its titular rapping dog, Parappa, stood alongside Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon as the face of Sony’s emerging PlayStation brand.
Originally conceived by developer NanaOn-Sha, PaRappa’s gameplay was relatively simple. Each level had Parappa rapping alongside a fellow rapper about various everyday things, such as learning to drive a car, bathroom troubles, and karate lessons. The game was very reminiscent of “Simon Says”, with Parappa having to repeat each line delivered by the other rappers through timed button presses. If the right buttons weren’t pressed at the right time, Parappa’s rapping would not be up to snuff.
Part of PaRappa’s appeal was its charm. It never took itself too seriously. Its paper cutout art-style was a clear influence on Nintendo’s Paper Mario. Plus, the raps were just so wonderfully cheesy, going along perfectly with its Nick Jr.-style aesthetic.
NanaOn-Sha followed up the game with a sequel for the PS2 in 2001, but other than a PSP port in 2006, PaRappa hasn’t been heard from since. Without even a release on the PlayStation Network’s PSOne Originals to hold fans over, a new entry in the PaRappa the Rapper series is long overdue.
How it could work today:
It’s a wonder Sony didn’t release a new PaRappa game to capitalize on the music game craze of 2005-2010. The combination of an exclusive game in the PS3’s line-up, the huge popularity of Guitar Hero and SingStar, and the nostalgia associated with PaRappa could have been a huge boost to the PS3’s struggling early years.
That being said, now is as good a time as ever for Parappa to make a comeback. The inclusion of Parappa in Sony’s recently announced PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale has built up some buzz around the character. Much like how Super Smash Bros.’ Marth and Roy helped introduce Fire Emblem to the masses, Parappa may do the same thing for his game. It’s entirely feasible that Sony could have put him in the game as a build-up for a return from a decade-long absence, much like Super Smash Bros. Brawl did for Pit with the recently released Kid Icarus: Uprising.
As for development and gameplay, there are multiple routes that Sony could take. Ideally, they could bring back original developer NanaOn-Sha. However, this wouldn’t be necessary as long as Sony could capture the spirit of the original games. Keeping the core, rhythm-based gameplay would be a legitimate route to take, though a little safe. To bring the series back with a bang, Sony would have to offer their own take on the advancements in rhythm gaming in recent years.
Interesting things could be done with Sony’s Move peripheral, or better yet, use the microphone that comes with it to rap alongside Parappa’s cheesy-yet-awesome rhymes. For players not interested in these seemingly gimmicky methods of play, the game could include the classic timed button-press style.
A new PaRappa the Rapper game would be perfect for this current generation of nostalgia-craving gamers. With PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale set to reintroduce the character, and music-game genre open ready for new blood, a new PaRappa game could provide a fresh musically driven experience for a new generation of all ages.