PaRappa's one of those mascots that's more of a cult icon than a mainstream hero. Having first made his appearance in 1997 in an obscure music game - and having only ever really made the odd cameo ever since - he's a star that's perhaps grown bigger than might be expected, considering his humble beginnings. With plenty of merchandise, and even an anime under his belt, it was only fitting that Sony would do something to mark the character's 20th birthday - and so the remaster of PaRappa the Rapper was born.
PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is effectively a remake of the PSP version of the game, which itself was a remake of the PS1 original. A "rhythm-action" game that follows the adventures of paper-thin rapping dog PaRappa as he attempts to win the affections of Sunny Funny (a girl who just happens to be a talking sunflower), it's up to you to take on six stages of rhymes, flow and button tapping lyrical genius in an attempt to win the heart of the girl of your dreams.
In case you haven't already guessed, PaRappa's a bit of a weird game. In a town filled with anthropomorphic animals and plants, you'll be learning self defence from an onion, cooking fish cake with a chicken, and running a market stall with what appears to be a thoroughly stoned lizard, as you try and learn the skills you think you'll need to win Sunny's heart. Of course, by learning self defence, cooking, and running a stall, what we really mean is rapping, as you bash buttons in time with icons as they make their way across the bar at the top of the screen.
But while it may be a tried and tested music game format, PaRappa has a bit of a secret - it's actually incredibly, ludicrously, maddeningly hard. On paper, it all sounds so simple. Following the lead of your rap master, all you have to do is listen to what they say, and repeat the rhythm back to them, mashing the right buttons at the right time, as shown on screen. With PaRappa's head moving across the buttons to show you when you need to press, it all sounds easy enough - yet somehow, in PaRappa, it's almost impossible to get right.
We still have yet to figure out quite what it is that makes the game so hard. Perhaps it's the fact that the PaRappa head icon that goes across the screen is so long, you're never really sure if you need to press when PaRappa's hat, or chin reaches the button. Maybe the game in general is just really, really overly sensitive to rhythms, and only gives you a tiny fraction of a second window in which to get it "right". But then sometimes it feels like you can repeat the rhythm twice in exactly the same way, and the game will love the one, and hate the other. It just ends up feeling completely random whether you meet the beat or not.
Perhaps the biggest issue is that you never really know what you're meant to be doing. Are you meant to time it so PaRappa says the word at the right time, in the right rhythm - or do you need to press the button on the beat instead? With no advice as to whether you're too slow, too fast, or simply miles off target, it's nigh on impossible to adjust your flow, too - meaning should you ever come to a stage you can't do, you'll likely find yourself completely stuck.
And get stuck you certainly will. While the game only has a measly six songs, the fourth stage, where you're baking the aforementioned cake, is an absolute killer. It's not just us, either - this is a stage that's almost universally hated the internet over, and is well known as being the hardest stage in the game, by far. Yet, for some reason, despite having had the perfect excuse to go in, tweak things, and take out the game's crazy difficulty spike, the developers have instead seen fit to leave it as is - something that'll undoubtedly mean that many people will only ever be able to see half the game. If the trophies are anything to go by, ~80% of people have finished stage 3, but that number drops to ~40% for stage four - something that should speak volumes of its difficulty.
Even an adjustable difficulty level might go some way to solving our frustrations - but for some reason, there isn't. While you can choose an Easy mode in the options, this only lets you play through the first three levels of the game. If you want to finish it, you'll need to play on Normal - and with no way to practice stages, or even figure out where you're going wrong, once you get stuck, you're stuck for good.
And this is all so frustrating, as almost all the issues here are things that were fixed for the sequel. PaRappa may not have had that many games, but PaRappa the Rapper 2 ironed out all the creases from the first game - the note track showed you whether you were too fast or slow, the difficulty had been reduced, and the tunes themselves were better. Why we couldn't have the note track from PaRappa 2 bolted in here is anyone's guess, but the devotion to keeping things original just means that only a fraction of the game's potential audience will be able to enjoy it.
While PaRappa may only be 20, his first game's certainly starting to show its age, despite the lick of paint from the remaster. If you want a quality PaRappa game, you'd do better to download the PS2 version of PaRappa the Rapper 2 from the Playstation store - you'll pay a cheaper price, for a better game.