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Critical Reception: Sony's Parappa the Rapper

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the PSP remake of NanaOn-Sha's PlayStation rhythm genre pioneer Parappa the Rapper, which critics are describing as "a classic," despite being somewhat "short on value."
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to the PSP remake of NanaOn-Sha's PlayStation rhythm genre pioneer Parappa the Rapper, which critics describe as "a classic," despite being "short on value." As the first title to introduce many gamers to rhythm-based gameplay, Parappa the Rapper debuted in 1997 to a moderate sales success, and found sequels in the acclaimed Um Jammer Lammy and in the more recent PlayStation 2 sequel Parappa the Rapper 2. The PSP remake of Parappa adds a small batch of extra content to the original title, and seeks to find a new audience among gamers now weaned on the popular Guitar Hero series. Though many critics express fond memories of Parappa the Rapper, several feel that its gameplay does not stack up to modern standards, resulting in mixed reviews and an average score ratio of 70 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Matt Helgeson at Game Informer contributes a high score of 8 out of 10, despite noting disappointment with Parappa the Rapper's short length and lack of complexity. "Honestly, it's aged a lot more than I had hoped," he writes. "It's also a fairly bare-bones port; no new songs were added aside from some moderately well-done remixes of the game's original tracks." "However," Helgeson continues, "Parappa's saving graces are the things that will never age – the infectious visual style and the amazing songs." "Quite simply, these are some of the most fun and expertly written video game songs ever," Helgeson asserts. "Add to this a vivid cast of memorable characters, and you have a title that won't fail to charm even the grumpiest gamer." Though he notes problems with its stiff control and timing, Helgeson feels that Parappa the Rapper's wit and charm make it a worthwhile experience nevertheless. "This is a classic in my book, and I'd love to rate it higher than I am," he explains. "However, time marches on, and by today's standards Parappa isn't the top dog anymore." GameSpy's Justin Leeper rates Parappa the Rapper at a middling 3.5 out of 5 stars, even though he emphasizes his long-standing love for the series in his review. "While it's great to play through the game again and be able to do it on the go," he begins, "this isn't quite the re-release I was looking for." "There are a few [extras], but it's actually a disappointing assortment," Leeper writes. In particular: "You can play remixed versions of the songs, but it requires going online and downloading them to a memory stick." Other questionable content includes a multiplayer mode featuring songs that "aren't really that conducive to competition," and gameplay design that "basically eliminates other means of replayability." Leeper concludes with suggestions that could have extended Parappa the Rapper's length. "Why not include the woefully-undervalued Um Jammer Lammy, or the inferior-but-still-enjoyable Parappa 2?" he asks. "With a $30 price tag, Parappa is at least $10 too high. Die-hard fans will find it worth the value, but others are suggested to wait until the price goes down." Mike Smith at Yahoo! Video Games gives Parappa the Rapper 3 stars out of 5 -- one of the title's lowest review scores currently recorded at Metacritic. "With a distinct paper doll visual style and one of the greatest soundtracks ever made, it's a cult classic," he praises, "but can its simplistic gameplay stand up in 2007?" Citing extremely short gameplay length as its main drawback, Smith claims that Parappa the Rapper will have little appeal to those accustomed to the lengthy experiences found in modern rhythm games like Guitar Hero. "With six levels, each over in a matter of five minutes or so, it's a short game," he explains. "You might complete all six levels in an hour or two, even if you really suck." "On the other hand," he continues, "for the many fans of the game, the short gameplay won't matter one jot. Here's the game they love, bundled up in a portable package with all its charm intact. By modern standards, it's decidedly lacking, but it's still a classic." Though Parappa the Rapper remains a worthwhile experience, critics feel that its barebones presentation and lack of meaningful extra content does not justify a price of $30, suggesting that, given its short length, a rental should suffice for most gamers.

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