This may seem a bit like sour grapes coming from a gamer who grew up in the PS1 generation — but frankly, PaRappa the Rapper did not need a PS4 remaster.
I didn’t get a chance to play the original game back in the day, as the title was rarer than hen’s teeth! Instead, I made do with the relatively hard Stage 1 on a PlayStation demo disk. But I finally got the chance to play the whole game at my local museum in April 2014, when a video game exhibition (originally in Melbourne, Australia) came to my hometown in Edinburgh. I loved it, and a few weeks later, I picked up a copy on an online auction site.
The visuals (90s cardboard cut-out) by Rodney Greenblat were funky and irreverent, and the music was zany. As for the story, it was completely off the wall — and you had to play it to believe it, as it included a chicken teaching you how to bake a cake and PaRappa having to desperately use the bathroom. But at its core, the story was about PaRappa trying to impress a flower-shaped girl called Sunny Funny through the medium of rap.
I then picked up the sequel, PaRappa the Rapper 2, on my PS4. Again, I loved the game — but as far as I could see, very little was added with the new iteration, apart from a reformatting of visuals for modern TV and a trophy system.
The lack of a true upgrade between the original game and the sequel didn’t give me high hopes for the remaster — and as I suspected, the game didn’t quite live up to expectation. Its mediocre 62 score on Metacritic tells me I’m not the only one who was disappointed.
Admittedly, sharing your gameplay and posting about it online is much easier using the remastered version, but little else is added other than a fresh coat of HD paint.
And honestly, Greenblat’s unique visuals didn’t really need an HD upgrade, so the game doesn’t benefit very much from having a better resolution in the same way that titles like Crash Bandicoot or Final Fantasy VII would. It’s a bit like redrawing basic Pong visuals on a new console — it might look a bit crisper, but for the most part it’s graphically the same as the original version.
The same is true for the game’s soundtrack, which has also been upgraded in quality. It’s really similar to picking up an album by your favorite artist on vinyl, then grabbing the same album via an online store. While the online version might sound better in modern-day headsets that often come packed with surround sound, the vinyl version is still excellent as well. And for PaRappa the Rapper’s eclectic tracks, there wasn’t much updating that could be done without losing the personality that made them so memorable in the first place.
Aside from the lack of updated visuals and sound design, the addition the trophy system was a nice touch for the modern gamer. But aside from bragging rights, even that doesn’t bring very much to the table. (And personally, I find it slightly less satisfying to simply post high scores on social media, rather than taking photos and sending them to magazines like we would back in the day.)
The only real upside to this remaster is accessibility. There’s no shortage of copies, since it can be downloaded digitally. So it’s great that more people can experience this musical game if they haven’t before. But for long-standing fans of this IP, the remaster just didn’t do enough with the source material to feel like a satisfying purchase.
The striking visuals and offbeat lyrics of PaRappa the Rapper set the tone for the 1990s PlayStation era, and the remaster ultimately fails to capture that. I would only recommend picking it up if you haven’t played the original.