It’s very strange to think that PaRappa the Rapper is now an old school game, but 23 years have passed since it was released in Japan and 22 since it debuted in the rest of the world.
The game was the brainchild of Japanese musician Masaya Matsuura, who had enjoyed success with the group Psy-S. Matsuura teamed with writer Gabin Itou for the game’s story and artist Rodney Greenblat for the game’s distinctive visual style. Greenblat later recalled, “His game was an interesting “simon says” that used rap beats. He was already a fan of my artwork, and when he found out I was already working for Sony, he asked the people at Sony Creative Products if I would design the characters and world for his game.”
The team created a demo from Greenblat’s old CD-ROM Dazzeloids and then Greenblat set about creating the characters and settings. If you recall, the game took two dimensional characters and put them in a three dimensional world.
Gameplay was fairly simple. You were PaRappa, an adorable, little rapping dog. Your goal is to woo Sunny Funny while fending off the insufferable Joe Chin. There were six stages, which involved PaRappa meeting with a teacher of some sort. The teacher would rap, and symbols would appear at the top of the screen, telling you which buttons to push and when, so that PaRappa could rap back. Your performance was graded based upon how closely you kept to the rhythm. To clear a level, you had to achieve a ranking of “Good.” Fall to “Bad” or “Awful” and you’d have to try it again.
The game spawned two sequels (Um Jammer Lammy and PaRappa The Rapper 2) as well as an anime series.
To be honest, I hadn’t thought of the game in years until I stumbled across a video on the Up Up Down Down gaming vlog run by Austin Creed of WWE’s New Day. It reminded me how utterly charming the graphics were, though they were admittedly a little bizarre too. For instance, you’ve got a teacher named Chop Chop Master Onion who is…an onion with human features who teaches martial arts. It’s that sort of weirdness paired with the kawaii look of PaRappa and his friends that makes this game a classic.