Rhapsody ~ A Musical Adventure ~ - Staff Retroview  

Song Sung Blue
by Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

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Very Easy
Less than 20 Hours
+ Rampant cuteness
+ Nice & short
- Soporific gameplay
- Terrible guidance
- Cut content
- Inconsistent story
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   Nippon Ichi appears to have had a clear idea in mind when making the original Rhapsody for the PS1. The notion was to make a story in keeping with animated Disney movies featuring forthright and assertive female protagonists, complete with musical interludes and cute sidekicks. Then Nippon Ichi turned this idea into an RPG, which meant lots of extraneous material such as gameplay elements needed to be introduced. The combat system may have changed, but the rest of Rhapsody ~ A Musical Adventure ~ on DS is pretty much the same as it was in 2000 — badly in need of massive revision.

   Rhapsody's narrative could easily have spawned an animated Disney movie. It consists of a young girl named Cornet and the instant attraction she feels for Prince Ferdinand, who it just so happens is the prize in a bride search occurring at his home castle. These two hit it off splendidly, except that the kingdom's resident witch Marjoly feels the need to get in on the proceedings and turn Ferdinand to stone when he spurns her advances. It falls to Cornet to save her beloved with the aid of her trusty puppet companion Kururu, and the occasional help of her status-conscious rival Etoile.

   As a Disney plot this would be pretty good, but as presented here it feels like a video game was the wrong medium. The puppets that fill out Cornet's party get quick backstories upon joining, and then shut up until the usually-obscure conditions for their individual journies are met. Large swathes of the narrative exist to fill out the gaming time, such as the search for five magic crystals to cure Ferdinand. What could have served as an eighty minute animated film is instead bloated to a length that is short by RPG standards but absurdly long for cinema, and the filler succeeds in nothing but eating up time.

Only level 8 with nearly 3 hours on the clock?  Someone must Only level 8 with nearly 3 hours on the clock? Someone must've fallen asleep without turning off the game.

   In remaking Rhapsody for the DS, NIS added material that came from its Japan-only sequels. This material was cut from the overseas localization, and the presence in the credits of English voices when the songs stayed in Japanese makes it seem NISA really rushed the job. What did make it into the localization is technically fine and occasionally amusing, though NISA made the odd decision to increase ellipses use by having it occur every time a character's speech bubble cannot be contained in one balloon.

   The songs of animated Disney movies are usually colorful centerpieces for impressive visuals and catchy tunes. Rhapsody's music is certainly pleasant, and the Japanese vocalists do a good job for the most part. The visual accompaniments that might help make these compositions more memorable are not there, and half of the tunes leave the sprites standing around doing nothing. As for the music accompanying interactive parts, a few catchy tunes pop up near the end, but the many caves use the same tune that quickly becomes annoying. The sprite work is at least not repellent, but very little about it impresses in any way except the fascinating propensity of NIS's artists to render the female anatomy in gravity-defying detail.

   When actually playing Rhapsody, insomniac gamers may find a cure at last. Discarding the pseudo-tactical approach of the original version, on DS the game uses a simple four member turn-based random battle setup. The speed with which actions are carried out is quite pleasant, and the game will have characters simultaneously act whenever possible to hurry through the proceedings even more. Otherwise the only oddity is the bizarrely varied damage enemies can deal, which will frequently triple for no reason whatsoever. There is no way to revive fallen characters in a fight, but given how quickly enemies die and the ease with which stamina is replenished, rare are the occasions on which the player will need to expend any thought whatsoever.

On the assumption that taking the cake equates to more than one piece thereof, Cornet attempts to administer a sugar coma. On the assumption that taking the cake equates to more than one piece thereof, Cornet attempts to administer a sugar coma.

   As if to make up for the ease with which random foes tend to be dispatched, NIS made sure the player will see their egregiously palette-swapped visages plenty of times by keeping the encounter rate high. Rhapsody's dungeons could easily be navigated in a minute or two, given that they consist of numerous small, identical-looking rooms with exits at the cardinal directions. When the player is interrupted by a random battle in every third tiny room, the dungeons take more time to complete. Figuring out the current location would be fairly difficult without the extremely helpful map the DS always displays, which will prevent excessive disorientation due to the blandness of the locales.

   For such a story-driven game, Rhapsody is remarkably bad at giving the player direction. Usually a vague goal will be presented, and then Cornet gets to amble around in the hope of figuring out how to accomplish it. Talking to Kururu would ideally be a useful way to figure out what to do next, but she tends to exclaim over the current situation without providing any further clue about what to do. Other than wandering around everywhere trying to find something new, consulting a FAQ is the way to successfully progress.

   NIS might have been better off taking the story concept of Rhapsody and collaborating with an animation studio. Instead, a decent idea for a noninteractive media was crammed into the RPG realm. I probably could have finished the game in one day if I'd dedicated myself, but it threatened to put me to sleep more than once, and quick completion was not a possibility. Cornet and her compatriots are likable, if not deep, characters who would translate very well to some other project. Rhapsody as it exists is not worth taking the time to experience, sadly.

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