Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure DS - Staff Review  

If Disney Made A—Err... Another RPG
by Adriaan den Ouden

Click here for game information
Very Easy
Less than 20 Hours
+ Great user interface.
+ Charming fairy-tale story.
- Devoid of challenge.
- Lack of player direction.
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   Most of us RPGamers are starting to get a little older (some more than others), but it's likely that we all have fond memories of childhood cartoons. Classic movies like The Land Before Time, An American Tail, or any of the thousand titles released by Walt Disney. These movies all had several things in common: a fairy-tale story, a subtle mix of playful and mature humor, and most importantly, excellent music. There is a certain timeless quality to these films, and this is exactly what Nippon Ichi Software attempted to capture eight years ago with the release of Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. Unfortunately, the game was riddled with problems, and in the end wasn't terribly well received. Despite that, NIS has decided to make a second attempt with Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure DS, a remade version of the PlayStation original, featuring a retouched script and completely redesigned gameplay. While Rhapsody DS is far from perfect, it is nonetheless a significantly improved and wholly enjoyable, if incredibly easy, game.

   Rhapsody tells the story of Cornet, a young girl with the ability to speak to puppets. She's the typical fairy-tale heroine, with dreams of meeting a prince charming and living happily ever after. In an unusual twist, however, the damsel in distress is tasked with saving her would-be hero, rather than the other way around. The story provides the typical NIS charms, with self-referential humor, hokey plot points, sappy romance, and general silliness that is equally difficult to hate as it is to love. Rhapsody's Disney-esque charm is likely to amuse as many as it will irritate, but regardless of taste, there should be a few moments that even the most serious gamer will crack a smile at.

   Being a Musical Adventure, music naturally plays a fairly important role throughout the game. At regular intervals throughout the story the characters will burst into song and dance. One thing of note here, however, is that these songs are generally designed to support the story rather than tell it, making Rhapsody more of a children's movie than a true musical, and the distinction is important. The result is mainly that, while the music is decent, the lyrics are of little importance and not terribly memorable; most of the songs will be forgotten almost immediately. Also, in an odd decision, NISA opted to include the Japanese language tracks for the song while subtitling the English lyrics beneath. It is quite obvious that the translation is not at all precise in these cases, since the English lyrics are both rhythmically timed and rhyme, so this decision just seems strange.

The new maps are fantastic; a small part of one of the best interfaces in a DS RPG. The new maps are fantastic; a small part of one of the best interfaces in a DS RPG.

   Music continues to play a role in the gameplay of Rhapsody as well. As her name would suggest, Cornet brings a horn with her into battle, which she uses to various effects. However, its primary use is to control the puppets that she meets throughout the game world, recruiting them into her party. Three puppets can accompany Cornet into battle at any time, each capable of using a wide variety of special skills and spells. For the puppets, these skills all consume SP, but Cornet's combat works slightly differently. Cornet has two separate types of abilities. The first are her special skills that she learns in the same manner as the puppets, but among these are skills that cause her to play her horn. Whenever she uses one of these, three notes appear in a musical bar at the top of the screen. When the bar is completed, a gauge increases by one and the bar resets. She can store up to five bars of music at a time, carrying them over across battles, and can spend the points on some bizarre but powerful special attacks. Most of these attacks deal increasing amounts of damage to all enemies and take the form of gigantic sugary treats like pancakes or flan. With five points filled, Cornet can use the Angel skill, which completely restores all allies' HP and SP.

   While the original Rhapsody made use of a pseudo-tactical battle grid, Rhapsody DS has simplified things into a traditional turn-based combat system. Attacks are selected through an extremely well-designed touch menu and the round is carried out, with characters and enemies acting based on their agility. While this may be a disappointment to some, the battles are extremely fast, allowing the player to focus more on the story.

   The original Rhapsody also received harsh criticism for its lack of maps and repetitive dungeon backgrounds. While the dungeons still make use of the same tiles, Rhapsody DS has received a major upgrade in the form of an incredibly useful map. The map is simple, consisting of brown boxes connected by lines to show the paths in and out, but the current room is always brightly highlighted, making exploration a breeze. In an amusing twist of fate, it actually becomes easier to miss things as players may find themselves watching the map more than the actual dungeon.

Play that funky music, white girl! Play that funky music, white girl!

   The biggest issue still present in the game is its lack of direction. Most of the time the player is left stumbling about blindly, hoping to run into whatever it is he has to do next, and it can become quite frustrating at times. Often times arbitrary requirements will be placed before important scenes can be activated of which the player has no information, and at others one is expected to simply foray headlong into a dungeon and hope it's the right place.

   A close second, however, is Rhapsody's difficulty level, or rather lack thereof. Marshmallows are harder than this game. Although many would consider it a flaw, the fact that it plays like an entry level RPG and tells a Disney-style story suggests that the intended audience is much younger than the typical RPGamer, and if marketed properly (for example, like Disney marketed Spectrobes), it could be wildly successful. But this again brings up the questionable choice of using Japanese voice tracks rather than English, and the whole idea goes out the window.

   Visually, not much has changed from the PlayStation version, but aside from the repetitive dungeon corridors, the sprites and backdrops are all excellent and easy on the eyes. Some of them, such as the Wonder Woods and various towns, look downright fantastic. The background music in most areas is also generally fairly pleasing to the ears, and occasionally quite catchy. One complaint, unfortunately, is that the animations during the musical numbers are extremely lackluster, and often almost nonexistent. There simply isn't enough going on to accompany the length of the songs.

   Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure had a lot of issues when it was released in 2000, but Rhapsody DS has corrected most of those, and in so doing has become a surprisingly enjoyable game. It is, unfortunately, rather short, lasting a mere ten to fifteen hours; short enough to play in a single day for more dedicated gamers. There are still enough flaws present to alienate a lot of players, but anyone looking for a light-hearted romp through a fairy-tale kingdom should be inclined to take a look.

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