Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure - Staff Review  

A Musical Disaster
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure
Very Easy
Less than 20 Hours
+ You can attack with cake!
+ At least it's easy!
+ At least it's short!
- Very uninspired.
- Dry bones battle system.
- So very repetitive.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Who hasn't wanted to play an RPG where characters break into song randomly? Now I'm not talking about a plot point that involves an in-game concert or the like, I'm talking sporadic soloing from the main character and villains alike. If you find yourself as one of the unfortunate few who have yet to experience such a treat, look no further than Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure for the Nintendo DS.

   Initially a PlayStation title, Rhapsody has now been remade on the DS by Nippon Ichi. Like most other Nippon Ichi originals, this game is very quirky, not really fitting into a cookie cutter mold that RPGs tend to fall into. Characters sing, the main character Cornet can talk to puppets and even recruits them into her party, and for once the prince is the one that gets kidnapped and it's up to Cornet, a commoner, to save him. This game never attempts to take itself seriously, and it hits the mark of exactly what it tries to be: a very simple RPG.

Easy as... cake? Easy as... cake?

   Rhapsody's simplicity is both its greatest asset and its biggest failing. On one hand the game is straightforward and accessible to just about anyone. There is little to no learning curve, so it has some of the makings of a simple introductory RPG. Sadly, everything that makes Rhapsody simple and easy to play also makes it a very bland experience.

   The battle system is bare bones, featuring turn-based combat with few frills. Cornet and her puppets all have unique skills, though Cornet has a small handful of horn skills that assist in building up her horn gauge. Once this gauge reaches a certain level, she can attack enemies with deadly pancakes, flan, and even cake. That's about as deep as combat within the game gets, so it's fairly limited. Dungeons are just as bland, as most consist of tons of square rooms linked together in a labyrinthine fashion. Even with the mini map that's new to the DS version, exploration can still be a tedious process. Further compounding these problems is the fact that figuring out where to go next is often a frustrating experience. The game points players in a direction, but fails to mention the requirements that needed to be met before they can actually progress.

   It's not just the humdrum combat that fails to deliver, but the story as well. While it's very light-hearted and attempts to be humorous, it just doesn't come across as compelling and the jokes are so blatant that they just aren't funny. It's difficult to say if the attempts at humor either didn't translate well or just weren't funny in the first place, as even the most tongue-in-cheek moments were vapid. Character development is hardly explored and any plot twists are just trite and completely transparent. It's a shame, because with such an elementary game, a little bit of subtle humor could have gone a long way. At least it tries a unique twist of having the prince get kidnapped instead of the other way around.

Nice try... but no. Quirky humor falls flat.

   Rhapsody does feature some solid artwork and character designs, both of which transfer into the game quite well. However, the artwork isn't enough to save this game, as the explorable areas are not only monotonous, but repetitive as well. Enemy sprites (and even some puppet ones) are often palette swaps, making even the unique designs dull after a while hence doing little to alleviate the game's dreariness. Also, one would think that a game based around music would actually have a quality soundtrack, but that area also comes up short. There are decent enough pieces in the game and the songs scattered throughout, though in Japanese, are suitable. However, too much of the game's music is repeated far too often, especially some of the more irritating ones such as the piece heard when a random battle occurs. The presentation is the least of the complaints about the game, but it does little to improve the rest of the experience.

   What could have been a fun, blithe little game in the end does little to impress. Rhapsody is uninteresting; it's as simple as that. The story is lacking, the humor falls flat, the combat system is dry, the visuals are bland, and even the music is unimpressive. Sure a mini-map was added and the battle system was changed completely, but even those changes were not enough to save it. Thankfully, the game is short, so it's easy enough for someone to playthrough despite these issues and not feel like they've lost out on a lot of time. It's a shame, though, because Rhapsody could have been a great entry-level RPG to help bring new gamers into the genre, but I fear it will repel more than it will attract.

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