Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure

Once upon a time, there was a company known as Nippon Ichi. Long before they splashed onto American shores with the unusual tactical RPG Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, they produced a trilogy of musical RPGs taking place in the Kingdom of Marl, the first of which was Adventures of the Puppet Princess, localized by Atlus as Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. As is the case with most other videogame corporations’ first endeavors into the RPG world, Rhapsody isn’t exactly a masterpiece.

To begin, Rhapsody’s random encounters bear turn-based grid-based battles, with the player moving Cornet’s puppets around the field to attack or use magic. Cornet herself can move around and attack as well, yet can also tootle her trumpet to pump up her puppets. After enough blows of her horn, she can use powerful reward attacks, which can end most fights quickly. The sheer ease of battles, even in hard mode, is the battle system’s primary flaw, with most normal enemies and even most bosses being pure pushovers, with a high enemy miss rate, at that. The only real nod towards difficulty is the ridiculously low number of hits it can take certain enemies to kill your characters, with the game ending when Cornet dies. In the end, Nippon Ichi could’ve definitely made an effort to kick things up a notch and actually add a bit of strategy in combat.

Interaction is a little better, but short of perfect. Always welcome is the ability to save anywhere, although dungeon design is on the evil side of horrendous, with all dungeons containing countless rooms that look just alike and can really confound the player. The menus and character management aren’t too shabby, though, and in the end, interaction isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible, either.

Though it was the first “musical RPG”, Rhapsody isn’t really original, with its battle system basically resembling any tactical RPG’s battle system, with reward attacks being much like Limit Breaks, and so on.

The plot isn’t really anything to write home about either, following a girl from Orange Village named Cornet, who can speak with puppets, primarily her fairy friend Kururu. The Marl Kingdom has a contest to determine whom Prince Ferdinand will marry, only for a witch named Marjoly to turn him to stone and kidnap him, sending Cornet to perform a bunch of random tasks just to advance the story. This degree of fetch quests somewhat throws off the story, and the general saccharine nature of the game is sure to turn folks off, at that. There is one interesting twist towards the end, but the story isn’t as strong as it could’ve been, especially given the game’s shortness.

Being a musical RPG, the music is easily the best part of Rhapsody, but it isn’t perfect, either, suffering from painful repetition, as is the case with the dungeon and town tracks. There are a few decent pieces, though, such as the loading screen theme, in fact one of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever heard in an RPG, the title screen tune, and Rhapsody’s Celtic-style “sad theme”, “Shooting Star”. Ironically, the songs throughout the game and their lyrics are largely forgettable, and in the end, the game’s aural presentation could’ve been better.

The graphical presentation could’ve been as well, yet is another high point of the game, mainly with its nice anime-style environments and decent character art. However, the sprite art is pretty ugly and pixelated at times, and the game features a hilarious number of recolorings of sprites and dungeons; for instance, the fire and ice caves look just like a normal brown-hued cave, just tinted red and blue. The lousy dungeon design also plays part here, as well, and in the end, the visuals are mediocre at best.

While Rhapsody has three levels of difficulty, I had no problem even when playing on the hardest mode, and the game is pretty short as well, taking as little as five or up to fifteen hours to finish.

Rhapsody, in the end, definitely shows its status as Nippon Ichi’s first foray into the RPG business, and given the cold reception it received in America after its release, it’s unsurprising that its sequels, Little Princess and Angel’s Present, have not seen light beyond Japan. It’s definitely not worth any of the ludicrous prices it’s been going for online, and if you really want to experience it, you could definitely complete it in a weekend rental.

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