| paleface [sys=PS1; cat=Role_Playing; loc=NA] |
|Rhapsody is the earliest game to come to the West from Nippon Ichi--well, since the 32-bit era, anyway, I don't know about earlier. Since their later game Disgaea hit it big on the PS2, Rhapsody has become a bit of a hot item for desperate Nippon Ichi addicts. They may be disappointed though, as it is quite a bit different from Nippon Ichi's PS2 games.|
Although it has a grid-based free-movement tactical combat basis, the combat in Rhapsody is really pretty basic, and most of the time you'll just be running up to foes and punching them. Sure you get a lot of spell attack and so forth, but these are pretty much just useful as point or area-of-effect damage strikes. Then again, you don't need to do much in the way of fancy-pants buffing and debuffing, since you can pretty much walk right through anyone in the game.
Yep, the came is easy as, well, pie. Mmm, pie. I'll admit that I was sweating the very final boss fight a bit after I foolishly allowed one of my team of four to get wiped out, but other than that I can't remember any hairy combat moments. And I don't really have much of a problem with that. Rhapsody's focus is clearly on story and character rather than strategic combat, and in those two areas it excels. (Although I really should have got a picture or two of the main character Cornet's screen-filling food attacks, like her level four one which covers the screen in stacks of gigantic pancakes. Mmm... pancakes.)
Cornet, the main protagonist, is the feisty type of just-maturing tomboy who we're by now all quite familiar with from just about any game or movie you can think of. And the story, looked at from a distance, is the old "collect some elemental gems to save the world" thing. But the game's storytelling is strong enough to make these hackneyed conventions feel fresh and fun. A lot of this has to do with the wacky supporting cast, particularly the quartet of "evil" chicks who end up kidnapping Cornet's sorta-sweetie... accidentally. Kinda. See, you just have to play through it, because it's presented in a really fun, sassy and charming way.
I don't want to say anything more to spoil the story, so I guess I'll just talk a bit more about the game mechanics. For one thing you can save anywhere, which is awesome and really makes the game a fun "pick up and play" type of thing that you don't get often in RPGs, even tactical ones. Actually I don't know if you can save in battle, but 99.9% of the time a battle is over in about thirty seconds, so that's never really an issue.
Your overpowered characters level up at a pretty fair clip. For instance I clocked about ten hours through the game, and Cornet was level 48 or so. The other characters are all sentient "dolls" that Cornet finds and befriends, either that or random monsters who sometimes offer to join her team after she whips 'em. I don't advise putting the monsters on your active team, however, since they never get anywhere near as good as the dolls, and will just suck up XP that could go to a much more powerful doll. To give you an example of how quick the levelling is: when Cornet was about level 40 or so I was still finding more dolls (and glancing at a FAQ shows there were a good deal more that I didn't find), and after just one random battle 30-second they would go from level 1 to level 5 of 6.
Inventory is a simple affair. Each character can carry three rings, which are handy for boosting offense, defense, intelligence (spell power), etc. Aside from the rings you just draw on the group equipment pool, and although you can get lots of healing and restoring items in there, you won't really need 'em much.
To travel you click around a world map, then steer Cornet around screen-size chunks of the area maps. Switch on the analog stick and Cornet will cruise around at a pretty good clip. A few hours into the game you'll be able to travel pretty much anywhere on the world map instantly, yay! Towns typically consist of one, maybe two screens with four or five small buildings and a handful of NPCs walking around outside.
Then there are the dungeons. Some people complain about these, and they have a legitimate beef: there are only two dungeon tilesets in the game, and these are recycled over and over throughout the story. There's the lumpy earth tunnel tileset and the square grey brick tileset. Later they start color-tinting these, so you'll get to wander through the *gasp* blue earth tunnels. Wow! Since it's a generic tileset each part of the tunnels looks like any other and they're laid out in multi-level maze fashion, so wandering around through them can get a bit frustrating at times. Still the battles are so quick and easy that you're never really in danger of getting worn down and wiped out even if you're running in circles for a while.
Like a lot of older RPGs, Rhapsody quite often gives you no reminder of what you have to do next. Since the game is so short, this won't be a problem for you unless you happen to stop playing it for say, oh, four months or so, and then go back and try to figure out what the heck was going on, and where you have to go after getting x games of y, for instance. Ah well, that's what FAQs are for I suppose.
Even with those quibbles, I really enjoyed Rhapsody. The story and characters are so charming that you can't help but like the darn thing, oh yeah and there are genuine musical numbers! I mean, the characters will be talking, and then just burst into song. It isn't the best singing, and the original Japanese was probably way better (you can switch to Japanese voices if you want), but it does the job and as long as you're willing to put up with a little cornball stuff, the songs really do give the game an added layer of charm and emotional depth. The game even comes with a separate soundtrack disc... but probably only little kids with nothing better to listen to will want to listen to the soundtrack more than once, as outside of the game the music can't really compete with other stuff you can get at any music store.