If you missed Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure when it first came out for PlayStation almost a decade ago, you’re sadly not alone. It’s a traditional RPG that looks fairly generic on the surface, but tells an unusually sensitive story about a plain girl named Cornet who embarks on a quest to save a prince, and more importantly, discover herself along the way. Awww... Meatheads, turn back now!
Everything about Rhapsody is unrelentingly girly without being cloying or cheesy. Battles would be run-of-the-mill, turn-based fare if not for the ridiculously cute, robust arsenal of magic attacks for Cornet and her army of puppets (did we mention she has the rare ability to bring dolls to life?). Not only can you smash enemies with lightning bolts and meteors, you also wield a variety of deadly baked goods, such as the fearsome pancake attack. Even with the plethora of adorable attack animations though, the simplicity of the battle system quickly becomes apparent, because all the attacks, magic or not, are basically the same. Because of this lack of depth and the overall lack of difficulty throughout, hardcore RPG fans may get bored quickly.
But if you can see beyond the simple combat, Rhapsody’s story shines as its strongest point. Because it doesn’t rely on caricatures or stereotypes, the dialogue feels remarkably honest and relatable. Aside from the one-dimensional, bumbling bad guys (because really, this story isn’t about them), each character displays subtlety and depth that’s rarely seen.
Above: Hooray for poop jokes!
While a lighthearted tone prevails throughout, serious themes are treated with appropriate respect. Since it’s really a coming-of-age tale, the theme of parent-child relationships pervades several characters’ stories – from Cornet losing her mother at a young age to her friend Etoile’s absentee father who tries to buy his daughter’s love, and even a proud king who slays his daughter’s fiancé in cold blood over a petty grievance. Despite some depressing subject matter, Rhapsody refreshingly avoids the emo route, and handles emotional moments with a mix of mature wisdom and childlike innocence.
At 12 – 14 hours of gameplay, RPG fans who subscribe to the length = value doctrine may feel shortchanged, but within that short time Rhapsody packs a lot of personality. It’s disappointing that there’s nothing new in the DS release, but that won’t matter for the vast majority of us who never got to enjoy Rhapsody on PS1.
Oct 8, 2008