There’s a huge amount of RPGs on the DS, so why did I choose such an old and somewhat unknown game to play? My friend played it back in 2008, and decided to give it to me for Christmas. My next purchase for DS will be Radiant Historia, so I decided to play something in between. I can’t just live off of card games and PS2 games no matter how fun they are. So I played Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. This is the DS port of an old PSX game made by NIS and published in North America by ATLUS. NISA wasn’t formed yet back then.
Rhapsody follows Cornet, a girl who plays the trumpet and can talk to dolls. She is very close to Kururu, a doll she had ever sicne she was little that moves and talks. She fangirls over Prince Ferdinand, the young bishounen prince of the country. One day, her Grandpa asks her to get some Red Inotium in the Wonder Woods, so she sets off with Kururu. Upon arriving at the last area of Wonder Woods, she gets attacked by a cat girl who summoned a dragon. The Prince comes and saves her, so she decides to go after him. She joins some beauty contest where the winner can become the Prince’s bride, and she wins. At the party where they dance, Marjorly (1509-year-old stripperific witch who likes teenage boys) comes in to claim the Prince as hers. She casts a spell on him, which backfires and turns him into stone. Shen then kidnaps the stone Prince and it is up to Cornet to save him and turn him back.
That is essentially the main objective of the story. In other words, it’s the usual save the princess plot with the genders reversed. The dialogue is pretty hilarious at times, but the story isn’t any epic saving-the-world scenario with massive character development and angst. There aren’t any plot twists (maybe one really predictable one, although that wouldn’t be much of a twist), the game plays out exactly how you expected it to. There’s also the usual “a town is in trouble due to something that requires you to solve at a nearby dungeon” scenario where the town has its own story, but I never got attatched to any of the towns. I simply didn’t care about the towns’ troubles, unlike Dragon Quest IX where the story of each town was very interesting. If you’re looking for and RPG with a gripping story, Rhapsody is not it.
I didn’t grow attatched to anyone in this game, because all the characters were so flat. I blame it on the game’s length, because an RPG cannot flesh out its characters in 10 hours. If the game was 30 hours long with decent RPG-level plot twists, I’m sure they could’ve expanded more on the cast and make them grow. They could’ve done so much more with a stuck-up, prideful tsundere ojou-sama like Etoile, or at least make Cornet become more interesting. Even if character development isn’t apparent, they could have done something more to make the characters interesting and memorable. I guess NIS learnt their lessons though, because they came out with the hilarious and memorable Disgaea eventually.
If you’re looking for characters that you’ll get attatched to, Rhapsody might have them, but I wouldn’t count on it. You can see early traces of NIS’ humor from their later games, but that’s it.
Standard turn-based RPG fare, with drawbacks. My number one complaint is that the game was too easy. I’m not saying as an RPG regular, but as a gaming noob. Even if you’ve never touched a game in your life ever, Rhapsody is easier than a walk in the park. Sure, experienced gamers might call Wild Arms 4, Dragon Quest IX or the Pokemon games easy, but Rhapsody is on a whole new level of Easy mode. You can literally use auto for all random encounters, and the only time you need to stop is to heal. No strategy is required other than attack-attack-attack-heal-repeat (and maybe all target spells if you want it to end quickly). Even the latter parts of Wild Arms 4 where most bosses can be 2HKO’ed cannot be compared to this game. There is no challenge at all, even for a beginner. The only battle where you actually have to have some sort of caution is the fight against Marjorly and her 3 underlings near the end, and maybe the final boss.
The battle system itself is fairly limited. You can attack, use a spell, or use an item. There is no guarding. Cornet can play her horn to power up or heal allies, and gain appreciation points. She can then use the appreciation bar to drop sweets on enemies. Your other party members are all dolls, and you get a number of dolls throughout the game so you can decide who to use in your party. It doesn’t really matter though, because anything works.
This game has some of the worst dungeons I’ve ever seen. It’s understandable in the PSX version because NIS probably had no money back then and could only recycle the same 3 backgrounds for the dungeons. I don’t get why they didn’t spice things up for the DS port, now that they actually have the cash to do it. The dungeons are tedious and have no variety. Random encounter rates are very high. Each dungeon is basically divided into rooms that you can move to. I suppose they made it this way because they didn’t have the cash to make the background change as you move futher. Everywhere is the same so the top screen mini-map is handy for peopel who can’t stand the dungeons.
Overall, I’d say the Rhapsody gameplay is bearable at best. Don’t expect some kind of addicting battle system, a variety of dungeons, or puzzles. I’ve seen screenshots of the PSX version, and I must say that I would’ve liked the SRPG style better. And you could recruit monsters. I don’t get why they’d make the port have less options when it’s released almost a decade later.
I’ll applaud Rhapsody for doing something unique amongst RPGs: musicals. Instead of voiced cutscenes during important moments, you get to hear the characters sing. The DS version only has Japanese voicetrack, but the PSX version had the songs available in English. The vocals are decent enough, and the tunes are pretty catchy. Lyrics are rather cheesy, but it’s a musical, what do you expect?
The BGM in the game is OK, and there’s some retro sound effects. The menu sounds are annoying. Very much so.
The game got no graphics overhaul when it got ported, so it still looks like an old game. Since the DS is ideal for sprites, this isn’t much of an issue. The sprites aren’t terribly detailed, but I don’t mind as long as everything looks clear. The character art is nice and cute, so all is forgiven (graphics-wise).
A simple RPG developed by a company when it was in its early stages. The main attracting points of Rhapsody would be its cuteness and maybe its songs and the musical nature. There’s some funny dialogue, but not at the level of the Disgaea series or Zettai Hero Project. It’s a good game to try if you want to see how far NIS has come. The game will only last you around 10 hours (I completed it in less than that even though I got lost for a long time in some dungeons), so it wouldn’t take much time. The difficulty and bland battle system can be off-putting, unless you just survived a nuke, deflected a car, beat up the extremely hard extra boss and you want some ultra-easy relaxing game that you can just sit back and leave it on auto.