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Considered revolutionary in its day, PaRappa the Rapper is superficially similar to the classic 1980s game Simon, in which the player is required to repeat an sequence of sounds and light. PaRappa the Rapper demands that the player not only get the sequence correct but also the timing, and provides snatches of spoken vocals (raps) that are triggered when the appropriate buttons are pressed. Pressing the buttons in the correct order, with the correct timing, provides an intelligible imitation of rap - pressing the buttons in an incorrect order or with lousy timing rewards the player with nothing more than unintelligible garbage.
While the gameplay is simplistic on a certain level, the game is remembered for its unique graphic design, its excellent soundtrack, and its bizarre plot. The unique visual style is that of Rodney Greenblat, an American graphic artist who is revered in Japan for his Wonder Bunny comic, amongst other works.
PaRappa the Rapper is regarded as being the first "modern" popular rhythm game. It was followed by a spin-off titled Um Jammer Lammy and a sequel, PaRappa the Rapper 2. It has spawned a large range of merchandising and a children's anime TV series in Japan.
Points are awarded for correctness and "style". By simply following the given sequence, the best a player can attain is "U rappin' GOOD". By filling in and "freestyling", but still keeping in time with the sequence and rhythm, the player can attain "U rappin' COOL". If the level is completed at the "U rappin' COOL" level, the player is treated to a different ending to the level. If all levels are completed at COOL level, a different game ending is shown, and a bonus song can be accessed.
PaRappa The Rapper takes place in Rodneytown. The player takes the role of a paper thin rapping dog that is trying to win the heart of a flower-like character, Sunny Funny. They hang out with his friends Katy Kat (a cat) and PJ Berri (a fat teddy bear). In his attempts to impress Sunny, he is often put down by his arch rival Joe Chin, a rich, narcissistic dog. PaRappa's journey begins with learning self-belief. In the first level, "I Need To Become A Hero!", he is taught the basics of gameplay at the local dojo by kung-fu master Chop Chop Master Onion. Later, he learns to drive with the fearsome Instructor Mooselini, learns the art of flea-market trading from Master Prince Fleaswallow, learns to cook with Cheap Cheap the Cooking Chicken, and must rap on stage with MC King Kong Mushi.
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