Believe it or not Nippon Ichi does make other games besides Disgaea. Before the company broke out with their successful grid-based masterpiece they created a quirky music-inspired title for the original PlayStation called Rhapsody. While competent enough to entertain some gamers the focus on simple battles and cutesy characters left the game somewhere between confusing and ridiculous for most gamers. Now with an established fanbase and several critically-acclaimed titles under their belt NIS has decided to revive this idiosyncratic PSOne classic for the Nintendo DS.
The outlandish activities commence with the story, which casts you as cute-as-buttons Cornet, a young peasant girl obsessed with a prince she has only met in her dreams. If this wasn’t enough to send you off the deep end she also has the ability to talk to dolls-yes dolls. In fact her best friend in the game is Kururu, a puppet that will follow you along your journey. Cornet can also befriend other dolls in the game to add to your party. My guess is that the game was aimed at the female demographic in Japan, which in turn is the reason it will likely do much better on Nintendo’s dominant portable.
The entire story feels like a Japanese take on the popular Disney formula of rags to riches fairy tales such as Cinderella, except that the protagonist here can talk to dolls of course. Everything here is simple and obviously aimed at casual gamers. You can save anywhere, battles are simplified versions of other NIS titles and the game practically holds your hand through most of the game. However, if you enjoyed the original on PSOne there is a lot of incentive to check out this new version. Once you beat the game you can access a new part of the story that is worth checking out if you were a huge fan of the original game.
Everything in the game has been revamped from the original to cater to the DS hardware. The top screen now houses a map of each dungeon which is handy, but also takes a bit of the challenge out of the game. The core game play has also been transformed from a strategy RPG to a more conventional turn-based affair. Unlike other Nippon Ichi efforts you no longer have to rely on strategic placement to perform spells or attacks and all enemies fall much easier. In fact you can set the game to auto attack and practically breeze through the game, which makes for a better portable experience, but will deter some of the more hardcore fans. The lack of strategy is a gutsy move because it will either pay off handsomely to casual players or cause hardcores to cry foul.
While the battle system is ridiculous easy there is still a substantial quest to embark on within. This is mostly due to the mundane backtracking that Rhapsody requires you to perform. The worst part is that nine times out of ten these tasks have to be performed over and over again just to cue a particular cut scene. Speaking of cut scenes this game is chock full of cutesy cinemas that rival the ratio of the Metal Gear series. Combine this with the fact that most chapters are relatively short and you have some serious downtime while playing the bulk of the game.
The silver lining in all of this is that the game, much like all other Nippon Ichi titles, is chock full of vibrant visuals and a colorful cast of characters. The sprites in the game look just as good as they did on the PSOne original and the backgrounds are colorful and make traversing the same real estate over and over a bit more tolerable. Sounds are equally impressive. Seeing as this is a musical game you can expect an ample amount of musical numbers that are surprisingly well done. Purists will be excited to know that all of the game’s dialogue and melodies are still done in Japanese with no English option at all. The presentation of Rhapsody is clearly its brightest feature and will likely appeal to fans of quirky and casual titles.
Rhapsody is an adventure that is worth checking out for all fans of Nippon Ichi’s work. As long as you can overlook the simplicity of the game play, the abundance of cut scenes and its ridiculous amounts of cuteness then there is a lot of fun to be found within. While it will not set the world ablaze it has enough charm to help you overlook its shortcomings.