This Week in Games - Parappa the Rapper Remastered

by Dustin Bailey,

My weekend was consumed by what felt like 37 consecutive years of round-the-clock professional wrestling. I wouldn't ordinarily mention that here, except to post this picture of a certain authentically nerdy tag team (featuring Crunchyroll spokesperson Xavier Woods) decked out in Final Fantasy gear including Moogle plushies.

But I did find myself with time to check out at least one video game. And with another game this week questioning the viability of being watched rather than played, there's a certain irony to the way Parappa the Rapper Remastered got me bummed out.

I've Got Some Bad News About Parappa the Rapper Remastered

When Parappa the Rapper released back in 1996, rhythm games were a novelty. There were some vestigial examples of the genre, but the rapping dog was really a new breed. With all the games that would come after—from DDR to Guitar Hero to Elite Beat Agents—it's tough to imagine the world where the concept of a music game was entirely original. That's the blessing and the curse of Parappa the Rapper Remastered. It's a modern edition of an otherwise inaccessible game whose charm and influence are both endless, but it turns out that rhythm games have gotten a lot better in the past twenty years.

The just-released PS4 edition of the game is in turn a port of the decade old PSP edition of the game, and vestiges of that release go all the way down to mentions of the system and aged copyright notes in the credits. The cardboard cartoon look of the stages is well-served by the move to HD, and each of the raps looks gorgeous with cleaner modern visuals. Unfortunately, that's the only part of the package that's improved here. The prerendered video looks to be no more than an upscaled version of the original, and is pretty hideous blown up to HD. The menus are a pain to navigate and it's never quite clear when a given option is selected or not, which is made even more irritating by the lengthy transitions between scenes.

But that's immaterial to the game itself, right? The real problem is that time has been incredibly unkind to Parappa, and I say that as someone who regularly returns to games of every time period. The input window has been widened enough to mostly account for HD lag, but the absurdity of timing required to be rappin' anything better than “good” is a problem that's been with Parappa from the very beginning. I had minimal problems clearing the game on normal, but going for “cool” ratings? Forget about it. And with only six stages, such an entirely unappealing method of encouraging replay is a major downside.

Don't get me wrong, those six songs are some of the catchiest tracks in the history of video games. But if you've spent the past twenty years revisiting them in the form of tool-assisted Youtube videos, you might've forgotten that actually playing the game with anything less than machine precision results in an atonal mess of nonsensical raps and poorly-integrated freestyle lines—and that's when you're doing okay.

It remains basically impossible to hate Parappa. The overly simplistic love story that ties a Parappa's misadventures together is still adorable, as is the rappin' dog's constant, enthusiastic refrain of “I gotta believe!” But I'm not sure I got any more enjoyment out of actually playing the game than I have from years and years of watching perfect playthroughs online. As much as I love the flea market song—believe me, I love the flea market song—I have a rough time recommending a game that's more entertaining observed than played.

NEWS

ATLUS IS BEGGING YOU NOT TO STREAM PERSONA 5

I don't know if you guys have heard or not, but Persona 5 is out and seems to be very good. I haven't had the chance to dig in yet (I just started playing Nier: Automata), but I'm very excited to. Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and roses around P5. We knew that streaming had been blocked on PS4 at a system level, but it seems that Atlus is taking steps to crack down on any and all late game footage—whether as part of a stream, let's play, or anything of the sort.

I might be a bit old-school in that I generally prefer to play my games than watch them, but even I'll say that this move is beyond ridiculous. That's no legal opinion—my understanding is that a publisher is well within their legal rights to take down any video content featuring their game—but it defies basically any measure of common sense or good customer relations. Persona 5 is a story-driven, single-player game, and while that style has certainly declined in popularity since the rise of streaming, you don't see publishers of games like Horizon trying to prevent their titles from being streamed.

Atlus, however, is threatening copyright strikes against any in-depth video of P5. Whether or not you can blame lost sales on people watching the game is irrelevant, because that's just not how games work anymore. You might go so far as to argue that let's plays (and one enduring example in particular) helped introduce Persona to a wide audience in the West. Trying to stand alone against the tide of streams and let's plays is a sure way to get negative attention on your game from people whose audiences number in the millions. You're trading free positive publicity for free negative publicity, and that seems like a bad deal to me.

NIER AUTOMATA HAS BEEN SURPRISINGLY SUCCESSFUL

The original Nier has some ardent fans, but it's safe to call it a no more than a cult success. Even when Automata achieved glowing reviews and widespread buzz, it seemed doomed to suffer the same fate. But Square Enix announced this week that the game's “worldwide shipment and digital sales” had hit the million mark, placing it squarely in the camp of unqualified success.

Yes, there are some caveats to the way that number is represented, but it doesn't change the story, and director Yoko Taro had some adorable words about the announcement on Twitter—though just a few in English.

I would've made a joke about the role of butts in Automata's success, but it seems Taro is way ahead of me.

YEP, THAT NEW SENRAN KAGURA GAME IS COMING OUT HERE

In case you were concerned that the Xtreme 3 precedent meant that we'd have no more anime bikini games outside Japan, it's time to lay that fear to rest—Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash has been confirmed for Western release on PS4 this Summer. Xseed will be bringing the game to North America, while Marvelous will be handling the release for Europe and Australia.

In case you've missed what Peach Beach Splash is all about, it's boobs. But it's boobs in a 5-on-5 third-person water gun shooter, which I guess is as good a vehicle for fanservice as any. (Though seriously, where's the Keijo!!!!!!!! game?) There'll be single-player and online modes, customization options, and a whole equippable card system offering improvements for weapons, skills, and pets.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

YOOKA-LAYLEE
Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Team17
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: April 11
MSRP: $39.99

If you didn't love Banjo-Kazooie, then Yooka-Laylee is not the game for you. It is an N64-era collectathon platformer dressed up in modern aesthetics, made by key Rare staffers from the mid-90s, and all the good and bad that entails is right in front of you. I've played through both Banjo games relatively recently, and I think I'm ready for more. I hope my enjoyment was more real than pure nostalgia, but we'll find out soon enough.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
There's a veritable cornucopia of indie games coming this week, and it'll be fun picking through each to find what's worthwhile. Chief among them is Cosmic Star Heroine is a Kickstarted RPG that lists influences including Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star, and Suikoden, and Nippon Ichi is bringing us a gruesome puzzle-platformer in the form of A Rose in the Twilight.

I'm going to go play infinite hours of Nier and Persona now, thank you.


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