Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure Review «

Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure isn’t your typical role-playing game. Pivotal plot points don’t unfold via CG cut-scenes; rather, the cast bursts into musical numbers. And the heroine, Cornet, has the ability to flatten enemies with giant pancakes. Yep, this is a weird game.
Aside from dull dungeons that all look the same, the cute character sprites and wonderfully bright towns and backgrounds hold up very well on the DS. But the game is 10 years old (it debuted for the PS1 in Japan back in 1998), and even with the few changes, newcomers to this playful fairy tale will need to adjust their expectations accordingly.

Click the image above to check out all the Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure screens.
This version changes the original’s tactical battles to match the more accepted — and arguably more enjoyable — turn-based template. Your characters line up on one side, while enemies line up on the next. And as your party uses magical spells in combat, you build up a combo meter of sorts (represented by a musical staff that fills up with notes). Depending on what level this combo meter reaches (up to five), Cornet gains access to increasingly powerful abilities (including the aforementioned pancake power). As with many old-school RPGs, you wander around dungeons and get pulled into random battles. These encounters happen frequently, so the rudimentary dungeon map on the top screen is extremely useful, given the prevalence of dead ends in every dungeon.

But Rhapsody still suffers from many of the PS1 version’s quirks. It’s quite short for an RPG, clocking in at about eight to 12 hours — and made that long only by the compulsory need to collect party characters. These lovable puppets — a trio of egg brothers, some fairies, armored knights, a dragon, two in-love frogs, and many others — all have side quests that, once completed, grant Cornet new magical abilities. But this aspect’s tainted by the need to grind in order to level these characters up — and for no reason other than to complete the side quests, as you’ve no other real incentive to change out party members. The puppets still gain experience points even when they’re not actively in the party, but (despite the fact that your main party members will very quickly outpace the enemies due to frequent random battles) catching up the lower-leveled puppets is still a slow and tedious task.

Click the image above to check out all the Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure screens.
The shockingly easy combat difficulty exacerbates this annoyance. I ran through most of the game using the “auto” function, which has your team attacking the enemy on autopilot — and I was in no danger of dying. To make matters worse, Rhapsody oftentimes leaves you wondering what you need to do in order to trigger the next set of events or unlock the next dungeon or path forward. After you complete a dungeon, the game does a poor job of transitioning you to the next one. And even if you know where to go, the path may not open until you trigger it by talking to specific NPCs in a specific (and not always readily apparent) order. Many times, you’ll find yourself wandering though every town and talking to every NPC, in the hopes that one will spout some new dialogue. For instance, at one point, you need to bring Cornet back to her house (the game’s starting point) and check her mailbox in order to progress — with no way of knowing that, as the game doesn’t tell you to do it!

One might make the argument that the game’s targeted toward a younger crowd, which may account for the easy combat. But the musical numbers now use the original Japanese voices with English subtitles. This — combined with the sometimes unapparent path through the storyline — doesn’t make for a kid-friendly game. Outside of the charming (and yes, very girlie) story and genuinely humorous dialogue, all that’s left is a short, extremely easy, and sometimes confusing RPG.


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