A playthrough of Atlus’s 2000 musical RPG for the Sony PlayStation, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure.
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is a game that has always reminded me of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest on the SNES. It has all of the basic components of a JRPG – turn-based random encounters, an overworld filled with towns and dungeons, and skills that can be learned with level ups, etc. The game play is all very much an “RPG for beginners” experience with its super-low difficulty and short length. Don’t let that put you off if you like the game’s style and vibe though – it still can be fun if you’re in the mood for a game that won’t demand too much from you.
I bought this one when it first came out. I remember reading about it from a couple of game magazines, and though I remember it sounding super corny, it looked so unique that I had to try it out.
The whole game tries to take up the mantle of an old 70s or 80s animated Disney film. You play as Cornet, a girl with a (surprise) cornet. She can talk to puppets, lives in a tiny pastoral village, an focuses entirely on impressing a prince, without whom her life would never be complete nor happy. Yeah, that’s the setup. Okay, so she ends up trying to save the prince, but I still actually laugh when the game gives you objectives like, “wear a beautiful dress” for the competition that decides the prince’s bride-to-be. It features one of the most blatantly misogynist setups that I can recall from the late 90s.
So, besides that, the biggest thing of note in Rhapsody is the music. It labels itself as a musical, and it doesn’t joke. Instead of the typically overblown CGI cutscenes interrupting the action at critical moments, these guys break into song. Seriously. The little 16-bit looking sprites belt out a dozen or so full songs across the course of the game, complete with syrupy lyrics, terrible rhyming lyrics. It certainly gives the game a different feeling from most RPGs.
I do remember when I bought the game, though, that while I was hoping for something epically Disney in terms of quality, I was expecting something significantly less – something that tried to match Disney’s magic, but would probably end up a bit cheap and shallow in comparison. And I’ve got to say, I wasn’t wrong. The music is funny and the sequences are somewhat entertaining, but they’re also a bit painful. None of the singers seem to know how to sing very well (Coronet’s is particularly bad, often going off-key), and the songs have harmonies in them that just don’t work when your male and female vocal leads miss their notes. Combine that with the cringey lyrics, and you’ve got something that to some is probably really endearing, while for others becomes a lesson in ear-torture. I personally find it to be a mix of both.
Rhapsody is a fun and cute little game, but I find that I got most of my entertainment from watching how badly it failed to hit many of its apparent goals. It nails the graphics nicely, though, with it’s hand-painted looked and the funny animations (especially Marjoly… man, she really needs a bra). The music, when it’s not shoehorning vocal performances in, is also quite good. The dungeons are pretty miserable, being loaded with mazes that look identical to one another, but overall, if you have a little kid that you want to give an RPG, or you want to pretend that you’re a Disney princess for a day, you’ll probably get a kick out of this. If you can excuse it’s issues, you too might enjoy it for the beautiful backdrops and the overall sheer novelty of it all.
Finally, I have to give props to Atlus for the localization job here. It reminds me of a Working Designs job – it’s full of jokes, it occasionally breaks the fourth wall, and it keeps everything feeling somewhat fresh and natural – and unlike many of Working Designs’ projects, it doesn’t randomly throw in jokes about Bill Clinton, farting, or Mystery Science Theatre 3000. They actually work in the context of the game, and many of the scenes are legitimately funny. If only Lunar, Vay, or Exile had had this team at the helm..! The quality of the localization is one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed this as much as I did, however insipid the plot might be!
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.
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