The video game I’ve been playing is called PaRappa the Rapper and yes, its as fun and hilarious as it sounds. Its a Japanese rhythm game, with a similar skillset to that of guitar hero in that the player’s goal is learning to press the right buttons as the on screen avatar gets better at rapping. The protagonist of the narrative of the game is an adolescent dog who is in love with a sunflower named Sunny Funny. In each level, PaRappa learns new life skills (ie how to drive, how to make cake, how to play karate, etc) while also learning different styles of rap. His goal in the game is win Sunny’s affection through rapping. The final level is a rap concert which you have to master in order to win Sunny’s heart. If you don’t, she shrugs coyly and says “maybe next time”, enticing the player to gain back their pride and get the girl. In any given level, depending on your proficiency at mimicking the rhythm of the particular rapping teacher, PaRappa is deemed rappin’ “cool” “good” “bad” or “awful”. At certain points, if you lose a level, there are graphic interludes. During one of the karate levels, for example, PaRappa really has to go to the bathroom, but must learn to rap and play karate at the same time. If you lose, there is a zoom in on PaRappa’s stomach, in which you see a rocket ship blasting off and dropping poop into the sky.
The randomness of the rapping teacher’s species (including but not limited to a chicken, a moose, a frog, and a cockroach) is trumped only by the randomness of the lyrics, with gems such as “Money money money is all you need” and “I never dreamed it would be like this I am the number one ruler of the seven seas” or “The skunk over here will bring you luck – The pump over here comes with a truck”.
The game was created for the Sony Playstation and according to Wikipedia was considered ahead of its time, and influenced by the 1980s game Simon. You not only have to master repeating the sequence, but also the rhythm of the sequence. While playing, you find yourself dancing along with the raps, and picking favorite teachers and lyrics.
While the player gets better at pressing buttons in rhythm to make PaRappa’s rhymes sound tight, PaRappa learns to drive, bakes a seafood cake, uses the bathroom, and learns how to shop at a flea market. Its funny, the same way guitar hero allows you to watch an avatar actually playing guitar, the player just learns to press keys rapidly, not using any real musical skill or creativity. Similarly, as PaRappa learns to do lots of new things, you just get better at pressing keys rhythmically, which leaves me essentially and completely uninspired.
Thus was my short lived affair with video games. I will look back on my adventures with PaRappa as he comes of age, and hope that one day, I too will learn to bake a seafood cake.


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