Rhapsody is not a particularly well-known game, but there is a small story that led to me buying it several years ago. It started with a much better known game by the name of Disgaea 2, which I will also be reviewing eventually. I missed it the first time around when it was on the PS2 because I was more preoccupied with life and Final Fantasy. So when I bought the PSP port and started downloading the additional DLC characters, I was curious where these characters came from and noticed they were mostly from prior games. Thus began my exploration into the back catalog of Nippon Ichi Software, which tangentially also led to Atlus, both of which were involved in the release of this game and went on to become RPG powerhouses.
I know what you’re thinking. Just the title itself sounds silly and childish. And you’re right, the game definitely is both. But I found myself enjoying the plot all the same because it has a certain innocence. Cornet is a singing, magical horn-playing girl pining over the dashing Prince Ferdinand. She has the ability to talk to and control puppets, including her best friend and guardian Kururu. As a result of a series of goofy misadventures, many of which involve rival Etoile, Cornet must go on a mission to save the boy she loves.
Battles in Rhapsody are TRPG-lite with Cornet and 3 puppets/friendly monsters lined up on one side and all the enemy monsters on the other. When each character’s turn comes up, that character is moved and/or attacks. Each puppet and monster has its own set of abilities and affinities which makes switching them around quite interesting. There’s no requirement to switch them, however; you could simply stick with the same team most of the game.
As I alluded to, recruiting monsters is also possible, but don’t get it twisted and assume this is going to be like Pokemon–there are a few caveats to monster recruitment. The first is that Cornet has to beat the monster. The second is that recruitment is random with a small chance of actually occurring. The third is that when monsters die in battle, they’re gone for good. Therefore, it’s much easier to simply rely on puppets once you get 3 of them in your party.
While I have no problem with this game being cutesy and lighthearted, I take extreme issue with the fact that the dungeon design in this game is the worst I’ve ever seen. There are 3 or 4 basic graphical types used, and they simply change the colorway for different areas. Each one becomes a maze of what seems like randomly generated (but aren’t) rooms no bigger than the size of the screen. Some of these dungeons can take an hour or more to explore every single passageway with most ending in dead ends and no treasure. It took just a couple of them to convince me that using a guide would help keep me sane. This design reeks of laziness.
Speaking of laziness, while each character has its own skillset, most of the same types of spells have the exact same graphic when used. The exception is Cornet’s abilities which are cute and mostly represented by sugary desserts. New enemies will often be palette-swapped representations of old enemies, and most puppets look similar to one or two others. All of this can make battles look visually boring. Add to that the fact that halfway through the game, it gives you vague directions on how to continue the story.
The game’s saving grace is that nothing takes very long. You can usually run through dungeons pretty quickly if you know where you’re going. There is an auto-battle button (square) which the game never discusses but will move and attack for you so random battles aren’t a huge annoyance. Leveling up happens pretty quickly too, so you can usually go from being underpowered to overpowered within a half hour. The whole game takes around 10 hours to complete. There are also some late-game story developments that are kind of cute and unexpected which make the game more worthwhile.
I hear the DS version received many alterations such as ditching the TRPG battles, being able to use Kururu in battle, and receiving a special move upon completing quests for similarly-designed puppets. I don’t believe the dungeon designs were changed, but I think there are maps, which helps. Overall, I have to say that the Playstation version of Rhapsody is difficult to recommend. It is cute and fun, but for all the design frustration and short runtime, it’s probably not worth tracking down a copy. However, if you are a devoted collector and want to acquire this game, you will be in for a short but sweet treat.