Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (DS)


Review by · September 21, 2008

It was nearly a decade ago that Atlus published Nippon Ichi’s “Puppet Princess of Marl’s Kingdom” for PlayStation in North America under the title “Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure.” Outside of its charming, musical storytelling, many gamers felt the game was average. So how could a handheld port do any better?

In total, I count five significant changes made from the PlayStation version to the DS port, released in North America by NIS America. They are as follows:


1) The PlayStation version suffered from slowdown and bad load times. This was to be expected back in the day, but that didn’t make it any less annoying at the time. Now, on the DS, all that waiting is gone. The game runs quickly and smoothly; everything is super-duper streamlined, especially menu navigation. It’s a great feeling.

2) Probably the biggest change: combat is now totally traditional turn-based. You (Cornet plus three allies) choose your actions, and then the turn plays out. Originally, Rhapsody’s combat played out in a strategy-esque style, while retaining “encounter” maps for shorter battles, like Ogre Battle. In Japan, Puppet Princess had some sequels, and they used a traditional turn-based style that did away with the more time-consuming Strategy-style battles. This system was included on the DS port of the first game, and I am personally quite happy to have it this way.

3) The translation has been updated. There are still some problems (the legendary “Nahshing” which is clearly meant to be rendered “Nothing” is mentioned), but NISA cleaned up as much as they could. One line even includes a reference to breaking the fourth wall to the fact that you’re playing on a DS.

4) A DS-only mini-game was added where you use the microphone to “blow your horn.” Keeping your volume level in the “good” section of the bar nets you more money; technically, it doesn’t matter whether you sing or blow air, the microphone just records the volume and it appears on a bar. The key here is to keep a consistent volume, not pitch. This mini-game can be played in any town at a sign near the town’s bar/pub.

5) The only change one could consider a drawback: there are only Japanese vocal tracks in the DS version. Strangely, the game’s end credits listed only the English vocalists from Atlus’ localization for PlayStation, even though in-game all we get is the Japanese version. If you were looking forward to hearing the English version, know that you won’t find it on the actual game cart. But the Japanese tracks are still wonderful, and the subtitles are lined up perfectly with the tracks.

So there you have it. Other than these changes, you can expect more of the same game that was released nearly a decade ago.

If you’ve never played the game before, and are interested not only in the new changes, but in what the game is all about, here’s the word:

The Musical Adventure

Rhapsody is absurdly charming. If you like the humorous dialogue of games like Disgaea, but you’re getting tired of the wacky-pseudo-evil stories and want something more traditional, more European, and more openly “musical,” this is the game for you. You play the role of Cornet, a young girl whose parents died when she was young. She has the special gift of being able to converse with “puppets” (dolls, etc), something most humans cannot do. At the game’s opening, Cornet’s friend and rival Etoile Rosenqueen mocks Cornet’s provincial ways, saying she could never be as rich or graceful as she. Perhaps to prove her wrong, and perhaps because she’s just love-struck, Cornet enters the competition for Prince Ferdinand to find a bride. It’s like American Idol, plus Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire?, all set in a medieval European world.

All of the events that unfold in what has been described here are merely the exposition to a solid, enjoyable 10 hour RPG. Though there are few side quests, it is the opinion of this reviewer that the size and pace of the RPG is just right. It’s certainly not too big, but it’s not too small either. You can sense that the game is designed to be a sort of interactive fairy tale, filled with beautiful locales and even more beautiful songs.

Town and dungeon exploration is rather simple, and sometimes repetitious. Fortunately, the top screen of your DS presents a very useful map at all times, making navigation much more painless. The random encounter rate for battles is high, but this is because the dungeons are generally small. Combat is a lot of fun, and with over two dozen puppets to put into your active party of four, you can set up a variety of party types for different situations. Even if you go by the motto “the best defense is a good offense,” elemental strength and weakness plays a major part, so when you strategize towards offense, you still have to think about balancing elements.

Everything about this game, especially thanks to the changes of the DS version, is simple and streamlined. If you want the dungeon exploration to be fast-paced, you can have it that way. If you want to explore every little nook and cranny to find treasure chests and additional party members, go for it. The pace, fortunately, is never slow, and because the game’s scope is small enough, you’ll never feel overwhelmed.

The music in Rhapsody, vocal and instrumental, is excellent. These are some of my favorite songs from veteran Tenpei Sato. The melodies are simple, fun, and occasionally heartwarming. With nearly a dozen in-game vocal performances, Rhapsody probably packs the most vocal tracks of any RPG for the DS.

Rhapsody is one of the best “oldschool” experiences you can have these days. It is NIS’s most unique game in scope, perhaps moreso than the Disgaea franchise. It wasn’t an easy thing to localize a very heavily Japanese-styled game, but NISA (and Atlus before them) did a fantastic job. This game oozes charm, and if you invest the time to play it from start to finish, the experience will remain in your memory for years to come.

Overall Score 91
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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.