Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess


Review by · August 25, 2023

Long before the near overwhelming damage numbers of Disgaea and the panel combo chaos of La Pucelle: Tactics, Nippon Ichi Software developed a charming little game named Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. Rhapsody was a cute, brief adventure rife with amusing jokes and heartwarming songs. Having released in the West in late 1998, it was easily overshadowed by the RPG juggernaut Squaresoft’s titles, such as Xenogears and Parasite Eve, alongside the complete cultural phenomenon known as Pokémon Red & Blue. Naturally, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure was destined to be little more than a quirky oddity in an unforgettable year. It’s no surprise the sequels never saw the light of day in the West until now, with NISA’s release of Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles. The first title in the collection is Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess. After over two decades, how does this title hold up?

Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess is a direct sequel to the original Rhapsody. The story takes place fourteen years later and stars Kururu, daughter of Rhapsody‘s protagonist, Cornet, and the prince she yearned for. Fans of the original game will immediately notice that Kururu shares her namesake with the puppet that accompanied Cornet on her adventure across Marl Kingdom. As Kururu is the young princess and heir to the kingdom, she should be a prim and proper lady learning to rule, according to her retainers. Yet, much like her mother, Kururu seeks a grand adventure full of excitement, danger, and love. With her childhood friend Crea and a cast of puppets at her side, Kururu seeks to make a name for herself within the kingdom. Though, one might wonder if such an adventure is solely to get out of studying.

Although Rhapsody II is rather comedic, the story is one of its strongest points. While the first game focused on rescuing a young prince and finding love, Rhapsody II expands the adventure to cover a dizzying array of plot points—including shutting down dancing and singing cats who set up an ice cream shop and kidnap their competition, taking to the skies in a secret whale-shaped airship, and traveling far beyond the reaches of Marl Kingdom. While the story is whimsical and fun, a surprising amount of care is put into the cast. Characters from the first game have grown as people and have plenty of advice to share and guidance for the rambunctious yet impressionable Kururu.

Rhapsody II screenshot of protagonists Kururu and Crea in battle.
Rhapsody II’s new battle system solves the original game’s biggest problem, and this time it’s actually a bit challenging.

The story also tackles difficult subjects such as sexism and gender inequality. One of the main cast members, Sonia, is the first female knight in the kingdom. Despite her father’s placement as the head knight, she has faced vicious scrutiny, mockery, and harassment due to being a woman, and much of her storyline is about her overcoming social norms and surpassing those who sought to keep her down. She serves as a strong role model for the women in the kingdom, and despite her strict nature, she wants nothing more than to see Princess Kururu achieve her own dreams.

The combat in Rhapsody II is a massive step up from the first game. The original game’s combat was so mind-numbingly easy that it might as well have had no battles at all. Nothing ever put up a fight, boss battles were completed in seconds, and the strategy revolved around spamming the strongest AoE attack ad nauseam. Thankfully, Rhapsody II remedies this by changing the battle system completely. Combat no longer takes place on a tactical grid, but instead on a 2D side-view with one party on either side. Party members now have skills that cost HP, and magic can be used via the newly designed Puppet system. With the main characters Kururu and Crea able to equip three each, numerous options are available to make combat far more varied than in the previous game.

As a result of this new system, battles offer a decent challenge this time around. While playing on normal difficulty, I barely scraped by some encounters. Yet, it’s not just about taking more damage or enemies taking longer to kill. Rhapsody II‘s battle system gives reason and purpose to exploiting status effects, debuffs, and elemental weaknesses. With the ability to stack status effects, players can eventually turn themselves into a miniature version of Final Fantasy VIII‘s Doomtrain summon, laughing maniacally while an enemy suffers from poison, paralyze, sleep, and/or charm. My go-to strategy was landing poison while lowering a boss’ attack, yet even then, they hit pretty hard and kept my healing puppets busy. Enemy elemental types are listed this time around—except for bosses—ensuring that players can dish out more damage while encouraging them to keep a varied array of puppets equipped.

Rhapsody II protagonists Kururu and Crea singing during a musical number.
Once again, the musical numbers are the star of the show with bespoke animations and catchy tunes.

When using said puppets in battle, they act more as magic spells than party members this time. Each equipped puppet has several spells and abilities they learn as they level up, and some may focus in specific directions such as single target attacks, status spells, AoE, or purely elemental. Contrary to the first game, every puppet ability has an Inotium (in) cost to it. Inotium serves as the game’s currency, which adds a bit of weight to spell cost early on. When accessories cost 3,000in and healing items cost 120in, players may want to be more frugal with their spells as opposed to spamming the strongest move every battle.

For a game initially released on the PSOne, it’s surprising just how well Rhapsody II‘s visuals hold up. While I opted to use the CRT filter for much of my time with the original Rhapsody, I decided to go without for the sequel. The game is, without a doubt, quite the looker and has aged wonderfully thanks to its art style. Part of this is due to the vibrant color scheme and myriad bespoke animations—many of which are used exclusively for the musical numbers. While the characters are dripping with personality, the world design has taken a drastic step up compared to the first game. One of my complaints with the original Rhapsody was the sheer amount of copy-pasted dungeons with different color filters. In Rhapsody II, the world itself is far more varied and visually appealing. That said, there is still a noticeable amount of copy-pasted hallways, caverns, and rooms, yet they’re mixed in better than before and less obvious overall.

Rhapsody II protagonist Kururu summoning a giant pancake stack to flatten her enemies in battle.
Smashing enemies with food is incredibly powerful. Yet this time, the cost ensures breakfast-themed violence is less spammable.

Naturally, a game filled to the brim with musical numbers is bound to have a fantastic soundtrack. Much like the original game, Rhapsody II is overflowing with impromptu dance numbers, sorrow-filled ballads, and upbeat motivational songs that set the stage and vibe before releasing players into the wild to roam about. Some of these dance numbers may be wildly overproduced, complete with a dozen or so maids and butlers joining in just to celebrate a character joining the party, but that’s part of the fun. The non-musical soundtrack is also quite charming, though that’s to be expected with Disgaea series composer Tenpei Sato at the helm. The battle tracks are exciting, and the dungeon and world themes feel both bubbly and alluring.

The original Rhapsody featured an English dub throughout, including the musical numbers. Rhapsody II also sports an English dub, except for the musical scenes, which feature Japanese audio with English subtitles. The English dub is quite good, and while I don’t mind the songs’ audio being in Japanese, some of the pre-song dialogue strangely is in Japanese without subtitles.

The original Rhapsody operated almost exclusively on charm. With a weak battle system and repetitive areas, the game barely cleared the bar thanks to its overwhelming personality and wonderful characters. While Rhapsody II largely fixes those issues, it introduces some new problems. Compared to the first game, the battle system is vastly improved. However, the encounter rate is far, far too high. Battles can quickly begin to wear on the player, especially when crossing a small map and fighting three in a row—sometimes two or three seconds after just finishing one.

Rhapsody II protagonist Kururu dreaming about one day finding a prince to marry.
Rhapsody II retains the series tradition of adorable character art mixed with heartwarming themes.

The second primary issue comes with an ever-changing party. Much like Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy IV, the party composition is often shuffled save for the two staple characters, Kururu and Crea. One minor irritation is that a party member may leave and then come back fifteen minutes later. Usually, this wouldn’t be an issue, yet the game un-equips departing characters’ gear and puppets, requiring the player to re-equip every time a character rejoins. Mercifully, an auto-equip can save the day, but if players have a specific setup in mind for a character, it can be a bit annoying. Finally, there is some notable map reuse like the first game, but it’s nowhere near as bad. That said, it can be a bit distracting to notice the exact same jungle used in two different locations.

It’s unfortunate that it took over twenty years for the West to experience Rhapsody II properly, as the game is incredibly fun, amusing, and full of both heart and charm. The characters are just as hilarious as they are heartfelt, the musical numbers make the game stand out amongst its peers, and the game is wildly creative in every aspect. Rhapsody II‘s short length ensures it’s a breezy experience and a perfect palette cleanser amidst the sea of RPGs set in miserable worlds. Rhapsody II is a vastly improved sequel on all fronts, and while it has a few minor blemishes, it’s easy to recommend to anyone looking for a unique experience.


Charming characters, adorable art style has aged well, completely revamped and more challenging battle system, hilarious comedic moments, creative and catchy musical numbers.


Encounter rate is far too high, party shuffles often, item descriptions can be confusing, dungeon map re-use remains an issue, some missing subtitles.

Bottom Line

Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess is a vastly improved sequel that is full of fun, charm, and whimsy while offering a much-needed challenge with its fresh take on a familiar battle system.

Overall Score 80
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Des Miller

Des Miller

Des is a reviews editor, writer, and resident horror fan. He has a fondness for overlooked, emotionally impactful, and mechanically complex games - hence his love for tri-Ace and Gust. When he's not spending hours crafting in Atelier or preaching about Valkyrie Profile, he can usually be found playing scary games in the dark. With headphones. As they should be played.