Title: Rhapsody: a Musical Adventure
Year of Publication: Spring/Summer 2000
Number of Discs: 1
U.S. Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Genre: SRPG (Strategy Role-Playing Game, sometimes abbreviated as SLG instead)
Other Notes: There is a soundtrack CD included in the game, which also includes the vocal tracks for the English songs. It is most amusing. Also, the information booklet is all in color. You can also turn on the option to hear the Japanese vocal songs in-game, but the English songs are pretty good, if you ask me.
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (henceforth abbreviated as "R:AMA") can be best described as "on crack" or possibly as "Jesus God Almighty, What the Hell Was That?"
Try to imagine, first of all, of a 16 year old girl (named Cornet) in her pajamas, alone in her room except for her little puppet fairy sidekick (named Kururu), finding life to be GRAND and JOYOUS and OH GOLLY GEE. Now imagine Cornet and Kururu singing.
I know that you're out there and I'm waiting for you
Cornet is my name and I'm a puppeteer too
With my puppet friends there's nothing we can't do
They are there to help me make my dreams come true
There she goes again, she's so in love
As if lightning struck her above
CORNET: (But it did!)
"But I love you my prince, you are my one true love!"
Cornet, won't you stop your silly dreaming, please!
That's not true! Can't you see?
I'm just trying to make my dream come true
I've done everything a girl's supposed to
I take a bubble bath, even wash behind my ears
And when I'm done I'm looking beautiful...!
Cornet, you are a silly girl
You must look further than appearances to see
What's important is what's inside of you
What's inside of me?
Don't you understand what I'm saying to you?
Look inside yourself and you'll find out what is true
You must be courageous and true to your heart
It will make you happy when you know where to start
It's what's inside of me
Someday I'll find my love, he'll be the one for me
I will be waiting patiently
Until he comes
KURURU: (I TOLD YOU DON'T WAIT, TAKE THE INITIATIVE!)
Now I remember, think for myself
I know I'll find him and he'll be the man of my dreams
We'll share our lives as one until the end of time
Some day our hearts will beat as one!
Abbreviated "Someday", R:AMA soundtrack
Trimmed to follow Fair Use requirements
Trust me, you're not missing much
This is the opening. This is also the least unusual part of this game.
The next fifteen hours of gameplay (as it will takes ~15 hours to explore the game thoroughly) will introduce you to the surreal world of Marl's Kingdom.
Atlus, who must be smoking something Really Good when you consider the track record of their quirky releases in general (Tactics Ogre, Thousand Arms, Brigandine, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Disgaea, etc), took it upon themselves to translate this game. And it is not any old translation; it is a magnificent translation, perfect right down to the lyrics of the freakishly Disney-like songs they must have painstakingly redone to get the rhythm/meter right, not to mention hire the right voice talent to pull it off.
Cornet is your standard anime heroine. She's not really all that bright, she's not really all that pretty, and she has poor taste in friends, but she's got that one special thing that sets her apart: she can animate puppets. Her best friend is a puppet named Kururu, a smart-talking little hunk of wood with a Really Big Secret that will shake the world.
Actually, it won't but it's kind of heart-warming in the way Cinnabuns are.
Cornet, like any other 16-year old girl, is in LOVE. It's not just any old standard crush, no; she's in love with - you guessed it - a genuine, bona fide Prince! Her fantasies consist largely of being rescued by Prince Ferdinand, having him madly in fall in love with her because of her charm / beauty / wit / lovableness, and then being whisked off to his palace in the "Princess Hold"; that is, when a man lifts a lady off her feet and carries her off into the bedroom / sunset / happily ever after (yes, it's a real term in Japan). She follows news of the prince with the religious fervor of a zealot.
The story starts where most stories end: when all her fantasies, ironically enough, come true. It's really a pity that the wicked witch of the kingdom, Marjoly, has a penchant for young and innocent pretty boys...
There is one thing I have to get~
I won't rest till he's mine - Prince Ferdinand.... !
Don't you know you're old enough to be his mother?
Hey! You! Shut! Up!
"Evil Queen", R:AMS soundtrack
If you can get through this song without cracking up, you are amazing.
Cornet, the main heroine of the series, is loveable in a clumsy, "Oops, did I do that?" sort of way. Without saying, aside from her quirk of nature when it comes to puppets, she would have been an utterly normal girl. But she's not, and when Marjoly whisks away her one true love, it's up to Cornet to rescue him!
Her general uselessness is most prominently featured in battle: she can't attack. You heard me right. She can't. Her skill in battle is pumping up her puppets full of emotional steroids by playing her trumpet to encourage them. However, she can attack enemies, indirectly; she has "rewards" (special attacks), built up over the course of several battles of said encouragement, that consist of cooking power techniques. The Pancake attack is by far the most brutal attack-all spell in the game, and the most hilarious to watch: several enormous pancakes fall from the sky to squash the evil-doers of any, well, evil-doing they were doing before. It's hard to be evil when you've been bruised by a giant flapjack, I suppose.
Her other special attacks are also ridiculously named and animated.
Her naivety and genuine desire to do well will either drive you insane or make you want to defenestrate yourself.
"Real courage is facing adversity even if you know you can't win!"
Cornet's sidekick and occasionally voice of reason. Where Cornet is good-hearted, naive, and well-meaning, Kururu is greedy, cynical, and well, annoying in only the way little flying things know how.
She's even more useless in battle. She does nothing but zip around, and I would imagine probably making catcalls at the enemies ("Hey! You! Bugger off!" sort of thing).
She's Cornet's best friend, and they are best friends in the dubious way Rosalia and Angelique from Angelique (a dating sim game for girls) are friends. Rich, haughty, pampered, and the ultimate latchkey kid, Etoile has nothing better to do other than mock Cornet and occasionally beat sense into her.
Watch out, though! Etoile packs a mean punch; being that she's gifted with a great deal of money, she can buy any weapon she wants, including a lot of machine guns. You have not seen a spoiled princess type girl until you see this one wielding a machine gun with all the glee of a serial killer.
Since her first and only interest is (ostensibly) money, she has absolutely no interest in a twit like Prince Ferdinand. But she'll pretend to anyway because it would annoy Cornet.
Take every stereotype fantasy girls of age 12 and 13 have about their dream guy and stuff it into one blond-haired, blue-eyed package, and you get Prince Ferdinand. He's a prince. He can rescue you with his manly fighting skills. He wears a cape. He can dance, he is absolutely adorable in a girlishly guyish sort of way, and he's single.
He's also got as much personality as the prince from the Disney's Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White. Which is to say, there's something there, you just not sure what it might possibly be. He might have lost this essential part of him when his father died in a terrible fishing accident (they never say how and I don't think I really want to know).
The two bad things about him are that a) his singing will make you wince in pain and b) he's unfortunately not immune to magic, to Marjoly's delight and horror.
She's the EVIL witch of the game. But I don't need to introduce her; she introduces herself pretty well. Take a gander:
I am mightier than the God~
The Devil is my slave
More beautiful than the Goddess~
I put her face to shame
Oh look at me, oh what do you see?
I'm the queen, the best you've seen, so WORSHIP ME...
...I am EVIL PERSONIFIED so get down on your knees
And if you're ever graced by my beauty, you'll thank your lucky stars
Aren't I great, I'm amazing myself all the time...!
"Evil Queen", R:AMA soundtrack
She's certainly unusual among evil villains; she doesn't give jack about the world. She already knows she owns it. The only thing she lacks is a harem of innocent pretty boys. Ironically enough, she's already got a harem of pretty girls, which is more than what you can say about most Evil Villains.
Her outfit is very standard Evil Dominatrix Type, but it also happens to look strongly reminiscent of Empress Endora's outfit from Ogre Battle. Can't really say if it's an homage or not or if Ogre Battle team defined the genre as we know it today to such an extent it's an oversight.
Note: Disgaea players may recogize Marjoly - she shows up as a cameo character if you look hard enough. Look for the skanky outfit.
Marjoly's Harem (Sidekicks)
Marjoly's harem is made up of three girls who just wanna have fun.
The required catgirl that every vaguely anime-ish game must have. She leads her wicked team of kitties out to battle the Force of Good and she does a moderately horrible job of it, being as easily distracted as well, a kitten. She's typically level 1 of damage control for Marjoly.
The dog/wolf girl who has high physical attack and has muscles for brains. She doesn't think much, and it's true, she doesn't need to. I guess you can consider her to be level 2 of damage control by Marjoly, but she hits really hard in battle.
A winged girl who wields a sword. Incredibly narcissistic, she's got a pet raven that looks like it read one too many Poe books. She would probably level 3 of damage control, except you rarely see her fight and heck, by the time you fight them all seriously, they're not much in the way of a challenge.
The gameplay is pretty standard if you're a veteran RPG player. There are towns, there are dungeons, you fight monsters randomly, you obtain gold and items. Nothing out of ordinary. The random battles are done on in grid field vaguely reminiscent of Langrisser or Fire Emblem, in a perspective like Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics without all the hindrances of terrain and such. You move your characters a set number of grid squares, attack (if you can), and do the same for all your characters until the turn is exhausted. Still pretty standard.
The unusual thing about this game is how incredibly easy the game is. Most monsters go down in 1-2 hits. It's clearly a first-time effort for the design/program team, but it doesn't detract too much; the story is enough to keep you glued to the screen for more wacky antics. Dungeons are not more than 6-7 screens long; the biggest dungeon in the game is largely optional, and it's structured in such a way that only an idiot can get lost in it (it's a square grid of 3x3).
This is a perfect game to wean a kid with little patience on; the gameplay is short and quick enough to keep things lively and the story so mild as to fit easily in the PG, if not G class. And for those mothers who blame Columbine on video games, I dare you to find the evil, soulless part of this game that will cause your tot to drop out of sixth grade and start shooting up.
Alternatively, you can use this game as leverage to get your girlfriend to play more games.
The extremely unusual thing about the game is the tendency for the game to stop and break out in song (and sometimes dance). You will be wandering the forest when all of a sudden, Kururu will attack you violently, suggesting (read: ordering) that you can sit your butt down and SING TO HER. Never mind the fact that you spent the last four screens fighting your way through fishy looking monsters on land out to give you the tail-whacking you deserve. No, you must sing to her to keep her amused. So you do. There are a number of songs that are sung throughout the course of the game: there's even a yo-ho-ho pirate song for pirate lovers (I'm sure they're out there).
Only in Japan/Developer Information
R:AMA was released in Japan under the title "Puppet Princess" (or "The Adventures of Puppet Princess"). There was apparently a sequel to this RPG, Puppet Princess 2, though I know nothing about it other than it might possibly be about Cornet's daughter. I've seen screenshots for it, and it looks reminiscent of the original, so I wouldn't expect it to be too different.
I mentioned it above, but the developer of this title is Nippon Ichi, who also did the very recent and very popular SRPG title Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. It's not hard to see the resemblance; the emphasis on strategy type games, the colors, and the all around quirkiness point to that fact. It's interesting to note that R:AMA was probably a first-time game for the team who basically had one goal: finish a single game under their belts. There's not much in the way of filler side quests to pad a game out, and the story is tight and one might even say overly simple. There's a lot of attention paid to detail, even towards the end of the game (usually a point where developers just want to get the damn game out the door), which points to a lot of tweaking. The dungeons are on the short side, which does imply a dungeon designer who was new to that sort of thing, but seriously? It's such a tightly done game that none of the "imperfections" really detract all that much. And think of it this way: they've come a long way. Disgaea is a pretty beautifully done game, too.
This game, in the typical Rare Atlus Death Style To All Game Collectors, was made in very small quantities (as Atlus games, just in general, appeal to a very niche audience; come on, they released Eggs of Steel, what do you expect?). It was available for a terminally short time span before it disappeared off the shelves due to (I'm guessing) low sales. Atlus even had a sale for a brief while on their website (while R:AMA was still in stock) where R:AMA sold, brand new, for $24.99. This is not the case anymore.
The prices for strategy RPGs, just in general, never wavers too much from the original price (most cases it goes up, especially if you want to get your hands on a still shrink-wrapped version). At the time of this write-up, it was $50 brand new; as of Dec 2004, recent Ebay prices have topped $100, which is ludicrous. It's worth it for the laugh, though. I haven't laughed this hard since Popful Mail.
All information taken off of game, soundtrack CD and spending ~16 hours on this game.
http://www.atlus.com for date of release of game (archive.org's atlus.com)
Never fear, plagiarism is not here...!