In the US at least, it’s been a whole decade since PaRappa the Rapper came out for the Playstation One. It’s described as one of the first rhythm video games. Japanese creator Masaya Matsuura gave a microphone to a rapping dog, and it was a hit! It inspired a sequel on the Playstation 2, and a spinoff on the Playstation One, where instead of rapping, rockstar UmJammer Lammy strummed a guitar.
Pa Rappa the Rapper and UmJammer Lammy
Rhythm games work by making the player, basically, press buttons to a beat. I’m sure you all know this…you’ve probably all played Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero. In fact it seems that the only innovation to come along since PaRappa has been to trade your thumbs for your legs, or a guitar.
Dance Dance Revolution was released in the Japanese arcades in 1998, came to American arcades in 2000, and was finally released by Konami for the Playstation in 2001. DDR, as it’s affectionately called, has spawned countless sequels and spinoffs featuring new music and characters. Like PaRappa, DDR players pushed buttons in time to the music. Only, instead of using a normal videogame controller, players used a gigantic gamepad and pushed the buttons with their feet by dancing.
Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Karaoke Revolution, Donkey Konga, and Rock Band
Next in 2003 came Karaoke Revolution. Karaoke does a bit more than judge your rhythm, it also judges the pitch of your voice through an included microphone.
Karaoke Revolution was promptly followed in the US by Donkey Konga and Taiko Drum Master somewhere between 2004/2006. These games included drums to beat in time with the game’s soundtrack.
In 2005, along came Guitar Hero. Guitar Hero, again lets players push buttons in time to the music, but this time the buttons were on a custom guitar game controller.
And, just this past December, of course, Rock Band was released for XBox and Playstation. Rock Band combined the guitars, drums, and microphone to let a group of people play a song together.
Amidst the sequels and spinoffs, there’s been some creative attempts to stand out from the norm. Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS allowed the player to tap out rhythms all over their screen. Bust A Move allowed players to build up their sequences to fight their opponents. Vib Ribbon looked the craziest, and allowed the user to load their own songs in to play with the game.
Elite Beat Agents and Vib Ribbon
- 1997 – PaRappa the Rapper – first mainstream rhythm game
- 1998 – Dance Dance Revolution – play the same rhythm game, but with your feet
- 2003 – Karaoke Revolution – play the same rhythm game, but with your voice (OK, I admit pitch detection is pretty cool)
- 2005? – Donkey Konga – play the same rhythm game, but with a pair of drums
- 2005 – Guitar Hero – play the same rhythm game, but with a guitar controller
- 2007 -Rock Band – Seeing a pattern?
I’m not bashing any of these games. Least of all Guitar Hero or PaRappa. Heck, I even loved PaRappa the Rapper 2, and UmJammer Lammy. Unfortunately, all of these games have the same tired gameplay that nobody has revamped in 10 years, no matter what cool hardware controller you stick in front of it. Button icons slid across the screen. When the button arrives at its destination, you’re supposed to hit the corresponding button on whatever controller you have. It’s kinda boring when you put it like that.
PaRappa added a weird, fun story line, and wacky songs, and it was a hit. DDR, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band added hardware and suddenly you’re doing more than playing a video game. What happens when you master all the songs? It’s not really fun anymore. I beat PaRappa the Rapper 2 in 30 minutes, and it wasn’t fun anymore. Guitar Hero was just ridiculously difficult towards the end, and just got a little frustrating.
All in all though, they were fun. But again, same old tired gameplay. So it’s been 10 years since PaRappa. Now what?