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And I thought I was sappy...
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is the latest title published by Atlus USA. Atlus has been responsible for the localization of many excellent titles such as Thousand Arms and the Ogre Battle series. It's the success of these titles that gives Atlus USA the chance to bring other types of games across the Pacific in the hopes of finding a niche market waiting to be discovered.
The story of the game is not the typical 'save the world' plot that comes naturally in today's RPGs. Instead, it is about a girl named Cornet who is looking for love. She finds her love very early in the game, a young and dashing prince, as he saves her from an evil dragon controlled by a witch. From that moment on, Cornet only wants to win his love and respect.
The graphics are cute and pastel. The world of Rhapsody is three-dimensional viewed from above similar to Breath of Fire III. People and animals are medium sized sprites layered in front of many lightly colored pre-drawn backgrounds. The only problem with the graphics is the pervasive black borders surrounding sprite objects. This border causes a separation from the characters and the world, an aspect I found distracting.
The most trying aspect of the game is the dungeon navigation. When traversing a dungeon, bring a large notebook for map making. Since there is a combination of only 13 different types of screens for a multi-floor dungeon, it is extremely easy to become lost for long periods of time. What this means is, to travel from the west to the north on any portion of any floor in the dungeon, the map will look exactly the same. Add to that the fact that later dungeons may have the same setup with a slightly different color, and the confusion factor can grow exponentially. Saving the game is not possible in dungeons, except at the typical save points, so the player can be there for a very, very long time.
There is a great example of this early in the game. There is a large labyrinth where items appear as the game progresses. Since some of the items can only be found in there, it is worth searching. The first time I explored this maze I went down to the fifth floor before deciding I may not be able to find my way back. If it wasn't for the signs posted in random rooms stating what floor I was currently on, I would've never been able to escape with the items I had collected before resetting the game out of frustration. Sadly, those signs are not in the later dungeons, so I was on my own.
To counter all those negatives was a grand score of lyrical songs, not just from Cornet, but the entire cast. The music was the true highpoint of playing the entire game. Its originality and sincerity really shows through. The overall music fits the scenes very well, sometimes too well. Like the dungeon maps, the dungeon music became very repetitive after a short time.
Finally, we have the battle system -- most likely one of the more confusing aspects to those who have only given Rhapsody a glance. Rhapsody has quite a few elements of a tactical RPG, but they are very simplistic. The battle area is a grid, and the characters move and act with a turn based system. However, tactical RPGs rely on the battles to move the story, each event. Rhapsody has its own story that has very little to do with the battles, except that you must defeat the enemies.
Rhapsody is not a game most people would show off to their friends. Perhaps there is the niche market that this game is perfect for. However, I am not part of it. The overall feeling was that the story was overly sappy, and the dungeons kept me away from wanting to continue. However, if you want to try it out, you can easily beat it in a three day rental.
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