Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess Review
Just Say No to Violence!
I love the original Rhapsody, even with all of its flaws. The game was too corny, and too simplistic, and it was one of the first musical RPGs of its kind, for better or worse. I never thought in my wildest dreams that NIS America would localize Rhapsody II and III nearly twenty years with the release of Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles. Offering contrasting experiences, we’ll take both games separately, for now focusing on why Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess is a charming antique of yesteryear.
Set roughly thirteen years after the events of the original Rhapsody, the game stars Princess Kurusale Cherie Marl Q, or “Kururu” for short, daughter of Queen Cornet and King Ferdinand. Inspired by her parents’ love story, wherein Cornet saved Ferdinand from the evil Marjoly family, Kururu wishes to set off on her own journey to find her Prince Charming. One afternoon, while wandering a forest with her best friend Crea, Kururu is attacked by a dragon and saved by the mysterious Cello. While Kururu thinks she has found her knight in shining armor, trouble begins to brew over the Marl Kingdom as a war between the Akurjo and Marjoly families breaks out. What’s a princess to do? Go on an adventure to stop some warring families, of course!
The Rhapsody series is known for its zaniness, and Ballad of the Little Princess is no exception. All of the characters are insane in the best ways possible, and there are so many moments that will have players laughing out loud because everything happening is utterly ridiculous. Kururu is a delightfully charming heroine who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but her story of wanting adventure and slowly becoming more courageous is inspiring. The characters that truly steal the show are the Marjoly family, whose antics are extreme and will have players howling with laughter every time they appear. Whether it’s Marjoly’s obsession with being gorgeous and failing to get a husband or Myao’s desire to have bigger boobs, it’s hard not to laugh along at how silly their motivations are. The story is made better by the robust localization from NIS America, which ramp up the craziness to eleven, making for some quotable moments throughout the narrative. While the story isn’t anything original, it’s how its presentation makes it a memorable and entertaining experience.
Unlike the original Rhapsody, which sported a tactical battle system, Rhapsody II opts for a more traditional turn-based battle system, where enemies can join the party. Kururu has the ability to summon puppets to battle, and these puppets have their own unique abilities and magical skills. At the end of a battle, a monster may randomly join Kururu’s party as a new playable puppet. Kururu’s human party members have skills that they can unleash on enemies, at the cost of some of their HP, while in order for characters to use magic, they must use the game’s currency. Thankfully, it’s not difficult to come by more currency, so players never feel like they can’t cast spells.
Kururu also has the ability to fill her magical staff with music notes, which allow her to use “Rewards” such as attacking enemies with giant pancakes, strawberry shortcakes, and flans. It’s a fairly simplistic battle system with no real bells or whistles, and while the HP cost for skills and money for magic may make some initially wary, the game is never difficult enough for either of these elements to become an issue. Rhapsody II offers three different difficulties, but even on Normal the game is fairly easy to complete with a short run time of around twelve hours.
While Rhapsody II is a quick experience, it sports an excessive encounter rate that definitely reminds RPGamers that the game was made in 1999. The too frequent encounters dampen the exploration process and can be very frustrating. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the dungeons are fairly bland and too simple to navigate. There isn’t a lot of variation in enemy designs either, with the same palette-swapped dragons, griffins, and slimes appearing throughout. It’s apparent that the port NIS America has provided for Rhapsody II is very basic, with no real quality-of-life improvements and a dull graphical presentation, begging for a beautiful HD touch-up.
The Rhapsody games are considered musical RPGs, and these segments are quite delightful, reminding the player of how charming the characters and their world are. The original Rhapsody had songs in English, whereas Rhapsody II opts for the songs being sung in Japanese with English subtitles. The music is wonderful and does a fantastic job of capturing the whimsical nature of the series, with many of the songs looking at themes of beauty, courage, and first love. The English voice acting in the game has wonderful performances, especially the voices of Kururu and the members of the Akurjo family. It truly feels like the cast did a great job capturing the spirit and the silliness that is the Rhapsody series. It makes it a shame that the game isn’t fully voiced.
I am beyond thrilled that NIS America has localized the Marl Kingdom Chronicles, and while I adored my time with Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess, I’m sad at the same time that very little was done to enhance this older title to make it stand out. While the localization offers many belly laughs, I wish more had been done to update the experience and bring in newcomers to this wonderfully zany series. As delightful a game as Rhapsody II is, there’s just not enough of an update to invite anyone new to join in the fun.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Charming characters and story
Bland dungeon design and enemies
Bare-bones combat system
Very high encounter rate