Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure Is the Best RPG Trilogy You've Never Played!

Around the year 2000, I was browsing the video game section of a department store and discovered a PlayStation RPG with a beautiful angel on the cover. The back of the box described it as a fairy tale musical adventure, which sounded like it was right up my alley! Little did I know that would be the only time I would ever see a physical copy of Rhapsody in a store. When I asked about it at a Game Stop shortly after, the salesperson gave me a perplexed look and thought I was saying "Rap City." The game had a few quiet releases many years later for the DS and some other platforms but was widely considered rare in the West. It wasn't until very recently that I learned that not only were there two sequels but also that they were localized for English-speaking countries just last summer under the name Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles! After nearly 20 years, the opportunity had finally arisen for me to play the complete series and learn about all three generations of magical princesses that resided in Marl Kingdom.

Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is similar to many other Japanese RPGs from the late '90s. It uses turn-based combat, forces players to grind through endless random encounters to get strong enough to defeat the bosses, and has a series of cutscenes that weave together to tell a story. The graphics use pixelated sprites that would be considered outdated by today's standards but have enough detail to tell the characters apart. Each game also includes a full collection of anime-style illustrations that players can find to see the character designs in more detail. What makes this series stand apart from other RPGs from this period is that each game contains a full setlist of musical numbers performed by many different characters. After hours of tedious grinding, players get to sit back and watch the character sprites sing and dance about their desire to find true love in whatever form that might be. Though the musical numbers are very endearing, only the first game includes English versions of the songs. The other two games require players to read the translations of the Japanese lyrics, which takes away a little from the enjoyment of the performances despite having English voices in other parts of the games.

The Rhapsody games follow a family of princesses who can talk to "puppets," which are essentially dolls that are scattered throughout the world. Throughout the trilogy, each girl inherits a Mysterious Horn as a family heirloom, which allows her to recruit puppets to help her fight, usually for the sake of saving her future husband. The first game follows the adventures of Cornet, a girl raised in a small village who falls in love with a prince who gets captured by a witch named Marjoly. In the second game, Ballard of the Little Princess, Cornet has married the prince and gives birth to a daughter named Kururu who wants to fall in love with a prince like her mother. Little does she know that the boy she will cross paths with has a mysterious connection to her family's past. The third game, Memories of Marl Kingdom, is a prequel that allows players to experience events in the lives of all three girls but focuses mainly on the mysteries behind Cornet's mother, Cherie, including why she has angel wings and how she went from being the princess of an ancient civilization to a simple village girl.

Although the endless number of random encounters in the games can get tedious at times, they are an irreplaceable piece of lost nostalgia for fans of princesses and RPGs. Most video games about princesses have the difficulty level dumbed down to avoid frustrating young audiences, especially games like Disney Princess Enchanted Journey and My Fairytale Adventure. The Rhapsody games are not afraid to be challenging and include multiple difficulty levels and New Game+ challenges for experienced RPG players. Yet, they also include story elements that appeal to the little girl in all of us such as charming musical numbers and the desire to become a fairy tale princess. There is some adult humor as well, particularly when it comes to the scantily clad witches, but it's all in good fun. The game rarely takes itself too seriously, featuring talking cats as minions to the villains with their own cute little side stories. Despite that, Cherie's story in the third game is emotionally poignant and left me teary-eyed both times I played through it.

The Rhapsody trilogy is a hidden gem in the world of RPGs, offering a unique blend of musical numbers, fairy tale charm, and challenging gameplay. While its pixelated graphics and grinding mechanics may seem outdated, the series' heart and soul shine through in its lovable characters, engaging storylines, and memorable musical performances. With its wide appeal to fans of princesses, RPGs, and nostalgia, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure and Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles are a must-play for anyone looking to experience a classic gaming trilogy that will leave you humming its tunes and rooting for its endearing heroines. So, grab a gaming console of your choice and embark on this enchanting journey. Your inner princess (or prince) will thank you!


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