Overflowing with charm, yet lacking in most other things
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is best described as a niche gem from the past, the type of which you don't see nowadays. Coined as a “musical RPG,” it brings a unique plot premise and presentation style, featuring musical numbers in place of typical cutscenes, complete with deliciously cheesy vocals.
It focuses on the story of Cornet Espoir, a 16 year old girl with the ability to speak with puppets, who dreams of being swept off her feet by a charming prince. Lo and behold, her dreams come true when she is rescued by Prince Ferdinand of Marl Kingdom, and then given the chance to meet him again (as she was so dumbstruck by their last encounter that she couldn't even tell him her name) in the form of the upcoming Miss Marl Kingdom contest. Making her way through the contest, Cornet comes in first place, and at the afterparty, finally speaks (and dances!) with her beloved prince. Of course, this is an RPG, so things aren't allowed to go that well without something bad happening, that something being the appearance of Marjoly, the self proclaimed "most beautiful witch in the world," and her cronies, who want a word with Ferdinand after he "bullied" one of her lackeys. Funnily enough, Marjoly falls in love with Ferdinand at first sight, and so she decides that he's getting taken home, only to accidentally cast a spell that turns him to stone and subsequently flee with him, which is where Cornet's adventure to rescue Ferdinand and return him to normal begins.
I find a plot like that to be pretty charming, in all honesty, but it's easy to tell that there's others who'd read that and immediately disregard the entire game, and I will agree that it isn't for everybody. This is emphasised even more by the decision to switch from the strategy RPG battle system featured in the original, to a more traditional RPG battle system, as the game's relative lack of difficulty allows the player to fight through most battles without employing any strategy whatsoever. Thankfully, alongside this new battle system comes an autobattle button, allowing you to just select that and watch your party maul the enemy instead of going through the troublesome routine of spamming the A button whenever you enter battle. Overall, fights feel watered-down and incredibly simple, and one could perceive it as being aimed towards a younger audience due to this. The fact that trying to figure out where you need to go next ends up being the most challenging part of the game at times doesn't exactly help, either. Also worth mentioning is the game's rather short playtime compared to other RPGs, as it can easily be completed within a minimum of 5-10 hours, depending on whether or not you choose to complete all the puppet quests
The game also features "Encore" and "Observation" modes. In Encore, you can rewatch the various musical scenes, just incase you haven't had your daily dose of cheesy, yet heartwarming (or in the case of Marjoly's song, flamboyant) lyrics. Observation allows you to view the various people, dolls and monsters you encounter throughout the game alongside some humourous comments.
The thing about Rhapsody though is that its true charm doesn't lie within the mechanics of the game; the characters, dialogue and charming humour are what support it best. Kururu, a puppet who can move around and speak to other humans, and Cornet's best friend, is often making humourous remarks about other people's behaviour, a classic example being when she exclaims that "You do know that when you die...The game is over, right? You'll have to watch this scene all over again." after Cornet attempts to rush into a fight she's sure to lose. Then there's Etoile, Cornet's snobby and rich rival of sorts who constantly makes sarcastic remarks about Cornet's peasant status. Even Marjoly and her main 3 lackeys provide some great banter throughout the duration of the game. Even better is that the humour extends beyond interactions between characters. Observing different objects throughout the game yields some great results, with some good examples being "You found the ULTRA MEGA SUPER DEE DUPER TURBO HORN... Just kidding!" and "You've found the strongest box in the world. Too bad it doesn't do anything." Even the Observation feature is chock full of witty comments such as "This scantily clad temptress is trying to get us a Mature rating!"
Thankfully, the game's charm extends into the sound and visuals as well. As mentioned above, the vocal themes can be rather cheesy, but they're entertaining nonetheless. Marjoly's themesong, "Evil Queen," easily stands as the best one, largely due to its ridiculousness. The non-vocal tracks, composed by Tenpei Sato, aren't much of a departure from his usual style of music, and there's a general theme of light-heartedness across most of the soundtrack, which complements the game's vibrant visuals, as most of the areas in the game are colourful and very pleasing to look at. The exception to this, however, are the dungeons, which are incredibly repetitive and lack any sort of variety between them whatsoever. Many of them even feature long paths which eventually lead to nothing but dead ends, which results in tedious backtracking and dealing with more random encounters.
Overall, Rhapsody is definitely not for everyone. If you're looking for an RPG with some challenge, you're most likely going to be turned off by the lack of difficulty and short playtime, and the plot premise will cause others to believe that it's a game more geared towards girls and a younger audience. However, if you're the type of person that appreciates a game with an abundance of charm and humour, Rhapsody's got what you need, and you'll definitely find a lot of value in it.