Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure was developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by Atlus on July 30, 2000 for the Sony PlayStation and re-released on the Nintendo DS on September 23, 2008. It was originally marketed towards young, female gamers in order to get them interested in role-playing games. The game is designed for beginner RPG players and is notorious for its fully voiced musical numbers, where the characters would break out into song at certain points in the story. Rhapsody is the first game in the Māru Ōkoku no Ningyō Hime (Puppet Princess of Marl Kingdom) series and is the only entry from the series to be released in the U.S.
Rhapsody revolves around a teenaged girl named Cornet Espoire, who has the mysterious ability to communicate with puppets, and also has a magical horn that grants her wishes whenever she plays it. Cornet dreams of meeting her “prince charming” and falling in love with him. She’s joined by Kururu, a fairy puppet who acts as a guardian angel for Cornet and often ridicules her for her behavior as per use of her large paper fan.
One day, Cornet is gathering inotium (a valuable resource and the currency of the game) in the nearby woods for her grandfather, Mustaki. She encounters a strange girl named Myao who tries to steal Cornet’s inotium. Myao leads an army of cat soldiers who attack Cornet, but she easily defeats. Myao then summons a fierce dragon to attack Cornet, but it’s quickly slain by a mysterious young man who resembles the same person in Cornet’s dream. The man introduces himself as Prince Ferdinand. Cornet is so love struck that she is unable to mutter any words. Humiliated by this defeat, Myao escapes to report back to her family of this incident. Myao’s family includes the voluptuous witch and leader, Marjoly, the dog-like Gao, the crow-like Crowdia, and herself who resembles a cat. Enraged by this act, Marjoly plots to attack the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Cornet realizes the prince saved her and decides to meet the prince by entering the Miss Marl’s Kingdom Beauty Contest. Cornet encounters her rival Etoile Rosenqueen, who is more elegant than Cornet, but is also spoiled rich and enjoys mocking Cornet for her less fortunate upbringing. Learning that Etoile has bought out all of the clothing shops’ dresses, Cornet searches the nearby theater for a costume. As per Kururu’s suggestion, Cornet wears a giant stuffed bear as her costume. The beauty contest consists of: physical challenge round where the participants will battle each other, a costume round where the participants display their costumes, and a talent round. The contest ends in a tie between Cornet and Etoile and as a reward, both are invited to the prince’s birthday ball where they will dance with the prince.
At the prince’s ball, it’s here that Cornet and Ferdinand realize they’re both meant for each other, but the intimate moment is ruined when Marjoly and her gang crash the party. Marjoly notices Ferdinand’s handsome looks and attempts to cast a love spell on him, but ends up turning him to stone by mistake. Marjoly then kidnaps Ferdinand and takes him back to her lair, a floating fortress called Beauty Castle.
A wise sage named Polansky tells Cornet that in order to rescue Ferdinand and break the curse, Cornet must collect the five Heart Stones: Fire Stone, Thunder Stone, Wind Stone, Water Stone and Earth Stone.
As Cornet travels around the world to collect the stones, she’ll visit the village of frog people called KeroKero, a sunken ship, a volcano, an ice tower, and even get swallowed whole by a giant earthworm and team up with Etoile in order to escape. Throughout these travels, Cornet will also encounter and fight the different Marjoly sisters who are after the stones as well.
Upon collecting all of the stones, Kururu passes out from what appears to be a fever and is taken to Polansky. Polansky uses his magic in order to let Cornet and Etoile enter Kururu’s dreams where she revisits a memory and learns the truth behind the accident that killed her mother several years ago. Cornet’s mother, Cherie, has special powers much like Cornet, but is much stronger. In the dream, Cornet and Etoile see their younger selves and Etoile refuses to recognize that the snot-nosed child version of herself is actually her. The two witness child Cornet and child Etoile playing with each other. The children decide to play near the church graveyard where child Cornet stumbles into the secret passageway below the graveyard. Child Etoile informs Cherie of what happened and together Cherie, Cornet, Etoile, and child Etoile go after child Cornet. When they find young Cornet, they see her crying near the remains of the Ancient Weapon that was used in the war several years ago. It’s then revealed that the royal minister Golonzo is attempting to reactivate the Ancient Weapon in order to take over the world. Child Cornet is trapped in the middle and in order to protect her and stop Golonzo, Cherie sacrifices herself to block the Ancient Weapon’s attack. Cherie’s true form is then revealed as a beautiful angel from ancient times that is said to be responsible for creating the puppets that Cornet uses. Weakened by her sacrifice, Cherie transfers her soul to the inanimate puppet Kururu that Cornet always brings with her and uses this form to watch over and protect Cornet. After Cornet returns from the dream, Polansky admits to Cornet that the Heart Stones are actually needed to teleport Marjoly’s lair, Beauty Castle, and that only the kiss of Ferdinand’s true love can restore him to his former self. Cornet leaves Kururu in Polansky’s care and heads off to Cape Hope to activate the portal to Beauty Castle.
Once Cornet enters Beauty Castle, she makes her way to the throne room where Marjoly, Crowdia, Gao, and Myao are waiting for her. Cornet fights and defeats Marjoly and just as Marjoly bluffs that she wasn’t using her full power and prepares to power up, Golonzo breaks in through the back wall with the completely restored Ancient Weapon. It’s revealed that Golonzo was working for Marjoly, but in reality he was just using her resources to rebuild the Ancient Weapon and plots to take over the world. Marjoly quickly defeats the Ancient Weapon, and just as she’s about to finish it off, her spell fails. Kururu appears and gives Cornet the extra encouragement that allows her to finish off the Ancient Weapon. After defeating the Ancient Weapon, Cornet approaches the petrified prince and kisses him, thus, breaking the curse. Marjoly acknowledges this act of love and lets them go.
The story concludes with Cornet and Ferdinand getting married and the entire cast celebrates the wedding, including the Marjoly family. During the celebration, Cornet heads outside to the castle balcony where Kururu/Cherie bids her farewell to Cornet. Cherie announces her job was to ensure Cornet’s happiness and now that’s been completed she leaves Kururu’s body and ascends to heaven. Cornet picks up the inanimate Kururu puppet and is joined by the prince as the credits roll.
After the credits roll, a bit of dialogue between what is assumed to be Cornet and Ferdinand reveals Cornet is pregnant with their first child. Cornet believes it will be a girl that will be named Kururu. The name isn’t mentioned in the game, but is evidenced because the game’s sequel, Little Princess: Marl Oukoku no Ningyou Hime 2, stars Cornet’s daughter, Kururu.
At certain points in the story, the characters will break out into song that is related to the current situation. These instances are scripted and the topics for these songs range from Cornet daydreaming about the prince, to frogs singing about their homeland, to pirates singing about lotion. In the U.S. PlayStation version, players have the option to hear the vocals in either English or Japanese. The DS version, however, only featured the Japanese version because there were localization issues with the English version. After viewing these scenes in the story, they can be replayed from the gallery on the main menu.
Cornet Espoire – A girl who has the magical ability to communicate with puppets and bring them to life with her horn. She dreams of meeting the prince of her dreams.
Kururu – A fairy puppet who is Cornet’s best friend and acts as her guardian angel. She is mischievous and often ridicules Cornet for her absent-mindedness. The story reveals that she hosts the soul of Cherie, Cornet’s mother.
Mustaki – Cornet’s grandfather and only living relative. He is a master craftsman of puppets and repairs any broken puppets that Cornet brings to him. He has a history with Polansky in developing the Ancient Weapon back in the Great War. They both saw this weapon as something that could be dangerous if used with the wrong hands and decided to destroy it.
Prince Ferdinand E. Marl – Prince of Marl’s Kingdom, enjoys hunting and practicing his swordplay. Many women dream of marrying him, and he appears to rescue Cornet when she was in danger. He is turned to stone and kidnapped by Marjoly.
Etoile Rosenqueen – Cornet’s rival and spoiled rich. She and Cornet were childhood fans, but she got older, she became obsessed with her wealth. Despite her regal appearance, she also packs heavy artillery and is always accompanied by her two bodyguards.
Marjoly – An evil, dim-witted witch who is said to be more than 1,000 years old, but retains her youthful appearance with the aid of magic spells and copious amounts of make-up. She leads her family of sisters who often mock her for her age. She falls in love with Ferdinand and tries cast a love spell on him, but turns him to stone by accident and is kidnapped by her.
Crowdia – A beautiful warrior who sports large black wings and is part of the Marjoly family. She fights with swords.
Gao – A boyish-looking female that has a dog tail and is part of the Marjoly family. She fights with her fists.
Myao – A child-like witch who has cat ears and is part of the Marjoly family. She is able to summon monsters.
Golonzo – The royal minister and well-known pervert. He attempted to take control of the Ancient Weapon after the Great War but was stopped by Cherie. Years later he secret works for Marjoly as he attempts to rebuild the Ancient Weapon in order to take over the world.
Polansky – A wise sage who worked with Mustaki on the Ancient Weapon during the Great War. He tells Cornet to collect the five Heart Stones in order to activate the portal to Marjoly’s lair and to save the prince.
Cherie – Cornet’s mother who died in an accident several years ago. She had magical powers like Cornet. A dream sequence reveals the circumstances that led to her death and revealed her to be a powerful angel from ancient times. She transferred her soul to the puppet Kururu in order to watch over Cornet.
The gameplay between the two versions is identical, with the major difference being in the combat. Outside of combat, the game plays like a very simple RPG. Traveling to different areas is done through a map select screen. The towns are filled with NPC villagers and puppets that talk to Cornet, as well as shops. There are no weapon or armor shops as the only equipment you can change are accessories. Cornet and her puppet team can each equip up to three accessories at a time. The accessories grant bonuses to attack, defense, speed, magic and so on. In addition to accessories, shops also carry recovery items.The dungeon areas of the game consist of simple maze environments that are filled with treasure chests and random encounters.
Battle System and Differences Between the Two Versions
The battle system in the PlayStation version of Rhapsody is a SRPG like what is found in Final Fantasy Tactics and would be the basis for Nippon Ichi’s later work, Disgaea. The DS version of Rhapsody uses a more traditional turn-based system like what is Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.
In both versions, however, each party member has the same set of commands: attack, magic, defend, and item. The PlayStation version has the additional move command for moving your units. In both versions, Cornet has the unique command where she can play her horn in battle to buff her party members. Each time Cornet plays her horn, a music note appears at the top of the screen. When enough music notes have been acquired, Cornet can use her “present” command where she unleashes several food-themed attacks; the more music notes you have, the more powerful attacks you can use. These attacks range from the weak candy attack to the powerful gigantic stack of pancakes attack. Each combatant also has an element attached to them in battle. The elements are: fire, water, earth, wind, dark, and holy. Each pair of elements counter each other (i.e. fire and water, earth and wind, dark and holy).
In the PlayStation version, Kururu appears in battle as an aesthetic element and has no impact in battle. In the DS version, however, Kururu is fully playable as one of Cornet’s puppets and is in fact, very powerful. When Kururu is out of commission as a result of the plot, she is unable to participate in battle.
Over the course of the story, Cornet will encounter several puppets. Some of which will join her party fight for her. Cornet can have up to three puppets actively participate in battle, while the others are put into reserve. Some puppets will join Cornet as part of the story, while others must be found in dungeons and may even test Cornet’s combat abilities before agreeing to join her. In the PlayStation version, certain monsters could also join Cornet's party as puppets.
When a puppet joins Cornet’s party, they also have a related sidequest for you to complete. These quests vary from recruiting all of the puppets from a certain set such as the three egg brothers, or witnessing a specific event that is related to a puppet.
Sharte – the first puppet you meet (besides Kururu) is searching for her lost sister.
Terra- Sharte’s sister.
Kid – The youngest egg brother
Tell – The middle egg brother
Billy – The oldest egg brother
Flare – A newborn dragon
L-Kun – A large stuffed bear that Cornet uses as her costume for the Miss Marl’s Kingdom Beauty Contest
Ledgem – A mysterious creature that has a connection to Polansky
Koro – Cornet’s neighbor’s dog that recently died, but is resurrected by Cornet as a puppet.
Chiba – A samurai puppet, one of the Mustaki warriors who have a history with Cornet’s grandfather.
Duke – A knight puppet, one of the Mustaki warriors who have a history with Cornet’s grandfather.
Albatross – A commando puppet that wields a large rocket launcher, one of the Mustaki warriors who have a history with Cornet’s grandfather.
Knightspawn – A corrupted knight.
Michael – A frog from Frogburg, is killed for breaking into the castle in order to meet his lover Caroline. Is resurrected by Cornet and joins her party along with Caroline.
Caroline – The princess of Frogburg, loves Michael and joins the party when he is resurrected by Cornet.
Kururu (only in the DS version) – Cornet’s guardian, is with Cornet from the beginning of the game.
Included with the U.S. release of Rhapsody for the PlayStation was a bonus soundtrack CD. The CD includes the voiced musical tracks as well as the background music from the rest of the game.
- "Someday" (vocal by Sara Thomas as Cornet and Jody Fleischer as Kururu)
- "Let's Go On (Contest Version)" (vocal by Sara Thomas as Coronet and Jody Fleischer as Etoile)
- "Let's Go On (Cherie Version)" (vocal by Jody Fleischer as Cherie)
- "Our World" (vocal by Sara Thomas as Coronet and Josh Synard as Ferdinand)
- "Amphibian Paradise" (vocal by Josh Synard as Michael with Rachel Quaintanes, Glenn Wissner, and Keith Arem as the Frog Dancers)
- "Evil Queen" (vocal by Marjoly (Camie Gordon Lowrey), Myao (Sara Thomas), Gao (Rachel Quaintanes) and Crowdia (Jody Fleischer))
- "True Courage" (vocal by Sara Thomas as Coronet and Jody Fleischer as Kururu)
- "Thank You" (vocal by Sara Thomas as Cornet)
- "Mountainmen's Song" (vocal by Josh Synard as Gilbert with Glen Wissner and Keith Arem as the Chorus)
- "Amazing Pirates" (vocal by Josh Synard, Glen Wissner, and Keith Arem as the Pirates)
- "Puppet Princess Theme"
- "Little Love"
- "Welcome to the Dungeon"
- "Spirit Wind"
- "Marjoly Family Anthem"
- "Castle Evening"
- "Lady's Barrette"
- "Shooting Star"
- "Rhapsody Afar"
- "Dream Hunter"
- "The Wanderer"
- "Last Waltz"
- "Mother's Lullaby"
Rhapsody was considered a cult favorite among its fans, but was not very popular in both Japan and the U.S. It was criticized for its simplistic RPG elements as well as its cheesy musical segments.
Sequels and Connections to Other Franchises
Despite its low popularity the game spawned two sequels that were released in Japan. Little Princess: Marl Ōkoku no Ningyō Hime 2 (Little Princess: Puppet Princess of Marl Kingdom 2) for PlayStation and Tenshi no Purezento Māru-ōkoku Monogatari (Angel Present: A Marl Kingdom Story) for PlayStation 2. Both sequels dropped the SRPG combat system of the original in favor of the traditional turn-based system that is found in the DS version of Rhapsody.
La Pucelle: Tactics is considered to be a spiritual successor to the Marl’s Kingdom games as it features many similar minor characters and takes place within the same universe but at a different time period.
Hymn Princess of Antiphona is a spinoff prequel to the Marl’s Kingdom series and was released for PlayStation Portable in 2009.
The Disgaea series has its share of Marl’s Kingdom references. The stores are owned by Etoile’s family’s business, the Rosenqueen Company.
Marjoly appears as an optional boss fight in the Disgaea series.