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PaRappa The Rapper

PaRappa The Rapper is a rhythm game developed by NanaOn-Sha and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation.   Created by music producer Masaya Matsuura, the rap-based gameplay was very unique and was unlike anything that has been previously released on any video game console.   The game is often considered the first true rhythm game.

Development of the game began in 1994 when Matsuura was looking to create a video game based on music.  Prior to his involvement in game development, he was a musician in the band PSY-S.  Matsuura disliked appearing in music videos which led him to work on interactive software as an alternative outlet.

The concept of the game was based around music sampling and Matsuura felt that the most interesting part of sampling was the artist voice.  He wanted to focus the game on a character’s voice and felt that rap would be the most fitting music genre for his vision.  Development off the game started before the release of the PlayStation, at a time when Sony Computer Entertainment was in the process of building their video game portfolio.  Sony was trying to establish themselves in the video game market by creating a broad range of games.

Sony was trying to produce as many games as possible in a short period of time to build a decent size library of games to be able to compete with other video game developers.  At the time Sony Computer Entertainment was broken into two divisions, one that worked on popular well-known genres and the other that handled more creative style concepts that were not already generally accepted by the video game industry.

Publisher(s)Sony Computer Entertainment
SuccessorPaRappa The Rapper 2
Media TypeOptical Disc
ReleaseJP: December 6, 1996
EU: September 26, 1997
NA: November 17, 1997
Development Time2 Years
Sales1.88 million Total
1.46m (JP)
260,000 (NA)
160,000 (EU)
RatingESRB: KA
Rereleased Platform(s)Ports
PlayStation Portable (PSP) – 2006
PlayStation 4 – 2017
Concept Art created by Rodney Greenblat

Sony looking to grow their game library was in a position to take a risk to introduce a radically new game concept in order to attract consumers to their video game console.  A Sony Computer Entertainment producer suggested that Matsuura work with artist Rodney Greenblat to create a unique experience for their PlayStation video game console. 

By the time Greenblat started to collaborate with Matsuura the underlying structure of the game was already formed.  Matsuura provided Greenblat with outlines which were to be used as a basis to create characters for the game.   Greenblat was able to incorporate several pre-existing characters that he created into the game, including PJ Berri and Katy Kat as both characters seemed to fit the vision Matsuura was looking to implement.  One of the first designs Greenblat created from scratch specifically for the game was that of the main character, PaRappa.

Matsuura had the idea to make the characters flat, similar to the art style found in the Paper Mario series.   All the characters within the game were created as two-dimensional paper cut outs while all surrounding items were created as three-dimensional objects.  This art style influenced the name of the game as the game’s title is a word play referring to the flat characters.  The term “PaRappa” is a variant of the Japanese word for “paper thin”.

All lyrics were written by Matsurra in Japanese and then translated by rapper Ryu Watabe while he was freestyling.  When the game reached near completion Sony Computer Entertainment found it challenging to find a way to promote the game.  PaRappa The Rapper was a new style of gameplay and there were no games to compare it with.  The marketing team struggled to identify what gameplay genre to market the game as many of the employees were unsure if the title even qualified as a game.

Despite the difficulties with finding a marketing approach for the game, PaRappa The Rapper became massively successful when it release in December 1996 in Japan.  The success of the game prompted Sony Computer Entertainment of America to localize the game for release in North America in 1997.  The game proved to be just as successful in North America as the game received high praise from critics for its music, story, animation, and gameplay upon release.

The success of the game spawned two follow-up titles, a guitar-based spinoff titled Um Jammer Lammy for the PlayStation and a direct sequel, PaRappa The Rapper 2 for the PlayStation 2.  The original title was ported to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in 2006 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the game.  For the game’s 20th anniversary, a remastered version of the title was released for the PlayStation 4 in 2017.

Game Screenshots:

An overview on how to play PaRappa The Rapper & commercial

Masaya MatsuuraProducer
Rodney Alan GreenblatVisual Design
Gabin ItoStory
Ryu WatabeSong Lyrics
Movie & In-game Text
Voice Actor (Joe Chin, Onion)
Profile PlaceholderTadashi NomuraProgrammer
Profile PlaceholderAkifumi IshiyamaProgrammer
Profile PlaceholderAkira YoshidaProgrammer
Profile PlaceholderShinichi SenooProgrammer
Kiri MatsuuraCG Designer
Profile PlaceholderKaz DosakaCG Designer
Profile PlaceholderRie IwamiCG Designer
Profile PlaceholderTatsunori TanakaCG Designer
Profile PlaceholderMie HinoCG Designer
Profile PlaceholderSachie MifuneCG Designer
Profile PlaceholderTuttle & DynamoMusician
Profile PlaceholderYorihisa SuzukiMusician
Profile PlaceholderKiyoshi YoshidaMusician
Profile PlaceholderShige KawagoeMusician
Profile PlaceholderChris ParksMusician
John Simpson IIIVoice Actor (PaRappa)
Kenya HathawayVoice Actor (Sunny)
Michele BurksVoice Actor (KT, Cooking Chicken)
Armstead ChristianVoice Actor (PJ, Dad)
Saundra WilliamsVoice Actor (Mooselini)
Lenky DonVoice Actor (Frog Fleaswallow)
Profile PlaceholderRichard BushVoice Actor (M.C., Bad Guys)
Profile PlaceholderIzumi AmanoMusic Director
Profile PlaceholderMasatoshi KikuchiArtist Management
Profile PlaceholderTomohiro HasekuraProduction Management
Profile PlaceholderYoichi NumataProject Management
Profile PlaceholderAkira SatouExecutive Producer
Profile PlaceholderShigeo MaruyamaChief Executive Producer
Susan MicheleAssociate Producer
Profile PlaceholderPerry RodgersSenior Producer
Susan Nourai PanicoProduct Manager
Molly SmithPublic Relations
Profile PlaceholderEtsuko KobataLicensing Manager
Profile PlaceholderMisako UsuiBusiness Coordinator
Profile PlaceholderMark PentekQA Manager
Chad LoweQA Lead
Profile PlaceholderJose CruzTester
Annette DancelTester
Profile PlaceholderJoseph AragonesTester
Profile PlaceholderRaul OrozcoTester
Profile PlaceholderAxiom DesignPackage Design
Andrew HouseSpecial Thanks
Peter DilleSpecial Thanks
David BambergerSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderYoshiko FurusawaSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderYaz NoyaSpecial Thanks
Howard LiebeskindSpecial Thanks
Kim HorneckerSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderJeffrey FoxSpecial Thanks
Michelle WhitmerSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderNemer VelasquezSpecial Thanks
Shelley Ashitomi-YoungSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderRichard WattsSpecial Thanks
Mike MeyersSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderRoger JonesSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderGerry GentileSpecial Thanks
Lara FieldsSpecial Thanks
Betsy HamiltonSpecial Thanks
Peggy GallagherSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderTaku ImasakiSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderColin MacLeanSpecial Thanks
Michelle VercelliSpecial Thanks
Kerry HopkinsSpecial Thanks
Maggie BaqueroSpecial Thanks
Quinn Pham LeSpecial Thanks
Christy FavrhowSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderNeil MusserSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderGary BarthSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderRenee RippsSpecial Thanks
Profile PlaceholderPaul RippsSpecial Thanks

Dred Foxx
a.k.a. John Simpson III
Voice Actor (PaRappa)
Kenya HathawayVoice Actor (Sunny)
Michele BurksVoice Actor (Katy Kat, Cooking Chicken)
Ryu WatabeVoice Actor (Joe Chin, Master Onion)
Armstead ChristianVoice Actor (PJ Berri, PaRappa Papa)
Saundra WilliamsVoice Actor (Mooselini)
Lenky DonVoice Actor (Frog Fleaswallow)
Profile PlaceholderRichard BushVoice Actor (MC King Kong, Bad Guys)

PlayStation (North American Release)

PlayStation (European Release)

PlayStation (Japanese Release)

PlayStation Portable (North American Release)

Media & Promotional Material