Japanese Manga

PaRappa the Rapper

So this inspiration post is exciting because it combines two of my main obsessions - Japanese design and 90s nostalgia! Hands up if you played this game too!?

PaRappa the Rapper is a Japanese video game I used to play in the late 90s. The main character, PaRappa is an aspiring rapper with a bright orange beanie. You make him rap battle the various quirky characters (rap teachers) in the game by pressing the controller buttons in time to the music. The characters he encounters include a trippy, hippy frog who is selling his psychedelic shirts at a flea market, and a martial artist onion who is very Mr Miyagi.

These bright, bold and fun character design combined with the very simple concept of the game made it quite addictive. Actually so much so that I ended up selling my Play Station and giving up all games to focus on my studies. (Of course I invested in a new rhythm matching game instead - the turntables!)

The first photo is of an item I tried so hard to get hold of but did not succeed. (The internet in the late 90s wasn’t as helpful as it is nowdays!) The van with all the fun PaRappa characters runs around vinyl records to play music. It still makes my heart sink that I never got my mitts on this toy!

Game character design has come a long way from it’s humble blocky pixel start. I remember the original Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest in the 80s would come with a booklet. In this booklet were manga drawings of each character, showing what the pixel blobs on the screen are meant to look like.

When I get a glimpse into what video games look like now, it blows my mind how realistic the characters look! I have a lot of admiration for the skill it must take to create these 3D looking designs but personally - aesthetically, the late 90s video games are my favourite. The characters include enough detail that each one is unique (unlike the blobs of the 80s!) but the focus isn’t on making them look realistic. With PaRappa, it feels like the technical limitations at the time it was made, really shaped the style. I enjoy 80s and 90s manga and anime far more than the semi realistic current styles for the same reasons.