It was released four times in Japan — once in 1998, then again as The Adventure of Puppet Princess + 1 in 1999, and then again as The Adventure of Puppet Princess (PSone Books) in 2001, and was released a fourth time for the Nintendo DS on June 6, 2008. The game was released in the USA, in 2000 and in 2008 and is the only game in the main series to be released outside Japan.
Rhapsody, along with its sequels, are considered musical RPGs, meaning in place of FMV cutscenes, there are musical numbers, complete with vocals. The game is also known for its "overwhelming cuteness" and low level of difficulty. Although this may make the game seem geared towards a younger audience, in Japan, the game and series in general has seen much success. In North America, the game has seen much less success, perceived as a girl-only game.
When starting a new game, the player can select a game difficulty (easy, normal, or hard), which affects how long it will take to finish the game. The player selects different places on the world map and encounters random encounter battles, such as in the Dragon Quest series. Unlike most role-playing video games, the player can save at any time, except during battle.
An oft-mentioned point of appreciation is its relatively unique plot premise and flow. Rhapsody is a theatrical musical in regard to its presentation style, containing frequent cut scenes that are sung, rather than simply spoken and acted. Players are given the option of listening to the lyrics and voice-overs in Japanese, English, or muting them entirely. Hidden throughout the game are high-quality illustrations of characters, which can be viewed any time through the item menu.
BattleThe battles are fought in a tactical role-playing game fashion. However, unlike other games in this genre, the battles tend to last less than a minute, with the exception of boss battles, and require little tactics. This makes the game stand out in its genre and may have also led to its limited mainstream success with more hardcore players of the genre.
Battle sceneCornet is the main character, but mainly offers support in battle-puppets that are found throughout the game do most of the fighting for her. Kururu never actually fights in any battles in the original, though she does in the remake for the DS. Each character learns different skills as they level up, except Cornet (in the original only), who has attacks called Rewards. Cornet can blow her horn during battle to power up the puppets and gain appreciation points, which allow her to unleash these devastating techniques. Most Rewards are represented by foods, such as flan, cake, and candy.
Like in most tactical RPGs, each character has a certain move number and can attack at a certain distance. Most party members can only attack at close range, unless he or she has a long-range skill. Each character can also equip three accessories and use items. The game features some normal status problems (sleep, paralysis, etc.) like in most console RPGs, but has some original ones too, such as frog and philanthropy. Each enemy also has an element (thunder, wind, earth, fire, water, dark, holy) and a weakness to the opposite element. Each element has its own set of spells, which can be used to take advantage of such weaknesses.
Unlike in most tactical RPGs, instead of gaining experience points each turn, all the characters get the same amount of points at the end of battle. After earning enough experience points, the character will level up and become stronger and possibly learn a spell. There are also skill points, gained when a character strikes the finishing blow. The more of these points a character has, the higher his or her critical rate becomes. Inotium, the in-game money, is also won after every battle. Occasionally monsters will join Cornet after they are defeated. These monsters can then be used in battle, like puppets, and can use special monster abilities.
The game centers around the adventures of Cornet, a girl who can talk to puppets and has a magical horn that grants wishes, and Kururu, a puppet that has the heart and soul of a human. The majority of the game is about Cornet and Kururu trying to save Prince Ferdinand (whom Cornet is in love with) after he has been turned to stone by the self-proclaimed "most beautiful witch in the world." The witch, Marjoly, also has a crush on the prince and had meant to put him to sleep, but messed up the spell and accidentally turned him to stone.
- Cornet Espoir: Cornet is the cheerful heroine of the game. She can sing, play the horn, and even talk to puppets; which most people cannot do. Cornet longs for a passionate relationship and despises toads. She longs for a prince to sweep her off of her feet.
- Kururu: She is a puppet and Cornet's best friend. She follows Cornet throughout the game, often making humorous comments on her behavior. She likes cherries, and dislikes anything sour. Unlike other puppets, Kururu can move around on her own without the powers of Cornet's horn, and she can talk to other humans besides Cornet. She hides a deep secret, but for the better. Her weapon of choice is a paper fan (she is only playable in the DS version).
- Cherie: Cherie is Cornet's mother, who is said to have been killed in an accident many years prior to the start of the game.
- Ferdinand Marl E.: The prince, and soon to be king, of Marl Kingdom. He often sneaks out of the castle to hunt or visit the city. Cornet has dreamed of him her whole life and falls in love with him after a chance meeting in the forest.
- Etoile Rosenqueen: She is Cornet's arrogant rival. Etoile often makes sarcastic remarks about Cornet. She is from a rich background and loves being the center of attention.
- Marjoly: Marjoly is the sexy antagonist of the game, but is hardly the typical evil mastermind bent on world domination. She lies about her age and often calls herself the most beautiful witch in the world. She is not not very smart and her lackeys often insult her rather openly. She also makes a cameo in each game of the Disgaea (Series).
- Gao: Gao is one of Marjoly's lackeys. It is said that she has the strength to fight a dragon with her bare hands. Many people mistake her for a man, including Cornet.
- Crowdia': Crowdia is another of Marjoly's lackeys. She is very beautiful, but very narcissistic. She has large black wings, like a crow, and fights with a sword.
- Myao: Myao is Marjoly's third lackey. She appears to be a child. She often acts childish and selfish, and she can cast powerful magic to summon dragons.
Bundled with the US game was an original soundtrack CD (Rhapsody - A Musical Adventure USA Soundtrack). All songs were composed by Tenpei Sato.
Nintendoo DS VersionEdit
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure was released for the Nintendo DS on September 23, 2008. The gameplay has been changed significantly, the battles changed from strategy-RPG style to 2-D turn based battles, similar to the ones found in the sequels. Kururu also engages in battle in this version of the game. Though extra scenarios from the third game in the series were advertised, translated, and given as the reason for the removal of the English song vocals, they were absent from the game. NIS America announced that they removed this content because of localization issues. Reports of glitches have also surfaced such as freezing.
Considered to be a sleeper hit and cult classic among role-playing games, Rhapsody appeals largely to a small demographic within the larger console RPG fanbase, even considered a novelty of the genre. Its lighthearted approach, distinctly female perspective, relatively brief playtime (it can be completed in approximately 10 hours normally, and in five hours if rushed, whereas most RPGs span 30+ hours) and generally challenge-soft gameplay are factors that have contributed to both its limited success among the mainstream, and intense popularity within its smaller fanbase.
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure has a sequel, Little Princess: Marl Ōkoku no Ningyō Hime 2, which has been fan-translated. There is also a third game Tenshi no Present - Marl Oukoku Monogatari, also known as Angel's Present: A Marl Kingdom Story, which has also been translated by fans on GameFAQs.
Rhapsody's influence has extended into Nippon Ichi's subsequent series of tactical role-playing games. One of the characters of La Pucelle: Tactics is a descendant of the characters in the game, while the shops named after Cornet's rival, Etoile Rosenqueen, have spread even to the Netherworlds of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Antiphona no Seikahime: Tenshi no Gakufu Op.A also takes place in the same world and features Marjoly.
After the first release of the game, a cheaper edition called The Adventure of Puppet Princess + 1 was published, which featured an art gallery, sound test, and a bonus CD. The American release of the game had these features, but instead of the bonus CD was a soundtrack CD, with vocal and instrumental songs from the game. The third release (The Adventure of Puppet Princess (PSone Books)), did not come with any extra CD. There was also a Rhapsody calendar released.
A version of the game was released on mobile phones.