Gaming’s Original Doggfather is still most ill
Hip-hop heads call Jamaican toastmaster DJ Kool Herc an originator. When it comes to music, video games owe it all to a certain pooch.
PaRappa the Rapper debuted on the PlayStation in 1997, singlehandedly laying the groundwork for rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. To honor the game only for its call-and-response rhyming is to miss the point. PaRappa the Rapper belongs in the pantheon of old-school legends not for technical innovation, but for style. Artist Rodney Allen Greenblat populated the game’s surreal, teenage world with characters that feel like Looney Tunes channeled through Keith Haring. The game’s catchy rap battles marry the quirk of They Might Be Giants with the positive ?ow of Jurassic 5. Ten years have passed and playing “Simon Says” to these tunes by hitting buttons with exact musical precision is still tougher than Run DMC’s leather. And with so many games aiming for the hyper-real, Parappa the Rapper stands out as an early, and massively in?uential, proponent for opting out of the graphical arms race altogether. The imaginative looks of Katamari Damacy, Jet Grind Radio and Paper Mario all owe debts to this pioneering pup. Props to Greenblat and designer Masaya Matsuura, who looked at the homogeneous, dire gaming landscape and responded with a message of hope: “I gotta believe!”