Our friends at NIS America continue their most recent trend of returning their classic titles with Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles. The first Rhapsody is available in the Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3. I’m happy to see the direct sequels Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess (1999) and Rhapsody III: Memories of Marl Kingdom (2000) available in the West. The localization of both games includes an English dub and slight resolution upgrades. Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles is available on the Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation 5. This review is based on gameplay on the Nintendo Switch.
Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess occurs sometime after the first game, starring Kururu, the daughter of Queen Cornet and King Ferdinand. As a princess, Kururu is your standard shoujo-esque slice-of-life protagonist. She wants to escape the castle and explore the world on a grand adventure, just like her mother. On her adventure, she immediately realizes the world isn’t what she initially imagined. Teaming up with friends as occasional party members, Kururu embarks on a journey to become a fit ruler of the Marl Kingdom. Overall, the story is very linear and straightforward. Oftentimes, character introductions and expositions for each act include a musical number performed by the characters.
ON THE OTHER HAND, Rhapsody III: Memories of Marl Kingdom is a nonlinear experience. Each act occurs at different points in the timelines of the previous two Rhapsody games. For example, the first act is after the first game but before the second game. Meanwhile, the second act is immediately after the second game. This game helps connect and expand the story of all three games, filling in information players might have felt was missing after the first game. Both sequels bring characters and stories with the usual NIS charm that is comedic, lighthearted, and over the top. I enjoyed the English dub for both games and the subtitles that were readily available for the musical numbers that were left in the original Japanese dub.
The combat for Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess and Rhapsody III: Memories of Marl Kingdom differ from the grid-style turn-based combat from the first title. In Rhapsody II, players have the traditional turn-based RPG formula. Although party members can do basic and special attacks, players can also control creatures called puppets. Puppets are magical creatures you can use to do special attacks that do not use up your HP. Each puppet has a unique animation. You can also collect more and assign them to different party members. Equipping puppets to your party members also provides some stat boosts. Using puppets charges up a musical meter with different levels that allow you to launch a unique attack. You can unleash a powerful attack if you raise the meter to a high level.
Rhapsody IIIexpands on the combat from Rhapsody II,making partners available to equip to main party members, giving you up to 16 combatants to use and support each other during combat. However, it is a bit disheartening having to rebuild your party from scratch after each time leap. Both games are a melodrama with chaotic events such as a cake flying across the screen or hilarious combat lines and animations.
Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles gives players a colorful world and the whimsical stories of both games. Character models have that classic chibi-bit-style NIS design. The only difference between the two games graphically is the 2D art style used in the field maps for Rhapsody II and the 3D art style field areas for Rhapsody III. Granted, the graphics might appear dated, but they have a nice nostalgic charm that doesn’t compromise the gameplay or quality. The musical numbers probably have some of my favorite animations in the game.
Two games with musical numbers as cutscenes would be disappointing without a memorable soundtrack. Fortunately, Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles does not have this problem. Overall, I enjoyed the soundtrack. It was pleasant and memorable throughout each dungeon, city/town, combat, and musical number. The soundtrack helps set the soundscape for the series.
My final thoughts? I recommend playing the first Rhapsody if you want to grab this collection. You get two RPGs for the price of one, and that’s an opportunity I wouldn’t miss out on. Both games are simple, with a good amount of challenge. The gameplay can get repetitive but still engages with the different animations. If you’re an RPG lover looking for a colorful adventure with a humorous and lighthearted story, I recommend adding this collection to your list!
Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles Review
Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles
Two musical slice of life RPGs for the price of one.
Great voice acting
Colorful and fun graphics
Gameplay can be a little repetitive
Linear story in Rhapsody II makes free roam a little difficult at times