The legacy of the great PARAPPA THE RAPPER Playstation video game lives on.
The most frequently asked question I get about the great Parappa franchise is “When will the next Parappa Game come out?” The true answer is “I don’t know.” As of this writing (updated March 2021) there is no plan for another Parappa game. Why? I’ve thought long and deeply about this question! There are many possible answers, theories, complicated circumstances and even a few facts that may account for Parappa’s (mostly) disappearance from the game world. Whenever I start to think about it I become frustrated and I feel like I’m getting a rash. My dream was that Parappa would have been Sony’s ultimate mascot, as Super Mario is to Nintendo, so Parappa should have been to Sony. If only! Ah but that’s all in the distant past. For now let’s celebrate the great characters from Parappa The Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy and Parappa 2. Here is a little history:
In 1994 I was hired by Sony Creative Products, a licensing company inside Sony Music Japan. I was hired to design cute characters for printed products, clothing and toys. I designed a bored brown bear named PJ Berri, a cute precocious girl named Pony Pony, a blue fashionable cat named Katy Kat, and a super happy flower girl named Sunny Funny. Sony Creative was designing products with these fun characters.
Little did I know in another Sony office, Matsaya Matsuura, a well know pop musician was developing a game for a brand new game platform called Playstation. His game was an interesting “simon says” that used rap beats. He was already a fan of my artwork, and when he found out I was already working for Sony, he asked the people at Sony Creative Products if I would design the characters and world for his game.
Of course I said yes. When I went to meet Matsuura’s team, they had already made a crude animation demo of the rap-music-simon-says-game using my characters from my 1993 CD-ROM Dazzeloids. Matsuura’s animation people loved the flatness of my work, and thought of creating flat characters who move around in a 3D world. Playstation was a first generation a 3d platform, a real technical feat at the time.
I returned to New York and set about making sketches for the characters and world. I got word from Sony Creative that they wanted to put my colorful funky PJ, Katy, and Sunny characters in the game. For some reason Pony Pony did not make the cut. I started drawing a wacky funny cute American suburban land where my characters could live and play. The Japan team loved it.
Matsuura wanted the main character to be an upbeat, lovable slightly naive dog. I made several sketches and Sony Creative chose a dog with a pointed cap. Matsuura liked it too, and he had come up with a name for the game: Parappa The Rapper. “Parappa” is some kind of play on Japanese words that means “paper thin”. So Parappa was born.
The crazy great story was written by Gabin Ito and he asked for several “teacher” characters who would challenge Parappa to rapping contests. They needed a Karate/Kung Fu master, a driving instructor, an owner of a flea market, a cooking show host, and also a “bad guy” rival for Parappa. I drew and named all of those characters. The game was in production for most of 1996. When I met Ryu Watabe and heard the lyrics he was writing and heard him singing in the voice of Chop Chop Master Onion, I started to realize we were making something great. Even so I had no idea it would be a hit. I made super colorful package art that included a poster with a map of Parappa Town. The game was released in Japan on December 6th 1996. It started selling well right away, but by the spring of 1997 it was a huge hit in Japan. It was released in the US and UK in November 1997. By the end of 1997 Parappa the Rapper had sold nearly one million copies. Yea!
The good thing about “I don’t know” is that it means the future is open. There are many possibilities. All people can still enjoy the old Parappa games and characters. If we keep talking and blogging about how great Parappa IS, then the possibilities are all there. As Parappa says, “You Gotta Believe!”