Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles Review – The Best NISA Collection to Date

    Title: Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles 
    Developer: NIS
    Release Date: August 29, 2023
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: NISA
    Genre: JRPG

NIS America is continuing to dive into their past catalog to bring classic Nippon Ichi Software-developed titles to modern platforms. However, with the release of Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles, Western gamers are getting two titles that have never received a localization in an official capacity, Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess and Rhapsody III: Memories of Marl Kingdom. After playing through the previous releases within the Prinny Classics, I’m beginning to understand NISA’s approach to these remasters, and it shines in these titles that have yet to be released globally.

Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles continues the story of Rhapsody: A Musical Adventurewhich was initially released in the year 2000 on PlayStation. However, the game has since seen a DS release and was included in Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3. Having said that, I would say that playing through A Musical Adventure is needed to completely understand the events of Rhapsody II, and especially Rhapsody III. 

Further, the other title included in the Volume 3 collection, La Pucelle: Ragnarok, is based in this same universe with ties to certain main characters. Release order aside, these stories rely heavily on character relationships with a specific timeline of events that require some knowledge of to fully understand. Still, it’s possible to just jump in and enjoy some silly JRPG adventure with this cast.

Rhapsody Marl Kingdom Chronicles 4

Rhapsody II picks up after the events of Rhapsody. You assume the role of Kururu the daughter of the previous protagonist Cornet, who now rules over Marl Kingdom. Much like her mom, Kururu wants to find love but has a lot to learn before that happens. Still, she sets off on an adventure with her best friend Crea. The first three acts of the game serve as a way to introduce you to a few characters and set up the plot before Kururu finds her way on a much larger adventure. During this time, she keeps a journal of things she’s learned but also must confront her own insecurities and how she carries herself.

While there is an antagonist, I feel like Rhapsody II is a very low barrier of entry adventure. Nothing really needs saving, and you’ll mostly be playing to see how Kururu obtains her goals. However, the main hook is the exceptionally hilarious scenarios packed with tongue-in-cheek humor and innuendos. I found myself laughing several times at the reactions of the characters or just the motivations of some of the supporting cast. Also, I won’t forget to mention the extremely refreshing musical elements where the characters break into song and dance during each Act.

Rhapsody Marl Kingdom Chronicles 3

Rhapsody III is less straightforward and serves as a way to tie up loose ends for some of the scenarios. However, two of the more significant scenarios have already been included in the DS release of Rhapsody. Still, there are six chapters to learn what happened before and after the events of the entire series. The writing style is the same for this release, but the change to 3D environments did hurt my overall enjoyment.

Rhapsody II features pre-rendered backgrounds, while Rhapsody III opted to utilize the same pixel character designs from the previous games but place them in a 3D world. In terms of remastered features, I believe Rhapsody III has seen the most improvements with crisper textures and font. Further, the game takes a few system ideas from the previous games and improves them, such as the Auto-Battle option to choose how the characters attack where previously you didn’t have any control over it.

Rhapsody Marl Kingdom Chronicles 6

However, NISA opted to only enhance the graphics for modern platforms, but they left the experience untouched. For this release, I appreciated that choice, given that these titles have not been made available in the West until now. Still, this does mean that there’s little “extra” here in terms of added systems.

You won’t find an Auto-Save feature, but you can save anywhere you wish. Still, I think the most significant addition is the English voices for characters. The voice actors show off the expressions of the voiced scenes expertly, and they also closely match the way the characters sound during song numbers since those still have Japanese audio.

Rhapsody Marl Kingdom Chronicles 5

The battle systems between each title, while turn-based, do vary in many ways. Rhapsody II is more traditional, where players choose the actions of each party member. Outside of the core party, some characters can equip Puppets, which can add buffs to the characters alongside having their out equipment loadout options.

These Puppets gain levels over time which unlock new abilities. Still, characters can also use their own special abilities if they wish. A strange system requires money to be used for Puppet actions, and HP is used for Special actions. Kururu will eventually gain enough points to use rewards, which are legendary attacks paired with silly animations such as dropping pancakes on the enemies.

Rhapsody Marl Kingdom Chronicles 7

Rhapsody III allows players to place up to 12 characters in their party. This is made up of captured monsters, puppets, and supporting cast members. The battle system also opted to utilize a more common SP system for specials. It’s not as messy as it seems since only 4 characters are controlled, with other party members acting on their own.

Equipment and customization are a bit more streamlined in this release, with quality-of-life features added to make battles quicker. While there isn’t a traditional fast-forward option in either of the games, you are able to fast-forward through event scenes.

Rhapsody Marl Kingdom Chronicles 1

Rhapsody II is by far the stronger title in this release, as it is an excellent reminder of how beautiful pixel art can be. There are so many character animations and expressions that pack every scene with exciting things to look at. I was also happy with the classic font choice NISA went with, as it fits in perfectly with retaining the game’s classic appeal.

As for Rhapsody III, there are some amazing adventures that take place in each of the chapters. Although I’d say this entry is used more to wrap up loose ends, it also requires the most knowledge of the series. You’re pretty much playing through the lives of these characters, seeing the kingdom evolve over time and enjoying a low-stakes adventure with great pixel art.

Rhapsody Marl Kingdom Chronicles 2

Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles is the best classic collection from NISA to date. They’ve pulled out all the stops to present these titles in their original forms to new audiences, with a localization that retained the humorous tone of the scenarios. These games are pixel art at its finest, and while we don’t see many titles like this anymore, I’m glad we have these modern releases to enjoy alongside new titles released today. While Rhapsody II is a more rounded adventure, this collection as a whole is a must-play for any JRPG enthusiast.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.