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Video Game / Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure

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Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, known in Japan as Marl Oukoku no Ningyou-hime (The Puppet Princess of Marl Kingdom), is a game developed by Nippon Ichi for the PlayStation in 1998. It was later remade for the Nintendo DS in 2008, and later again as part of the Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 3 Compilation Re-release alongside La Pucelle: Ragnarok for the Nintendo Switch and PC in 2022. It is the first game by the company to be released in the United States, and one of the first games to be developed before the company's love of insane Power Levels.

The story is set in the aforementioned Marl Kingdom, and stars a young girl named Cornet, who possesses the ability to talk to puppets and dolls. She has a big-time crush on Prince Ferdinand, who rescued her from an evil Cat Girl. However, just as she nearly succeeds in winning the prince's heart, the witch Marjoly attacks the castle and turns the prince to stone, and then kidnaps him. Determined to win her beloved Prince Ferdinand back, Cornet sets out on a magical and musical adventure all over Marl Kingdom with her Fairy Companion Kururu and an assortment of other puppets.

Rhapsody appeals to a different demographic than most RPGs. On the surface it seems aimed at young girls, but it has become a Cult Classic, mostly due to Moe appeal. Besides, the tunes are catchy!

The game would eventually receive two sequels. The first one, Rhapsody II: Ballad of the Little Princess, was also released on the Playstation and follows the adventures of Cornet's daughter, also named Kururu. The second sequel, Rhapsody III: Memories of Marl Kingdom, was released on the Playstation 2, and is a Vignette Episode adventure, telling additional stories that focus on Cornet, her daughter, and various other characters in the Marl Kingdom, taking place within the time frame of both games as well as Marl Kingdom's past and future. The sequels didn't receive an international release until 2023 in the form of Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles, a Compilation Re-release for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and PC. These games laid the groundwork for La Pucelle and, eventually, the Disgaea series.

Additionally, it gained a Spiritual Successor in the form of the Japan-only Princess Antiphona’s Hymn: Angel’s Score Op. A which includes a Marl Kingdom prince and Marjoly.

Not to be confused with the 2000 anime OVA Puppet Princess.

Has a Character Sheet with characters from the whole series.

The Rhapsody series uses the following tropes:

  • Anachronism Stew: The games are set in a Medieval Fantasy setting, but with guns, J-Pop, and BBQs.
  • Attract Mode: Waiting 45 seconds on the title screen shows an Expository Theme Tune where Cornet introduces herself, her skill as a puppeteer, and Kururu teasing her dreams of finding a prince.
  • Babies Ever After: The first game ends with Cornet being pregnant with her and Ferdinand's child, Kurusale, who eventually becomes the lead character of Ballad of the Little Princess.
  • Become a Real Boy: If Cornet helps the puppets she recruits, they will gain a soul and ascend to Heaven to be (re?)incarnated. Fortunately, they leave the puppet behind so you can keep using it.
  • Black and White Magic: The twin puppets Sharte and Terra can cast magic. Sharte is a White Mage and can cast holy and healing magic, while Terra is a Black Mage and can cast offensive magic.
  • Bland-Name Product: One tailor named Kalvin Cline.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: You can find an unwrapped copy of the game guide on a bookshelf.
    Cornet: Hey, you! Yeah, you with the controller! Did you make me mess up?
  • Bullying a Dragon: After Marjoly petrifies Ferdinand, Cornet provokes her by calling her an "old maid," even getting everyone in the room (including Majorlay's Quirky Mini Boss Squad) to join in. A frustrated Marjoly sics her Quirky Mini Boss Squad on Cornet, leading to the below-mentioned Hopeless Boss Fight. Turns out mocking the Big Bad, even one who her own followers mock at every possible opportunity, is a bad idea.
  • But Thou Must!: Regardless of what the player's choice is, the story still stays the same.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: There are only two types of dungeon areas in the game: caves and square rooms, with little to no variations in them, with a few exceptions. The sequels avoid this problem by having more dynamic dungeons, with only a few caves being the same.
  • Crutch Character: Kururu (Promoted to Playable in the DS remake) is very strong, but disappears during the very last chapter.
  • Cute Kitten: The Nyankos are adorable Cat Folk that wear silly costumes wherever they go.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Rhapsody III features various episodes focusing on various groups of characters, ranging from Cornet and her puppets to Kururu, Cello and Crea to even the Marjorly family.
  • Defeat Means Playable: Baring Etoile, the Marjorly family,the Akurjo family and Kururu's parents, all the bosses the player beats in "Pumpkin Pants and the Trial of Love" will join the party as playable characters.
  • Distressed Dude: Prince Ferdinand spends most of the game Taken for Granite, with your quest focused on rescuing him.
  • Dueling Player Characters: The protagonists of the first two games, Cornet and her daughter Kururu, get to have the final battle near the end of "Pumpkin Pants and the Trial of Love".
  • Easy Levels, Hard Bosses: Regular battles are pretty easy, especially if you use powerful magic. The bosses, however, are designed with this in mind and are harder.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Sort of. X-elemental magic will do extra damage to a character with a Y-elemental attribute, but reversing X and Y will yield the same result. It goes: Fire <—> Water, Wind <—> Earth, Holy <—> Dark. Neutral (obviously) and Thunder-based characters are exempt from having any weaknesses.
  • Evil Chancellor: Golonzo, played almost to the point of parody. Random NPCs in town comment on how obviously evil he is before you've even met him.
  • Fiction 500: The Rosenqueen family, which has a company so widespread, it crosses planets and dimensions. Nippon Ichi's store was named after them for a time.
  • Forgotten Superweapon: The "Ancient Weapons (as in more than one)".
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe with the people of Frogburg, who seem to think that Golonzzo is extremely handsome and not that bad a guy.
  • Good Is Dumb: Played straight with Etoile, who just plain outclasses your party during the Hopeless Boss Fight in chapter 2. During the battles in which she decides to help you out later in the game, all the dakka in the world can't save her from doing pitiful damage while your party is lashing out with heavy hits.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The stones used to get to Marjoly's castle.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Three of them. The player is unable to win the battles against Etoile in chapter 2, the Quirky Mini Boss Squad in chapter 3, and Myao and her cat minions at the end of chapter 5.
  • "I Am" Song: In every game in the Marl Kingdom series, characters frequently break into musical numbers for the flimsiest of reasons. When one of Marjoly's minions cameos in Phantom Brave, she's mystified as to why people don't spontaneously burst into song.
  • Lampshade Hanging: All over the place.
    • The attract mode song has Kururu and Cornet sing about every single trope of the game's own genre, with Kururu effectively telling Cornet that's not how the world works.
    • In a scene at the beginning of the game, Kururu tells Cornet that if she dies, "it's game over. You'll have to watch this scene again and again."
  • Last of Her Kind: Cornet, who is the last successor of the Lost Technology used to make and control the puppets… Well, until she and Ferdinand have their daughter Kurusale, anyway.
  • Lost Technology: Marjorly's Ominous Floating Castle, the Ancient Weapon, and the puppets.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Kururu is actually Cherie, Cornet's mother, who placed her soul in her child's favorite doll to keep watch over her after her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • MacGuffin:
    • The first game has the Heartstones that are used to used to bring Cornet to Marjorly's castle.
    • The second game has the Shadow of Beauty, which the game's antagonist, Akurjo, wants so she can cure her disease.
  • Magic Misfire: Happens twice to Marjoly. Once when she accidentally takes Ferdinand for granite instead of putting him to sleep so she can kidnap him, and again when she's about to finish off the Final Boss. The second time, her spell literally blows up right in her face, leaving her incapacitated and causing the defeat of the boss to be up to you.
  • Magic Music: Cornet's magic has powerful effects both in-battle and out.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Heartstones are required to cure Ferdinand. However, it turns out they're the keys to the Lost Technology that will allow you to reach Marjoly's floating castle.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Happens a couple times when the plot swings from lighthearted to dead serious without warning.
    • In the Frog Kingdom, the King orders Michael to help you retrieve the Earthstone in order to earn his respect. He succeeds... but the King just adds his defeating the guardian to his list of crimes and executes him on the spot, in full view of his lover. Soon afterwards, his lover, the princess, takes his body to the Ice Temple and is Driven to Suicide in order to be with him again.
  • Moving the Goalposts: The King of the Frogs' behavior towards Michael involves him changing his mind, just so Michael can't marry Caroline.
  • Musical Assassin: Cornet uses a horn as a weapon to attack enemies and power-up her puppets.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In order to obtain a MacGuffin, both Cornet and a random group of villagers kill two dragons. It turns out that the dragons were the ones keeping the local volcano from erupting.
    • There's an optional moment during the raid on the Ninetails Tower. If Cornet chooses to kill the tower's guardian and obtain the MacGuffin it carries, she saves the life of one person… at the cost of the entire town becoming cursed and hating her guts. If you refuse to kill the guardian, Cornet will fight Gao instead, who is always after the Thunderstone. Defeating her results in you getting the Holystone instead of the Thunderstone, and also changes one of the 5 bosses at the bottom of Cape Hope.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Marjoly accidentally petrifies the prince while trying to cast a charm spell on him. Later, she is Hoist by Her Own Petard while fighting the Ancient Weapon.
  • Noblewoman's Laugh: Etoile and Marjoly both love launching into bombastic laughs, fitting their haughty natures.
  • No Fourth Wall: If you beat the worm right heart on the 6th turn (as Etoile told you to) on the first time fighting it, Etoile will come in asking what you're doing. Cornet's reply? "Hey you! Yeah, the one with the controller in your hand! Did you make me mess up?" Etoile admits she screwed up worrying about you screwing up. But then later she gets mad at you and blames you anyways.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: Michael.
  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: Kururu will remind you of what to do on the menu.
  • Ojou: Etoile Rosenqueen, who adheres to Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, is a big fan of More Dakka, and also happens to be Cornet's Rival.
  • Optional Party Member: Due to the game's usage of puppets, there are many puppets you can either recruit or skip over.
  • Paper Fan of Doom: Kururu wields one all of the time, and Cornet will occasionally pull one of her own out whenever somebody says something particularly stupid and/or surprising.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: The King of the Frog Kingdom doesn't approve of his daughter Caroline marrying the lower-class Michael. And he ultimately executes him just to prevent it. Technically, it works, but
  • Perky Female Minion: Myao.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Two of the puppets who can join Cornet's party (Nightspawn and Kororo) become unobtainable if you miss out on the sequences necessary to get them.
  • Physical God: Ledgem, the timid rabbit plushie, is a messenger of Fate the God of Darkness.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: The twin dolls Sharte (Holy-elemental) and Terra (Dark-elemental).
  • The Power of Love: Cornet's love for Ferdinand is eventually used to cure his petrification.
  • Puzzle Boss: The heart of a giant sandworm. In the original game, Cornet had to land the killing blow on it during her sixth turn. It was toned down in the DS remake so that she had to land the killing blow before her sixth turn.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Majorly's minions are a quirky bunch of characters. Myao is a short-tempered Cat Girl magician, Gao is a Hot-Blooded warrior who loves to fight and Crowdia is obsessed with beauty (and herself). Akurjo's group follows suit.
  • The Rival: Marjorly's group and Akurjo's group have been competitive rivals for a long time.
  • Samurai: The puppet Chiba and the puppets he was based on.
  • Schizo Tech: A world of Medieval tech, but also has modern guns and assault rifles. The second game even has Etoile loan Kurusale her airship
  • Servile Snarker: Marjorly's Quirky Mini Boss Squad will mock her at every opportunity.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A later-game puppet is basically a Hellspawn.
    • The BBQ restaurant encountered early in the game, with its odd signs and cat-themed final boss is likely a shout-out to The Restaurant of Many Orders.
  • Slouch of Villainy: Marjoly does this during some scenes set in her throne room.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: The third game keeps the 2D sprites for the characters but makes the game world completely 3D.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • One sub-quest in the first game features the anthropomorphic frogs Michael and Caroline, who are lovers, but Caroline's father disapproves of the arrangement. Micheal is soon killed and Caroline follows suit, though the two are resurrected as puppets.
    • The second game features the romance between Pekonyan and Pokonyan, but because they are in opposing teams (Myao and Nyan-Nyan), they can't be together. Unlike Micheal and Caroline, their story ends a bit more happily, as the two are turned into normal cats and can now live together.
  • Suck My Rose: Marjoly uses one to demonstrate that she is a "flower of evil" during her Villain Song.
  • Together in Death: Caroline's father has Michael killed, so Caroline is Driven to Suicide. They come back as a pair of puppets when Cornet visits their gravesite.
  • Updated Re-release:
    • The DS version, which Shifts Genres from Turn-Based Strategy, to Role Playing, and adds Kururu as a usable party member. Until the last chapter, that is. It also included an extra scenario related to the third Marl Kingdom game. However, it was taken out in the U.S. version due to localization issues.
    • A second rerelease was later created for the Nintendo Switch as a part of the NIS Classics collection, where it was bundled with La Pucelle, and separately for the PC. This release was more faithful to the PS1 game, with the primary differences being in additional graphics optimizations and some minor quality of life changes.
  • Vignette Episode: The third game, Rhapsody III: Memories of Marl Kingdom, consists of several episodes taking place either in between, before or after the first two games, each focusing on a different group of characters.
  • Villain Song: "Evil Queen", courtesy of Marjoly, her Quirky Miniboss Squad, and a bunch of talking cats.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Burg's Diner where a monster cat chef Burg asks you how you want to be cooked is lifted straight out of The Restaurant of Many Orders.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Cornet really hates frogs and toads.
  • Winged Humanoid: Crowdia is the best example, although Kururu is a humanoid doll with wings. Cornet's mother also sports them when using her full power, because it gives you wings.

Alternative Title(s): Puppet Princess