Come on, admit it... who isn't even a little intrigued by the idea of an RPG that is also a musical? I sure was, and on that score this game certainly delivers, with Disney-esque moments of characters bursting into fully vocal song throughout the story. However, this is as much as the game does do right, as every other aspect of it is deeply flawed that I'm amazed this product was allowed past any sort of quality control that Nippon Ichi Software may have(Assuming they have any). This is a port of a PS1 game from way back for those not in the know, and in just about every way, this is a watered down, much inferior version of the original.
The story is innocent enough, telling a very simple tale of a teenage girl called Cornet who has the magic power to talk to puppets and to use her special trumpet to bring them to life to fight alongside her in battle. Cornet has a dream about a handsome prince coming to her rescue and the next day, that's exactly what happens. So Cornet vows to win the prince's love no matter what, and so begins her quest. Simplicity itself, right? The plot has no pretentions to being anything other than what it is, a straightforward romantic comedy musical and it isn't without it's charms, sure, but the plot isn't nearly fleshed out enough over the course of the game's ridiculously short 12 hour play time(That's what it took me, though I didn't do all the side quests admittedly). There's zero character development, plot revelations aren't nearly explored as much as they need to be and some characters just seem to serve no purpose to the story at all. It's simple, yes, but too much so most of the time.
Gameplay is likewise simplistic, with traditional turn based JRPG fights(Baffling given the PS1 original of the game had the far superior 'tactics' grid combat system that Nippon Ichi have employed to such excellent effect over the years) triggered by random encounters. There's no real depth to combat beyond use strongest attack, level up, learn new stronger attack, repeat. There are a lot of puppets to find and recruit for battle in the game, but I never needed to use any other than the ones I started the game with, such was the lack of challenge offered. Add to this the dungeon designs, which literally consist of nothing more than simple square shaped rooms with doors on each side that you navigate looking for stairs to advance to the next floor and repeat until boss appears. It really is the most tedious 'JRPG by numbers' level design I have ever seen.
Visually the game looks like a SNES game, and has pretty minimal animation and no cutscenes of any kind, so it looks very boring and outdated throughout. Even the PS1 original of the game looked a tad better(Though only a tad, as it had larger, more crisp and detailed areas and character portraits).
Soundwise though, is where this game is the biggest mess, as there is some sort of major issue with the sound effects through the whole game. Specifically, there are none. True, you'll hear some effects, mainly the tingles and beeps of the menu screens, but in game, when you use an attack or get hit or there's an earthquake or lightning storm? Nothing. Clearly there is some sort of bug with the game's sound that didn't get fixed, and it isn't the only one. Music in the game is fine though, but the vocal songs sound very tinny through the DS speakers. Also, all the songs in the game are the original Japanese versions of the songs, and while not a bad thoing per se, I find it odd that NIS didn't use the english language songs they produced for the PS1 version years ago... especially given that the DS version's credits seem to think it DOES use the english language versions. Very strange.
Sounds bad so far? There's worse to come. The game is also riddled with game ending bugs at numerous points. Don't believe me? Google the words "Rhapsody DS black screens" and see. The game has a habit of crashing a lot, most particularly during a music contest on Chapter 3. It's a disgraceful situation a game could get released like this.
I should make it clear that this review is based on the US version of the game, so it is POSSIBLE the EURO version will fix any bugs or issues, and if it does, I will gladly alter this review accordingly, but given that Nippon Ichi have said they had a lot of trouble getting this game properly completed(Even cutting out a lot of extra content that they continued to advertise as being there after the game came out most notoriously), so I find it hard to believe they'd make the effort to send it back to the developer's floor for the EURO release, especially given the size of their operation and the limited time they've had between the US and EURO releases versu the amount of work to be done on the game.
Overall, where the PS1 game years ago was merely an average tactical RPG, this DS port is an utter travesty that should never have been released in the form it is in. I recommend staying away and trying one of any number of great DS JRPGs already available, because believe me, this one is not worth you time.