Have you ever heard of the video game B.Rap Boys?

I’m willing to bet you haven’t. There’s a very small (but not zero) chance you might know the game’s prequel DJ Boy though. DJ Boy made its way from the arcade to home consoles like Sega Genesis, while B.Rap Boys didn’t make it any further than coin munching machines in dimly lit arcades.

While both games are fairly standard side-scrolling “belt action” beat ’em up fare, Kaneko attempted to make them stand out from the competition by shoehorning in hip-hop music and culture. There were some big mistakes in the first game though given that the characters weren’t designed with a healthy respect for a uniquely African-American art form. Let’s not mince words here — many of the enemy sprites were outright racist caricatures. Thankfully a lot of those designs were redone when the game made it out of Japan to the United States, particularly on Sega Genesis, but Kaneko undoubtedly realized they couldn’t afford to make the same mistakes twice.

Here’s where this review hits a snag — I’ve never been able to discern if 3 Stories High existed simply to make the soundtrack for B.Rap Boys, or if Kaneko discovered the group and licensed their music for inclusion in it. The fact that they only have one entry on Discogs certainly doesn’t help matters, and the game’s relative obscurity compared to mega arcade hits (with subsequent home conversions) like Double Dragon and Final Fight means little research exists into this “chicken or the egg” conundrum. Given that the “Famous Last Words” CD was only released in Japan though, it leads me to believe that Kaneko commissioned the music for the game, and that 3 Stories High had no future beyond creating the songs in B.Rap Boys.

You might be tempted to say 3 Stories High didn’t get a fair shake, but I’d strongly disagree with that statement. If the mistakes of the original version of DJ Boy were due to a misunderstanding of hip-hop culture through a Japanese lens, “Famous Last Words” repeats those mistakes in a sincere attempt to be more authentic in the sequel. Even though they found what I can only assume were some American rappers living in Japan and got them to record music for the game, it feels like they were thrown together at random and forced to invent a name and persona on the spot. They try their best but had so little material that half of this EP is remixes that are barely different from the original takes. I’ll give them this much credit — the production sounds like vintage 1990’s pop rap. “Famous Last Words” and “Average Day” wouldn’t be out of place on a MC Hammer album. That’s not HIGH praise though. The best I can say is that they’re tolerable in the game, with no reason to exist outside it. That’s why they vanished without a trace.

3 Stories High :: Famous Last Words
5Overall Score