We had worried that Sony’s recent burst of PS1 and PSP remasters were not proving particularly successful. So far we’ve had PaRappa The Rapper and LocoRoco, and although popular at the time, and reasonably good remasters, they don’t seem to have awakened anything like the same level of nostalgia as Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Originally released in 2007 for the PlayStation Portable, Patapon is a peculiar mix of rhythm action and real-time strategy. The idea of the game is that you’re the god of the patapon, cute little eyeball-shaped warriors who rely on you for not only hunting and gathering food but also dealing with monsters and rival tribes. The references to you as the ‘almighty’ are a bit amazing.
The game consists of a series of 2D horizontally-scrolling levels, but instead of fumbling about with cursors and menus you control your loyal warriors through the power of music and rhythm action gameplay. The idea is that you tap out pre-set sequences on the face buttons to make your followers perform different tactics, from marching forward and attacking to retreating and assuming a defensive formation. Chain together multiple commands with just the right timing and the patapons enter Fever mode, where they become less controllable but more aggressive. As the ‘almighty’ god that you are, you can also directly help out by changing the weather, so the wind makes spears travel further or by using rain to cool the ground. The other main complication to the combat is the ability to outfit your little eyeball warriors with a range of different weapons and armor. New unit types are gradually introduced, including archers, cavalry, and shield bearers, and on top of this is a simple crafting system. This uses dropped loot from defeated enemies to outfit your troops with more powerful equipment, or to summon more powerful super soldiers with increased stats.
The creation of new Patapon can be done from Patapolis (main hub) as well. This is a vital thing to do in the late-game as bosses get harder, and the base level Patapon can not hold out against them. In order to create new Patapon, you need a combination of currency, earned throughout the game and on hunting missions, and the aforementioned crafting materials. The rarer the crafting materials, the more currency you need. Some of these minigames in Patapolis are very easy to learn such as the Ubo Bon’s mini-game. However, others such as the Blacksmith and Farmer’s mini-game are incredibly frustrating and difficult to learn and it doesn’t help that these games offer vague instructions, leading to frustration and anger as I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong.
“Patapon’s audio is perfect, also, and it seriously needs to be as this is what makes the game enjoyable or not”
Some bosses are also hidden behind secret pathways that require an item to unlock the level; however, these bosses are usually the same boss as the last one you fought, except with a different color scheme. The rest of the game is so unique that the same bosses with the same attacks feel pretty lazy. A long with that, bosses can also be replayed at a harder difficulty for better gear and crafting items
Although the core gameplay is cleverly thought out the main frustration with Patapon has always been its mission structure. You’re constantly encouraged to repeat levels in order to collect loot to expand your army, much like level grinding in a role-playing game. Technically you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but the game’s high difficultly makes it all but a necessity. Graphically though, we have no complaints, as the game still looks very impressive. The highly stylized artworks scales up very nicely at higher resolutions, and for a 10-year-old game looks like it could’ve been made almost yesterday. The exception is the pre-rendered cut scenes, which look horribly grainy and primitive. Although thankfully there’s not many of them.
Patapon’s audio is perfect, also and it seriously needs to be as this is what makes the game enjoyable or not. Without the audio being perfect, the entire experience is ruined. Luckily every beat, every sound effect, every piece of music is stellar which undoubtedly contributes to the enjoyable gameplay experience.
The game has been out for a while now, and looking online there seems to be a lot of people having trouble with input lag. With some complaining that the game is virtually unplayable. The problem seems to depend on the TV and sound set-up you use, but we have to say that with an ordinary HDTV and a pair of headphones we didn’t have any problems at all.