Patapon 3 has arrived for the PSP and it’s amazing. I could probably end the review now, that’s what you want to know if you are considering this game, right? Anyway, for the benefit of everyone who has never heard of the series, or those who have little interest I will continue.
Sony’s rhythm based RPG sees you follow the four-beat pattern of the game to make your way through the adventure. The songs, which are listed at the bottom of the screen, are easy enough to follow, well providing you have a good ear for rhythm. Each of the patterns within the game will have a different effect on your characters, such as marching forward, attacking, jumping and defending. The twist is that although you are following a beat to carry out a set move, the on screen action just gets so frantic, that keeping your concentration is all part of the game.
The main different in this instalment is that you are now playing as a Superhero Patapon, known as the Hatapon, rather than the god you played previously. This has its advantages as you have the ability to revive yourself in battle, unleash powerful attacks, and summon ancient spirits. Throughout the game you are able to upgrade your weapons and you will see your Hatapon and Patapon levelling up, allowing you to change their skills for any given battle.
When the game begins you are asked to choose your team, this involves choosing their skills and weapons type, although at the beginning this is limited. Once you have chosen your equipment and skills you are then thrown into the training grounds to re-familiarise yourself with the battlegrounds, or if this is your first time playing – learn the ropes. The training grounds will teach you how to attack, dodge, defend, march and jump, all essential skills in the world of Patapon. You can revisit the training grounds at any time, in fact there is even some training you won’t be able to complete until you are a higher level.
Once you have sufficient training the game will then open and allow you to adventure for real in the first mission. Battle is a lot different from training, it gets frantic, even in the first mission, and it can be difficult to get through. The secret in battle is to utilise all the moves you have at your disposal such as dodge, charge, jump and attack to get through it. Once you have completed the quest your characters will then level up, making them strong enough to carry on to the next missions.
Although you can probably get through most of the early missions with the team you already have at your disposal, eventually you will have to mix things up a little, making sure you have enough diversity to enable you to complete the more difficult missions. To do this you will need to choose different classes, weapons and skills for each of your Patapon and although there is an optimise button to automatically select the strongest weapons and equipment this won’t always have the desired effect, especially, for example, if your strongest weapon is a fire blade and you are up against a creature which weapon this won’t affect.
Don’t kid yourself Patapon is an easy game, it’s not. Dying and replaying a mission is as much part of Patapon as keeping to the beat is. Sometimes the action just gets so intense and loud that its difficult to keep in time, and if your main hero, the Hatapon, falls, then you will fail the mission as usually the other Patapon won’t be that far behind. Thankfully the only penalty for failing the mission is that you get sent back to your barracks with your tail between your legs, so at least your equipment and any levelling progress you have made remain intact.
One of the main new features of Patapon 3 is expanded multiplayer gameplay, allowing for four way battles as well as the standard co-op mode. Every level in the single player game can also be played in multiplayer mode with up to eight players, allowing you to play both locally and online, although finding people online with the PSP is never the easiest of tasks. Unfortunately we were unable to test this out completely due to an outage on the PlayStation Network, however what we did try seemed fun enough.
Graphically, Patapon looks as great as ever, it’s very colourful and easy on the eye. The action during the missions looks fantastic, with all manner of colours and environments exploding into view. Some of the menus, such as the skills tree are far too big for the PSP’s screen, however at least these have been cleverly implemented to allow you to scroll to where you need to go.
The sound is of course an important aspect of this game and again it’s fantastic. Everyone of the rhythms which you will play to get through the game will have you tapping your feet, whether you want to or not. My only criticism, as with previous games, is that sometimes the action gets so frantic that you can’t actually hear the timing for your beat.
Overall, Sony should be very pleased with Patapon 3; it’s a fantastic handheld game which becomes very addictive. The Patapon style beats are especially catchy and will be stuck in your head for days. Just don’t get too frustrated when you have to play the same level for the fourth time because you keep getting killed.
You can order Patapon 3 here.