As the PSP nears the end of its excellent lifespan, it’s getting some final hurrahs, even as the inflow of new releases is reduced to an absolute trickle. Earlier this year, we got the rather excellent Dissidia 012, the sequel to Square Enix’s breakthrough Final Fantasy all stars brawler. We also got Tactics Ogre, the remake of the SNES classic, which was surprisingly well optimized for Sony’s handheld. And now, there’s another neat addition to that list of the final swan songs of the PSP, and this time, it’s an addition made to the system’s library by Sony itself. Patapon 3, the third installment in the quirky PSP exclusive rhythm based RPG franchise, is a worthy threequel, mixing things up from the previous two installments sufficiently enough, but still retaining their unique sense of charm and whimsy.
In case you don’t know about the Patapon games- and you most likely don’t, considering the dismal sales figures that the series has posted overall- then here’s a quick crash course. The Patapon games see the eponymous Patapons being led to warfare and collecting loot, commanded by you, an all powerful deity. Your control over your Patapons, however, is indirect, as you can only command them via drumbeats pounded out in four beat patterns, to which they respond accordingly. These drumbeats are mapped to the PSP face buttons. So, for example, if I want my Patapons to retreat from battle, then I shall press Circle Square Circle Square, since that specific drumbeat pattern conveys ‘retreat’ to your tribe.
This time around, however, things have changed somewhat. Whereas the previous games saw the player commanding vast armies via his drumroll, this time around, the Patapons have been struck by disaster, and only a few remain, so we have fewer units on our hands. Moreover, we aren’t an all powerful deity anymore, but are in fact a fallen hero, who can temporarily be revived in battles. You can unleash several ancient devastating blows to aid your Patapons in battle, and can go in to collect the loot to equip your hero, and to level him up.
This entire focus on leveling up and focusing on equipping your character properly is actually a very interesting twist to the formula, which was threatening to get a bit stale, although it comes with its own set of problems. For starters, you’d think that because you have fewer Patapon at your disposal, more strategy would be required to win battles this time around. However, you can simply ram your way through battles by sheer virtue of being overleveled or overequipped. This actually degrades the series’ traditional focus on strategy, and makes the entire game feel a bit more… action-ey.
Patapon 3 is fun when you play it alone, but the game really shines when you play it online in a multiplayer mode. For instance, you might be stuck at a particular stage in the game, and you can just (in theory) go online and recruit a higher leveled player to help you out. Moreover, playing with friends or online has some other interesting hooks, such as the ability to issue unique commands to different units in your tribes (so you can command your archers to pull back and attack from a distance and your melee warriors to charge head on), something that is, bafflingly enough, not available in the single player mode.
There are some other interesting things to do in the multiplayer modes, such as decorating secret bases with your friends (which reminds me all too much of a similar feature in Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire), form clans and more. In fact, when you’re playing multiplayer, Patapon 3 becomes an altogether different beast, one that comes off as something more awesome than the single player mode.
Unfortunately, a few of the issues that plague the game’s single player mode also show up in the multiplayer modes. So, for instance, say you’re a high leveled player who is recruited online by a low leveled one to help him through his game. You’ll drop into his game with all your abilities and skills intact, but you will be playing the earlier levels, where, in the single player game, those skills never were unlocked to begin with. It breaks the balance of the game, and it’s kind of a large oversight on the developers’ part.
In spite of all its issues, however, Patapon 3 remains a wonderful game. From its wonderful graphics to its quirky and distinctive gameplay, from its catchy music to its rather addictive online, from its simple control scheme to its deep and complex mechanics, it is a game that can unhesitatingly be recommended to anyone and everyone. If you have a PSP, and you’ve never played any of the Patapon games, then I recommend you go and start with this one. If you’ve played the Patapon games already, you should still check this one out- it changes the formula enough to warrant more than a second look. But if none of the previous Patapon games ever appealed to you, then this game won’t probably change your mind. At it’s core, it is still fundamentally the same concept, although it has been implemented rather differently this time around.
This game was reviewed on the PSP.
Online play is fun, being able to directly influence battles is awesome, the game introduces a few changes to the series' formula, a lot of extras to mess around with
The game messes up the perfect balance previous installments in the series had struck, online play breaks the earlier portions of the game, you can ram your way through with little strategy required
It's possibly the weakest entry in the series so far, but it still is a must have for any PSP owner who likes these kinds of games.