Review by Lord Grahf
"More value for your dollar than any other game on PSP."
While price point isn't often a major selling point for a game, nor is it something that is often taken into account when writing a review, I do believe Patapon is an exception. Selling in the U.S. for only $19.99, there is no reason this title should not be in the game library of every PSP owner. At this price there is absolutely no question in my mind that this game is worth every penny, although the game may be shorter and a bit more simple than some other games.
You are the god of an army of tiny soldiers called Patapon. There are various types of units, such as melee units with swords, semi-ranged units with spears/javelin and ranged units with arrows. Throughout the various levels in the game, you guide your Patapon by playing different drum sounds in combinations of four. Playing certain combinations to the beat will issue different commands to your army such as advance, attack, defend or retreat. Your army will chant the command you've drummed out as they execute it, becoming louder and more melodic as you continue to input more commands and stay on the beat. Eventually, they will break into a full war song, gaining abilities such as extra range or more power if you continue to stick with the rhythm and don't miss any beats.
Overall, the game is very basic. You will go on hunts for food and items, fight massive boss monsters, and advance through storyline battles against an opposing army. There are mini-games as well, all involving rhythm and music in some way. The items you receive are used to upgrade your army and make them stronger for the battles ahead.
Simple, yet effective. Your army's high-pitched voices may be cute to some and annoying to other, but most everyone will agree that the various songs they sing are catchy and unique. If you play enough, you may even find yourself hearing their war chants in your head.
It's not a soundtrack you're going to want to listen to elsewhere, but for this game it could not have been more fitting. It's more of an interactive soundtrack than a quality composition, perhaps, but the execution is flawless.
Play Control: 9
As explained already, the actions of your army are dictated by four-beat combinations of different drums. If you have difficulty with rhythm games, this game may be harder for you than some. The closer you are to the beat when you enter your commands, the faster your army will reach "Fever" mode which is essential in many boss fights and storyline battles. Even when already in "Fever" mode, you must keep your rhythm or you'll reset and have to build up all over again.
The game is responsive as long as you understand that each cycle of beats functions almost like a turn, and you'll have to look ahead one or two turns when you input your commands to avoid being crushed, burned, or slaughtered by an opposing army. Entering a command takes two seconds, and the execution of that command will take two seconds, meaning you should be looking ahead about four seconds at all times. Of course, most boss monsters have excessive charge up times for their attacks, which will give you plenty of opportunity to see what's coming up and enter your command in time.
Essentially, your civilization of Patapon are trying to reach "Endearth" because of a legend of something that will grant eternal happiness. This unknown they seek is only referred to as "IT". While there is an attempt at a story and it doesn't detract from the game at all, it isn't something that captivated me or kept my attention beyond what I needed to do next.
While this game has RPG elements, this game is not to be played for the story. The story is not a major part of the game, so even though the score for it may be low, it does not take away from the overall quality of the game.
Depending on your standard for graphics, you may disagree. I, however, look to see how integral the graphics are to the game, how polished they are, and whether or not they fit the game's style.
This game uses simple, 2-D sprites and basic animations against brightly colored, beautiful level backgrounds. This is executed quite well and there was never a feeling for me that the graphics should have been more detailed. The overall feel of the game matches the art style and provides a fluid gameplay experience.
There are different sprites for each of the weapons, shields and helmets in the game so you can see exactly what each of your soldiers is wearing. This is a nice touch that gives a bit of a visual reward to acquiring new items, as well as the stat boosts they provide.
At a point in gaming history where just about every other game is a sequel of some kind, Patapon is a very refreshing change. The mixture of action, role-playing, real-time strategy and rhythm game elements work together to provide a unique gameplay experience.
Replay Value: 7
At first, it appears there is a lot to do. The game itself may take you 10~15 hours to complete depending on how much item farming and tweaking of your army you do, and beyond that there are some things that could keep you occupied for weeks if you wanted.
The problem is, however, that most of these things do become pointless at a certain point of time. Rare drops become increasingly more difficult to get as the bosses become more difficult every time they are defeated (and re-defeated). It eventually provides a very nice challenge as your army starts to max out in stats and weaponry and the enemy becomes more powerful every quest.
But there comes a point, and it doesn't take all that long to get to this point, where the upgrades you can make to your army are minimal at best and there is really nothing left to significantly improve. If you wanted, you could continually defeat the bosses (there are more than ten) to increase their difficulty to insanely high levels, but the rewards from doing this are essentially nil. You'll have maxed your army out long before this point and the only reason to keep doing this would be the satisfaction.
In all, you can probably get 20~30 hours in before you start to max out. You could probably get close to 50 hours in before there was nothing left to do at all. On the plus side, there are one-time only weapons and armor that may give you a reason to start over and play through the game all over again, and the game isn't too long to seem like a chore for a second play-through. On the minus side, I see this game being put aside for something else pretty quickly for hardcore gamers.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 03/03/08
Game Release: Patapon (US, 02/26/08)
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