Patapon Remastered shares some of its DNA with two other re-released, obscure Japanese games from Sony. Like PaRappa the Rapper, its gameplay boils down to following the beat of the catchy music, and its cutesy vector art style is similar to LocoRoco. It does plenty to set itself apart, however, with a rhythm/strategy combination that’s just as unique today as it was back on the PlayStation Portable.
You are established as the Almighty, a god to the titular Patapons. Using the face buttons as your four drums, you must lead your black and white army to victory with a chain of rhythmic commands. There are many orders you can issue to your loyal Patapon crew: they can be told to advance, attack, defend, or help invoke a miracle (essentially a powerful magic ability), among others. Executing all of this is very straightforward, as it’s simply a case of hitting the right drums on the beat. As an example, square-square-square-circle will tell the Patapons to move forward.
There is definitely a knack to staying on the beat, but the tricky part is when you need to start mixing up your strategy on the fly. If you can anticipate that a boss is about to attack, you’ll want to issue a defend command to minimise damage, but you need to be able to do this without stopping the flow. Any botched commands will just confuse the Patapons and they’ll do nothing. Luckily, the margin of error for timing is relatively forgiving, so as long as you can keep roughly in sync with the rhythm, you’ll avoid any major mess-ups. It’s a smart way to keep you engaged in the action, as it truly demands your attention.
As long as you can keep time with the music, you’ll also build up a combo meter which eventually initiates Fever. While in Fever, your Patapons are much more effective: more damage is dealt, archers perform triple shots, and more. You want to stay in Fever mode for as much of each stage as you can to maximise your chances of success. It also encourages you to be more precise with your timing, as perfectly executed commands can start it much earlier than normal.
Stages come in various guises. You can go out to hunt if you need more food, you can take on the large boss creatures who dish out useful new weaponry and armour, and of course, there are the main missions that generally revolve around fending off the bad guys as you march to Earthend. It’s worth playing through any of these, as they all reward you in one way or another. Food, as well as wood, stones, and Ka-ching (money, basically) are all required to create brand new units for your army, which you’ll need to do every now and again if you lose a Patapon in battle and don’t recover his cap.
These items also come in different rarities, too, and you can experiment when creating new Patapons by using rarer versions of the required resources. Various unlockable minigames can provide you with more items if you need a little boost. These are more reliable than hunts or other missions, but do cost an item to play. As an example, you need to hand over one piece of leather meat to play the first minigame, but you’ll earn some wood as a result. The item management is a nice change of pace, and it’s simple enough that it doesn’t bog down the game outside of the main stages.
In terms of the remaster itself, it’s somewhat a success. The bright colours and smooth lines look great on the big screen, and the framerate is steady throughout. Similarly to the LocoRoco remaster, the opening cut scenes don’t appear to have been touched, as they’re noticeably blurry compared to the rest of the game. The audio sounds okay, but sometimes you can lose the beat in amongst all the other sounds going on, which can easily throw you off. There is a visual aid in the form of a pulsating outline that keeps in time with the beat, which somewhat mitigates this, but the audio mix could’ve been handled better.
While we’re speaking of negatives, there are some severe difficulty spikes, even early on, and there are useful items and areas only uncovered if you can follow some cryptic hints. Progress can grind to a halt if you don’t get what’s being asked of you. Take the Tailwind miracle, which creates a gust from behind that carries arrows and spears much further across the screen. It’s extremely useful, but unlocking it involves killing one specific animal type in one area, and this isn’t adequately signposted. It’s a shame that some of the game’s problems weren’t remedied for the remaster, but none of the issues are deal breakers, and you’ll forgive it any design missteps once you get into it and fall in love with those singing, dancing eyeballs.
Patapon Remastered is a decent port of the madcap PSP title. It’s a unique, challenging game with real personality that fans of rhythm and/or strategy will have fun with over its ten hour campaign. Difficulty spikes and some well hidden key items can put a dampener on things, while the audio mix isn’t quite up to scratch. Fortunately, the fun, simplistic gameplay is compelling enough that you won’t be too worried about its flaws. Fans will love the trip down memory lane, but we also hope newcomers will drum up the enthusiasm to give this a go.