Patapon 2 Remastered has been in the works for what feels like an eternity, but the sequel has finally marched onto PlayStation 4. Much like Sony's other unusual PSP titles, the rhythm/strategy hybrid is now available on the flagship home console with updated visuals and 4K support for those with a PS4 Pro. Despite the first game's arrival on current-gen hardware in 2017, this is a series that remains incredibly niche and relatively obscure, but its interesting blend of genres and cutesy characters means it continues to stand out in 2020.
If you've still no idea what Patapon even is, you play as the god of the titular tribe of eyeballs. You take the black and white warriors out on various missions, and bang on four magical drums -- the face buttons -- in time to the beat to give the Patapon your orders. You'll start with simple commands like marching forwards and attacking, but will quickly unlock new ones as you progress. Before long, you'll be juggling four-button drum sequences as you vie for victory over your enemies.
In between these missions, you'll go back to Patapolis, the tribe's base. Again, the variety of things you can do here will expand as the game goes on, but you'll mainly be returning to upgrade your troops, create new units, or play various minigames to garner materials. Once you've bolstered your army, you'll head back out to the world map for the next rhythmic excursion. It's an addictive loop, and there's a surprising amount of depth to resources and upgrade trees that wasn't present in the first game. These finer details of the game aren't particularly well explained, but luckily, there aren't really any consequences for losing a battle, so you have freedom to experiment and figure things out.
The game also doesn't do a great job telling you it's possible to play all previous missions again, including boss battles. This is something you should absolutely do, as you're rewarded with rare materials and stronger foes to best with your steadily growing platoon. In fact, you may reach a point where the latest excursion is simply too tough, forcing you to gather more resources, upgrade your Patapon, and come back stronger. Despite its cutesy presentation, this game is no pushover.
The difficulty will partly depend on your aptitude for rhythm games, and partly on your ability to react to your enemy's actions at the right time. Drumming out orders like pata-pata-pata-pon is very satisfying when you get them right, and there are benefits to nailing the timing. Keeping the beat going with consecutive commands will quickly put you in Fever, a state that simply means your Patapons will move faster and hit harder. Once you've unlocked songs for defending and retreating, battles with enemy forces turn into a dance, where you'll need to balance your use of each order to keep your troops alive while making attacks when you can.
When you're in the zone, this gameplay really sings. It's easy to wrap your head around, but demands a degree of skill as you need to make quick decisions while maintaining the rhythm. Sometimes, though, things can become so cluttered that keeping the beat is nigh impossible. The graphics are easy to read with simple colours and shapes, but it can be difficult to process everything that's going on at once when the game really kicks into gear. When there are lots of enemies, structures, and creatures on display, it not only distracts the eyes, but the ears as well; with the music, characters chanting, attacks landing, and other effects, the beat can become lost in the mix. It's certainly a game that takes some practice, but it's so compelling you're likely to put in the hours even when you're struggling.
As a remaster, it's about on par with the other PSP conversions. In other words, the game's graphics are wonderfully crisp and clear on an HD display, and it runs buttery smooth, but cutscenes haven't been touched. These sequences are few and far between, but are seriously blurry compared to everything else. It's not a deal breaker, but the cutscenes are very dated. One other point of contention is the lack of calibration options. Patapon Remastered failed to include measures to deal with potential de-syncing audio, and sadly the sequel repeats this oversight. Wearing headphones instead of relying on your TV speakers helps, but no calibration options in a rhythm-based title is a no-no.
In case you're wondering, Patapon 2 Remastered does sort of retain the original game's ad-hoc multiplayer mode, but multiplayer has been stripped out. You can still play this portion of the game accompanied by three AI-controlled allies, but don't expect to play this in co-op with your friends.
Patapon 2 Remastered makes it easy to fall in love with those adorable eyeball creatures all over again. It follows in the footsteps of the first game's PS4 revival, and in doing so it repeats all the highs and lows. You'll struggle to find a gameplay experience as unique as this, and it remains an addictive time sink, but somewhat obtuse design and hectic battles can easily throw you off. It has its flaws, but it's an eccentric and charming game that will eventually have you dancing to its rhythm.