Portable fans will often sing the praises of Sony’s Patapon games; they’re unique, engaging, and boast an oddly addictive blend of rhythm and strategy elements. For those of you who have never sampled one of these titles before, you’re missing out on one of the more original, fulfilling new franchises in the PSP’s growing library. The third installment is just around the corner now and after having been impressed by the first two, we expect nothing less from Patapon 3. With some new additions and features along with appealing online multiplayer modes, the game is looking like a definite upgrade while keeping that same captivating gameplay: hit the four face buttons in time with the songs; doing so correctly will allow your little army of Patapons to march, jump, attack and even party. You’ve got various units – archers, spear throwers, etc. – and you must take on some seriously bizarre and threatening invaders. It works unbelievably well so don’t be surprised if you lose many, many hours to this new iteration.
Perhaps the biggest difference in Patapon 3 is the chance to choose your own hero when you start the game. In both of the first two games, the player was simply cast as God but this time around, you’ll choose a living, breathing physical character to embody, although you will still be controlling a unit of troops as before. You’ll be able to notice your character on the screen; he’ll be the one beating the drum the soldiers have to follow, but you won’t be some hovering unseen deity. This should also mean that when you sit down to play with your buddies, each of your characters should be visible to one another. Right from the beginning, the game will ask you if you plan to invite other players into the mission; you can do this either locally via ad-hoc or online via the PSP Infrastructure. If you don’t feel like going out together but would rather go at it for bragging rights, there’s a four-player competitive mode that allows for up to 8 friends to see if they can “beat” each other to death.
As for the story, you may consider this to be a direct sequel. At the end of the last adventure, the industrious and ultimately victorious Patapons finally managed to build their bridge and reach a certain chest. Well, they went and opened it and unfortunately, doing so released seven evil spirits, which apparently turned all the poor Patapons into stone. So at the start of this new game, you’ll have to first restore your friends to working condition before pressing forward and attempting to reseal those evil spirits. So no more trying to get to Earthend; that part is done and there’s a whole new – although equally dangerous – objective. And don’t think for a second that it’ll be over quick and you’ll have to fall back on multiplayer; the single-player campaign for Patapon 3 boasts no less than 80 missions, ranging from escort to hunting types, and 20 new bosses. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about “bang for your buck,” especially if this kind of wacky rhythm/strategy formula really appeals to you.
The depth should be evident once again as well. Not only do you control your mini-army by issuing strategic commands, but you can also upgrade your various units. You can also select exactly which soldiers to take into battle, so there’s plenty of decision-making and thinking on the part of the player. Which unit will work best considering the new foe(s)? Which units have proven to be the most effective in recent engagements? When you combine this with the press-in-time mechanic that is both accessible and enjoyable, you’ve got a production that many fans have already deemed as quite satisfying. The only downside we’ve heard is that your save file for Patapon 2 won’t transfer over to Patapon 3 so if you put a ton of time into the previous sequel, you’re going to have to accept that such efforts must be left behind. Besides that, though, the third game in this great new series is shaping up exactly as we would expect. Look for it this fall.
7/12/2010 Ben Dutka