A Patapon is a walking, talking eyeball warrior that seeks guidance from Mighty Patapon in search of “IT” that is at Earthend. No I’m not on the sauce, that’s the premise behind Patapon, the combination rhythm and real-time strategy game for the PSP from the creators of LocoRoco. You play as Mighty Patapon, the Patapon deity leading the Patapon charge with the rhythm of your sacred drums. Together you’ll conquer the Zigotons, the Patapons’ sworn enemy, the hazards of the land, and a variety of exotic creatures, all in an effort to reach the Promised Land.
The rhythm portion of the game is really quite simple. The Patapon warriors act according to the rhythm you provide with the four sacred drums, which are mapped to the face buttons. By playing rhythm commands on beat, you motivate the Patapon to advance, attack, defend or use magic. As you successfully drum the beat, your combo number will increase until you reach a “Fever” status, at which point the pace of the beat will swell. As long as you can keep up with the beat, the Patapon will fight more vigorously and perform impressive battle actions. As soon as you miss a beat though, it’s back to square one. The Patapon will seem lost until you get the drum rhythms back on beat.
The element of strategy comes into play as you decide the best course of action on the battlefield for the Patapon. When do you march forward? When do you attack? When do you take a defensive posture? And when do you use your magical items to create miracles to counter environmental hazards? While these real-time decisions are key to success in combat, strategy and even elements of role-playing permeate the entire game.
At the end of each mission, you and the Patapon will return to Patapolis, the Patapon village, for a victory celebration. Before you begin your next mission, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Tree of Life Mater, a tree that combines ingredients and Ka-Ching earned on the battlefield to grow new types of Patapon. Each Patapon has its own name like Yaripon, Yumipon and Tatepon, but you’ll eventually get to know them militarily as spearmen, archers, infantry, etc. The Tree of Life Mater also resurrects Patapon killed on the battlefield, as long as you’re able to gather their fallen “Caps” (think souls).
Within the Patapon village there’s also the Ubo Bon Tree, a large tree that drops various objects as it scratches its head while dancing to the tune of Pan Pakapon’s trumpet in one of the mini-games in Patapolis. There’s a Treasure Room Altar, where you can check your item storage and read up on each item’s effects, as well as the Festival Plaza, where you can watch the Patapon celebrate and listen to their banter. Last but not least is the Stone Obelisk, which is where you’ll select your next mission. Before each mission begins, you’ll have to select which of the Patapon to recruit into battle. Your formation can include up to three squads of a certain warrior type, and you’ll get to choose which of those units will be at the front of the battle, in the middle and at the rear. You’ll also have the opportunity to equip the Patapon with the spoils of previous battles, such as weapons and armor.
There are three types of missions: hunting excursions, enemy encounters and boss battles. In the hunting excursions, the object is to kill various creatures that inhabit the land in order to collect different types of meat for use back at the Patapon village. Enemy encounters are much more diverse and challenging, pitting you against the Zigoton race and their various military units. Last but not least are the boss battles, presenting the Patapon with their biggest challenge against some of the land’s largest and deadliest creatures. This brings us to one of the rare weaknesses of this game, that being the repetitive nature of some of these missions. You’ll be in constant need of meat for a variety of reasons so you’ll have to play through the hunting excursions numerous times. Considering they’re not the least bit challenging, they can get old rather quickly. You’ll also have to go back and beat different bosses more than one time in order to gain items critical to the success of future missions, but at least in the case of the boss battles, the bosses themselves get tougher each time out. Defeating these bosses is often a matter of learning their patterns and matching those actions with your different rhythm commands.
Even though it might sound like I’ve described everything in the game, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are so many surprises to be discovered, including additional drum rhythms to play, unique Patapon warriors to grow based on the items you choose to feed the Tree of Life Mater, stats, strengths and weaknesses for each type of Patapon warrior, and even secret Patapolis citizens that unlock different mini-games. It really is amazing how much depth is present in Patapon.
You can tell just by looking at Patapon that it was developed by the same team that made LocoRoco. It has that same charming visual style. The Patapon units are simple yet distinct, and their animations are wonderful. The environments are vibrant, the weather effects are cleverly implemented and the boss creatures are intimidating, both in size and ability. The chants and rhythms, much like those in LocoRoco, will have you humming along well after you’ve turned off the game. Overall the production values are top notch.
Patapon has marched its way onto my list of all-time favorite PSP games. Its simple rhythm based gameplay is complemented brilliantly with elements of strategy and role-playing. It’s fun, vibrant, challenging, charming and rewarding. And the best part, it only costs $20. Now that’s value. Pata-pata-pata-PON!