A decade after the little warring eyeballs marched to the beat of their own drum and took the PlayStation Portable by Storm, Patapon was reborn on the PlayStation 4 in a remaster that did little new. It instead effectively stretched the brilliant and delightful little game onto a bigger screen and while that sounds dismissive, it certainly is not. The original game was such a charming experience that having it available, even if just moderately shinier, was a treat. Now the second game in Japan Studio’s Patapon series has found its way to the PlayStation 4.
Like the first game it’s a simple remastering, which means that the rendered graphics have been upscaled to support 4K resolutions. As with other PSP remasters like Patapon and Loco Roco though, the original data from which the cut-scenes and videos were made seems to have been lost to time, so they’re stretched from the PSP’s lowly resolution to fit modern screens. The result is that anything that’s pre-rendered looks a little muddy and murky, especially when blown up to fit great big 4K televisions.
Beyond that, it’s exactly as it was on the PSP, but crisper. A direct sequel to the previous game, Patapon 2 once again puts you in the role of The Almighty. Narratively it follows the first game but starts with the Patapon’s ship crashing on a strange new land as they continue to make their way to Earthend to gaze upon its wonders and be granted eternal bliss. In this land they meet new enemies, the Karmen and the Akumapon, who they’ll have to vanquish to save the princess and find Earthend. That’s really as much as you need to know about the where, the whats and the whys, because Patapon is a game all about the how.
The Patapon are a tribe of anthropomorphised disembodied eyeballs, who you’ll guide with a series of established drum beats. You don’t have direct control of your army. Instead, you interact with and control the Patapon through the use of four battle drums, each mapped to the DualShock’s face buttons. Once again, you give them orders by tapping out drumbeats, using a cadence and rhythm that matches the level’s music. Specific beats issue specific orders; the simple “Pata Pata Pata Pon” commands your troops to march forward, while “Pon Pon Pata Pon” has them attack. Other more complex songs send your armies charging, defending or retreating. You’ll also learn to use your omnipotent powers that’ll make it easier to deal with the game’s often challenging, and too frequent bosses. It’s weirdly hypnotic and enthralling to carry out a combo chain, where your rhythm is perfectly in time to the music, but you’re also thinking ahead, tapping out the prequisite songs to defend, attack and retreat as necessary.
Patapon is more than just a rhythm game though, playing much like a linear real-time strategy. You can only take three different unit types, and up to six of each type with you on each mission. Choosing the right units – foot soldiers, archers, spearmen, cavalry and even bards – is just as important as maintaining the right rhythm. Keep up a combo and your units go into fever mode, where they move faster, hit harder, and are more resilient. Break the chain and the Patapon lambaste you for your lack of rhythm.
New in Patapon 2 is the hero unit, a stronger and more valuable unit that has a special ability, can cycle through classes and can be revived on missions. There are also new weapons, new units and a new horizontal upgrade tree that has you evolving your warriors into different forms, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Look, it gets pretty deep, and you’ll need to upgrade and evolve your units to take on the great big beasties you’ll be up against. Unfortunately, doing that evolving and levelling up is resource-intensive, and it becomes a bit of a grind to go back to replay levels ad infinitum to get the necessary materials. This is all necessary too, as you’ll need a diverse and upgraded army. Expect to spend at least two dozen hours making your way through the game’s 50 or so unique levels. That’s beyond the other extra stuff added, like the pair of mini-games and new training levels.
On the PSP, Patapon 2 included an ad-hoc multiplayer mode that allowed you and three friends to play through specific multiplayer challenges. While the Patagate that enables this is still here, it seems like the multiplayer aspect itself is gone. Instead, your hero will be matched up with a trio of AI-controlled allies to help you battle bosses to get to the spoils of war. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but I couldn’t find any way to play with people over the internet, or even with a local player on a second controller. Maybe we’ll see that in the remaster of Patapon 3. The original version of that actually had infrastructure-based multiplayer instead of just ad-hoc.
Last Updated: January 30, 2020