At first glance, Patapon Remastered feels almost alien. The game comes from an almost bygone age, being based on the PSP game of the same name that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. If you have not experienced the game during its genesis, the little eyeball creatures that get commanded by some kind of space god drummer can seem kind of odd. However, what you are experiencing is the charm of Patapon and why it is often lauded as one of the most unique rhythm games ever. Has that charm held up throughout all these years? Yes, for sure, but there are some noticeable caveats to that yes.
Pata pata pata pon!
Patapon Remastered follows the journey of the Patapon tribe. The tribe has been in conflict with the evil Zigatons and have faced many hardships along their journey to create a flourishing civilization. You, the player, appear to the Patapon as some sort of omnipotent deity that has the power to command them through the use of instruments. Using the correct rhythms allow the Patapons to do certain actions such as march forward, attack, defend and retreat.
The game’s narrative revolves around the Patapons needing to go to a place called Earthrend in order to gaze upon a mystical object called IT. If the story sounds strange, that’s because it is, however it is presented very cleverly and simply so that you can understand. Patapons communicate in little speech bubbles, which give you all the context that you need and often times it’s much more complex than it initially lets on. There is some deep lore involved in this world of circular and square-shaped eyeball creatures if you pay attention and it provides a nice framework for the typical journey story that they are trying to tell.
The game takes place over 30 or so chapters, which actually equates to a mammoth runtime. Each mission offers a different experience with various strategies that you need to employ in order to survive and I most definitely cannot fault the game for its variety. It keeps things fresh while still having the cemented gameplay that doesn’t really deviate outside of its core fundamentals.
Pon pon pata pon!
The most elegant way to describe Patapon Remastered’s gameplay is that it’s a real-time strategy in a 4/4 time signature. It’s a rhythm-based strategy game that tasks you to hit the correct face-button combinations during the correct times in order to make your Patapon force to do certain actions. Your very first combination allows your Patapon to march forward and the second combination allows you to attack. These two combinations will be your most used actions during the gameplay and you’ll memorise them very quickly.
There is a white border that flashes on the border of the screen and it’s your job to hit these four-button combinations within that rhythm. When you do, your Patapons do as they are told and would march forward or attack any enemies in range. You build up a combo meter and once your combo is high enough, you enter Fever mode. Fever essentially supercharges your Patapons and makes them do actions at a much-accelerated pace. Fever is possibly the most important aspect of the gameplay since it’s borderline essential during later missions.
An extremely interesting rhythm gaming experience that you have never seen before.
You need to get into Fever as quickly as you can and stay there for as long as you can. When you’re out of Fever, your timing doesn’t have to be perfect in order to make your Patapons do actions, but when you’re in Fever, your timing needs to be perfect otherwise you will lose it. This makes you have to keep the rhythm as much as you can and this is where a major flaw of the game lies.
At least with Patapon Remastered, there is some noticeable input lag that causes you to drop Fever or miss combinations entirely. I have checked and this is a known issue and had nothing to do with my settings or setup. I noticed that I missed combinations even though I did them perfectly or I dropped Fever seemingly out of nowhere. This was definitely due to the input lag and not an error on my part.
I mentioned the two main combinations, namely march and attack, but there are different actions that you can make your Patapons do that are more strategic. You can command your Patapons to defend as well as retreat and mixed in with the attack and march commands, this can create a deceptively complex strategic experience where you need to know which actions to take and when, while keeping in this consistent beat. There are also what are called Miracles that do some transformative effect and are pretty tough to hit since you need to be in Fever and hit long strings of buttons. These Miracles allow for the weather to change that provides tangible strategic benefits to your Patapons.
If you boil down the gameplay of Patapon Remastered down to its base, you essentially have five button combinations and an occasional supermove which you need to keep in a rhythm. That’s how simple it is, but it’s also deceptively deep. Learning when to use the correct combinations while remaining in Fever mode is essential to your survival. This makes Patapon Remastered live up to the legacy of its original; an extremely interesting rhythm gaming experience that you have never seen before.
Chika chika pata pon!
Added to the gameplay is also the management aspects and different unit types. You get a number of different units that are capable of different actions namely melee units, close range units and long range units. There are three slots that you can fill with particular unit types and each of those contain different units within them. You summon units by using resources at your home base and their attributes can shift based on which materials you use. The more you have, the better as well. You can also equip your Patapons with weapons, shields and armour that you plunder from the battlefield.
The difficulty curve of the game comes in rather jarringly
You need to gather resources by either doing missions or using special hunting grounds. This is where the difficulty curve of the game comes in rather jarringly. You’ll notice that you die terribly during some missions no matter how well you do or for how long you remain in Fever, that’s because it’s essentially made impossible to progress without more powerful units. You are never told this, so you march headlong into what is essentially certain doom. Then you need to spend quite a number of time on the hunting grounds in order to get more resources or face bosses that you have already beat that are higher level in order to get resources.
This whole grind aspect took a lot away from my experience. I was doing simple hunting missions that posed zero challenge for extreme lengths of time just to get more resources in order to make some kind of progress. It took the steam out of the game very quickly when I had to abandon an exciting story mission to go shoot some weird looking buffalo for fifteen minutes in order to get more units. This sudden difficulty curve can be a deterrent for many people as it can introduce a lot of frustration when you also learn that the game deliberately obfuscates key information. Sometimes you need a Miracle in order to make progress, but they do not tell you where to get the item or that you even need it.
This makes the whole gameplay experience rather polarising. It’s still fun and trying to stay in Fever is both challenging and satisfying, but being intentionally crippled for no real discernable reason is pretty unnecessary.
Don dondon dondon
Patapon Remastered isn’t a very visually impressive game, but it’s a visually charming game. The little Patapons with their shifty eyes and cute little dances never run out of charm while the silhouetted backgrounds and fascinating boss designs keep things interesting. Obviously, the audio is top quality considering this is a rhythm game and it’s basically the point of everything. The rhythmic beats are infectious and you’ll soon be tapping your foot to the drum rhythms.
I don’t really quite know where I lie with Patapon Remastered, if I’m being completely honest. It’s an immensely interesting and compelling rhythm gaming experience that incorporates complex strategic combat which immediately makes it unique. However, the steep difficulty curve and the fact that the game feels stale after a while takes away from the high level of praise that is in the previous sentence. Ultimately, Patapon Remastered is worth your time and considering its relatively low price point, it is definitely good value for money. If you’re a fan of rhythm games, you should definitely check out just for its novelty. Even with the game’s flaws, there is still a classic rhythm experience with a bunch of eyeball creatures waiting to be experienced.