by Joshua Fonseca
previewed on PSP
Pat your drum
For those of you who may not be familiar with the Patapon franchise, it is a rhythm-based game in which you control units by beating a drum. The game provides a background beat that changes while you play, and it is this that gives you a pattern to follow. Each of the face buttons controls a different sound and using combos in tune with the beat controls your units, but hitting them out of beat makes your units stand still so timing is key.
The idea may seem strange at first, but judging from the first two games the system works well and makes for some fun gameplay. The question is whether this trick can be used for the third time in this latest Patapon game. Will it be as fun and creative as the previous two?
Develop Your Uber-Hero
Patapon 3 starts where the previous one left off: when the patapons finished constructing their bridge they came across a mysterious chest. After opening it they discovered it contained evil spirits that turned almost all of the patapons into stone. It is here that you will take control of your uber-hero and three other patapons in a desperate fight against the evil spirits that is necessary to save the tribe. As weird as that sounds, uber-hero is the name given by the designers. The RPG elements from the previous games are improved and allow players to customize their uber-hero to a variety of different fighting styles.
There are three different weapon mastery skills to choose from: archery, sword and shield, and the spear. This is presented to players in the form of a skill tree, and the choice made at the beginning will determine the style you play through the rest of the game. Depending on your choices, you are able to fully upgrade your character's abilities using experience gained through battles.
The weapon system itself is pretty interesting, as you are able to upgrade weapons by adding components dropped by enemies. These upgrades can change the look and increase the power of a weapon when used, and allow for multiple play-throughs in search of the ultimate weapons. These customization options have the potential to make your gameplay experience unique on each play-through.
The past Patapon games have been single player games, but Patapon 3 is adding a completely new multiplayer system consisting of two different modes. The co-op mode will allow you and three other friends to battle together through the campaign using different uber-heroes. The competitive mode will pit you against three of your friends in a race to see who can lead their team of AI minions to an objective first. These new game modes should add to the longevity of the game; the competitive experience especially as it allows a group of friends to decide who has got the most rhythm.
Unique graphics and sound design
It is only natural that a game like this has to rely heavily on the soundtrack. Being from Japan, the music from the past two games has been a mix of cute high-pitch voices and steady drumbeats mixed with weapon sound effects that fit together surprisingly well. At first the music may seem too bubbly and out of place, but in truth it fits the game better than any other type of music could. The combos in the game each trigger sounds that also mix nicely with the other effects and music.
Patapon games have always used the same silhouetted cartoonish graphics which will carry over to the third, but with minor tweaks to sharpen up the visuals and make it feel more 3D than before. The graphics design is truly unique, using black shadow-like colours for the environment and base colour of the characters, but adding bright colours for details, weapons and attacks. This design adds to the full experience giving the game a feel of chaos and excitement which keeps the game from becoming visually dull. The use of the graphic design mixed with the soundtrack really gives the game a unique and solid feel.
Pat your pans next month!
Patapon 3 has a lot to live up due to the past games in the franchise but with the new story, upgraded graphics and new style of play it just might surpass its predecessors. We anxiously await the release of Patapon 3 in April this year.