So, there’s a race of very excitable eyeball people with spindly arms and legs called the Patapon, and you’re their Lord and Saviour. They love to sing and dance and are literally looking for any excuse to do just that, even (especially?) when you lead them into battle, leaping and yelling in time to the music. They’re not the kind of people to just listen to your godly instructions though, and instead you have to use a collection of drums to command them, because, well, games don’t always have to make total sense do they?
It’s been two and half years since Sony bestowed Patapon Remastered upon PS4 owners, resurrecting the classic PSP game for a new era of console, and now, somewhat abruptly, its sequel is here. A rhythm action side-scrolling RTS – a genre it basically has all to itself – Patapon 2 follows on from the original’s tribal tale, and follows the old sequel adage that bigger is better.
Bigger would be the number of Patapon units available to you to command. From your run of the mill Yaripon that throw spears at the enemy to the power-fist imbued Robopon’s, your cheery army has a wealth of different options. Too many to be honest, because they’re all so lovely you hate to leave any of them at home.
Your command group is limited to three squads of Patapon, and depending on the task ahead of you can tailor its make up and formation to what’s going to be most effective. Wind and rain blowing? Don’t bother with your Yumipon’s as their arrows won’t fly very far. Loads of melee troops coming for you? Bring out your ranged guys behind a bunch of gargantuan Dekapon.
Along with your three squads you’ve got Patapon 2’s big addition, the Hero character. This mysterious Patapon wears a variety of different masks that let them swap between the different Patapon classes, and they’re super powerful to boot. Besides having bags of health, and the highest damage output, they also boast a number of different hero abilities that you activate by hitting 4 perfect beats in a measure. The Patapon’s song rises to a new crescendo and anything in your way is in for a very nasty – albeit tuneful – surprise.
One of the things that often surprises me about Patapon is the amount of grinding it requires. There’s an RPG-like rhythm to returning to areas that you’ve already completed in order to acquire extra materials or abilities, and though it’s not too over the top – you’re thankfully not likely to spend an hour on the same level, listening to the same song – it bolsters your attachment to the little eyeballs.
I absolutely love the music of Patapon. It builds from a simple rhythm that you follow with your Pata Pata Pata Pon drum beat, and your army repeats each phrase back to you. Getting repeated phrases right sees everything build to Fever pitch, and your army goes absolutely nuts, singing at the top of their voices while dealing huge amounts of damage to the enemy.
Messing things up and losing fever pitch drops you back down to the base line again, and it’s one of the biggest comedowns in gaming. You need to be on point, and Patapon 2 is at it’s best when you are, but sometimes you might feel like your setup is hindering you.
Unfortunately Sony have once again failed to include an input calibration tool, which seems like a huge omission after the backlash they faced with the first game’s remaster. Can you play the game happily without it? Yes, because you’ll acclimatise to the game’s timing depending on your screen’s latency. Should you have to? Not really, no. It should be a relatively simple thing to implement a calibration tool, similar to Crypt of the Necrodancer or Cadence of Hyrule, but they’ve decided it’s not important. You can all cross your fingers for Patapon 3 I suppose.
While I’d argue that the game itself still remains a joy that everyone should experience, the unfortunate fact is that the remastering process isn’t of the highest calibre across the board. The central visuals look great, with the levels and Patapon themselves appearing unbelievably sharp and clear, but they haven’t done anything to the cutscenes. I genuinely think they’re at the same resolution as they were originally on the PSP, so you can imagine what that looks like on a 58” 4K screen.
On top of that, the Ad-Hoc multiplayer modes have been totally removed from the game. In a world where virtually everyone is connected via the old inter-web surely an online multiplayer option would have fit perfectly? Given that it was one of the major additions to Patapon 2 over its predecessor, it feels particularly reductive and furthers the feel that Patapon 2’s remaster is a cut-rate offering.