Patapon 3 Review
The Patapon series is one of the few standout franchises on the PSP. When the original came out, it was clever and unique. Your troop of soldiers attacked, defended, and fled at your command. Rather than issuing commands like in a traditional RTS, you tapped the face buttons in rhythm with a metronome. Each sequence of beats issued a different order. Patapon 2 and 3 both work in the same way on the battlefield. The same old beat doesn’t have to get stale, but this one unfortunately has.
At first I was pleased to see the new systems in place. Rather than equipping and managing multitudes of soldiers, players only deal with four combatant characters, one of which is the super powered Uberhero who serves as your avatar. Everyone has decent armor and weapons, and you never have to worry about them permanently dying like in previous games. As you level up these different classes, new classes will splinter off from those, leaving a highly customizable battle group.
After the first few stages get you on your feet with your go-to set of unit types, you start plowing through a variety of challenges like destroying forts, racing enemies to a finish line, and battling over territory. But it’s not long until the game stops you in your tracks. Some stages are essentially impassible, forcing you to grind for experience and items forever. Even if you get extremely beefed up, all it takes is a stray attack to kill your flag bearer for an instant game over. Prepare to fail over and over once you get into the meat of the game.
Online (or offline) co-op multiplayer helps ease the frustration. Up to four players can team up with their high-powered Uberheroes to take on any stage. Plus, the flag bearer is out so you don’t have to worry about protecting his useless hide. With a smart team working together utilizing different talents, you can tear through previously deadly areas. Creating a good squad, however, is not easy. Many times I could only get one random player to show up in my base, and they would just die a bunch and quit out. To fully enjoy multiplayer, you either have to know a bunch of Patapon fanatics personally or rely on message boards and social networks to form a clan.
Even if you get a great group together, only the host gets to retain the progress made through the levels. If you’re not hosting you’ll have to create another match later and do it all again. Everyone earns experience, money, and items, though, so your Uberhero still becomes more powerful when you’re helping a friend. But if you want to jump back into single player, the rest of your AI teammates won’t have made any upgrade progress so your team will still get wiped out on those tricky stages.
Competitive multiplayer is all about team battles from the main quest. Racing, territory face-offs, and missile fights are fine in their own right, but it seems an ill use of time when you should be off grinding for experience or clearing out a dastardly boss.
I have a hard time recommending this to Patapon newcomers. Even experienced players will likely get steamed over the roadblocks. If you think you have what it takes to form a good multiplayer co-op team and you’re dedicated enough to overcome the difficulties and coordinate online meet-ups, you have a good time. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether this storm cloud’s silver lining is worth it.