Patapon 3 Review

By Colin Tan on April 29, 2011

Like it or not, Patapon has always been one heck of a charmer. Leading a cute army of singing eyeballs while taking down whatever malicious foe that's standing in your way is more fun than you'd anticipate. Patapon 3 humbly adds to that experience with a stronger emphasis on gear and loot, as opposed to purely strategy like in the previous two games. Purists might say that's a bit of a step backwards, but it doesn't change the fact that it has made the game far more accessible compared to the previous two outings.

If you're not familiar with the Patapon series, it's cool, you don't really have to understand the story - which acts merely as a catalyst to push the game forward. Unlike the previous games, however, you're no longer an almighty god overseeing your tribe and army of Patapons. Instead, you've been reincarnated as an Uberhero, a legend to lead the Patapons to victory. Unfortunately, the majority of your army, Meden included, have been petrified. Players are only joined by Hatapon the flagbearer and three other different classes. In a sense, Patapon 3 has lost a bit of its charm as you no longer command an entire army of singing eyeballs, among other things.

Fear not though, great Uberhero. To be honest, it's really just an aesthetic change that doesn't have any drastic impact on the gameplay, each individual class still represents a unit and their health and strength remain largely the same as an entire squad of the singing buggers. There over 20 different classes to play with and each has their respective roles in battles. Sometimes conditions require that you bring in the heavy hitters, or swap out an archer for a healer, or even forgo an offensive class altogether and rely on defence instead.

Now before I get ahead of myself, the core mechanics are exactly the same as the previous two games. Players are charged with leading their Patapons towards an objective, all the while taking down the enemies and structures that stand in their way, simply by beating on the face buttons in harmony with the four-beat drumbeat. Now count how many times I said beat in that sentence. Rack up a combo and you'll activate Fever Mode. By then, your Patapons will be energized with the beat of your drums, enabling more potent abilities.

There are various button combinations, all of which are displayed at the bottom of the screen for your convenience - it's tough memorizing all the different beats, but it was one of those challenges that boosted your ego. Beats range from advancing, retreating, attacking, defending, charging, summoning and jumping, each have their respective use when it comes to tackling obstacles. Drum up a perfect beat and your Uberhero will execute his special ability which corresponds to its respective combos, depending on the class.There is also less focus on strategy and a whole lot more on grinding. The gear and loot that you find throughout each mission can all be upgraded or dismantled for gold. Depending on the various battle conditions, equipping appropriate sets of weapons and armour becomes paramount. You don't want to go into a raging blizzard without any fire-based equips. Singing eyeballs freeze with the utmost ease, just in case you didn't know. Missions come in two parts: there are either story missions that progress the plot forward and can only be cleared once, or free missions that can be replayed as many times as possible. You'll find yourselves going back even to the earlier missions simply to grind for gold and loot. Think of the Patapons as vikings, pillaging wherever they go.

On that note, you don't want to stick to just one class. Experimentation is key as each class has their own unique support abilities that'll aid you in your adventure. However, this aspect of the game can become quite tedious as you'll have to level each class in order to unlock said abilities. Remember, there are over 20 different classes. That's a lot of grinding involved, not just in regards to clearing missions and levelling up, but also gathering loot and gold, as well as upgrading the necessary equipment.

This makes the game a whole lot easier, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as it opens up the game to a much larger audience. However, fans of the previous two might feel let down as going through each level is as easy as singing Pon Pon Chaka Chaka a couple of times before charging in with Pon Pon Pata Pon. Translated, that means charging up your attack to deal massive damage - and massive is not an understatement. Just a couple of charges and I was able to devastate a boss with just one hit.

More importantly, why I say a lot of the charm from Patapon and Patapon 2 is lost on Patapon 3 is because of how much of the game in-between missions have been streamlined to the point that it's quite clearly for dummies. It's the same problem I had with transitioning from the first Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2. Sure, it's easier as a whole, but it's also quite dumb. No longer do you hunt for specific creatures and harvest their remains in order to craft your weapons. Instead, you just dismantle some redundant equipment or hope to get random loot by the end of a mission. No longer do you celebrate your victory around a bonfire with your fellow Patapons. Instead, there's a podium upon which your Patapons stand, with rock music blaring in the background. No longer does the weather change randomly and no longer is there a sense of direction or flow when it comes to character progression. Instead, you unlock abilities and classes depending on your level, whereas previously you had to think about what class you wanted, as well as what materials and experience were required in order to obtain said class.Patapon 3 introduces a few new game types as well. One in particular is the tower defence game type where you'll have to claim towers as you push forward towards the middle of the map where you face off with the enemy. The goal is to either hold the middle ground until time runs out or to obliterate the enemy, claim their flag and end the mission in instant victory. There is also a racing game type where you're charged with reaching the goal before the opposing team. It's not as clear-cut as charging forward, however, as obstacles and enemies lie in wait. Obstacles can only be destroyed by the team of a corresponding colour and sometimes it's better to let the other team handle the enemies while you just hang back until the coast is clear.

These modes carry on into the real star of the show. Patapon 3's multiplayer modes are surprisingly robust with plenty of options. Not only is there a local ad-hoc mode where you can hook up with three other friends under the same roof, but there's a whole new infrastructure mode that gives you the opportunity to hop online to tackle missions together with players all over the world, or at the very least, within the same continent as you. Not only can you work together on missions, but you can also share your hub's vendors, as they might specialize in different fields. For instance, I can visit someone else's blacksmith and see if they can cook up a special sword for me, while I fart out an epic sceptre for their mahopon.

Regardless of what one might think of its simplistic look, Patapon 3 is a visual treat for anyone that loves good colour coordination. Even in damp, dark dungeons, Patapon 3 doesn't skimp on the colours or visual effects. Not to mention, even though it's presented on a 2D plane, the animations are so well done that even the most subtle movements add a sense of depth to the game. It's like playing an awfully adorable Saturday morning cartoon. It's the little things that really make the presentation all the more loveable. From the different Patapon looks to the unique and over-the-top weapon designs, as well as the adorable chants and songs, players will enjoy almost every aspect of the game's design.

Final Thoughts

Patapon 3 is a pretty good game and even if you aren't necessarily into rhythm games, it's a far more accessible adventure than the previous two. The core mechanics are exactly the same and are incredibly easy to learn. Not to mention, dropping a beat once or twice won't kill your Fever. However, the game has lost so much of its charm thanks to a lot of streamlining outside of the actual missions. The game has also taken a liking to grinding as opposed to strategy, so be prepared to grind for hours on end. Unfortunately, this doesn't make it the best game to take out of the house as the amount of concentration required is pretty demanding. The online multiplayer portion is pretty massive and I daresay it's one of the selling points of the game. Regardless, whether you're a solo player or one with friends to share the adventure with, Patapon 3 delivers quite a bit of bang for the humble $20 price tag that it asks of you.

A very long and substantial adventure awaits you, bold Uberhero!
Massive online multiplayer features.
Over 20 different classes to choose from, each with their own unique set of abilities.
You no longer command an army of singing eyeballs, just you and three others.
Less focus on strategy, more so on grinding.
The charm of the first two games is gone thanks to a lot of streamlining.
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