Posted 1 year ago By - Marko Djordjevic
*Please note that because of the PSN shutdown of April/May 2011 and the inability to access the PlayStation Store in order to redeem the game’s required Online Entitlement Voucher, we could not review the multiplayer components of Patapon 3.
When looking back at the first Patapon game, many people would have been hard pressed to assume that a game which combined rhythm based mechanics with RPG and strategy elements would become a staple franchise in the life of Sony’s PlayStation Portable. Well, the popularity of that game opened the door to not just one follow-up, but a third as well, Patapon 3. The series has certainly seen a lot of changes in its gameplay and thankfully, this third iteration, although still coupled with a few minor issues, is significantly more accessible than the previous release and a joy to play.
A quick refresher for those unfamiliar with the Patapon series. These are strategy-RPGs which use rhythm mechanics to perform actions. You assemble a squad of fighters and by tapping specific beats using the face buttons, your characters perform certain actions. Each stage has your squad move from one side of the screen and travel to the goal, while along the way you’ll encounter foes, both big and small, obstacles and other surprises.
Whereas the first two games relied heavily on building massive squads of Patapon fighters, Patapon 3 streamlines this to a much smaller group, with only one fighter from each of the three weapon classes involved in your party. The first two games would have you collect items, either by playing various mini-games or replaying levels that would help you unlock new and better units. This time though, gone are the mini-games and all items are obtained as you play levels and you’re only collecting items and cash to improve weaponry and armor.
Character improvements and unlocks are done by leveling up. The three initial level classes - Shield, Spear and Archer - have branching character paths that unlock different fighter-types; seven available in each class. Leveling up one character will only open up a fraction of the additional units that can be used, so playing through and leveling up nearly every weapon type in each class is strongly recommended. Although leveling up your squad is key, you will be more successful on the battlefield if weapons and armor are improved as well; thus adding an additional reliance on replaying levels to obtain better items and money to improve your current arsenal.
The other major change is the slight modification in Rarepons. In past games, Rarepons were units that were not only rare in obtaining, but were extremely powerful on the attack. This time around, you play as the Hero and the most important character on the battlefield. Past games, your role was as a God who directed the units, but in Patapon 3, the story has you actually being involved on the battlefield.
With there being three different classes available, your Hero character can choose to be any one of those and your decision can be quite important, especially for newcomers. An interesting aspect to Patapon 3 is there is essentially only one real way of failing a stage, i.e. the death of your Hatapon character or the death of all characters, leaving the Hatapon on the battlefield alone. Hatapons are the flag-bearing Patapons that don’t attack, but are the motivator for your party. As long as your shield character(s) are still on the battlefield, Hatapons don’t take any damage. The moment all of your shield characters have perished, it becomes vulnerable and death is almost a certainty. Because of this, newcomers or those who tend to avoid playing defensively, will want their Hero character to be a Shield one to avoid replaying the same stages over and over again. This is a bit frustrating if you don’t realize this early on since your Hero won’t be able to change to a different weapon-class until they reach level 15. Then when you do reach that level and unlock the ability to switch to a different class, you begin back at level 1.
Another addition to the gameplay comes in the form of new challenge modes that make their appearance as you progress through the story. These always involve you against one of the Dark Heroes, which are the rare enemies that you encounter as your progress through the game’s lengthy story. Early on, you will encounter a capture-the-flag type mission where you need to control the main tower and either have the most points or completely obliterate your opposition. Another one is a race where you and your opponent move together and the team that reaches the goal first wins. This time though, you will both have specific obstacles in the way as well as a few joint enemies you must dispose of.
The visuals and music that made the first two games so popular return. In terms of the visuals, there are a few re-used assets, but the new characters - be it friend or foe - and environments you do encounter absolutely pop on the screen and look fantastic. The same goes with music; some familiar tunes return but the catchy chants and background sound effects do a wonderful job at adding to the atmosphere. Considering the game really requires paying close attention to the music, it’s a real treat that it works and sounds so good.
Patapon 3 is a fine evolution of the series. For newcomers, this is an excellent place to start and the introductory stages do a fine job at familiarizing you with the core mechanics. On top of that, the new leveling system streamlines some of the issues of having to hunt for rare items, so building the strongest squad is no longer a chore. The only real deterrent is the necessity to grind, which may frustrate some. Beyond that, the same fun gameplay, excellent visuals and catchy tunes will keep long-time fans playing for hours on end.
+ Unlocking additional character classes and improving weaponry and armor is extremely simple
+ Small units sizes makes you feel more attached to your squad
+ Visuals that continue to pop
+ Same great audio usage as previous editions
+ Very lengthy story mode
+ Tons of secrets to discover
- Combat is more reliant on weapons/gear, not character’s level
- Difficulty can be higher than expected depending on Hero Class choice
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Release Date : 2011/04/12
System : PSP
Publisher : Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer : SCEJ
Category : Strategy
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10