|Release: April 12, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Andrew Groen
There's a strange effect that happens when a gaming console slips into second or third place in market share. That system tends to become a haven for amazingly creative, awe-inspiring games that appeal to the hardcore gamer. That's not to say the first place system doesn't have those as well (the PS2 in 2005 is a prime example of that), however, the balance is disproportionate. I'm not entirely sure why this happens, but my guess would be that second and third place consoles charge lower licensing fees in an attempt to court more games to their system and sell more systems.
However, the cause is irrelevant, because the result is that wonderfully creative games get made because the company knows that a majority of that system's audience are hardcore gamers who care about creativity. This is what has made Sega Saturn and Dreamcast such cult classics. The PSP is going down a similar road, and perhaps one of the very best games of the past five years to be created by this effect has been Patapon.
Patapon is a game so out there, so incredibly creative that we can barely appreciate it anymore. We're pretty used to having Patapon in the gaming world. But it's important to remember the risks involved in bring a project like this to life. After all, the money that made Patapon could have easily gone toward another snore-inducing blockbuster.
Patapon released during the highest point of the music game phenomenon, so it had at least some momentum from fans who were eager to get more music gaming. However, the theme of using music to inspire little creatures to fight wars was nevertheless really unique. The amazingly simple yet gorgeous graphics certainly contributed to the success.
Since 2008, the Patapon series has grown by leaps and bounds. Patapon 2 introduced several new concepts to the series including flying units and magic-using units. It also advanced the mythology of the Patapon universe by introducing a brand new tribe. This is a game that never rests on its laurels. The main gameplay mode never changes much, but that merely attests to the quality of the first game. There wasn't a whole lot of room for improvement. Plus, if you take away the rhythm action element, then it's simply not Patapon anymore.
Patapon 3 appears to be the biggest departure yet for the series. Rather than focusing on an entire army of Patapon soldiers as before, it seems that this game is more focused on having one giant "Superhero Patapon." These are several times the size of a normal Patapon and carry legendary weapons and armor and are much more colorful than the black and white Patapon.
We're not yet sure how these legendary Patapon fit into the mythology of the universe, but they appear extremely powerful. According to some pre-release videos they even have the ability to enlist the aid of some type of mega Patapon. In the footage, we've seen an enormous creature fills the background of the screen and helps you fight. What ensues seems to be a sort of freestyle jam session with this creature.
However, the biggest departure for the series yet is Patapon 3's eight-player multiplayer functionality. Every level will be able to be played with eight other players via an internet connection. From the looks of it, that part of the game will play out much like older Patapons only with each player controlling one superhero. So it will be quite a bit like an army of superheroes teaming up.
In my view, Patapon might be the single best thing to ever happen to the PSP. It's a fun, affordable series (usually launching at $20) that has almost singlehandedly made the PSP worth owning. It has been a rare bright spot on a system that has been plagued since its launch with ridiculously long dry spells and ho-hum releases that seem more like dumbed-down PS2 games than true handheld experiences.
Patapon managed in one fell swoop to become one of the most endearing, beautiful, and fun titles on the PSP. And they accomplished it all on a shoestring budget, charging half the cost of a regular PSP game. If only more developers had taken Patapon as an example of how to develop on PSP, then the system may have carved out a niche and thrived.
Patapon 3 is coming back to the PSP April 28 in North America. Will it be able to live up to the legacy of the first games? Are there enough PSP owners still gaming that eight-player multiplayer will actually work? These questions will have to wait for our review, but for now we're very excited and hope the developer can pull it off.
CCC Freelance Writer