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Patapon 3 review

AT A GLANCE
  • Unique rhythm-based battle system is still fun
  • Sharp visuals and expressive animation
  • Great co-op battles make grinding less tedious
  • Unnecessarily convoluted menus
  • Trial and error micromanagement
  • Playing for the right to pause

Do you know what Patapon is? Have you played the first two Patapon games to completion? If you answered "no" to one of those questions, Patapon 3 is not for you. At its core, Patapon 3 is a unique, addicting rhythm game, but reaching that core takes hours and hours of micromanagement and patient trial and error. Newcomers beware.


Patapon 3 is a genre-blending game that lives in a world of its own. You control a small army of eyeball-shaped creatures through rhythmic chants. Each face button plays a different sound, and you combine those sounds to issue commands, like “onward,” “attack,” “retreat,” and more. It's a simple premise that's made more complex by requiring you to stay on beat. Unlike previous games, the chant combinations are always visible at the bottom of the screen. You'll eventually memorize them since there aren't that many, but it helps to have them around early on. The series finally has a pause chant, which lets you stop the battle on beat. But for some inexplicable reason you have to earn this chant by acing the first tutorial level, which isn't as easy as it sounds.

The battles in Patapon3 aren't much different from the previous games. You'll need to read the battlefield and time your commands if you want to succeed. Using the right chant at the right time can turn the tide of a battle in the span of four beats. Every now and then you’ll get in the groove and sink into the thumping beat of battle and it’s incredibly rewarding. The biggest change to the battles is to your army, which now consists of just four guys and a flag carrier. Each member, including your avatar who acts as the commanding hero, can be fitted with different weapons, classes and skills. Weapons and supplies are picked up in battles and you can break down or upgrade them in the armory and blacksmith back at camp.


Above: You’ll spend a good portion of your time looking at tiny text and convoluted stat screens like this one 

Don't expect the game to explain any of this, by the way. Aside from some load screens and quick speech bubbles during the optional tutorial stages there's nothing here to guide you. There are tons of things to manage before entering battle: troops, equipment, upgrades, skill trees, and more. Be prepared to spend nearly as much time thumbing through the menus as you do pounding out catchy beats in battle. It almost feels like Patapon 3 was made by two different teams: one handling the addictive foot-tapping strategy combat, the other designing a management system brimming with stat porn. Then when it came time to finish the game, they slapped both systems together and assumed players could figure it out. They assumed too much.

The lack of tutorials and management tips slows the pace to a crawl as you try to decipher the stats and items and how they impact your troops in battle. Your first few hours with Patapon 3 will likely consist of rhythm-based trial and error. You’ll either get frustrated with the endless micromanagement and ditch the game, or you’ll push through and find that underneath the convoluted menu system is a satisfying genre-defying rhythm combat game.


Above: If you can make it past the steep learning curve, you’ll be rewarded with exciting battles against a variety of imaginative creatures 

The multiplayer side, which can be played ad hoc and online, is just as deep and mind-numbingly difficult to decipher as the single-player. There are versus matches and co-op campaigns, plus some challenges you need teammates to complete. You can also form a clan and visit another player's blacksmith for special bonuses. This stuff isn't really explained either, so expect to fumble around for a while before having any real fun. Grinding through levels with other players is better than doing it alone, especially since they can help you win some loot that will reduce the tedium of replaying levels early on.

Patapon 3's simple art style and charming toe-tapping music do a lot with a little. The visuals are crisp and charismatic featuring tons of expressive flourishes. Don't let the simple premise and presentation fool you though - this is not a casual game. This is a game that teaches you to swim by tossing you in the deep end. If you have not played a Patapon game before, you'll do yourself a huge favor by starting with one of the earlier games. You can easily pull more than 30 hours out of Patapon 3, which isn’t bad for a $20 game.

Still, it’s hard not to feel like that time would be cut in half if it wasn’t for the needlessly complex micromanagement, the lack of guides, and the reliance on grinding and trial and error. If you’re willing to spend a few hours to teach yourself how the game works, you might just enjoy how the game plays.

Apr 18, 2011

More Info

Release date: Apr 12 2011 - PSP (US)
Apr 15 2011 - PSP (UK)
Available Platforms: PSP
Genre: Strategy
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: SCE Japan Studio
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence
PEGI Rating:
7+

9 comments

  • philipshaw - April 20, 2011 7:45 p.m.

    This review points out the exact reason why I didn't enjoy the original Patapon,they never made it clear what to do. I hit a brick wall and just stopped so I guess I won't be getting on with this game
  • Darkhawk - April 19, 2011 2:41 p.m.

    This is the reason why, after Patapon 1, I never wanted to return to the series. Even in the original, there was excessive grinding and item-questing in order to make it through each section. What would have been a linear (and more enjoyable) 10-hour romp through Pata-battles turned into a 20 hour grind.
  • GuildedBlood - April 19, 2011 4:39 a.m.

    Good review and as I have the game I'm going to tell you three things that will help you right off the bat. 1. Just use Optimize for your troops. It will recognize the best armor/weapons you have and pair it up with your Patapons. 2. Use Online to get through the tough spots and to grind with people for leveling up your Uberhero. 3. If you have never played patapon before, play the second one. It has everything the first has and more. I started to play Patapon 2 a couple of weeks before and the result was amazing. Also my Online ID is NinjaWurmple for any other patapons that want to team up as I'm having trouble finding people.
  • garnsr - April 19, 2011 3:43 a.m.

    I liked the beginning of the first one, but it got too annoying after a little while, and I never went back to it. Too bad, I really want to play one of these games that plays how I want it to, I love the style, it's just missing something for me.
  • HeroUnderThePine - April 19, 2011 3:05 a.m.

    Looks like a great game, but kinda scary to get into. Probably going to wait a while to get it.
  • bonerachieved - April 19, 2011 2:13 a.m.

    I WANT THIS ON PS3 SO BAD.
  • CoolCatsdelaCuloCreed - April 19, 2011 12:35 a.m.

    FEVAA!!
  • mockraven - April 18, 2011 11:20 p.m.

    I love Patapon. It's one of the best IPs released for the PSP, excluding the re-releases of old PS1 and PS2 titles. The worst thing about the game, though, is that you end up singing the pata-combos after you put the game down. "PON PON CHAKA CHAKA!" "PATA PATA PATA PON!" This has often led to many a person giving me strange looks.
  • WikiParazFTW - April 18, 2011 11:09 p.m.

    Good review, but i still love the game PATA PATA PATA PON!

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