Attack (Pon-Pon-Pata-Pon) and defend (Chaka-Chaka-Pata-Pon, with Triangle as Chaka) commands come fairly quickly, and after a couple hours, we unlocked the Rain Dance miracle beat (Don-DonDon-DonDon, with X as Don), which allowed us to summon rain to cross a desert and hunt with ease. A simple metronome-like audio backdrop, along with a flashing outline of the screen, instructs players of the tempo to keep in each stage, and mistimed inputs will be ignored and will end your current combo.
Patapon is in no way a passive experience - you'll constantly enter commands to maintain your combo, and if you're anything like us, you'll also be nodding your head or tapping your toes in time with the beat. But while the actual gameplay is quite active and compelling, it's the strategic elements that give Patapon its lasting power. As with Puzzle Quest, the addition of such disparate functions adds an unexpectedly addictive nature to Patapon, keeping you glued to the PSP for "one more hunt" or to earn "one more unit."
Prior to each mission, you can assemble your Patapon formation, choosing between squads of melee fighters (Tatepon), spear launchers (Yaripon), and long-range archers (Yumipon), as well as speedy horseback heroes (Kibapon). Each unit type can upgrade its weapons and armor based on recovered scraps from the battlefield, and while all of this can be done manually, Patapon also features an Optimize function to have the game make the best choices for each position. In our time with the game, we had 16 active units at the peak, which makes for a mass of thrown projectiles during battles (especially during Fever).