Patapon 2 review

Rhythm games took the world by storm back in the early to mid 2000s. The PS4 and Xbox One however have seen a sharp dive in rhythm games. The Just Dance series has just kept going, true. But aside from that, the only notable mainstream entries have been Rocksmith, Thumper and Beat Saber. That’s not to say there aren’t more excellent rhythm games out there, because there are. It’s just a far cry from the fifteen or so games in five years that Guitar Hero boasted from 2005 to 2010.

In 2017, we were graced with the remaster of Patapon, bringing it from the PSP to its HD glory on PS4. Now Patapon 2 has seen a remaster. Once again we’re tasked with drumming up a beat, and helping the rambunctious Patapons. If you haven’t played a Patapon game before you may be surprised to find that it isn’t solely a rhythm game. Instead it’s a strange combination of a rhythm and god game.

I promise that it makes a lot more sense in practice than it does on paper.

Well, I’ve heard there was a secret chord

The main plot of Patapon 2 continues on from the first game. Your Patapons have set sail for Earthend, a magical new land that offers prosperity and wonders. Not far into their journey  they are set upon by a kraken that easily gives the Patapons a beat down. Once shipwrecked they call on you, their almighty god, to see them through this low note in their journey.

Being the Patapon’s god is fundamentally important to Patapon 2, both in plot and gameplay. It is also its biggest let down. You command the Patapons through four beat commands, your divine voice giving them the inspiration and the will to keep going and complete the game. That’s the rhythm part of the game. It’s so closely tied to you being the Patapons god, though, that it’s hard to tell which came first: rhythm game or god game.

Your first command, pata pata pata pon, or square square square circle, commands your Patapons to move forward. You’ll learn new commands for various key presses that let you attack, cure status effects, or retreat. The more confident you become with the various patterns, the easier it is to weave them into a continuous beat. The rhythm aspect is so memorable that my flatmates now greet me by quoting various commands at me in high pitched voice. And they only saw me play the game twice.

That David played and he pleased the Lord

Patapons listening to your commands and repeating them back is the core game mechanic, and it’s enjoyable and satisfying. The better you are at timing the commands, and the more combos you make, the more excited your Patapons become. Eventually they will enter into a fever, which is where Patapon 2 shines. The chanting increases in volume, music is added in and Patapons start becoming more active. There is something truly zen about finding the beat in a rhythm game and just flowing through a level. Patapon 2 allows you to reach that level of flow, with commands that are easy enough to remember, but difficult enough to get perfect that you still feel accomplished when you reach fever mode.

Well, it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift

Sadly, the other aspects that come from Patapon 2 being a god game are the worst it has to offer. Resource management, grinding, and troop management clash dramatically with the flow experienced throughout the rest of the game. Instead of moving from one level to another, the game forces you to stop and take stock of your Patapons, and the various improvements you can give them.

Management. Goody.

Your Patapons can be leveled up, equipped, changed and created as long as you have the right resources. You’re guaranteed to hit a roadblock if you don’t do these things, and that would almost be fine if it were better explained. Instead you are given a few sentences about each new area you unlock, and a list of items you should try to collect. Resource grinding is particularly annoying, as items don’t have anything in their description that tells you where to farm them. You’d best just pay attention and hope you brought the right Patapons with you in order to get what you need. You know, if you do happen to stumble into the right area.

There are loading screen tiles that provide some more information, but it’s hard to take them seriously when they’re riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s also seemingly random. It could take ages before you’re presented with the screen that informs you that you need archers in order to take down the bird creatures, which you need to upgrade your archers.

I have never been so thankful that I was playing a remaster and that heaps of information was already readily available on the internet for me. I don’t know what I would have done without it.

The baffled king composing PON PON PATA PON!

Those that are coming back to Patapon 2 due to fond memories can rest assured. It’s a much prettier game this time around, and has been well converted to a big screen. Then again, it would be hard to not make it look worse, when you’re comparing a PSP and a PS4. Sadly, there’s no game of the year edition DLC or extra content to be added to the game. While I understand that it’s more a symptom of the era Patapon 2 first came out in, something like a digital art gallery of old concept art would be a nice touch for older fans.

Interestingly enough, the remaster is actually missing content in the form of the multiplayer mode. You can still run through the Patagate with AI which is a nice touch, especially for those of us who prefer to play alone, but it seems weird to skip multiplayer in this day and age, where most games make an effort to include it.

Patapon 2 is in no way an easy game to master, and it has its share of frustrations. As much as I resent having to go back to previous levels in order to grind for resources because I just could not beat the current level, once I got into the rhythm again, I was back to enjoying myself. It can take some time to get used to the timing of commands, but once you do, it is so satisfying to move through a level. If you’re looking specifically for a rhythm game, this may not be the one, but if you’re willing to face the grind, it does have a lovely story, and some amazing minimalistic art.

Patapon 2 Remastered is a lot of fun, but expect a few hurdles and difficult levels along the way. You just need to remember to Pata Pata Pata Pon your way through, because the Patapons are depending on you.

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PON PON PATA PON
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