Sometimes its time to blow the dust off of the old portable game systems and dive into some epic retro gaming.
I was drawn back to the 2008 Pyramid/Japan Studios “rhythm god” game, Patapon which was released on the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The title name is developed from the Japanese onomatopoeia, pata (marching) and pon (drumming).This game is simple enough for a gamer at any age to play, but interesting enough to capture your attention for an extensive amount of time.
The main backstory of Patapon is that the tribe is trying to take back their land (Earthend) from the Zigoton Empire, a powerful tribe of creatures with red-and-black eyes (as opposed to the white-and-black-eyed Patapons) that have oppressed the Patapons since their fall from power.
The game environment is made in a two dimensional sihouetted – cartoonish style.
In Patapon, the player is the “Mighty Patapon God” who in direct control of a tribe of Patapon warriors. These warriors can be assembled into troops to complete the several missions that the game is divided into. Each Patapon has a different HP level and ability.
The Patapon warrior types include:
- Hatapon – is the most important Patapon, and is the leader and carries the Patapon banner. He cannot attack and his death immediately results in mission failure.
- Yaripon – throw spears to attack. They have no shield and are bad at close combat but are good for attacking medium ranged targets. They’re pretty good for hunting because they don’t scare the animals away by getting too close.
- Tatepon – wield Axes or Swords and Shields. They are bad at hunting; in fact, they cannot really hunt at all, because they are close-range units. They must get very close to their targets, which makes the hunted creatures run away.
- Yumipon – bow-wielding Patapons. These Patapons have one of the largest attack range in the games (wind can increase or decrease the range of their attack depending on which way it is blowing).
- Kibapon – equipped with horses and swords Kibapons deal heavy damage and knock back enemy troops.
- Dekapon – large mace-wielding Patapon.
- Megapon – the oddest unit in the games. They are taller than most other Patapons, and carry around massive horns. They appear to smile all the time, even when enemies are around and even when they die. They frown when you miss a beat or when they fall asleep/catch fire. When they attack, they play their horns and the soundwaves/sonic balls that are projected take on physical form, flying at the enemy and causing damage
Prior to each mission new troops can be recruited and weapons and armor applied. Each mission is different, wherein you must successfully reach the end of the level with at least one Patapon surviving while completing the goals of the level. Sometimes the goal is to retrieve supplies or to defeat a lingering enemy. A player can return to a mission again at anytime to acquire additional resources to build up their troops for larger battle missions later on in the game.
To command the warriors, the player has to input specific sequences using the PSP face buttons (square, circle, triangle or X) in time to a drum rhythm. Each of the face buttons represents a “talking drum” which is a command word. These sequences cause the Patapon warriors to perform various actions such as attack or defend. The player must input a command and wait for the Patapon tribe to sing it back to you. If the player inputs an unknown sequence or enters a sequence off rhythm, the tribe will become confused and not preform the commanded action.
The used sequence commands are:
- Square, Square, Square Circle —- PATA, PATA, PATA, PON (a march forward command)
- Circle, Circle, Square, Circle —- PON, PON, PATA, PON (an attack command)
- Triangle, Triangle, Square, Circle —- CHAKA, CHAKA, PATA, PON (a defense command)
- Circle, Square, Circle, Square —- PON, PATA, PON, PATA (a retreat command)
As the game story progresses, the Patapons embark on a journey to look upon a sacred object known as “IT”, and is said to grant Patapons eternal contentment and true happiness. It becomes apparent later that the Zigotons prophecy tells that if the Patapons finally gaze at “IT”, the world will fall into chaos, hence why they are so aggressive against the Patapons. Many of the Zigoton warriors sell their souls to the dark forces to gain more power to help defeat the Patapon warriors. Once defeating Queen Kharma, ruler of the Zigoton warriors and the demon Gorl, the tribe reaches what is assumed to be Earthend, and see the rising sun (“IT”), they feel unfulfilled and come to a consulsion that the sun is not IT and they must cross the ocean to continue their quest to find their destiny.
At the end of the game, there is a scene in which the Patapons and the Zigotons are working together to build a boat to cross the sea.
I found it enjoyable to play this game again. Though the storyline is very linear and basic, it is captivating. I do admit that it can be frustrating to try and keep rhythm to keep the Patapon troops going and even more troubling when you constantly need to switch between sequence commands while hoping you don’t mess one up. Even more…you need to memorize the commands. But overall, it is a great game to play when you need a game that has beautiful visual appeal and a challenge.
This game was followed up by two sequels, Patapon 2 and Patapon 3, both of which were released on the PSP.