Despite consistently monstrous sales in Japan, the PSP has never quite taken off in the west. Sure, its done ok(ish) I suppose, but when compared to the epic sales of Nintendo’s DS, the PSP has fallen painfully short. Why? That’d be the lack of a killer ap my friend. While the Japanese buy PSP’s in their millions just to play the latest Monster Hunter title, over here, that big ‘it’ game simply never materialized. Don’t get me wrong, the PSP has had some great games. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t deliver that one key title that might have got what is still an incredible piece of kit into more western homes. Still, that hasn’t stopped Sony from making one last push for the PSP in 2011 before the arrival of the NGP. It’s surely too little too late for the PSP over here, but for happy owners of Sony’s criminally overlooked handheld, a few more top quality releases certainly won’t go amiss.
With the excellent Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection, The 3rdBirthday and Dissidia 012: Duodecim all released in the last few months, the PSP has certainly seen something of a renaissance of late, but it has been the return to one of the PSP’s most successful franchises that has once again proved just how much potential the PSP still has. Patapon 3, the brilliant musical RPG from SCEE, takes everything that was great about the first two games in the series and makes the whole experience more accessible to newcomers while somehow delivering more challenge and in-depth decision making than ever before.
The core Patapon 3 experience still plays out in much the same way as its predecessors, in that you are required to enter a selection of four button combinations in time with the outrageously catchy music that sees your Patapon’s jump, attack and defend etc. With seven combinations available early on and others becoming available as you progress, you’ll be surprised just how technical a game based around musical input can be. For newcomers in particular, the amount of combinations could have potentially become overwhelming, but thanks to the move set being listed on the bottom of the screen and a flashing border that helps with timing, getting your Patapon army up and running shouldn’t prove too much of a problem.
Well, I say ‘army’, but unlike previous games in the series that saw the player take the role of a faceless deity, Patapon 3 has you take the form of a reincarnated hero that leads a pack of three other chosen Patapon into battle. Although your highly powered ‘hero’ will play the primary role in the early running, choosing the correct Patapon untits of the 21 available becomes more and more important as you progress onto the game’s trickier latter missions.
While looting and levelling has always been a part of the Patapon experience, for Patapon 3 their importance and degree of depth have been taken to a whole new level. Although simple grinding could see you smash through early levels with potential tactics thrown largely to the wayside in favour of brute force, committing all your loot and levelling to a small band of Patapon’s will see you struggling later in the game when unique challenges force you into calling certain unit types into battle. Although the ability to go back and grind any level previously completed assures that you will never hit a brick wall, a more measured approach to levelling up will assure this is rarely required.
On top of the comprehensive and consistently entertaining story mode, Patapon 3 also delivers an array of impressive co-op and adversarial online options. Unlike Patapon 2 which offered a very basic set of ad-hoc multiplayer options, Patapon 3 delivers a huge amount of online content that could see fans of the series potentially playing this game for months on end.
Although the adversarial options are a bit of a mixed bag, the quality of Race mode and the tower-defence-style Versus match more than make up for some of the weaker options. Although reasonably self explanatory, both deliver an array of tactical approaches to battle that can often see cunning win out over brute force. As entertaining as these modes are though, it’s still the co-op options that are likely to steal the most of your time. The option to play through the story missions in co-op is a fantastic one (especially in the case of some of the trickier battles found later in the game) while the chance to visit co-op specific dungeons for unique loot and challenges is equally entertaining. On top of these options, Patapon 3 also allows you to visit other players’ vendors (the area in which you buy new items for your Patapons) in which you can potentially buy new items and equipment that would have otherwise been unavailable to you if played exclusively in single player mode.
Patapon 3 may not be a huge departure from the previous two Patapon titles, but it nonetheless stands as the finest game in the series to date and subsequently one of the better games available for the PSP. Although more accessible to newcomers, Patapon 3 still delivers an extensive challenge for fans of the series while delivering more tactical options than ever before. The music is still fantastic, the visuals are as charming as they’ve ever been and the art design as inventive and memorable as anything you’re likely to find on the PSP. Patapon 3 stands as another great example of what can be achieved when a game is developed specifically for the PSP. With an over-reliance upon ill-fitted PS2 ports, we’ve seen far too few of its kind released in the west. Hopefully Sony have learned their lesson and the NGP will not only see the continuation of this great series but also the development of further titles in the vein of this brilliantly unique series of games.
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