Same Beat, Different Patapon

Three games in, and Sony's quirky rhyme game isn't done evolving. Patapon 3 brings fresh twists on the Patapon formula.

"When we started work on the game," Sony Japan producer Junichi Yoshizawa tells Kotaku, "we wondered what we should do." That lead to the developers to revamp the Patapon for its third outing. The game's basic mechanics still play the same.

During my hands on with the title, I found that it's still a rhythm game with players pressing the PSP's buttons to drum out different tones to defeat their enemies. What's more, the game picks up where the second title left off. One of the big differences is that players are no longer a god-like entity looking down on the Patapons. Instead, players are now a "superhero" that beats out the rhythm.

"I wanted to make the hero cooler," Patapon designer Hiroyuki Kotani tells Kotaku. To that end, Kotani and his team devised sets of superheroes, who wear a striking masks. There are three main superhero avatars to chose from, each of different skill class: Taterazay (carries a sword), Yarida (carries a spear) and Yumiyacha (carries bow). These superheros can be leveled up to unlock new superheros. Players must pick between a sword, spear and bow. I went with the sword. What followed was familiar Patapon game play, but to say it's a rehash would be a huge mistake.

Patapon games have always has a certain RPG tinge to them. So does Patapon 3, but even more so. This time around, the game has even more of a role-playing game flavor. Experience-based leveling up, weapons and skill customization, questing, and job classes are standard role-playing game conventions, but seeing them implemented in a music game does add an interesting twist. Leveling up and customization are a snap, and the game seems more accessible than previous Patapon titles. I don't know if it's just me, but I found the rhythm patterns previous Patapon titles tricky. Patapon 3 seemed more forgiving — in a good way.

"What makes Patapon interesting is still there. But it's expanded."

Multiplayer plays a major part in Patapon 3 with up to eight players via online or local play. There's a chat function, too, called "Pata-Text", that allows players to select from pre-set phrases.

"What makes Patapon interesting is still there," says Yoshizawa. "But it's expanded." Graphically, the 2D game's stylized art is still stunning. The changes in Patapon 3 do work, providing a deeper, yet accessible experience as well. Three games in, and Patapon is able to gracefully evolve without suffering an identity crisis. Make no mistake, this is Patapon, but with a new spin on an old PSP favorite.

Patapon 3 will be released on the PlayStation Portable this April. Pata-pata-pata-pon!