Back at the PlayStation Experience 2016 press conference/keynote several remastered classics were announced. Crash Bandicoot was the big story but the recently released Parappa the Rapper and LocoRoco also had their wave of hype/nostalgia. There was however another niche game from the PSP deemed worthy of a PS4 HD remaster. That game was Patapon.
For the uninitiated Patapon is a rhythm action game like no other. There’s no note chart to follow, you just have to keep in time to the beat but there's more layers to the gameplay. As their god you are in command of an army of belimbed eyeballs known as Patapon, communicating your commands through drum beats. As you play you’ll discover new drums and new songs to give you a greater range of combat options. Playing a certain combination of drums (the action/face buttons) will trigger a particular action such as marching, attacking or defending and later a few more creative advanced techniques and even full blown miracles. There’s also a boat load of RPG elements (levelling, crafting, loot) and other metagame features depending on which entry in the series you are playing.
I’ve always been a big fan of the series so this is one remaster I wanted to be excited for, however I had my doubts. Does Patapon even need a remaster? It always felt right being a portable offering and the fact that I can still play them on the PSVita is great, but a PS4 rendition? I would be tied to playing in the living room, hooked up to a much larger screen with crystal clear visuals and the Patapon chants filling the room….
Wait, wait… that doesn’t sound bad at all. Although terrorising my family with hours of supercatchy “Pata-Pata-Pata-Pons” may not go down too well… It was bad enough when they had to put up with my constant twitching/bobbing trying to keep time when playing with headphones.
I went back to try out the originals to see how they hold up and maybe discover a bit more evidence to help decide if I really “need” this remaster. As I was expecting the art style and gameplay have aged really well. Nine years later they are still engaging and unique and even the graphic quality is pretty decent by today’s standards, on a handheld size screen at least. I’d happily replay each game like this but I did notice a few things that a remaster could really make the most of.
First up, Sound. There is nothing wrong at all with the sound design, after all it accounts for half of the game’s charm, however I can practically see my Patapon troops crying out for remastered HD audio… (or it could be that I sent them charging into fiery dragon’s breath instead of defending - remember it’s Chaka-Chaka). It would also be nice to play the first game with some of the later refinement; perhaps new units or chants but particularly the slightly more generous timing for perfect drum beats.
The sequels haven't been announced as remasters (yet), perhaps Sony is gauging interest first but if they ever come to pass then multiplayer could do with an overhaul, I've always found the online components to be a bit peculiar. Multiplayer was becoming a big thing at the time of Patapon 2 so every game “had” to have it, however the PSP was hardly optimised for online play with Patapon 2 only offering ad-hoc play (between 2 local PSPs) if you didn’t have a nearby friend with a PSP and the game then you couldn’t play. This was resolved years later by connecting the PSP to the internet via a PS3… not an ideal solution and not too necessary as Patapon 3 was out and could connect directly to the internet. Patapon 3 leaned heavily on the multiplayer mode as it was key to finding some of the best loot and levelling up your hero character. I’m hopeful that the potential sequel remasters will make the whole process smoother, make it easier to connect with friends and revive the online community.
I’m still not 100% on buying this remaster myself, after playing and buying the originals several times and still having them installed on my Vita I don’t know what will be in it for me. However I’m still pumped that this forgotten gem may reach a new audience and receive some of the recognition it always deserved.