I… um… er…

I’m… just… totally speechless. I just started up Patapon 3… and… well… um… it greeted me with not a handshake, but with a massive explosion of win:

I was expecting the Patapon theme… but an intro like that? And a remix like THAT?! That’s totally incredible… I can’t even COMPREHEND the epicness!

Mind blown. Now it’s all over my room. That will probably impair my ability to play, but I HAVE to at least try. 😀

UPDATE!!

Okay, I’ve played it for a few days now, and um, yeah, it’s MILES better than Patapon 2. It’s got fantastic light strategy elements, and it’s an awesome rhythm game. Before playing the original Patapon, I would’ve never imagined those two genres would work so well together, but JapanStudio/Pyramid gave it a shot, and they hit the bullseye. Now they’ve had two chances to evolve it, and it’s amazing. 😀

The basic gameplay’s the same as the other Patapon games – drum different commands to the beat to get your Patapons through the enemies and past the goal flag. That’s about where the similarities end, though. Instead of commanding an army of up to 20 units, they’ve cut it down to five units – a tank unit, a damage unit, a support unit, the Uberhero (you) and Hatapon (the critical unit who triggers an auto-fail when he dies, but can’t be hurt if a tank is still alive). This was a GOOD call, because the amount of times my brain has almost exploded in frustration because my 20 units CAN’T RUN AWAY FAST ENOUGH, or because I can’t get every unit geared up equally, is ridiculous. However, cutting it down to 5 units was kind of a double-edged sword, because although there’s less to cross your fingers about, losing one unit can seriously dampen the amount of damage you can do, making it extremely difficult to continue.

However, they noticed THAT, as well, and so have introduced another new feature, “Summoning”. If you can stay in Fever Mode long enough, the Fever Worm will start to change colour. When it starts shining gold, you can summon a Djinn, who heals your units AND resurrects lost ones. On top of that, you’re unchained from the standard beat for a little while, and can FREESTYLE. 😀 You can just hammer the buttons and create a rhythm of your own, and the better you do, the more EXTREEEEME OWNAGE is dealt on the final measure. It’s AWESOME, but unfortunately, you can only do this once per level. Although on multilevel dungeons, if you don’t use your summon, it carries over to the next floor, so if you’re good enough (and the boss has enough HP), you can unload multiple summons into the dungeon boss. 😀

Speaking of boss HP, they’ve done what Monster Hunter needed to do a long time ago, and displayed boss HEALTH BARS, so you know how close you are to owning them. That was a REALLY nice thing to do, especially since I don’t trust AI with invisible health. 😛

Another significant change is the leveling system. In Patapon 2, you used to have to go through a sickeningly evil, confusing, grind-like Evolution Map to make your Patapons stronger. It cost lots of money, lots of difficult-to-get materials… and it was impossible to choose between all of the different variants of Patapon. In Patapon 3, they’ve just added an Experience and Level system. THANK YOU. 😀 Nice and simple, just play missions for XP to level up and be able to do more difficult missions.

There are also various classes to level up. At the start of the game, you can choose between three base classes, which are melee, ranged and support. When you hit a certain level in these base classes, you unlock new classes to try out, which are generally more powerful or have different abilities.

The weapon system has changed a lot, too. Instead of just getting weapons in missions and improving them by finding better weapons, you find various types of treasure chests in missions. Bronze and Silver chests generally give normal or magic items, whereas Gold and Jeweled chests often give extremely powerful Unique/Super Unique items, but they can’t be upgraded. Normal and Magic items can be upgraded at the blacksmith for Ka-ching (yeah, it’s called that ;)) and materials.

Unfortunately… as is the case with pretty much all Japanese-made games, the difficulty curve is unrealistic and stupid, the recommended level is almost always a lie, and the Bonus Bosses annoy the HELL out of me.

The difficulty curve is ridiculous. At the start of the game, it’s extremely easy, and it gets more difficult over time, which I expected. But I KNEW there was going to be a difficulty spike at some point, because… well… it’s a Japanese game. Thing is, you don’t know WHEN it’s going to spike, which adds to the frustration when you’re level 5, open a door on a quest with a recommended level of 3+, see a big dragon there who proceeds to unfairly stomp the living crap out of your party. I say “unfairly”, because he literally shuffles towards you (because he can’t fly), ever-so-slightly clips your tank with his foot, and cuts a third off his health. Oh, and summons weren’t unlocked at the time, so when my tank DID die, I couldn’t resurrect him. And do you know what was REALLY annoying? Well, I managed to kill the dragon, and I didn’t know that when a dragon dies, they collapse to the floor about one measure afterwards, and cause massive, cheap damage to any unit near them. Since my tank was dead, Hatapon was wide open. The dragon collapsed onto him, one-shotted him and I auto-failed the mission. UNBELIEVABLY GAY. Why can’t the dragon just collapse without doing damage?! It’s not particularly fair when you’ve never seen one before. 😛

Another case of bad difficulty curve? Well, in the next three-level dungeon, on the second level, when I was VERY overlevelled, in the first room there’s a normal-sized ice dragon, a bit of a challenge, but taken down no problem. In the next room… there’s an Ice Salamander. And they’re PUSHOVERS. >.> In the room after that, there’s ANOTHER dragon, a BIG one this time, who was very tough, and I almost lost several units to him. After that, in the next room… another Ice Salamander! WHAT THE HELL?! And then… in the final room of the floor, a GI-FRIGGIN’-GANTIC golem, who DESTROYED me. Difficulty curves aren’t SUPPOSED to look like this:

Patapon 3 Sample Difficulty Curve

(AAAARGH WORDPRESS IS SO GODDAMN SHIT! I want MORE than a millionth-of-a-pixel-wide column so I can ACTUALLY post images WITHOUT THEM BEING CLIPPED, NOT a STUPID NEW TOOL that lets me COPY PREVIOUS POSTS for GOD’S SAKE!!)

I hope you get the idea from that tiny picture. Sorry I can’t make it bigger, WordPress is shit.

The Bonus Bosses now. I like Bonus Bosses, I really do. They give you a little something extra to aim for, and reward you well for taking them out. However, the Japanese don’t quite understand there are people who like Bonus Bosses, but don’t have friends in close proximity who own an unpopular handheld console AND a copy of Patapon 3. Seriously, a Bonus Boss appeared while I was playing, so I thought “Hey, cool, it’s appeared pretty early in the game, so it must be a low-level Bonus Boss – it can’t be insanely hard, surely.” So I had a look… and the recommended level was “?”. Oh, nice and helpful as always, Japs. >.< I decided to have a go by myself, since I didn’t know what level I had to be.

It was impossible. Literally. My main damage-dealer can crank out about 10,000+ damage (A LOT) with a charge if the Random Number God is feeling nice, but after about five of those… his health bar was still full. But the funny thing is, when the boss finally stopped being an idiot and started to attack, I could defend quite well. 😛 All he had was an unfair, cheating amount of HP, so I just returned to the hideout.

The selection of modes and stuff is brilliant, and the gameplay would be fantastic with a friend or three… but it’s on the PSP and you can’t play over the Internet. That damages it quite a lot, since I’ll never get to play it with someone else.

Alright, that’s pretty much everything. Lemme do the F.A.G.G.O.T Rating. 🙂

Fun
Enjoyability – 10: Ha ha HAA! This is such a great game to play. It’s as if it was designed with fun as the biggest point, becuase almost every part of this game, the music, the voices, some of the dialogue, is a HEAP of fun. 😀
Frustration – 6: You know when you’re having fun with something, then all of a sudden it’s taken away? That feeling of elation usually turns to anger. And that’s exactly what happens when you’re having a great run, without any worries, then all of a sudden there’s a difficulty spike, you make one slight mistake, and it’s all over and you’ve gotta start again from the beginning of a mission. I like a challenge, but not an almost impossible one halfway through a seemingly easy level.

Audio
Sounds – 9: Not really much to say about the sounds, since they’re usually drowned out by the amazing soundtrack, but the drum sounds are almost iconic, the monsters sound pretty good, and the “SHHWING!” sound when you hit a perfect command makes you FEEL GOOD. 😀 They’ve also replaced the creaking treasure box sound when a dialog appears with a less annoying “Shht” sound, which is welcome. 😛
Music – 10: All of it is… just awesome. 😀 There are new tracks, and old tracks from Patapon and Patapon 2 which have all been remixed, often with guitars, to sound “meatier”. The lyrics are all Patapon tribal chants, and they change depending on what command you entered in the last measure. (DON DON, CHAKACHAKACHA-KAA!) The soundtrack REALLY comes alive in Fever Mode.
Voice – 10: PATA PON, DON CHAKA! FEEEEVERRRR! DON, DO-DON, DO-DON! OOH AH OOH AH OH YAY! YAY YAY, OOH AH OH YAY! Quite frankly, I LOVE it, it’s crazy, it’s funny, it fits the mood, and it’s absolutely fan-friggin’-tastic. 😀

Graphics
Animation – 8: The animation is mostly smooth, but there are a few animations which look a little jerky, like when the Patapons jump into the air and spin around. Other than that, no real complaints. 😀
Models – N/A: The only models/textures are the treasure chests that appear after a mission. Rating them would just be unfair, since they make up such a tiny amount of the game.
Textures – N/A: See above. 😛
2D – 9: The art style hasn’t changed, and that’s a good thing, because the Patapon art style is insanely recognisable and just plain awesome. I wasn’t so sure about the new Uberhero when I first saw him on the Patapon 3 XMB background (I thought they’d gone too far into the realms of cheesy DBZ Super Saiyans), but he stands out, fits the art style and looks ace. The new monsters, weapons and enemy units all look brilliant. The only thing that’s wrong is when monsters are scaled to emphasise extra HP/attack power – they often look quite blurry, which is a bit of a shame.
Effects – 8: The particle effects are great, the Summon effects are awesome, the and the “dead-things-fall-into-the-ground” effect works much better than the standard, boring “Everything Fades” effect. Cool damage amount effects are welcome, too. 😀

Gameplay
Core – 9: I didn’t think strategy and rhythm could be combined into a game, but they sure showed me with Patapon 1 and 2. In Patapon 3, though, they’ve REALLY improved it. A nice simple leveling system, weapon customisation, and when you input Pon Pata Pon Pata, you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope that all of your 20 units run away fast enough. 😛 Having all commands accessible at the start is really welcome, too, but it might outface newbies. That’s where the nice set of tutorials come in handy. Every problem they’ve noticed has been addressed pretty well. Apart from the difficulty curve, that is. Oh, and the fact that Bonus Bosses aren’t accessible. 😛 But at its core, it’s an amazing game.
Immersion – 10: Against bosses at least, I LITERALLY can’t play this game and talk at the same time. It’s extremely immersive, and needs your undivided attention if you’re going to do well.
Story – 6: Well, the story hasn’t progressed THAT far for me yet. I don’t quite understand it, though – in Patapon 1 and 2, it was simple: the Patapons want to get to Earthend and look upon “IT”. In Patapon 3, it’s different. There’s more dialogue and it seems more indepth… but I’m not totally sure what’s going on.
Replayability – 7: Sure, you can replay quests, and that’s great… but after completing the game, I can’t imagine there’s much else to do. But then again, there is a LOT of game time here. 😉
Repetition – 3: This depends on how good you are, really. If you’re good, the repetition will be almost unnoticable. If you’re not so good, you might find yourself doing the same mission again and again to try and complete it, and that IS noticable. 😛 Personally, I found it so much fun that I never really noticed it being too repetitive. (By the way, yes, lower scores on a negative point are good. ;))

Online
Praise – 7: There’re all sorts of co-op and VS modes here. You can have a race, or a sort-of Capture the Flag type game. You can also do missions co-op… but I’ll probably never experience that.
Criticisms – 10: The problem is not the game itself, it’s what system its published on. Let’s all be honest here, the PSP isn’t PARTICULARLY a popular thing, especially over here, and especially when compared to the DS. It also doesn’t allow playing over the Internets, which is the only way  people who don’t have any friends close by who own a PSP can experience multiplayer. They’ve also got to like the Patapon series, and trying to get anyone I talk to frequently to try a game like this is nigh on impossible because “it sounds stupid”. It’s impossible anyway, because everyone’s probably sold/lost/broken their PSP. The multiplayer features are so inaccessible, the devs might as well have just scrapped multiplayer and spent that time on trying to improve the single player experience even more.
Fun – 5: I can’t rate this properly, since I can’t actually PLAY multiplayer properly!

Total (After overly complicated but quite good Importance Machine calculations):
7.26/10 (Very Good)

If the difficulty curve was less retarded, and if they’d published it on PC or Xbox or on any NORMAL console to make multiplayer realistically accessible, this could’ve probably hit a 9. Despite those extremely annoying problems, Patapon 3 is better than its predecessors, and it’s still a REALLY fun game with gameplay deeper than it appears. It’s a diamond among the piles of crappy games you get on the PSP. If you dismiss it as “stupid” or “childish” and you don’t even give it a chance, you’re SERIOUSLY missing out.