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April 2020

Patapon 2

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 4
Genre: Rhythm
Release Date: Jan. 30, 2020


PS4 Review - 'Patapon 2 Remastered'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 5, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Patapon 2 Remastered is a 2D platform/action adventure game that transforms players into a mystical leader in charge of guiding a tribe of small, quirky warriors called Patapons.

The PlayStation Portable (PSP) was home to a delightful selection of weird games, but one of my favorites was the Patapon series. It was a strange little game that probably wouldn't have been released on anything else but the PSP around that time frame, and arguably, it would only be a budget indie title today. It was a wholehearted and deeply enjoyable series that seemed doomed to linger on the PSP. Thankfully, the funky franchise is getting remasters on the PS4, but they're not without their flaws.

Patapon 2 is a rhythm game that was designed for the PSP, so it wasn't designed for modern televisions, which can cause input lag or sound lag. If your TV does this, then Patapon 2 goes from hard to nearly impossible. The input timing is so strict on the game that completing the tutorial can be a chore. I started to wonder if I had lost the Patapon groove until I changed my setup and things got much easier. If you don't have this option, the game really can't be recommended, as even a tiny bit of lag leads to a huge amount of frustration. It's hard to say for sure how it will work for you, but be prepared to spend some time learning the rhythms of the game even if you're a Patapon 2 master in the PSP days.

This is important, as Patapon is a strict rhythm game. For those who have never played, you play the role of an almighty deity who looks over a group of tiny anthropomorphic eyeballs called Patapons. The original game ended with the Patapons leaving to explore a new world. The sequel opens with their ship crashing, scattering the Patapons across the land. The land is filled with new dangers and new enemies, and the Patapons need your help to survive.

You can't directly interact with the Patapons, though. Instead, the face buttons on your controlled represent various beats of a drum, with "pata" and "pon" being the first two beats that you get. Certain combinations of beats will issue orders to your armies, and the beats can range from simple movements to complex tactical actions. You need to keep a steady rhythm together to keep your Patapons moving, which ends up making the game an odd combination of rhythm game and strategy game. Keeping the rhythm isn't just important for surviving but also because your Patapons only deal their true damage if you can sustain long, unbroken combos.

The strategy game aspect isn't just for show, either. To match the challenge that you expect to face, you have to select units: archers, bards, spearman, and the new-to-Patapon 2 hero unit. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and each mission requires you to take full advantage of that. Even with the proper team composition, there are plenty of ways to screw up and die if you're not pata-ponning like a champ. You can unlock upgrades and new abilities by grinding previous missions for resources — this was a PSP game after all — and you're expected to do so because every advantage helps. The result is a game where if you're doing well, you feel like some kind of multitasking god, and if you're doing poorly, it sounds like you're pounding randomly on the drums while your adorable minions die horribly.

This is what will make or break the game for you. Patapon 2 is punishingly difficult and requires you to keep your strategy flowing while keeping the beat and planning ahead for additional beats. It's incredibly fun once you get into the rhythm, but if you can't, you'll just be mashing your hapless eyeballs against deadly enemies to no avail. It's adorable as a game, but it's certainly not a chill-out-and-relax game. If you don't like the idea of dying multiple times to finish a mission, Patapon 2 is not for you.

It's also a fairly long game. A good chunk of that is due to grinding up equipment, but you can expect to put dozens of hours into it before you finish, assuming you don't get burned out before that point. This gives it a good amount of value for the price, since Patapon 2 was a full game on the PSP rather than a downloadable title. If you liked the first one, it's also almost a straight improvement on it.

The issue is that Patapon 2 Remastered is a bare-bones remaster. It's a HD port of the original game with no new features and no quality of life improvements, aside from the fact that you can play it on a PS4 instead of a decade-old system. It's not a bad way to experience the game for the first time, but it's disappointing since we've seen plenty of examples of remasters that have gone above and beyond.

Patapon 2 Remastered is so bare-bones that the game's original pre-rendered cut scenes have seen no improvement over the PSP version and have been blown up to ugly, pixelated messes. It's a shame because the in-game visuals have been very nicely remastered. The adorable Patapons look fantastic blown up to tremendous size, and it made me smile to see those weird little eyeballs in their full glory. The soundtrack is as addictive as ever, and I had just gotten the marching song out of my head from my time with the PSP version, so I assume after this, it will live there forever.

All in all, Patapon 2 Remastered is as bare-bones of a remaster as you can get of a fun game. It has nothing in the way of new features, and the lack of compensation for input lag means that like many older rhythm games, it can be borderline unplayable on some modern televisions. If you can get past that, you can find a lot to like in this adorable and surprisingly difficult little game. Just don't blame us if you hear "pon pon pata pon" in your sleep.

Score: 7.5/10

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