Sony has always had a tough time solidifying their gaming legacy. For so long, the PlayStation thrived on third party releases while their first-party lineup took a backseat. Franchises stall out across the generational line and mascots become tied to individual consoles rather than the PlayStation brand as a whole. Even when Sony does try to present and preserve what came before, it can come across as half-hearted. That is part of the feeling I get when playing through Patapon 2 Remastered, a PS4 rerelease of a PSP original from 2008. A unique hybrid between rhythm and strategy, this portable experience is still enjoyable on the big screen, but this new home is certainly not ideal.
Patapon 2 Remastered Review | The prodigal tribe returns
If you’ve never played Patapon before, there’s a lot to take in. You play as a godlike figure worshipped by the Patapon, a tribe of monocular creatures who march and attack at your command. You customize your army before heading out and then send down orders from on high with continual rhythmic button presses once you’re on the field. Story beats and dialogue may play out in front of you, but you’re always tapping along to the beat of an eclectic soundtrack of electronic tunes. It can be quite hypnotizing, but it can also be tedious, especially early on in the campaign as each new feature slowly unlocks.
You see, Patapon 2 is a portable game through and through. Each level is just a few minutes long, perfect for quick play sessions while you’re on the bus or in a waiting room. What’s charming in that context grows laborious in a session when you’re sitting in your living room giving Patapon 2 your full attention. The progression, which requires grinding for items that grow and upgrade your units, is a chore on a home console. Especially since Patapon demands your full attention do to its rhythmic nature. You can’t listen to a podcast or really zone out, lest you start missing beats. Even if you’re in love with these quirky creatures, modern players will find it difficult to devote dozens of hours to a third of their quest.
Patapon 2 Remastered Review | Drums and dissonance
This is the type of game that needed tweaks to work on a home system. When translating Wind Waker to a modern context, Nintendo knew that they needed to cut down on the unnecessary fetch quest ending. It makes me wonder what a reimagined Patapon could have looked like, one that takes advantage of modern technology and acknowledges the platform you’re playing on. A lot has changed in the past decade, and a lot of games have relied on quirky visuals to stand out. It doesn’t take away from Patapon‘s legacy, but it does lessen the effect of Patapon on someone picking it up for the first time in 2020.
In addition to gameplay problems, Patapon 2 suffers the same unfortunate effects of Sony’s past PSP porting efforts. The developers have simply upscaled the cutscenes, meaning that your first impressions of the title are blurry renders of what’s to come. There’s also no trace of Patapon 2‘s online multiplayer support, which was a big part of the original release. You can still go on those missions, which have you defending a giant egg from predators, but you’ll only get backup from NPCs. Patapon 2 makes no effort to explain why this mission is special or separate from the rest. If you’re not familiar with the original, you’ll be scratching your head.
Patapon 2 Remastered Review | A lack of divine intervention
In fact, Patapon 2 Remastered has that problem a lot. Your only tutorial is a series of tip screens that explain everything in the tone of an enthusiast wiki rather than a how-to guide. This is my first true deep dive into the franchise, so maybe a lot of these concepts and terms have better introductions in the first game. As is, there was a lot of reaching around in the dark when it comes to understanding basic concepts like how to avoid wiping our your army and which upgrades to grab first. Thankfully, Patapon 2 isn’t extremely difficult, but the levels can be frustrating to repeat since you can’t really have checkpoints in the middle of a song in a rhythm game.
All of that aside, if your interest lies in knowing if the Patapon 2 you remember translated over intact, all signs point to yes. For the sole purpose of preserving this PlayStation classic, this remaster succeeds. The simplistic graphics and colorful backgrounds still mesh well, and the soundtrack will have you tapping your toes throughout the day. The simple gameplay also makes the jump from the PSP version intact, although lag from modern televisions does introduce some discrepancy. Even so, if you’re already a master at timing out your chants and positioning your army in just the right place, you’ll blast through everything Patapon 2 Remastered has to offer and enjoy the trip down memory lane.
Patapon 2 Remastered Review | The gods of progress
However, in much the same way that I felt after revisiting the world of PaRappa the Rapper, I can’t help but wonder what a modern refresh of Patapon would look like. It feels like a franchise begging for a mobile interpretation, perhaps even one that steals from the idle genre to replace parts of the grind. Maybe that’s something Sony can look into in the next generation, especially if the rumors about the PS5’s backward compatibility prove true. A release like Patapon 2 Remastered wouldn’t make sense anymore, and Sony would have to examine its legacy if it wanted to dive into the past. Just like the Patapon, time is always marching onward, and it’s up to you to stop and smell the flowers.
GameRevolution reviewed Patapon 2 Remastered on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.