First of all I have to apologise for the long huge delay between posts; I’m in the midst of writing a book right now and it’s taken precedence in my life (mainly because it will ultimately get me money, and I’m broke…). However despite my dedication to the arts it doesn’t mean I’ve taken leave from one of the greatest forms of art out there; the art of gaming…
It’s an art!
One game that I’ve recently discovered which I’ve come to absolutely adore, is Patapon for the PSP, an unusual blend of two classic genres, these being rhythm and strategy (bear with me here, because this actually does work). If you haven’t heard of Patapon before, essentially you play the role of an ancient God, who looks over and commands a group of small one-eyed creatures called (you guessed it) Patapon. You guide your battalion of Patapon through various maps, defeating enemies, destroying castles, hunting creatures, defeating giant bosses, and finding and creating new items to help advance your army.
This may all sound a bit rudimentary, and in essence it is, but the rhythm element of the game injects it with an aspect that takes it beyond your standard strategy game. Your entire army is commanded through a series of drum beats, which have to be hit in time to the backing rhythm, each button represents a different beat, your main beats being “PATA” which is Square, and “PON” which is circle, so if you want your army to advance you have to command them with “PATA, PATA, PATA, PON”, or if you want them to attack you use “PON, PON, PATA, PON”. There are several more combinations which you’ll learn throughout, which allow you to approach bosses and enemies more strategically, along with “JuJu”, which are special commands that can change the weather, so you can call on tailwinds to allow your archer’s arrows to fly further and stronger, but you can also call on rain to cross a hot desert.
I haven’t brought out my PSP since Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, as a matter of fact I was going to sell it on eBay, but I’ve been playing Patapon nearly every day for the past month now, and as soon as I completed Patapon 1 I went on to the PlayStation Network and downloaded Patapon 2, which is still keeping me entertained.
There is an element of this game though which I felt that naturally I should hate, but couldn’t bring myself to do so; see, I have a grudge with a couple of certain rhythm games out there, namely the Guitar Hero series and Rock Band. Now this may be an age old argument now, but I’m a musician; I play guitar, bass and drums, not brilliantly but I’ve studied them and taught myself for a fair few years now. I find it a little irritating and perhaps insulting when people compare skill-sets between playing what is essentially a toy, and playing an actual instrument (especially when you’ve got world records based around it). Playing an instrument is expression, playing a toy guitar in time with a track, is impersonation.
But I digress, I don’t despise all rhythm games, in fact I thoroughly enjoyed two of the first rhythm games to be released, Pa Rappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy. Neither of these games enjoyed the huge mainstream success of the aforementioned series, but undoubtedly inspired the genre.
Patapon works so well, because it blends two genres together which are considered completely foreign to one another; I mean, who’d think of mixing Dance Dance Revolution with Age of Empires? I couldn’t see it working, but thanks to the foresight and innovation, and indeed courage to make something new and fresh, the creators of Patapon have made something undoubtedly classic, and something every gamer should try. It’s testament that simplicity is often the best approach.