While critics and fans have embraced Patapon's unique gameplay, the new content expansion should make the sequel much more appealing to newcomers and veterans alike. The core gameplay remains largely untouched -- each of the face buttons represents a certain sound, and pressing button combinations to the beat will command the Patapon to march, retreat and attack. However, they've added a new twist to the formula. Enter: the Hero Patapon.
Players wanted a more personal interaction with their Patapon. With the Hero Patapon, they'll get just that. The Hero has an expanded set of moves and greater HP, making it far deadlier than the standard Patapon. While Patapon were fairly expendable in the original, players will want the Hero to stay alive. As it can be named by the player, many may think of it as their own unique "pet" in the game.
The addition of the "Hero" concept allowed the sequel to explore something that wasn't in the original: multiplayer. Four PSP systems can link with each other via Ad-Hoc to take on new levels. Instead of having players controlling their own squads, they can control their own Hero Patapon, each with a special ability. The four Patapon will have to work in unison in order to get anything done. The beats are synchronized and everyone must execute drum beats at the same time. We found the best way to get through a level is to have the leader of the group call out loud the commands they want beforehand. Frustratingly, if one person in the group messes up, the entire chain is broken and the team must start again.
Multiplayer focuses on transporting a magical egg to the end of a level, and then hatching it through the power of music. To move the egg, all four Patapon must use the march command (Pata-Pata-Pata-Pon). Without the group working in tandem, the egg will go nowhere. Of course, the challenge of going from point A to B is made a bit more challenging due to enemies that will hinder your progress. At TGS, we had to fight a dragon all the way -- and with a time limit (10 minutes), we could feel the pressure rising as we inched ever-so-slowly towards the goal. By coordinating our attacks, we were able to make it with some time to spare ... about 2 minutes left. However, this blogger could definitely feel his blood pressure rising every time some unnamed European games journalist kept on messing up. C'mon, man! Fever!
Through our session, we noticed that the Hero Patapon were able to do some unique attacks, when Fever was high enough. At one point during the level, we were able to summon lightning to attack the dragon. Unfortunately, we weren't able to replicate that. When we got the egg across the goal line, we then had the challenge of hatching it. To do so, we were treated to a "Don Chaka" session, a drumming mini-game where we had to repeat the beats shown on screen. Thankfully, we were able to follow along well enough, and we were all treated to some rewards.
Patapon's multiplayer seems like a natural addition for the series. Thankfully, Sony has opted to take advantage of one of PSP's least utilized features: Game Sharing. This means anyone with a PSP can play Patapon 2 multiplayer -- so long as one person has the game on their system. In fact, this mode is quite extensive. While other games will only offer a small taste or demo of the game, the entire Patapon multiplayer experience is available through Game Sharing. That means so long as one person has the disc/download, three other friends can tag along. The hope is that not only will this make multiplayer easier for players, but it will encourage newcomers to try the game. If they like it, perhaps they'll download it (directly onto their PSPs, via the direct PSP Store).
With significantly expanded content for the single player mission, new Patapon types, and a brand new multiplayer mode (that takes full advantage of Game Sharing), it's clear that Patapon 2 is a huge improvement over the original. However, we don't expect this sequel to pick up any new converts. If you weren't a fan of the original's musical gameplay, you're not going to find the experience different in the sequel. However, if you just wanted to expand the Patapon experience with more depth, then Patapon 2 is a clear must-have for the PSP. It releases in Japan later this year.