If you're into rhythm games and owned a PlayStation Portable, Patapon and it's sequels represented some of the best in the genre. Fast forward some twelve years, and the sequel has now been remastered for the PlayStation 4. Patapon 2 continues the story of the first game and sees your tribe shipwrecked while making their way to Earthend. It's up to you to rebuild your army and guide them home with your godly, musical powers.
Patapon 2 Remastered is a mix of several seemingly disparate genres, with rhythm gameplay as the foundation, and a decent amount of real-time strategy and RPG systems. At the start, you'll only have access to two drums and a single command to advance your troops, but you quickly unlock more drums and commands which you'll have to use deftly to advance. Finding the right balance between attacking, defending, retreating and more, while keeping track of the beat and executing your commands at the right time can be a challenge. The game can also be a bit withholding when it comes to guidance and tutorials, with a fair bit of experimenting needed to understand everything.
While the focus is on the rhythmic battle gameplay, between missions you'll head to your tribe's base to upgrade troops or take part in side missions to gather materials. There's a decent amount of depth in the upgrades, offering a good sense of control over your troops and how they perform. Eventually, you'll find yourself hitting a brick wall with some particularly tough missions, but going back and replaying previous missions will net you more special resources to upgrade your army to try again. I was surprised by how much grinding was required to keep up with some of the more difficult encounters. Factoring in having to replay previous missions, the game is alarmingly long.
Like the first remaster, there's a small amount of latency, but this didn't have too much of a negative effect on me after the first hour or so. It can be a bit off-putting, and the game doesn't feature any options to tweak this either which feels like a massive omission, especially considering how integral a role rhythm plays in the game.
Patapon 2 uses sound wonderfully with your drum hits sounding different depending on how on time with the beat you are. After playing for a while, hitting the beat becomes second nature, and I quickly fell into a trance-like state while tapping my foot and buttons along to the excellent music. Hitting a grove and making the right commands is immensely satisfying and for some will be reason enough to jump back into the Patapon world. Making a perfect string of beats not only feels great but has an in-game effect by putting your troops into a 'fever' mode which makes all of their moves and abilities more effective. Maintaining that fever is tricky as missing a single beat or messing up a command input will see you having to build the combo back up again.
As far as remasters go, there's not an awful lot going on here. The game looks good when you're playing and runs smoothly, but for reasons unknown, the cutscenes have seen no improvement over the PSP version and look terribly blurry. Outside of the removal of multiplayer nothing else has really changed for the remaster. There's no additional content for the PS4 version, so this is about as bare-bones a remaster as they come. While I can see many enjoying the game, the difficulty spikes and latency issues make this one a bit tough to recommend. While I didn't have any significant issues, the game feels like a relic of the past, especially in its presentation, and I did start to feel a bit tired of it long before I finished. The gameplay loop is undoubtedly entertaining, but some questionable design choices and the occasional lack in player guidance can lead to a bit more frustration than I would like.
If you're an absolute die-hard rhythm game fan, you may enjoy it but if it doesn't appeal to you, playing the game likely won't change your mind. I would have loved to have seen just a little more care and additional features in the remaster. There are some great ideas, and the gameplay loop is satisfying, but some will struggle to maintain interest.
+ Plenty of content.
+ Excellent sound and music.
+ Unique art style.
- Difficulty curve may be too challenging for some.
- Cutscenes look dire.
- Dated presentation.
- Could use better tutorials & explanations.