I was one of the lucky few selected to play Patapon 3 with Mr. Greg Miller from IGN.com this weekend to help him with his review. I can’t nail down an absolute score yet in part because I am at best 25% into the story mode at this point.
What I can tell you is this: Patapon 3 is an amazing game. It is one of the most enjoyable single player experiences for the system, as well as a game with depth you would be thrilled to find on a PS3 game. There is a great mix of guys you can absolutely trash, and guys who you really need to work to beat. No bosses are really all that cheap, but you have to play levels a few times to beat them, if nothing else to learn the moves and tells of different enemies.
I might like the game’s single player more then some because as I think about it, Patapon 3 doesn’t play like a modern game in many ways. It plays like an old school NES/SNES game. You need to study your enemy, try different tactics, and be prepared to fail. The thing Patapon 3 is so great at however, is keeping you interested even after getting walloped 4-5 times by the same boss.
Part of the way it stays fresh is with loot drops and character building/equipping. You start the game with the choice of being and archer, a spearman, or a shield holder. Within each of these classes there are 8 sub-classes you can evolve into, and if you level the base character far enough you then unlock the other class trees as well. This gives the opportunity, when deeper into the game, to have a team with you being an archer, and 3 shield-men protecting you and you’re flag holder, or three archers raining down fire with one shield protecting. Along with this each sub-class has multiple weapon and armor types, each of which you can find with fire, ice, poison, or lighting power imbued. Part of the challenge of Patapon 3 is finding the right combination if you are going to face an ice boss, but you’re ice crossbow is level 15, and your fire longbow is only level 3.
Where this game really took a surprising turn for me was with multiplayer. Basically you take you’re hero, and go hang out with up to 3 other Heros, and run normal missions as well as Verses challenges. I haven’t had a chance to play Vs. yet (as the servers were empty), but the missions were amazing. Your hero always has a bit better attacks than the AI helpers you have, so seeing 2 archers raining fire, a sorcerer launching meteorites, and a knight charging forward with flames coming off of him like a rocket is amazingly intense. It also gives you the ability to use a bit more strategy- if you have a healer you can have him hang back by half a screen, well out of harms way, just continually casting heal spells, or you can have a knight charge far forward as a scout and to push back any small time guys to protect archers from close quarters combat.
It does have its limitations, mostly due to the limits of the system itself. The chat system used is pre-canned phrases. As Greg said in his running-review, once your group gets a feel for each other, you could probably live with just those, but you cannot really lay down a strategy, or apologize for setting the grass on fire, which in turn burned your other archer to a crisp. I understand why they went this route, as allowing text input on the psp would really bog things down. But having the option in the hideout at least would have been a welcome addition. As it was, our group used skype chat to communicate, and it made the multiplayer a revelation. If you plan on playing with people on a regular basis, get to know them, and, whenever possible, use skype, or AIM, or tinychat, or something to keep in touch.
As it stands now, I have a tough time nailing down a score for this game. Its definitely more than an 8.5 in my book, but it is also not a 10. It really could range anywhere from a 9 to a 9.5, but that could move depending on how the rest of the story mode goes, and how vs multiplayer feels.
I again want to thank Greg, and IGN for this. It really was amazing to get a glimpse into his day to day of having games before anyone else, and having a job where at least one component of it is making great friends while trying to slay dragons.