Is it just me? Or does it seem like it has been months and months since there was a new, exclusive or fun PSP game? The so-so sequel to Pursuit Force hit stores a few weeks ago and though it was fun, calling it a "great" or "must-play" title would be the very definition of overstatement (on foot controls dampen the fun noticeably and that is pretty much unacceptable for a game like Pursuit Force; it's really only a one-trick pony in the first place). Before Pursuit Force, if my memory serves me, the last great PSP game was Jeanne D'Arc, and it hit stores months ago.
Well, for the first time this year (and possibly the first time in the PSP history), the great games are coming hard and fast. In the next month alone, three of the most highly anticipated PSP games are scheduled to be released; God of War: Chains of Olympus, Final Fantasy: Crisis Core and, starting the flood, Patapon. Surely the sequels to games like God of War and Final Fantasy are going to be huge sellers, but the fact of the matter is this - Patapon for the PSP is, without a doubt, the best game released yet in 2008 and could easily remain as such through the end of year. It is just that good. Kratos and Sephiroth have officially been bumped down to the B team; the PSP is Patapon territory now.
Before I actually got my hands on the finished game, I had read and heard a lot about Patapon, though I still really didn't have any idea what I was in for until I actually played the game myself. Other reviewers have been singing Patapon's praises for a couple of weeks now, but I noticed that none of them accurately describe what the game is actually about. I heard a few reviewers tossing around terms like 'real time strategy' and 'rhythmic action,' but that really doesn't tell you anything, does it? For all a reader might know from that, Patapon is an action game with a bizarre title starring the 'Peanut Butter Jelly' banana from the Internet (yeah… that's what I think of when I think rhythmic action… sue me).
In reality, Patapon is a bit like a tribal twist on the mash up of the strategy and music game genres. All you are truly given control over is a drum beat, which can be used to order your army to attack, defend, march or perform a few other actions to progress through the game. As you command your army, your soldiers will gain increased powers, new items and even new jobs, all in the name of pleasing you, their god (the default name the game chooses for you is Kami, Japanese for god and nerdese for a green lizard who lives with a guy in a turban on top of a giant pole (DBZ humor)). You'll be tasked with overcoming environmental hazards, like deserts or water, natural enemies, like predators (bosses) or harmless animals (hunted for items) and even a rival army of creatures called Zigatons.