The Patapon 3 demo on display at this year's E3 is an odd one in that it's primarily designed for multiplayer (both ad hoc and online). Up to four players can each take control of a hero and join forces against any enemies that they encounter as they move from left to right in time with the music. They need to complete a brief tutorial first though, which covers the basics for newcomers and serves as a good reminder for those of us who haven't played Patapon or Patapon 2 in a while.
Upon starting the demo, we were prompted to choose one of three legendary heroes to play as. Save for being highlighted with different colors (blue, orange, and green), the only difference between the heroes was the weapons that they carried. Our choices included a spear, a bow, and a sword and shield combo. After we made our choices, the tutorial got under way, and we were pretty surprised by what we saw.
The bold Patapon art style remains intact where the titular soldiers are concerned, but the backgrounds now look quite different The tutorial, for example, takes place on a battlefield where the Patapon army has clearly suffered massive losses. The bodies of dozens of Patapon soldiers litter the battlefield--not piled up on the ground, but frozen like statues. Clouds of mist drift lazily across the screen, and shafts of sunlight do their best to penetrate the thick brown clouds above. The darker and somewhat more realistic art style employed for the backgrounds makes Patapon 3 feel less chirpy than its predecessors, but also contrasts with the original, bold art style of the soldiers brilliantly.
There are no Patapon survivors, but you're resurrected as a legendary hero (complete with ornate headdress and great-looking weapons), and as the basic movement tutorial teaches you to move from left to right by hitting the square (pata) and circle (pon) buttons in time with the beat, some of the bodies that you pass also come to life and join you. Other than the slightly different art style, the main difference that we noticed between this and previous games was that the "fever" mechanic (which makes your units more powerful as a reward for successfully maintaining your rhythm for extended periods) can now be made even more powerful. The red snake that appears onscreen and extends to its full length when fever is initiated can now be charged up a second time, at which point it turns yellow and has spiky edges. We're not entirely clear on what difference this makes, but it seems reasonable to assume that it makes the Patapon even more skilled and resilient.
Both of the previous Patapon games are great, so we're naturally pretty excited for Patapon 3. Expect more coverage of this promising sequel just as soon as we can get our hands on a copy.