In a few hours Patapon becomes publically available in North America for a cool $20. Beating the drums behind the scenes is Hiroyuki Kotani, the Creative Director of Patapon. You may remember Mad Maestro (aka Bravo Music in Japan), a PlayStation 2 music/rhythm game, it was one of Kotani’s earlier titles. However, Patapon is a distant relative from Mad Maestro. Patapon oozes with style and originality. How did it come to exist? Find out here.
Patapon isn't a cookie cutter game, it is out of the ordinary (in a very good way!). What inspired the creation of Patapon?
HK: It all started when I met the characters created by Rolito, which we now call the Patapons.
They’re cute but at the same time kind of primitive, with a wild charm. These little guys inspired me to create gameplay in the form of drum sounds to traverse through a level and enter battle.
This project started to realize the sounds and visions I had in mind so I can truly say the Patapons inspired me to create this game.
What about the characters? Why are the Patapons walking eyeballs? Are the Zigaton at war with the Patapon because they have angled eyes?
As I decided to create the game based on the inspiration I received from the Patapons, they were the first element in consideration, not the game mechanics. This game was created for them (laughs).
While the Patapons believe that they will regain glory and happiness by reaching 'the world's end' according to their legend, the Zigotons believe that allowing the Patapons to do so will be the root of the evil and ruin the world. That is why they try to stop the Patapons.
I think it's really clever how the noble Patapon warriors believe the player is a god. Why did the designers choose to break the fourth wall and make the player literally part of the game?
I believe that a rite of passage is necessary to naturally lead the audience into the fantasy world.
Harry Potter takes a train from Platform Nine and Three Quarters to begins his journey to a school of wizardry, and Bastian reads a mysterious book before he decide to answer the call from Childlike Empress before he departs to Phantasien (Fantastica). It was very natural to me that a player initially signs a strange contract in a book about ancient legends, where they become a ‘God’ that is tasked with leading a tribe.
While the player can understand what the Patapons are saying, they cannot send any messages to them in any other forms but the rhythms of the drums. I believe that this restriction adds attraction to this story/game.
In the opening scenes, when Hatapon asks to the player ' Wait? Could it be…Oh, Mighty Patapon?!', a gentle puff of wind strokes Hatapon as it says 'Yes, he is here'.
This scene was directed by Ejun, the director of the game, and is one of my favorite scenes in the game.
I would be more than happy if the users find a fun and slightly wistful feeling in this pure relationship with the small lives that are the Patapons.
Japan didn't get Pata-demo discs. Does that mean the Spear of Protection is an item created specifically for North America? < Spencer’s note: This question was asked before the downloadable demo was announced for other regions. >
Recently it was announced that a demo will be distributed in Japan as well. This Spear of Protection however is unique to North American and European demos. We managed to make it with some big help from our North American and European colleagues.
The weapon will be a nice help to Yaripon, the centre and the core for both attack and defense in the Patapon army. Please leverage it to defeat the Zigotons and bosses!
Other than localizing the dialogue, did Sony make any changes to Patapon for North America?
Most of the changes were rather minor. All players around the world can play and talk about basically the same Patapon game. However I think the changes made for North America in terms of dialogue and humor were transferred perfectly. I really the U.S. production team for their wonderful work to recreate every humorous line of dialogue and nuance in the original Japanese texts.
What was the biggest challenge during the localization process?
Since the world premiere movie in the last year's E3, we have received great responses from North America as well as the other parts of the world. It was very encouraging for us so we tried really hard and worked on the localized versions simultaneously with the Japanese version as to provide it to you as soon as possible while making it as high quality as possible.
Speaking of differences between Japan and the US, SCEA is releasing Patapon for only $20. In comparison, Patapon was released as a full price game at 4,980 yen ($46) in Japan. We are getting Patapon for less than half price! Why?
We feel this game deserves some attention but as you know smaller games like this get caught up in the shuffle of bigger named titles, especially in North America. This price point should really get the masses on board with getting the game and we are excited to see more people try it because we think they’ll be hooked!
One difference between Patapon and other music games is there are less visual cues. No falling lines, words to follow or floating arrows. The screen flashes, but that's it! Can you give us some tips on how to play Patapon and lower the learning curve?
Well, at first, the players are not supposed to be commanded by the game but should command the game as a God (laughs).
Let's start with feeling relaxed and happy as players start to listen to the everlasting background rhythm in the game. Leave your body to the rhythm and you will soon learn how to keep it right without really trying.
Try not to rely on your eyes but feel it with your ears and your body. They you will find out Patapon is, even compared to the other rhythm action, a very simple and fun game.
How long does it take to get to march to Earthend?
It totally depends on gameplay styles.
In addition to progressing through missions, you can collect weapons and create new Patapons…
I have gotten quite a bit of feedback so far and I estimate maybe 15 to 20 hours as an average for the first play-through. If the user prefers to have more fun with the game's growth factor, customization, and replayable bosses, it would take 20 to 40 hours, I assume. What could be an interesting gameplay twist is if expert gamers try to play through as if in time attack mode. That could get really interesting!
I imagine Patapon would make a great PlayStation Network title with online battles and/or a customizable soundtrack. Is Sony planning on making Patapon a series like LocoRoco?
I cannot say that it will be a sequel to Patapon but as a professional game designer I have already got a playable version of my next game in my head (laughs).
It is difficult to make a framework for a next game that is full of fun music, characters, and gameplay etc. In fact it’s very rough to decide what idea should be implemented in what stage. However, I will try my best so that I will be able to introduce my next game in the not-so-distant future. I hope you will find it very fun too!