Patapon Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris
Patapon won the praise of PSP gamers with its immersive rhythm gameplay, imaginative visual presentation, and amazing musical score. The musical score was created principally by Kemmei Adachi the artist behind quirky scores such as LocoRoco and Devil Dice with some help from Daisuke Miyake. He created music that didn't simply support the game, but instead was the driving force behind it. A soundtrack wasn't made available after the game's release, presumably because of the challenge of presenting adaptive music out of context. But two sequels later in 2011, Sony made the dreams of many Patapon fans come true with an iTunes release.
The first level theme "Gyorocchi Theme" provides the defining example of Kemmei Adachi's unique, lauded approach to scoring the game. The composer sets the rhythm for the gameplay using strong but steady tribal drum beats in quadruple metre. Soon enough, listeners are introduced to the childish tribal chanting that serves as the focal point of the score. The track grows more complex as the gameplay deepens, with various exotic instruments emerging and the chants growing wilder from the 0:58 mark. The implementation of the elements is spot on, with voice actors Blico and Kemmei Adachi bringing so much personality to the game. The final result is a very imaginative depiction of Patapon's little stickmen and is perfectly synchronised with the gameplay. But above all, it's very catchy and accessible. I dare you not to chant "Pata-Pata-Pata Pon" after hearing this!
Throughout the game, the buttons combos for commands and the pace and rhythm at which they are inputted remains similar. As a result, the other nine level themes on the soundtrack needed to share similar elements to the original: an emphasis on childish chanting, conserved rhythmic and melodic structures, a strong percussive thrust, and a two minute playtime. The instrumental backing of the music changes considerably, as do the voices used to portray the tribe, but there still tends to be more continuity than novelty. In combination, the songs build on a winning formula to offer a seamless, familiar accompaniment to the marching gameplay. However, the songs can prove annoying and dull on the stand-alone soundtrack, since there are ten similarly structured songs presented in close succession. This isn't helped by the fact the songs develop in the same pattern throughout the soundtrack.
There is nevertheless enough variation in most of the themes to be somewhat interesting. On a stand-alone level, it is interesting to witness how artists Kemmei Adachi and Daisuke Miyake fuse Patapon's drums and chants with different stylings. Listeners can expect everything from flamenco in "Ore Ore Ore's Theme", samba for Rinririn, and even hip-hop on the final track. The influences are kept fairly understated, so that they don't detract from the main focus, but tend to be well done. In the actual gameplay, the variations also make specific levels more unique. For instance, Miyake's "Acchichichi's Theme" is perfect in desert levels with its exotic Arabian rhythms, alluring female vocals, and ever-increasing complexity. Even better, the final level theme hybridises the familiar chanting with a dark orchestral undertone that captures the wrath of the antagonist.
The rest of the soundtrack features tracks used during the game's menus, events, and jingles. The majority of these tracks work well in context, but are too brief to make a significant stand-alone impact. The thirty second opener "The Mysterious Book" immediately testifies to the originality of Patapon's sound with a bizarre mix of bagpipe leads, marching drums, and even didgeridoo parts. The four themes used during the Miracle dances provide fun twists on the 'chant + drums' concept of the level themes, but are too similar to one another. "Patapon Legend" is a suitably melodramatic cinematic to reflect the darker components of Patapon, while "Morning" and "Awakening" provide sparkling finishes to the soundtrack. However, the crowning achievement of the soundtrack is the end credits theme a very creative medley of the level themes featuring a festival-like atmosphere and plenty of jubilant childish vocals.
The music of Patapon generated enormous attention at the time of its release. After all, it was central to defining both the image of the game and the direction of the gameplay. What's more, it was so novel and catchy in its approach that it certainly endeared to most PSP gamers. Nevertheless, it's definitely the type of soundtrack that is best appreciated in context, at least at first. Due to the similarity of the gameplay themes and the brevity of everything else, the stand-alone experience can be a little lacklustre without the context. However, those who enjoyed the music in the game should relish the opportunity to download this.
Overall Score: 8/10