Review by The Mimic

Reviewed: 08/16/06 | Updated: 08/17/06

At the ready! Steambot Chronicles.

Designed by Irem, published and localized by Atlus, I present to you... Steambot Chronicles (Bumpy trot in japan!) A mostly non-linear adventure in older times. Wait; hold that thought. Put down your sword and chain mail. You've gone a little too far back. We're talking about a revolution! Electricity is just coming into play, automobiles are on the streets and... we have giant robots.

Wait a second. Something isn't right. Man, technology sure is confusing. You know why everyone liked Thomas Edison? Because if they didn't, he'd crush their house in his giant mech.

Let's continue the introduction, for I am sure some of our readers are curious as to what a "Trotmobile" is. A trotmobile is, more or less, a large mech. You're not city-sized, although some of your enemies can be. Moving right along... The general configuration of these trotmobiles that play a huge role in the game; two arms, two legs, a body with a grill (Lights, or perhaps something else,) something over the body, such as a roll-cage or a roof and possibly something on the back (A flatbed, a bucket or even a bomb!) The potential pilot is positioned precariously, on top of the body (Hey, any extra points for alliteration?) which leads me to wonder how they survive missile fire from their enemies.

Into the core of the review we shall go.

I start with our Story. You, the player, take control of Vanilla. A blond-haired kid that finds himself on a beach with a nasty case of amnesia and a really good case of being woken up by a pretty girl. Everything from here on in rolls out to the player's whim, more or less. You have total control over Vanilla's personality. You can be greedy, sarcastic, or perhaps a gentleman or selfless hero. Tell that pretty girl that if she wants an escort home, she's going to have to pay. Or, you could offer a ride back out of the kindness of your heart. The world is your oyster as you learn the origins of yourself (Barely, I admit) and the origins of your friends. Indeed; Steambot Chronicles features an entertaining cast of characters, and even the most useless NPCs have some sort of mention in the Album. The whole game world feels connected and whole. Yet the only thing you can't be is tough; Vanilla is a bit of a wimp physically and will find no one he can stand up to outside his trotmobile.

I feel the need now to give Graphics a quick mention. They're very well cel-shaded; I consider graphics to be perfect when I have no complaints about them whatsoever. I quite nearly forgot this part of the review, which should tell you that they are very good, but not mind blowing. There is however, some slow down in a few situations; usually huge, wide open areas; you'll be crawling along at a terrible rate but these areas are often combat free, so it's forgivable. I am however, surprised at the lack of dynamic weather. We have a day and night system that's pretty good, but weather is static and only present in areas that are designed for it, and they are few and far between at that.

Help, Help! I'm tied to a storyline by the threads of fate!

It sounds nice on paper, but the game doesn't get fully non-linear for a while. Sorry. The pretty girl wants to head back to town, and while you control the details there are certain things that must be done. Yet, you may still be a hero or a bad-guy, each with a branching story path and several endings. Once you finish all of story the game has for you, total freedom is your reward. Although for the most part, the game is more then happy to wait as long as you want to continue. As you head into the story, more locations become available, so some storyline progress is good in a Grand Theft Auto sense; more places to go, more fun. Yet the game does pressure you to continue; there are things to do! Especially as a band member.

This is no Zaku boy, no Zaku!

Behold! Gameplay! The section which requires the most amount of talent and finesse from a writer. Yep. You're in for a really bad, bumpy ride, folks. A bumpy trot, if you will. Let's start off with the trotmobiles; the "mechs" or "robots" so frequently seen in this game. They usually have two arms, two legs, a grill (Something in the front, like lights or spikes,) a back (Like a flatbed, a bucket, or even a bomb!) And of course, a body of varying size. Above this body one finds the roof-portion; anything from a roll-cage to a roof. All of this is replaceable. Change the arms into blades, shields, rocket launchers, a trident, a ball-and-chain and so on. The legs can be changed quite a bit; a few sets of wheels, spider-like legs and various other configurations to appeal to a variety of tastes. Thus, the entire trot is changeable and may remind one of games like Armored Core. We'll cover the other aspects of gameplay in a moment, while I give trotmobile movement a mention. Try not to get confused; I'll cover the rest in a bit.

See the red button? NEVER press the red button.

As a sub-section of Gameplay, I present the Controls. This section can be skipped if you're getting sick of reading. A widely accepted fact is that a trotmobile moves just like a Katamari out of, well, Katamari Damacy. By this I mean that the player controls their questionable creation via utilizing both of the controller's joysticks. Moving both sticks forward or back simply send the player in that direction. Sideways movement causes a side-step procedure and moving one stick up while the other one is held down will cause one to spin and/or twist; all of these movements are assisted with a possible dash command. You can hurl yourself forward, back, to a side or just facing the other direction. This is rather essential for good combat. Moving right out of trotmobile territory, general on-foot movement is exceptionally simple and requires no documentation.

Sing us a song, you're the piano man...

Let's now cover the other Gameplay aspects; the musical bits along with world manipulation. Standing right alongside the trotmobiles is music! With a multitude of instruments available, from the harmonica to the guitar, trumpet to drums, it is a good day to be a musician. Playing such music is a key element to the game and should not be ignored. The player may engage in concerts to earn money, or they may play on the street or in bars, also with a possible monetary reward. Music sequences play out a with a rhythm based game; dare I say, similar to Dance Dance Revolution with a controller. The aspects vary from instrument to instrument as does the difficulty. Your first instrument, the Harmonica, is likely somewhere in the 'medium' level of difficulty.

You have a few songs to play, but some may argue that the genres could vary a bit more; a few of the tracks are a little sad or melancholy. The quality of these tracks however, is very high, so this may be forgiven. The vocals are excellent, although I must note some over use of the word "and." It is totally possible that I'm nit-picking, however. Overall, the musical aspects of the game are pretty refined and manage to intertwine with other aspects of the game perfectly. Being a trotmobile riding harmonica player doesn't look that out of place.

...and that is how I made my first million.

You've got robots. You've got music. What else do you need? Well, for starters, you can utilize the game's Stock Market to bring in money. You can rent a few apartments, invite ladies over and engage in a date of varying delightfulness, although you won't see anything graphic. Heck, you won't even hear anything graphic. Now, I said you could rent apartments, right? You can also furnish these apartments a bit, some of which is important to having guests over. To add to the world, you may get a few haircuts and a few new outfits. You can play with a grand total of two bands assuming I didn't miss anything, and give gifts to the ladies. There are a few details in the cities that are nice; you can ride a train, bus and trolley. You can transport people from place to place, a bit of a taxi-game if you will, and delve into dungeons for treasure. You can be a merchant and trade goods from city to city; a rather profitable business. Lastly, you can fight in a few arenas for fun and profit. Tired of all that? Go play some billiards in the bar. Yes, the game has quite a few activities to choose from. Your actions will even earn you a nickname too, affected by your clothing, trotmobile set up and various other variables.

On the other hand, I feel as though the game could have more outfits and such to choose from, and some of them (Or perhaps one of them) are exceptionally out of place for all parts of the game. Towards the start of the game, playing in a band or on the street is the fastest way to make money (Assuming that you are, well, good at it!) Yet later on such endeavors may become pushed aside by more epic money making schemes, like the stock market and arena fighting or betting. Your nicknames often come around several times too and become rather boring after a while until you find some odd, new one. In addition these names are rarely spoken in the game.

The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say...

Epilogue! We are met with an incredibly unique game with equally unique features at every corner, badgered but otherwise un-bothered by various little problems. The real question would be; Is Steambot Chronicles worth shelling out a variable sum of cash for? That all depends. Do you like mecha? Rhythm based games? The industrial revolution and/or "Steampunk" elements? Lastly, do you like pretty-open-ended gameplay or minigames? If you said "Yes" to a few of those, Steambot Chronicles might just be right up your alley. A gem like this game only comes around so often and being published by Atlus, we might only see it around for a short while. Buy or rent? Well, that's your decision. If the game sounds rather appealing to you despite my terrible hold on wit and the English language, I'm willing to bet that it's worth a buy; yet renting is never a bad idea!

Steambot Chronicles is given a 9. Wonderful graphics, very entertaining gameplay and a rather original story with plenty of twists and intrigue, slightly scratched by slow down issues, back-tracking and some features that didn't realize their full potential and perhaps a lack of difficulty outside of certain arena fights. An enjoyable game with a lot of extras adding up to gameplay that will last a very, very long time if your interest is caught.

...And so, the curtain drops on the stage, the light dims and the audience departs...

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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