serves up a slice of life proving that indeed, Trotmobiles
are the wave of the future. Or is that the past? by
23, 2006 - You've
got to be in the right headspace for Atlus and Irem's
Steambot Chronicles. If you're a twitch gamer or one
that can't stand any down time between explosions
or headshots, clearly Steambot wasn't created with
you in mind. As the Menu screen will tell you, the
game is " A relaxing non-linear adventure".
You'll also hear the menu screen advertise the game:
"This is one groovy tale....STEAMBOT CHRONICLES!"
"Be a bad guy if you want....STEAMBOT CHRONICLES!!"
I could listen to those voices all day.... Especially
the guy who screams "STEAMBOT CHRONICLES!!"
Personally I prefer the Japanese loosely translated
name which is Junk Action Romance Bumpy Trot,
as the title Steambot Chronicles does absolutely nothing
story begins when you awaken on the beach, having
been found lying unconscious by a girl named Coriander
or Connie for short. You're suffering from amnesia,
although your name is revealed to be Vanilla. From
this point, it's up to you entirely how you want to
react and what you want to do with your life. You
can be a good guy or a bad guy, although that's ever
so slightly misleading. You can be a "bad guy"
as far as that has been defined in the world of Steambot
Chronicles, where even the bad guys aren't really
so bad. Irem does give you free reign in regards to
even the most innocuous conversation choices, but
don't imagine yourself becoming the ultimate darklord,
ripping the innocent from their beds and tearing their
spines out. Ultimately the townsfolk you irk with
your bad attitude will just think you're a jerk.
around in this strange land requires the use of Trotmobiles,
which apparently have replaced the old-fashioned cars
you'll see scattered around the world. Trotmobiles
are bi-pedal mechs which can be used for transportation,
farming, construction and yes, even evil! You'll come
across one of your very own early on in the game and
as you progress you'll be able to customize its parts,
colors and plates which are completely dependant on
which ones you'll either purchase, find or earn.
figure quite heavily into the overall scheme of things
so you won't be able to avoid using them. You'll be
required to drive them from town to town and you'll
often be forced to battle enemies with them. Coming
to terms with the controls can be daunting at first,
but a helpful tutorial on Trotmobiles is available
from the menu screen. Using a two analog stick control
configuration for movement with both arms (used for
combat or picking up objects) are controlled with
R1 and L1 shoulder buttons. Jumping and Boost are
mapped to the R2 and L2 butons as well. Anyone who
has played Katamari Damacy will probably have a much
easier time overall controlling the Trotmobile, although
during intense battles it's quite easy to get overwhelmed
and confused by the controls. Luckily there's a battle
arena where you can hone your skills so you'll be
more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Since
this aspect of the game is of utmost importance, you're
ability to control the Trots will be in direct proportion
to how much enjoy your time with Steambot. While controlling
your bot during a one on one battle isn't necessarily
too bad, when you're faced with larger battles you'll
quickly realize your lock-on target ability is more
for keeping your target in your sights than it is
for actually targetting your opponent with long range
missiles and other projectiles. This means you'll
most likely have to get up close and personal with
larger "bosses" which is problematic to
say the least at times. This can definitely lead to
some frustrating battles - which can't be ignored
- not only due to having to replay them over and over
but the travel time from your last save point can
also be quite tedious.
game does live up to its promise of non-linear adventure
as you can spend your time farming, battling other
trots, going on quests for people, playing in a band
or stirring up trouble. There are some frustrating
limitations in the towns, since you'll either only
be able to go around on foot or have the Trot set
to auto-pilot - which means killer rampages are out
of the question. I'm not sure why Irem felt it necessary
to auto-pilot the Trot around town, since you'll be
forced to sit and wait while your mech waltzes you
over to your destination, waiting for stoplights along
the way. It's the video game equivalent to watching
grass grow and should have been implemented differently.
If you desire to become a musician and travel with
Connie and the Garland Globetrotters, you'll have
to spend some time practicing your instrument(s).
You'll start off with a harmonica and upgrade from
there. Practicing takes the form of a music/rhythm
game where you'll need to press the corresponding
face button on the PS2 and either hold it or press
it when it enters the zone. Unfortunately the music
you'll play borders on the lamest possible MIDI music
ever, which won't motivate you to practice.
mentioned customization of your character and the
Trotmobile can while away the hours the further you
get into the game. You'll locate items in trunks hidden
around the world - in barns, outside, in houses -
and even though you're a "good guy" you
won't think twice about taking them and most of the
people won't even notice that you did. You can pause
the game at anytime with the triangle button and view
items or change clothes from the inventory screen.
Saving your game generally requires you to look for
a place to park your Trot and they are fairly numerous
so that you won't ever be too far from your initial
destination if you have to restart. My advice is to
always stop and save whenever you're given the chance.
Sort of like that old adage " Never pass up an
opportunity to use the bathroom."
Steambot Chronicles is a little too "non-threatening"
and the people you'll interact with come off as quite
bland, including Vanilla. There are attempts at drama
but you won't find anything here on par with the pathos
or angst of Final Fantasy. That being said, there's
nothing particularly wrong with that especially if
younger players are going to give Steambot a whirl.
Just take note that the game is rated T for Teen due
to some situations and cartoony violence. The non-threatening
nature of the game carries over to the visual representation
of the characters as even the thugs are a little weak
in the knees.
the game is a borderline RPG, you can expect a lot
of voice-acting which runs the gamut in terms of quality,
the same of which can be said for the background music.
Far too much reliance on MIDI quality instruments
which cheapens the overall appeal of Steamboat. If
Irem's reasoning was to create an auro of "old
school" RPG background ambience, they succeeded
only too well as Steambot just seems dated because
the game doesn't nearly capture the graphical charm
of Kingdom Hearts II (which is the same price at $49.99)
as the game is rife with bland, repeating textures,
towns with no personality, hazy horizons to reduce
draw distance....all things that you'd expect from
a first generation PS2 game which Steambot Chronicles
resembles in many ways. Of course, you don't play
a game like this for the glitz and visual pizazz,
but for $50 it sure doesn't hurt to have some. Had
Atlus put Steambot on store shelves for $29.99 it
would make the game far more appealing and easier
to recommend to any other group other than the niche
market it's aimed at anyway.
Chronicles is far from the perfect adventure, but
it does manage to deliver on its promise of entertainment
value although I'm quite sure $50 is far too steep
for the priviledge of living Vanilla's life for awhile.
Many aspects of the game become tedious after awhile,
but once you get past the 6 hour or more mark, there
is a lot more to do in terms of story and adventure.
As I mentioned at the outset, you either have to be
in the right headspace for this one or really be craving
a "relaxing non-linear adventure". Much
of the game felt like Harvest Moon to me and I found
the pace sometimes a little too laid back for my taste.
Unlike other "sandbox" titles which focus
on the violence you can create, Irem really just wants
you to explore the world they created and have some
fun. In that sense Steamboat Chronicles might just
be what the gaming doctor ordered.