Defined as “a relaxing non linear adventure” Steambot Chronicles, Atlus’ localized version of Bumpy Trot, doesn’t fit into a standard genre category. The game has adventure elements as you explore the world in search of Vanilla’s identity. Instead of turn based fighting battles are more similar to Mechwarrior where you fight real time with a steam powered trotmobile. There’s also music/rhythm action when you pick up the Harmonica and master songs plus mini games like 9-ball. How did the amalgamation of gameplay genres turn out in Steambot Chronicles? Find out right here.
The game doesn’t start out with a post apocalyptic crisis or an evil corporation on the rise. It begins with the protagonist Vanilla Beans waking up on a beach with no memory of how he got there. He’s awoken by Connie, a young girl part of a traveling music band called the Garland Globetrotters. Vanilla greets her with a friendly remark upon meeting her or maybe he snaps back with “Could you keep it down?“. Instead of following a set script Steambot Chronicles gives players a choice on how to react to the world. Vanilla can be an outstanding citizen or be a jerk, it’s up to you. He can also choose to side with Connie or join up with the Killer Elephants gang and control Nefroburg.
Whatever Vanilla chooses his Trotmobile riding skills are going to come in handy. When traveling around the world of Steambot Chronicles your mecha like Trotmobile is how to get around. You can move the Trotmobile around with the dual analog sticks. Pressing the top trigger buttons let you dash forward or leap into the sky. When you run into the Killer Elephants or runaway robots you can battle with your Trotmobile. The screen doesn’t shift into combat mode, since fighting takes place in real time. You can use your two arms each mapped to a different trigger button to do battle. By entering mechanic shops Vanilla can upgrade his Trotmobile’s arms from scrap to swords, guns and shields. The combat vaguely reminded me of using Mega Man’s ride armor in battle or maybe it is like a slower version of Virtua On. All you need to do is dash up to an enemy and flail your arms or strafe and shoot. Boss battles are an entirely different story. Instead of facing one mech you’re up against huge ships. One of boss battle brings a train with mounted cannons, that is twice the height of Vanilla’s Trotmobile to fight. There’s no way you’re going to win by swinging your sword arm randomly. Instead climbing up a mountain and then jumping on the mechanized monster is the best way of attacking. The boss battles give a similar feeling to Shadow of the Colossus when you’re facing a hulking giant with the tiny wanderer.
Early on the game is filled with fetch quests where Vanilla needs to bring medicine to Connie’s mother or escort Connie. While you can choose to follow the story, Vanilla can tangent at anytime to do whatever you want him to. Sit back and play the harmonica music mini game where you need to hit and hold notes to master a song. As you get better playing citizens will come by and throw money your way. Alternatively you can hustle your keep from playing pool. At the bar is a billiards table where you can play a round of nine ball. The mini game is actually quite detailed, players can select an angle to shoot at, adjust the speed and even obtain different cues that have unique shots. If you want more action jump into the battle arena with your Trotmobile. Fighting in the arena is an easy way to get cash and the fastest way to combat since there is not much fighting when running around. Vanilla can also explore quarries to find fossils or collect artifacts for the museum. All of these tasks earn Vanilla money which can be used to build your Trotmobile into a war machine with a cannon arm or purchase new threads at the local store. The only thing you need to save some money for is fuel and food to feed Vanilla.
There is a lot to absorb in Steambot Chronicles and you probably aren’t going to experience most of the game if you rush through the story. In fact Steambot Chronicles barely pushes the main quest on players. This encourages people to explore the world and talk to as many people as possible. On the other hand it is easy to get lost when trying to figure out where to go next. Players need to be patient and talk to everyone to figure out what options Vanilla has to pursue the story.
The world is cleverly designed with robots and a post Victorian theme. Dreams and aspirations run high in Steambot Chronicles. Early on Vanilla runs into a group of engineers who are working on a flying Trotmobile where you’re given the choice to encourage them or crush their dreams. It is easy to compare the setting to Hayao Miyzaki’s works or Steamboy due to the cel shading and robot design. Even if Steambot Chronicles borrows from the anime world, the characters aside from the slightly cliché amnesiac beginning, are fairly original. The game also makes great use of cel-shading to create a peaceful and colorful world. Localization-wise Steambot Chronicles picked up some talented voice actors. The dialogue sounds natural even though Vanilla has so many different responses.
Even with all the good in Steambot Chronicles there are some annoyances with the game. The controls might take some learning, just like Katamari Damacy except movement is never as fluid even when you feel like you mastered Trotmobile control. The camera can be jerky, but the biggest problem the game encounters is the pace. The laid back style of Steambot Chronicles is both a pro and a con. Gamers who are looking for a modern RPG might get bored with Vanilla’s antics. Steambot Chronicles does not shove action in your face, you actually have to scout out and find things to do. If you do spend the time to search out Nefroburg there is more to do than most RPGs, but similar to Grand Theft Auto you need to actively seek out quests.
As a package Steambot Chronicles is a game for all the gamers out there looking for something fresh. The genre defying gameplay, rich world and “be a bad guy if you want to” choice will keep gamers who spend time with Steambot Chronicles entertained for many dozens of hours.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0
Steambot Chronicles is the US / North American version of Bumpy Trot.
Atlus released Steambot Chronicles was released on 05.23.06.
+ Pros: Open ended gameplay with plenty of mini games and a unique setting to explore.
– Cons: The slower pace of and lack of direction in Steambot Chronicles may not jive with the traditional RPG crowd.
Overall: Steambot Chronicles is not a linear game you rush through to see the next cut scene. The setting encourages people to explore Vanilla’s surroundings and step into his shoes to get the most out of the experience. Players who do this will find Steambot Chronicles both refreshing and a great gem from Atlus.