The king of obscure/RPG distribution Atlus and developer Irem have once again teamed up to bring the first domestic sequel to the fantastic but underrated Steambot Chronicles. For the Sony PSP, I present to you Steambot Chronicles Battle Tournament or if you like the Japanese name it’s called Ponkotsu Rohman Daikatsugeki Bumpy Trot Battle Tournament, now that’s a mouthful. The first Steambot Chronicles for the PS2 was a very good adventure/mech game that I enjoyed very much, and Battle Tournament is very good as well, however not nearly as grand.
The world of Steambot Chronicles takes place in a steam-punk environment, which is inhabited by both cars and bi-peddle mechs or Trot Mobiles if you will. The timeline of the story seems to be an alternate history of the 1920s. The tone of Steambot Chronicles is very lighthearted and looks almost like a mid-80s anime that was made for a younger demographic. It also seems that one of the biggest sporting events in this world is the act of battling Trot Mobiles, and you will be doing this throughout the game.
As you start Battle Tournament you are giving the choice between having a male or female as the main character of the story, you also name the character and the Trot Mobile in which you will be using. Your character starts out as a clean slate with no proper back history, however you will mold and shape the main hero as the story evolves. You quickly run into the cute Trot Mobile mechanic Venus who is instantly attracted to your Trot Mobile and in turn slowly becomes your best friend.
I must say, the voice acting is top notch and the vocal team at Atlus should be commended. Many of the voices sound like they are from the last few Persona games which is a substantial compliment in my book, well done.
Now on with the super robot action, once you and Venus get introduced, you get to see her mech garage and repair shop. Venus wants to be your personal mechanic and how can you turn a cute mechanic down, although you can try if you desire. This brings me to one of the coolest things about Steambot Chronicles, the ability to choose what dialogue to say. Throughout the game, you will talk to a lot of people and a lot of situations will present themselves. The game will the give you choice to say certain things and some of the choices are not clear cut good/evil dilemmas, sometimes it could be a difference of opinion. This adds a dynamic mood to the game and storytelling.
The three many phases of gameplay in Battle Tournament are Jobs, Customizing/Repair, and Tournaments. In order to get money and fame in the world of Steambot, you must be willing to take jobs. Its would seem more fit to call these jobs, missions, due to the fact that you could be attacked in the middle of performing your duty and you also have to do a lot of walking and light platforming to complete your missions. The enemies that you will encounter on your missions will be great practice for getting used to the combat controls, which I must say work well considering that this is on the PSP with a single analog stick.
Once you have some money in your pocket head on over to Venus’ repair shop. This is the place to let your imagination run free. You can repair and refuel your Trot mobile as well as enter the world of customization. At first, the shop will have a very limited amount of arm, leg, and body parts; but as you get further into the game, you will be granted with a larger assortment of customization. You begin the game with standard arms and fists, however you will soon be able to buy anything from battering rams to flame throwers, great stuff. You can also by some wheels for your Trot Mobile which makes it look like a very strange car/mech hybrid, but hey it does increase your speed.
The last phase of the game that I would like to talk about is the main course, or if you prefer the main event. The battle tournaments are for those who have the money and the fame to compete in a multi-class tournament. You start off as a Class D Trot Mobile pilot, and you begin to work your way up the ranks by defeating other pilots of the same Class until you take them all out. The battles take place in several types of arenas with different obstacles and themes, such as forest, rocky, and industrial areas. You can beat up your opponents with fists, battling rams, tree trunks, saws, large boulders, and even flame throwers. If you want to take a less direct approach just pick up a car or a rock that’s just lying around the arena and throw the sucker at the enemy for extra damage.
The controls of Battle Tournament are good for being a PSP game, but they do take some getting used to. Basically you use the analog stick to control your movements while using the R and L button to turn the camera from side to side. You fight with the square and triangle buttons to attack with each arm as well as using the X button to do a dash in any direction. You also use the D-Pad to both pick up objects and lock-on to different enemies. It took me a few minutes to get used to the controls, but after I did they felt very competent, try to think of it as Armored Core-light.
One more aspect of the game that I must comment on is the added multi-player. You will be able to play up to 4-player bot battles off of one UMD; however all of the other players will only be able to play with the standard trot mobile. Every player needs to have their own copy of the game in order to play with a tricked-out bot. This is a very welcome addition to the Steambot world.
When I first started to play Steambot Chronicles I was afraid that this was just Virtual-On with Steambots, however I was presently surprised that this game really did feel like a sequel/side story to the first Chronicles. However, take into consideration that the world in Battle Tournament is much smaller then in the first Chronicles game. Also, the game does get repetitive, the three main phases of Battling, Job, and Customization really is the whole game, but the charm of the world and the great voice work keeps the game fresh. If you loved the first Steambot Chronicles or if you’re in the mood for a GTA-light/Armored Core-light game that’s aimed at a younger audience then I would suggest that you should pick this title and pray that Atlus will release the PS3 sequel.