I Love You, Irem! I Love You, Atlus! Steambot Chronicles was released as Ponkotsu Rohman Daikatsugeki Bumpy Trot in Japan. The chances of having a unique game such as Bumpy Trot translated and released in the US are about as likely as me walking in the front door of my home and seeing my dog cooking dinner while dancing an Irish jig. Wonders never cease, and Atlus once again is responsible for localizing yet another quirky Japanese game for those of us hungry for something a bit-different. While not without it’s flaws, Steambot Chronicles certainly delivers a gaming experience that is just-.fun. Remember that word kiddies?
SC is difficult for me to put into one category really, it’s billed as a non-linear RPG, it’s certainly that, believe me, however it’s also a mech fighter, a rhythm game, and fetch quest/collector type’s dream come true. Your actions, be they nice or naughty, also have a direct effect on the game.
The game begins with the main character, Vanilla, waking up on a beach, and can remember his name but not much else. A young girl named Coriander, speaks to him-.which is your first opportunity to be nice, non committal, or nasty. I chose to make the first go around (Yes, I like this game enough that I’m gonna give it a whirl as the bad guy as well-) I chose to help her. Vanilla is then introduced to the Trot mobile, a kind of chubby mech which Vanilla uses to run errands, battle other Trots, or just cruise town and see the sights. The sights, by the way, with their wonderful nostalgic feel, are worth the trip. Cities are lovely, time passes from morning to night, deserts are sandy, and forests are lush. The buildings Vanilla can enter are appropriate to the environment-rich towns/nice rooms-poorer towns, less hoity toity lodgings.
Coriander is a member of the Garland Globetrotters, a popular band which figures rather prominently in the storyline of the game, and in the minigames. This is where the rhythm portion of the game factors in. Vanilla can join in and jam with the Globetrotters, I was earning up to 1000 UR a performance a night! I wasn’t very good at the Harmonica, which is supposed to be Vanilla’s forte-I was much better at the Sax and trumpet, however each instrument has a different minigame, perhaps someone else would be really good at the drums. Hint: Brush up on Harmonica-certain story related concerts won’t give you the option of choosing your favorite instrument-which means I really stunk up a couple of performances.
Vanilla can also do street performances if you’re in need of extra cash. And cash, at least in the beginning of the game, can be hard to come buy. I really stared to accumulate the dinero after I was able to perform on a daily basis in Happy Garland with the Globetrotters. Vanilla can also walk into bars, churces, etc. and bust out a tune on the piano/organ. Etc. if you’re good, the fans throw tips-also good if you’re hard up for cash. I found the rhythm games quite a bit of fun. I just received the violin, which is fast becoming my favorite instrument, the songs are a bit cheesy (in a good way)-and it’s funny to watch the fanboys line up and start clapping even before Vanilla starts playing!
The songs are nicely orchestrated, however the individual representations of each instrument’s track sounds a bit low budget. It would’ve been really cool to have the trumpet actually sound like a trumpet, instead it come’s off very “MIDI-ish”. The violin part of the song “Cry” is beautiful, too bad the representation of the instrument doesn’t do it justice. The people chosen to sing the songs were above average, let’s hope in the sequel the instrument sounds are given the same treatment. I should add the piano, guitar, and organ sound very very nice.
Cities also provide Vanilla the chance to play billiards for money, I spent hours just brushing up my 9 ball skills. And the necessity of cash can be a problem if you want to “pimp your trot” early in the game. You have quite a bit of freedom as to the appearance of your Trot, aesthetic changes such as color and plate changes are freebies, frame, leg, weapon repair, fuel changes are not, however those aren’t very expensive either as long as you keep an eye on your finances. The most devastatingly useful weapon I’ve found is the Sniper Arm-buy one as soon as you can, and you’ll thank me for it when you encounter a certain boss in the middle of the game’s storyline.
A few minor annoyances as far as boss battles are concerned:
One: you are not given much warning when someone wants a piece of Vanilla-he’s just tooling along, minding his own business, enjoying the scenery-BAM-boss battle. No warning whatsoever-..usually RPGs will toss some sort of a heads up to the player, such as-do you wish to save? Or the “Do you hear something??” dialogue-
Two: the above wouldn’t really be an issue if reloads were speedy-they are not. You have to listen to the winner gloat, quickly reset to the start screen, reload, then watch the entire scene again (no scene skip allowed-) hope ya’ have a recent save! Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often.
I mentioned before that Trot accessories can be pricey. Not having a high end trot didn’t affect my ability to kick baddies butts for most of the game (when I say this I’m referring to new frames, I spent my hard earned cash on weaponry and leg frames). What helped most was taking the time to get used to the Trotmobile controls-once you master them, being able to maneuver out of your attackers way will be your best defense-learning to use the target mode effectively helps, and buying a long range blasting arm ASAP will help you win early arena battles. I haven’t bothered much with arena battles yet, Vanilla needs a ton of medals to reap rewards, and I needed to see as much of the game as possible (in a week) so that I could provide as comprehensive review as possible. The arena battles are fairly self explanatory, you begin D class, fight your way up the ranks, achieve higher classes, get medals, and trade for stuff, lather, and rinse, repeat. The few arena battles I did compete in were kinda fun, once I figured out how to control my Trot properly-.
The characters in SC are very likeable and charming. The voice acting is good to average, and the responses Vanilla can give in certain situations range from serious to hilarious. The most appealing factor in SC is that I can do nothing at all to progress the story..there are so many side quests, recipes, general stuff to collect, go on dates, and daily activities that you really need never finish the story line and SC would still be a lot of fun.
My character has rented an apartment in Happy Garland, which I’ve furnished, now that I have a table and chairs, I can invite Coriander over to cook for me-you can then give her gifts, Chat, practice-or Vanilla can be a total ass, pretend not to be home, or hint around for her to leave. You don’t even have to date Coriander, Savory is dateable too. You can chat them up to find out what kind of gifts, foods, etc. they like.
Vanilla can also buy clothes, or find them in chests scattered around, and the clothing change reflects the way Vanilla appears on the screen, as well as titles he earns. I donned swimming trunks, a cowboy hat and cowboy boots to sit in for the ailing organist at the church, earning the title of “Half Naked Organist”. Also, a nice touch which shows the programmers are paying attention, is that if you find an item of clothing in someone’s house, put it on, then talk to someone in the house, they will recognize it and comment on it..”That hat looks familiar-”. Vanilla can then lie about stealing it or be honest.
The challenge I faced with reviewing a game such as SC, is that there is so much to do, so much to see, so many people to chat with aside from the main storyline, hitting all of the bases thoroughly is a bit difficult. I hope that I’ve done this unique treasure of a game justice, and I hope that my review will encourage you to buy this, and to give support to Atlus for giving those who can’t speak Japanese the opportunity to play a fun, original games from developers such as Irem . Certain games carry the “I Love Games” DNA fingerprint of the developer-Steambot Chronicles is certainly one of these.