Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament Review

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Atlus, once again proving that they are the champions of publishing underdog RPGs that the bigger RPG houses would never bring stateside, have brought us this nice little  RPG for the Playstation Portable.

The premise is quite simple, really. You are an amnesiac male or female Trotmobile operator, who comes to Orion City by boat and ends upgetting involved in the local Battle Tournament while searching for answers. Before entering the tournament, however, players must do a series of jobs around town with the help of their new mechanic in order to build up enough of a rep and capital to enter.
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From there, the game is all about doing jobs, customizing your mech, and fighting in tournaments, which, naturally, earns you the money and parts to continue to customize your mech. For those that enjoy robot customization, this game will not disappoint. Players can customize the Grille, Back, Left Arm, Right Arm, Windshield, and Legs of their mech to help them in winning tournaments and doing their jobs easier. You can also customize the color and even design an emblem for your Trotmobile using a limited paint program (your’s truly created a Sonic the Hedgehog emblem, just for kicks).

Many jobs will require a specific attachment (like a saw blade to cut down trees, or a tank to hold water), so trips to the garage to refit the Trotmobile during missions is quite regular.
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Combat is pretty straightforward, with players being able to jump, dash, and swing/fire their left and right arms. Overall, the controls are responsive and intuitive, and navigating the 3D environment is simple, and works well with the PSP’s layout.
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Graphics are pretty good, employing a cell-shaded look for characters and Trotmobiles, and simple, cartoon like textures for the backgrounds. The story is typical over the top anime with exaggerated characters and performances, and certainly won’t be winning any awards, though I admit to chuckling a bit when playing as a female, because the game takes decidedly lesbian overtones when addressing the other female characters (as a female, I chose to ask my sexy mechanic her measurements with humorous results). There are different dialogue options when talking to characters, allowing you to play up a personality a bit, but it doesn’t seem to really have that big of an impact on the overall story, just some often humorous dialogue responses from the various characters.

The biggest problem with the game is that it’s horribly repetitive, and it establishes this early on. The general structure of the missions is thus: head to the Agency to get a job. Accept job, then go talk to the contact to confirm the job. Complete the job, confirm completion of the job with the contact, then return to the Agency to report in and accept your reward. Each mission is handled this way, and becomes tedious.
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You can simply roam around Orion City and talk to the inhabitants, as well as roaming the various locations surrounding the city, battling enemies. And of course, fighting in tournaments.

There isn’t much depth to the game, but being a fan of the original Steambot Chronicles on the PS2 makes this forray a bit easier to swallow. It’s charming, with an exaggerated art style and characters, but I still can’t recommend it as a purchase for PSP owners jonsing for another RPG fix.

VERDICT: RENT – The game is cute, with great customization options, and a quirky story/cast of characters. The repetitive nature of the gameplay however is a hurdle, especially when taking into account that there isn’t much depth to the world or combat. A solid rental for a slow weekend.

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