Review: Steamboat Chronicles: Battle Tournament (PSP)June 24th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
The original Steambot Chronicles was a bit of a hidden gem when it came out for the PS2 in 2006, but has now blossomed into a budding franchise with a new PSP title. Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament provides more of a simpler experience than what the original offered with plenty of customization and missions to choose from.
Battle Tournament takes place in Orion City, a city that is home to the world’s largest manufacturer of Trotmobiles, Pegasus, and the home of the Trotmobile Gladiator Championship. You are an up-and-coming Trotmobile driver that hopes become the champion who meets up with another up-and-coming mechanic, named Venus, to team up with in order to meet that goal. Along the way, you take on jobs that occasionally throw in bits of the story until you reach the end when every thing comes together with lots of revelations all around. For the most part, you’re taking on missions and fighting in the coliseum without any story elements that are pushing you along.
Though Battle Tournament appears to be a sandbox game, it’s more like Orion City acts as a hub of hot spots that the jobs you take on will ask you to visit. Jobs are very tightly-structured in that there are at least five steps you must do in order to finish a job for money and fame. The fame reward is part of what you need to be able to fight in the coliseum, as each of the opponent ranks, from D to A, require at least a certain amount of fame and some cash to be able to take on new opponents. Finishing all of the opponents of a rank will unlock new missions for the job center and new parts for your Trotmobile.
There are three main areas surrounding the town that most jobs will require you to visit in Battle Tournament, which are made up of about four sub-areas with different missions asking you to perform a certain task in certain areas. Some of these missions are unique and one time only, but others, like newspaper delivery missions and wood delivery missions, will reappear all the time so you can essentially grind those same missions if that is what you want to do. The other main issue is that the bandits in those areas always appear in the same place, so there’s little that is new each time you revisit these same areas.
The customization of Trotmobiles in Battle Tournament is a big part of the experience, as you must buy better parts for your Trotmobile and upgrade them appropriately to get stronger for the tougher opponents in the coliseum. New parts only allow a certain amount of upgrades to be done, so you need to know what’s most important to upgrade so you don’t waste your money on needless attributes. You’re somewhat able to assemble the Trotmobile to be able to reflect your personal abilities, whether they be based around ranged, melee, or defensive attacks, though fights in the coliseum were a nice way to see certain weapons in action before spending the money in the shop.
Battle Tournament’s controls do work well, as you can attack with either arm’s weapons or jump and boost to dodge attacks coming your way, so it is a simple set-up that is easy to get a grasp on without much of a learning curve. This is definitely not a fast-paced mech game by any means, as most of your enemies in the outlying areas of the city are stationary or slow-moving and easy to defeat, so there’s not much of a challenge to be had. Even the final boss for the story portion of the game was a breeze to defeat along with the final S-rank fight in the coliseum, so the end of the game kind of peters out without a decent difficulty curve. Multiplayer adds a little bit of value if you have friends with their own PSP’s, as it is ad hoc multiplayer-only here, though there’s at least the option to gameshare with friends so you all don’t need a copy of the game to play along.
Battle Tournament does feature a simple art style that is cel-shaded in the game itself and clipart-style drawings of each character during dialog. With a few exceptions, most every citizen in Orion City is a generic clone of a few different types of people that you frequently see as you walk around the city. The city is not that large, which works for what the PSP can do though slowdown is frequent when traversing the city either with or without your Trotmobile. There are frequent load screens when you enter any indoor areas or any of the areas outside of the city, but they aren’t all that long to be a big issue. The music is decent enough, though the voice acting pretty good and provides most of the entertainment despite some lag that leads to finishing the line and skipping the audio before it starts.
Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament does a nice job of being a fairly entertaining game, though the short experience that capped at 14 hours for us definitely seems to be an issue when you learn that the game will cost you $39.99. Such an expensive cost of entry for a game without much replay value, unless you’re engrossed enough to beat all of the missions and collect all of the parts, kills the appeal of the game when there are better experiences in recent memory to be had for much cheaper. Unless you’re a huge fan of the original Steambot Chronicles on the PS2, there is no reason that you cannot rent the game or wait for a sale or price drop to about $20.