When the original Steambot Chronicles was released on the PlayStation 2 three years ago, gamers were given a game that was very unique, but was marred by an awkward control scheme that forced the players to use both control sticks to control their vehicle, known as a Trot. Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament, a spin-off in the series, rectifies this issue and makes its own changes to the formula. Do these changes help further the series, or do some of them push the series farther back?
Players start off on a ferry going to Orion City, a city with a colossal tournament arena where entrants battle against one another in their Trots. After picking a gender and deciding on a name for both character and Trot, the player is thrown into a short tutorial which explains the basics of fighting. Once this concludes, the world of Steambot Chronicles awaits and this is where it's possible to decide how to progress. To earn enough money and fame to enter into the tournament, players are required to take on fetch quests. These involve battling opponents in the areas outside the city, delivering items to other characters, or interviewing the characters around the city.
The original game included a decision aspect, which allowed players to pick from a list of predefined answers and this would alter how characters responded. However, in Battle Tournament, little to none of the NPCs in the city use this. Instead the system seems to have been relegated to pre-defined instances after key points in the story. This makes the city seem extremely lifeless and makes going from one area of the city to another seem mundane.
A day/night system has also been implemented, although it serves no purpose other than to cause a 4-5 second loading time while the game loads the resources for the city. To add the issues, players are forced to get on/off their Trot at predefined checkpoints, instead of being able to get off anywhere in the city. This causes the player to have to walk long distances because the nearest checkpoint is too far away. It becomes obvious the city would have been better suited with a menu interface that would allow players to jump across the different areas in the city. Once players are able to travel outside the city by undertaking quests, the game's strengths truly shine.
Two gameplay configurations, one developed for the PlayStation Portable and another emulating most of the controls from the original game, allow players to control all aspects of their Trot, from using the weapons attached to the arms, jumping, dashing, and ramming into enemies. Each action either uses up some fuel or weapon strength, and there is a preset amount of health before the Trot is incapable of moving. The experience obtained from the quests helps out immeasurably in the tournament matches, which are varied and will sometimes throw a veteran player off-guard as the game tries to throw them off by changing aspects of the AI one might have learned in previous bouts. The improved controls in Battle Tournament make these tournament matches that much more enjoyable and were easily one of the highlights of the game.
Battle Tournament's story is the standard fare for this type of game, used mainly to push through to the next round of tournament battles. Atlus did an excellent job in the localization, providing some humorous moments, especially when choosing the non-standard answers to the questions that are asked throughout the game. The music is passable, never getting on your nerves, although there's nothing memorable here. The graphics are decent considering this is a 3D title, but lacks the fine details of a game like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.
While Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament fixes some of the issues from the original game, such as the control scheme, it makes some odd decisions that takes the series back in some aspects. Fans of dungeon hack-style games, such as Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology and the Mysterious Dungeon series, will find a lot to love here. Fans of the original will find a lot of the same aspects from the original game, albeit in a smaller and reduced package. Everyone else will need to try out the game and determine if the pros in the game outweigh the cons.