Mechs. Giant hulking suits of metal piloted by one or more humans – or in some cases none at all – often for the purpose of blowing up other giant hulking suits of metal. I’m normally not very fond of mech-based games. Explosions are cool, sure, but most either leave me feeling like I shouldn’t give a damn about the pilot, or just lack the gameplay to make up for the characters. Also, often times the mechs I see just aren’t aesthetically pleasing for me.
Steambot Chronicles is a mech game from my childhood, developed by Irem, that hasn’t aged at all, as far as I’m concerned. Granted, the animation is dated, but that’s not enough to detract from my utter adoration for the gameplay, characters, and world.
In the game you play as Vanilla Bean, a rather oddly-named protagonist struck down by the cliché amnesia plot. After answering some odd questions when creating a new game – such as asking what you would do with money you find on the street, and how you would deal with a crying significant other – you wake up on the beach, next to what you quickly learn is the wreck of a rather large ship. The first voice you hear, other than your own, is that of a young lady named Coriander.
Part of the fun of Steambot Chronicles is that, beyond this, I can’t really tell you what happens in the game. As it’s advertised in the main menu screen at the start (if you decide to wait and listen), Steambot Chronicles is “a relaxing non-linear adventure”. Everything from this point forward will be an account of my own gameplay as a generally nice guy and polite fellow.
My Vanilla proceeded immediately to explore the beach, including the small hut on a nearby hill. Once bored of this wreck, I returned to Connie, talking to her as she collected herbs. All of a sudden a blue thing up on the cliff fired a rocket at a large boulder. The boulder proceeded to fall off the cliff it was perched upon, blocking the only path back to the bus stop. I offered to help Connie find another way back, and we returned together to the shack atop the hill. Connie soon proved helpful by showing me a hidden entrance inside; a small hole covered up by a wooden plank. We both crawled through and, after learning that she used to come play in the shack as a young’un, we found ourselves standing before a broken-down but still operational Trotmobile. Trotmobile? Yes: the mechs in the game are called trotmobiles.
Connie and I jumped inside and (despite being modest about it) Vanilla quickly got a knack for driving the giant metal bulk with legs. Controls for the trotmobile are interesting; you use both analog sticks to drive it, meaning the camera is locked to where you’re facing. It’s similar to tank controls in other video games; each analog stick controls a leg. Moving one forward and the other backward turns it, moving them both forward goes forward, etc. It’s a system that’s easy to pick up, but takes some practice to get really in tune with.
Walking out of the ocean where the trotmobile was stored, I proceeded to use it to lift the giant boulder from the path. With the obstacle out of our way, the trotmobile took us through the mountains and to a nearby farm on the other side, where Connie was informed that the bus had already left. Being the gentleman that I am, and with nothing else to do with my amnesiac life, I offered to take her home in the giant suit. As we walked up the hill, Connie remembered something. She turned to me inside the trotmobile, finally introduced herself by name (as she hadn’t done so before), and handed me a harmonica with my name engraved on it that she found next to me.
Skipping forward a ways, I eventually got Connie to a carpet mill where she met up with a friend. I learned that Connie was part of a band, and upon arriving in the city of Nefroburg I realized that she was in a very popular band called the Garland GlobeTrotters. Nope, I’m not kidding.
From past playthroughs of the game as a child, I remembered one of the game elements I enjoyed the most; parking my trotmobile and playing music to earn money from passers by. The harmonica is the first instrument you get in the game, at least in my run. Every instrument has a different little mini game that you have to play and, depending on what song you play, a different part to accompany with.
I kept playing the game, and everything was really easy up until after I made a trip to a doctor out of town to get my amnesia checked out. Returning to Nefroburg, I found myself approaching a group of bandits whom I had met earlier; the Killer Elephants. Even though I could have easily taken down the mechs blocking my path, I noticed that I was not allowed to fight back and automatically surrendered. Now, stuck on foot due to a lockdown on all trotmobile activity, I walked around for a while trying to find out what I needed to do. Finally, I realized that I needed to join the Killer Elephants by meeting the recruiter in the bar at the local hotel. After finding their chief of staff in the city and answering some questions, I was provided with the Killer Elephants logo to put on my trotmobile.
The Killer Elephants hideout is located behind the carpet mill from earlier, I warily entered. In order to save the city from the Killer Elephants, I had to cook a meal for the – quite overweight boss – and then fight him.
I fought him at least six times.
I wouldn’t allow myself to lose to him; I knew there was a way to defeat him. But he is a hard guy to beat, and I had to continuously reload saves and go through the whole process of getting back to him multiple times before I finally found his weakness; picking him up and throwing him.
Upon victory, the leader of the Killer Elephants (who isn’t such a bad guy) agreed to pull his forces out of Nefroburg. So, happy with this, I rewarded myself by purchasing one of the ball-and-chain weapons that the boss used on his own trotmobile. Satisfied, I attempted to leave, only to be stopped by the same fellow who gave me the Killer Elephants logo back in Nefroburg.
He explained that the Killer Elephants had the goal of finally going to the moon, which in their world had not been achieved yet. They needed money to fund their research, and sadly the only means they knew of by which to acquire it was by stealing everything. Whether or not I actually felt sorry for them, I acted like I did and then ran off.
Despite how much I played before writing this, I estimate that I haven’t even completed 15% of the game. It’s an open world place with all sorts of things to do, such as arena battles, playing instruments, and even being a taxi. I definitely recommend you try and find this game, and luckily, unlike the previous two Shelf Lifes, Steamboat Chronicles is not that rare.
Now, please excuse me, I need to go blow up some more mechs.