Video Game: Steambot Chronicles

A relaxing non-linear adventure! Get ready for... STEAMBOT CHRONICLES!!

Steambot Chronicles is an Action RPG made by Irem for the PlayStation 2, known as Bumpy Trot in Japan. The game is set in an Steam Punk Alternate Universe where most daily tasks are handled by steam powered mechs, affectionately known as Trotmobiles. The main character, Vanilla, wakes up on the shore of Seagull Beach with amnesia, awakened by a girl who's part of a band called the Garland Globetrotters. Finding an abandoned and beat up trotmobile nearby, he agrees to help her reunite with her friends in the nearby town, while also trying to rediscover his lost past. Supposedly.

Said to be like Grand Theft Auto if you removed every shred of psychopathy from the mix, Steambot Chronicles offers a cheery Cel Shaded world with a massive amount of SideQuests, MiniGames, fashion, music, and myriad other ways to completely waste your time. The game has a massive array of choices, from what Vanilla says, to what Vanilla wears, to what Vanilla does, ninety percent of which does not actually matter as far as plot is concerned, but are quite effective as a means to... completely waste your time.

The game didn't sell particularly well, at least partially thanks to its incredibly laid back style, as well as load times and occasionally wonky controls. But the world is interesting, and there are far worse ways to do.. ... uh... whatever it is you do in this game.

It was later followed by Steambot Chronicles Battle Tournament, a PSP game taking place sometime after the first game. It did away with most of the elements Steambot Chronicles was known for, focusing purely on the Trotmobile battles and the side quests.

It attracted a small cult following, and was going to get a proper sequel due in part to this, BumpyTrot 2, was announced in 2006. It was in Development Hell for years before finally getting cancelled along with a slew of other games, shortly after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

This game provides examples of:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: The Bloody Mantis takes over the only oil refinery, sending prices for fuel, parts, and repairs sky-high.
  • Always Check Behind the Chair: It's easy to miss a few treasures hidden in objects within houses. Most of them are books that you can find in bookshelves. One of said books is hidden in a bed that otherwise looks like nothing is under it.
  • An Interior Designer Is You: Halfway through the game, you're given the opportunity to rent one of several apartments, which you can decorate at your leisure. Although you can just buy furniture, you can make them really fancy if you're willing to tromp around some optional dungeons for treasure (and don't plan on handing them to the museum).
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The Japanese boxart used the same cutesy art style you see at the top of this page. The American boxart, on the other hand, features a more serious-looking Vanilla outfitted with goggles (which can be obtained in the game, but not worn on your on your head), a hotter-looking Connie, and a more badass trotmobile.
  • Awesome but Impractical: All the giant robots Vanilla fights. The only thing most of them are capable of are shooting slow moving missiles that have no real chance of hitting you if you're moving fast enough or standing in easy-to-find blindspots on the robots themselves. Some even just sit in place, immobile while you senselessly pound on them from a safe distance.
    • The first boss of the game, the Don Elephant ll. Its a giant steam-powered mech that is covered in mounted cannons and takes a huge amount of damage before its destroyed. The catch? Once you jump onto its back you can just beat it to death with little resistance. Also it moves so slow that its no real threat even to the weaker trotmobiles.
    • The giant spider mech in the forest has an easy to hit weak point in its center. It main form of attack, it's spike feets, cannot hit Vanilla as long as you stay in its center.
    • The battleship fleet that you fight outside of Happy Garland. Similar to the Don Elephant they can be destroyed by attacking their weak points on their backs where their guns can't hit you.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts
  • Bookends: After the end of the game, you have one last mission : find the various members of the Garland Globetrotters, one year after Vanilla left. For doing this, you have to travel to every location you visited during the main game, in the reverse order of how you got there. You finally reunite with Connie on the very beach where Vanilla awakened on at the start of the game.
  • Cel Shading
  • Char Clone: Elder the White Phantom.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Completing the Eric/Pete item mailing quest early turns the Paper Dragonfly into this. It will pop an idea in Dr. Nutmeg's mind and is the only way to advance to the final parts of the hero storyline. Before that, completing the quest itself doesn't do anything.
  • The City vs. the Country: One small side quest involves helping Aloe, a farm girl, convince her father to let her move to Happy Garland. She ends up working at the GTW Factory.
  • Crapsaccharine World: While the story seems to start off light-hearted enough, appearing to be about a boy with amnesia who is helped by and helps out the lead singer of a band, it takes a turn for the worse about half way through the main storyline when the focus shifts from Vanilla's amnesia and his relationship with the Garland Globetrotters to a war against a secret society. Aside from the main storyline, the country within the game is actually pretty depressing and corrupt past the more cheerful background music and silly NPC chat, if you take the time to explore. Social class divides, constant talk of industrialization causing job cuts, and Chicory's death due to apathy of the ironically named city of Happy Garland are just a few of the issues you may come across.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: The basic flow of many of the side quests is that Vanilla will help out an NPC in need and everything seems to go well, up to the conclusion in which the NPC is left worse off than before.
    • Pablo, the wandering artist, starts off poor and is brought to fame and recognition due to Vanilla's help. Out of nowhere, he's treated as a fraud, loses everything, and winds up dead.
    • Rosa and Agernon of the two competing hotels in Happy Garland end up selling stocks as a way of defying their fathers' attitudes towards running the hotels, but unintentionally make the stock holder the new owner of both of their fathers' hotels, denying themselves a wedding and losing ownership of the hotels.
    • The mayor of Meme village is implied to hoard the money made from selling valuable truffles after the train station is extended to their village. This is shown through a comment from one of the villagers, and the fact that his section of the communal home was walled off and refitted with expensive furniture while the rest of the town remains the same. Ironically, the villager hoped that modernization and integration with the changing world would improve their livelihoods.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Late band member Chicory's death caused a pretty huge ripple of dysfunction through its members... some way more than others.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Bergamot, the face of the Bloody Mantis. He starts off pretty high class, but then he starts talking. And if you take the hero path, the final confrontation with him is practically a parody.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: When you first reach Nefroburg, Connie will try to guide you to her house to meet her mother, Rosemary. If you choose to run off into the rest of the city and do an activity that advances the time to night (eg. battling at the arena, playing billiards, etc.), you'll find a cutscene with Connie at the bridge just past her house. She'll be upset that you ignored her, though much like every other option in the game, this has no effect on the main storyline.
  • Dialogue Tree: Everything Vanilla says is selectable, although most of it doesn't actually matter. It does, however, provide you the ability to make him anything from a pure hearted hero to a vaguely heroic jerk to a disaffected villain to a complete psychopath... through dialogue.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: After completing the side quest involving Pablo, you can sell off all of his paintings for more than 100k UR, more than you'd ever need for any purposeful item within the game.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Hot Cocoa option in the dating minigames.
    • A serious example - when Vanilla and Connie have to go through the shack to reach the trotmobile, Connie seems very unhappy to be in, near, talk, hear or even think about the shack. It has very little connection with Chickory's death by getting hit by a car and if you ask her some more about it, she'll say she used to basically play with her dolls in the shack, but "a lot of things happened" and now she doesn't like going in there. Other than some old memories of Chickory being in there, to someone who isn't hip to the plot it almost looks and sounds like a setup for some Lifetime movie type of story about a little girl being raped by some pedophile. Though nothing like that ever happens in the game. Especially with it being a rated T game.
  • Downer Ending: The hero ending, believe it or not. Even though you've saved the country from certain doom Savory is shot dead by Bergamot, Dandelion is executed for his attempted coup, and the world's society remains as corrupt and apathic as it was when Chickory died. Vanilla departs on the Juniper Berry, leaving all his friends behind, and the Garland Globetrotters break up and go their separate ways. When Vanilla returns a year later he can reunite with Connie, but the band remains broken and Basil is left a broken man living under a bridge.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: For all his importance to the story, you only find out that Dandelion was executed for his crimes in your absence through an offhand remark and a new grave site.
  • Edible Theme Naming: Many of the main characters are named after herbs and spices (Vanilla, Coriander, Dandelion, Savory, etc.).
    • It's even lampshaded; the player can examine a spice rack in Mrs. Echinacea's apartment, and Vanilla thoughts roughly say, "Each jar contains an herb or spice. Or a person; it's hard to tell."
  • Empty Room Psych: Quite a few of these exist throughout various parts of the game. Pipit Cemetary outside of Happy Garland seems like it would be an important location, but it's never visited in the story, no sidequests seem to be associated with it, and no items can be found inside of it. One of the bars in Neuhafen has an NPC named "Owner of the Inn(?)" but he simply says you shouldn't be there. Again, no items or events occur here, though the implication is that he's a pimp.
  • Evil Pays Better: Subverted. Although you can become evil halfway through the game, doing so prevents you from acquiring most of the best equipment. Including the Infinity+1 Sword, wielded by Elder, which you can only get from being a "true" hero (meaning you can't choose the bad guy path at all). Plus, you end up in prison for a year and lose half your money once you finally get out.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Savory if you decide to stay on the hero path, or you if you decide to join up with the Bloody Mantis gang halfway through the game.
  • Five-Man Band: Vanilla and the Garland Globetrotters are a literal five-man band. Connie is the lead singer and guitarist, Savory provides backup vocals and piano accompaniment, Marjoram plays the drums, Basil plays bass, and Vanilla plays... whatever the hell you want him to play (though his signature instrument is the harmonica). Fennel was originally a member of the band, but he quits to seek out his own sound about a third of the way in.
  • Flight: A pair of brothers at Vision Ranch work throughout the game to make a flying trotmobile, to the chagrin of Dr. Nutmeg, the inventor of trotmobiles, who continually attests that he did not design trots to fly. If you follow the hero storyline, though, you can help create the world's first flying trotmobile, to the delight of Nutmeg and the brothers, and to the shock and awe of the villainous Bergamont.
  • Floral Theme Naming: Virtually every character of any significance is named after some sort of plant — most are also seasonings, as mentioned above, but some are just plain old plants.
  • Foreshadowing: In Dandelion's house, you can see Elder's jacket hanging above his bed.
  • Funny Afro: One of the barbers gives only funny afros to his customers.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: As mentioned before, the choices you make through dialogue and in-game do little to alter the story. You can be as rude as you want, but the story generally advances through the same set of events. This becomes problematic in part to a small sequence of side-events that you can go through to discover the full story behind Chicory's death, which requires reading the article in the Newspaper office, speaking to the Stationmaster in Happy Garland, then finally speaking to the Priest in the Garland Cathedral. This sequence becomes possible long before it's brought up to Vanilla, yet he can't bring it up in future conversations about it.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The license plates. There's 30 of them and a few can be easily Lost Forever. And they do nothing.
  • Guide Dang It: You will not be able to get 100% on your first try. Items can be Lost Forever, quests can become Unwinnable, and the game can become Nintendo Hard when trying to find all the trotmobile parts, plates, children's story books, instruments and so on.
    • The hotel rivalry side quest in Happy Garland is probably the most convoluted side quest available. The NPC important to completing it can be encountered early on in the game and has one of the few dialogue options that actually matters; picking anything but the right answer locks you out of the quest. After completing an event that allows him to move (which is never made explicit for this side quest), you have to locate him again in Happy Garland and talk him with him over a period of several days before he describes his plan; thus allowing you to continue the quest. For completing the quest, you get an okay Trotmobile part, and a selection of paltry stocks and money choices in the Year After Mode.
    • The final of the Seven Sages will probably puzzle you if you have not played the game before. He only appears after the other six have been located and from an event, feeding a cat in Nefroburg, of which at least 3 exist that can be fed, and before this, the event doesn't seem to do anything. This isn't hinted at anywhere and is even more obscured by the fact that the other sages seem to be associated with geographical areas.
  • High Speed Battle: Part of the final boss fight in the True Hero ending occurs while zooming down the river that runs through the whole game world.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: What Fennel sounds like when he's singing Music Revolution.
  • Hot Coffee Minigame: Sort of. You can invite a girl over to your apartment for a date and the minigame begins when she arrives. You start with a set number of hearts and various actions use up hearts. If you increase the number of hearts enough and select the right actions the screen will go blank while a short "hot coffee cutscene" plays where the girl compliments the quality of the hot cocoa you serve her.
  • Humongous Mecha: All the non-trotmobile bosses you fight are these.
  • Identity Amnesia: Vanilla, the main character, wakes up at the beginning of the game with no idea who he is. Interestingly, you get to choose his background about halfway through the game, and it makes absolutely no difference for the rest of the game.
  • Inevitable Tournament: One you're not actually required to win.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: All over the place from farm houses to city buildings to the middle of nowhere the entire world has these stashed about everywhere. Some do make a little sense by appearing in people's rooms and containing stuff like clothes or books, but random chests appearing out on wooden walkways and containing things like fresh bread are pushing it. This trope really gets taken Up to Eleven in the ruins though, where Vanilla can find ancient artifacts inside fancy treasure chests. (Though he can also find spoiled food that can make him sick if he eats it.)
  • Interface Screw: Combined with Damn You, Muscle Memory as well, a somewhat subtle example of this exists in the fossil mining aspect of the game. Every menu in the game starts with the cursor on the first menu option, except when extracting fossils, where it defaults to the bottom menu option instead. As well, there's a short input lag before the game will recognize any input on this menu and this one only, meaning that inattentive players who already know about this "feature" can easily select the bottom option anyway. And of course, there are numerous bugs surrounding fossil mining that can easily result in the Museum Plate being Lost Forever, including abandoning a fossil load. Which is exactly what you do if you pick the bottom option.
  • I Have Many Names: Vanilla will receive titles usually based on what your mech is and how full you are.
  • Karma Houdini: Dandelion to the extreme on the villain path. He literally just goes back to his day job after it's all over, despite being the mastermind who was running the show, and nobody even so much as suspects him.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Good luck completing the photo album.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: That and the combat controls killed the game for some people.
  • Loads and Loads of Sidequests: The main storyline is actually pretty short if you were to skip the myriad of sidequests within the game. While some of them are worthwhile (eg. Nora's sidequest gives the powerful Gatling arm), many provide only cosmetic plates and small amounts of free stocks.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Actually, despite their upbeat attitude, most of the songs sung by the Garland Globetrotters are pretty damn depressing. You probably won't notice the first time you hear them, though.
  • Mask Power: Elder, the "White Phantom", hides the upper half of his face, and holds the championship title for mech battling. His Reveal as Dandelion marks a surprising shift in personality as he reveals his Axe Crazy goal.
  • Mini-Mecha: The Trotmobiles are basically two-seaters on legs. Most emphatically not the bosses.
  • Monster Arena: The three major towns in the game have arenas where you can test your mettle against other trotmobile pilots or bet on fights.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The Killer Elephants. Their boss just wants to go to the moon, but the only way to make the money needed to make his dream possible is banditry.
  • Nintendo Hard: The instruments, believe it or not. While the Harmonica and Trumpet are so simple you could play them with one hand (almost), things like the Accordian, Organ, Piano, and Electic Guitar will likely test even some of the die hard Rock Band players.
  • Noodle Incident: It takes a huge amount of digging to get even a the barest details on the incident involving what happened to Chicory, and even then, you don't learn all that happened.
  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: In case the article didn't clue you in, it is entirely possible to end up with five different SideQuests active, get distracted playing music on the street corner for half an hour, and end up with no idea what the hell you were supposed to be doing for any of them. The game does have an in game journal for this purpose, but it's not at all organized or helpful with hints.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: If the player completes a particularly frustrating sidequest a hot springs will open up for Vanilla and Connie to visit in the year after mode. Sadly, there isn't a cutscene or any sort of reaction from her programmed into the game... so the only reward the player gets for all their trouble is just being able to spy on her. Also, the game doesn't actually show any naughty bits.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: In Steambot Chronicles Battle Tournament, Vanilla appears as the final Rank A tournament match along with the trotmobile he used in the first game, Chamomile II. Apollo/Luna does not get the chance to actually speak with him, however.
  • Red Herring Twist: About the first half of the game is dedicated to Vanilla trying to regain his memories. After being reunited with Mallow, though, Vanilla suddenly regains his memory (the player can determine what kind of past he had), then the rest of the game is devoted to the machinations of the Bloody Mantis.
  • Rhythm Game: Playing music, whether with your band or on the street corner, takes the form of this. The actual input method varies based on what instrument you play, so dependent on your choice you can make things really easy on yourself (Harmonica, Trumpet), or pointlessly hard (Accordion).
  • Science Is Bad: A common theme that's mentioned in many cutscenes, talked about my many NPCs, and displayed in a few of the sidequests. It''s Dandelion's main argument for wanting to burn the world down and seems to actively cause people to worry about their jobs being taken away.
  • Side Quest: What the game actually means by 'non-linear'. And there's a ton of them. The main plot is somewhat more firmly on rails.
  • Steam Punk: Well, there's definitely steam going on, but the punk part is pretty subdued.
  • Stepford Smiler: Connie. Big time.
  • The Chick: Connie.
  • The Short Guy with Glasses: Basil.
  • Timed Mission: The desert battle against the Bloody Mantis.
  • Tragic Villain: Dandelion founded the Bloody Mantis and donned the identity of Elder out of anger at an apathetic technology-dependent society and revenge against the one he deems responsible for Chicory's death.
  • Upper-Class Twit: A lot of the rich female NPCs in Neuhafen can be described as this.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: Vanilla, your avatar, can mix and match various clothes, accessories, and hairstyles to create a variety of styles. Occasionally, NPCs will even comment on them.
    • For example, if you wear a full set of Cowboy clothing (clothes, boots, and hat), Coriander will remark positively on how you look in them if you talk to her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Many characters won't hesitate to call you out for saying rude or mean-spirited things. Some will also get quite angry if you try to extort money from them.
  • Where It All Began: The last part of the final boss fight in the True Hero end takes place on Seagull Beach, where Vanilla washed up at the beginning of the game. The trope is even namedropped on the loading screen.
  • Wide Open Sandbox

Alternative Title(s):

Bumpy Trot