You play it on this. Seriously.
A Humongous Mecha Video Game
released for the original Xbox
in 2002, developed by Nude Maker
with Atsushi Inaba's involvement. Perhaps the single most Serious Business
, realistic mecha game ever sold to consumers. (There are a few full blown simulated cockpits lurking in major arcades, but they're not exactly going to grace your living room any time soon.)
Why? Well, for starters, look at the controller you have to play it with. It features over 40 buttons (a few of which are used very infrequently, often just during the startup sequence), 2 joysticks (the left one only moving left and right for steering, the right one not centering and used to aim weapons and the manipulator), 3 foot pedals (gas, brake, and slidestep), a gear shift, and a radio dial (with 16 discrete positions, but only 5 are actually used). (By the way, the game sold new for about $200, and that's before you factor in the collector's market.)
Second, the developers went all out on the simulation aspect
. You have to memorize complicated boot sequences on the aforementioned controller to get your mecha to start. When you get mud in your face, digital windshield wipers will come down and clean the screen for you
. And that's before you get to blow stuff up.
And third, the game is Nintendo Hard
. Most infamously, didn't hit the eject button
in time when the warning lights told you to? Kiss your save game bye-bye.
Not to mention, it is possible to get stuck
if you fail too much-you won't have enough supply points to get replacement VTs. All of this is compacted by the fact your AI allies can barely navigate the map
, leaving it all up to you.
You're even treated to an especially painful Boss Battle with a mech that can literally turn you off if you get hit. That's after all the Dakka.
If that wasn't enough, every single mission has a time limit, with no pause feature.
The game failed at retail, largely due to two factors: the price, and the fact that Capcom, like most Japanese companies at the time, did not want to support the Xbox and spend time making sure the online modes in Line of Contact
worked properly. It's also obviously
a very niche, hardcore sort of game, much like how you don't see many combat flight or mech simulators
released for the PC these days.
Due to the retail failure of Steel Battalion
, only a limited quantity of the game was ever produced, to the point where it can almost be considered a collector's item due to the rarity one would ever find it in stock (which would mean it is used). Not too many copies are even available on the Internet, of all places.
A sequel was made, called Steel Battalion: Line of Contact
(2004), which does not come with a controller and is essentially a multiplayer Expansion Pack
with no singleplayer. The Campaign mode servers were shut down in 2005, but Capcom released a patch that allowed a code to unlock all VTs for Free Mission use. As of April 12, 2010, it is no longer running due to Microsoft
shutting down all servers for original Xbox games. Despite this, the community has moved to Xlink Kai for their Line of Contact fix. LOC.NET
has all the fine details on the game one could ever ask for. (It also added support for the Xbox's relatively-little-used HD 720p
mode and 16:9, whereas the original topped out at 480p 4:3.)
A completely new sequel
, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
, developed by From Software
this time, was announced at 2010's Tokyo Game Show, and uses Kinect
in lieu of the specialized controller as well as the regular gamepad. It worked about as well as you might expect
waving your hands at the screen to operate the control panel for a massively complicated mech would work.Heavy Armor
is set in an Alternate Continuity
where a silicon-eating microbe starts destroying microprocessors back in 2020, and by 2080, there are none left, hence the Diesel Punk
look. The United States has also taken a major downfall as a result, to the point where the "United Nations" has invaded most of it,
driving the remaining US army to Mexico to reorganize. The United Nations are 16 mostly asian countries that have been conquered by China, here called the Asian Empire and appointed into the new UN by them in 2045 at the end of WW 3
The China in the game is never actually called China, despite the Infantry using Chinese weapons and the soldiers speaking Chinese and all. They are very reminiscent of Ze Germans of WW2
, what with their VT design mimicking iconic Wehrmacht Tanks; or their capturing innocent civilians to put them in installations for experimentation; or their use of Railway Guns to bombard Poland, because Russian forces are pushing into Berlin... Did we say they were China? Oh yeah, they invaded all of Europe before moving to the US and Germany signed a treaty with them. Now Berlin is the capital, and the site for the construction of a new superweapon.Therefore, the plot kinda moves within the boundaries of what actually happened in WW2
has been mostly bashed by critics due to problems with Kinect integrationnote
some of which can make the game needlessly frustrating (if not borderline impossible) to play. However, many reviewers note that under the problems, the game offers excellent combat, interesting (if somewhat stereotypical) characters and a good plot. Plus, even while the Kinect is... flawed, reviewers note that is incredibly cool
when/if the integration works and you're pulling the levers and slapping your crew in the middle of an intense firefight. Time will tell if a patch will fix the Kinect issues (although with sales lower
than the original its unlikely).
Steel Battalion (Line of Contact) (Xbox)
- Arbitrary Maximum Range: Further modified by each VT's armor modifier, which reduces a weapon's given maximum range depending on which direction the projectiles are coming from. If the modifier results in a projectile from a weapon that would normally be in range being treated as out of range when hitting the target VT, NO damage is taken. There's no damage scaling/curve at all-either your VT's damaged, or it isn't.
- Bladder of Steel: As noted above, there is no official pause feature. If you unplug the controller, the game actually will pause until you plug it back in and press the Start button.
- Critical Existence Failure: Played straight for a mech simulation, oddly enough, given that the genre's usually known for Subsystem Damage. Line of Contact treated leg integrity as different from body integrity and that a legged VT could be salvaged in Campaign mode, but since the Campaign servers died well before original Xbox Live did, in addition to the lock-on system aiming for the body...
- Deletion As Punishment: Can you guess what happens to your save file if you fail to eject in an emergency?
- Diegetic Interface: The entire HUD is part of the cockpit. In early VT models, it's in the form of gauges, plus a few numerical readouts on the outside camera monitor. Later VT models do away with many of the gauges and have everything projected onto the camera feed.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Garpike and its Bang Needles.
- Doing It for the Art: Why else would anyone develop a commercially unviable game like this?
- Ejection Seat: If your VT's about to explode or flood, this is the only thing keeping your save file intact.
- Falling into the Cockpit: Happens during the first mission (technically Mission 00) in the singleplayer game, when you're supposed to undergo a training program first. It's best to read the manual BEFORE starting, because it's not as easy as Amuro Ray makes it look.
- Final Death: Anything that kills your pilot deletes your save. Running out of supply points to purchase new VTs gets you demoted to the same effect.
- Fragile Speedster: Any of the Light VTs, but especially the Sheepdog, which is more fragile than a Vitzh-the cheapest, otherwise weakest VT in the game. To be fair, the Sheepdog is designed for reconnaissance and guerrilla warfare with the ability to see enemy VTs on the map at all times and even eavesdrop on communications, not direct warfare; the speed is for staying out of combat and for capturing unattended control points.
- Infinity–1 Sword: The Quasar. Arguably the easiest 3rd generation VT to acquire, while being one of the best V Ts in the whole game. Getting it requires exploring guarded side passages in a very particular level though, so only an adventurous pilot or someone who read the walkthrough would know where to find it.
- Infinity+1 Sword: The Juggernaut. Which is basically an even better version of the Quasar, but requires grinding the game to get a big enough score to earn it.
- In-Vehicle Invulnerability: Pilots won't get injured or concussed from having their VTs slammed or knocked down. However, they can still die without being shot at simply by staying shut down for too long and asphyxiating-see Oxygen Meter below.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Despite being set in 2080 and having Humongous Mecha, the weapons of choice are generally kinetic projectiles and explosives. The most exotic weapon would probably be the Earthshaker's Gauss emitter, used for shutting down enemy VTs such that they must go through the lengthy startup sequence again sans the cockpit hatch closing, leaving them open to attack.
- Lag Cancel: Clip dumping. Main weapons normally have a delay before being able to fire the next round (smoothbore cannons), three rounds (rapid-fire rifles), or five rounds (assault rifles). By holding down the main weapon switch button, such that the initial press cycles to the desired weapon (it will not keep cycling with the button held down), firing, and hitting the magazine change button during the firing delay, the delay will be cancelled at the cost of a whole clip of ammunition, and you usually only start with three clips. In addition, due to the position of the main weapon switch and magazine change buttons, it's difficult to do so without taking the left hand off the steering lever and gear shift in a game where manuevering is key to victory. It's also a very frowned-upon tactic in the community, but may be agreed upon in certain match setups that are quite unbalanced, such as a few 1st-gen V Ts against one 3rd-gen VT like the Earthshaker.
- Lead The Target: The Forecast Shooting System (FSS) in 2nd-and-3rd-gen VTs. 1st-gen VT pilots will have to do so manually, without locking on.
- Lightning Bruiser: Medium 3rd-gen VTs are this compared to 1st-and-2nd-gen VTs. They're balanced out by costing a lot of sortie points, making their loss that much more impactful on the team. (When a VT is destroyed, its sortie point value is immediately subtracted from the team's total sortie points. If that value goes to 0, that team instantly loses.)
- Magnetic Weapons: The railgun, even with its massive weight (where it isn't a fixed-mount weapon), limited VT availability, firing delay, massive battery drain during said firing delay, and low ammo count (10 or 8 rounds), is one of the most devastating weapons in the game due to its projectile speed, range, and above all, enough damage to take out most VTs in one to three hits, maybe 6 or 8 in extreme cases such as an undamaged Behemoth or Earthshaker.
- A Mech by Any Other Name: Vertical Tank
- Mighty Glacier: The 2nd-gen Behemoth and all Jaralaccs VTs, as well as the 3rd-gen Earthshaker in particular.
- Oxygen Meter: Line of Contact added this along with the shutdown feature to make your VT invisible to enemy sensors. Any time your VT is shut down with the cockpit hatch closed (either manually with the toggle switches, by the Rapier's Stun Rod, or the Earthshaker's Gauss emitter), your view will turn gradually white, signifying the loss of oxygen. Let it go for too long and you'll asphyxiate and die, get taken out of the match even if you have enough sortie points to respawn in another VT, and your pilot data gets deleted.
- Painfully Slow Projectile: Almost every weapon is this in Line of Contact, but ESPECIALLY smoothbore cannons with their low rates of fire. Even the High Velocity Missile Launcher can be slidestepped around at longer ranges by eagle-eyed pilots, and while the railgun is actually fast enough to hit anything within range once fired, slidestepping just before it fires will make it miss.
- Real Is Brown: The cockpits on 2nd-and-3rd-gen VTs are quite colorful, but the outside environments aren't.
- Real Robot
- Rollerblade Good: Line of Contact turned 5th gear into a wheel mode. Smooth and fast on level terrain, but poor for climbing and harder on the balancer when turning, making it more likely to tip the VT over.
- Save Game Limits: Just like a Roguelike. One file per pilot, and the game saves with your every decision. Lose a VT in combat? The supply points spent on it are Lost Forever. Run out of supply points in the middle of a campaign? You're demoted, time to make a new file! Fail to eject before your VT explodes or sinks and floods? Your pilot's KIA, time to make a new file!
- Super Drowning Skills: Tread in water that's too deep and your VT will start to sink, with water flooding into the cockpit. Take too long to eject and you'll drown, which means-you guessed it-a save file wipe.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (Xbox 360)
- Any One Can Die: Every character is unique, and like in Fire Emblem, all deaths are permanent.
- Artifact Title: This game has absolutely nothing to do with the first two games, the only carryover are the Vertical Tanks, which look more like they were copied from Chrome Hounds than from the first Steel Battalion.
- Big Applesauce: The debut trailer shows the United States making a D-Day-style offensive on Manhattan against an unknown invading force.
- Continuity Reboot: With no mention of the Pacific Rim Forces or Hai Shi Dao, instead focusing on a United States offensive against an unnamed enemy on Manhattan and much more primitive Vertical Tanks without computerization, this or an Alternate Continuity is very likely.
- The Gamescom 2011 trailer mentioning a silicon-eating microbe appearing in 2020 all but confirms this, given that the original games have their campaigns set around 2080, complete with heavily-computerized VTs.
- Diegetic Interface: Like the first game. With the Kinect integration, you actually push the levers and buttons in the cockpit.
- Diesel Punk: WWII Punk specifically, with the very Operation Overlord landing-esque trailer...in 2082. Justified in that microprocessor production has stopped due to a silicon-eating microbe manifesting back in 2020, hence more primitive technology than what the timeframe would suggest.
- Eagleland: Largely Type 1 by the looks off America's portrayal.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: An actual game mechanic enabled by Kinect, along with other forms of crewmate interaction.
- In Name Only: Different setting, different VT designs, gamepad + Kinect instead of a proprietary physical controller. About the only things bridging Heavy Armor with the original Xbox games are the words "Steel Battalion" in the title and combat in mechs called Vertical Tanks.
- Invaded States of America
- Shout-Out: If this is to be believed, the names shown on the VT in the Gamescom 2011 trailer 39 seconds in are those of actual fans of the original games.
- Walking Tank: Part of the overall Art Shift.