The Games that Weren’t: Steambot Chronicles 2

January 24, 2013


Japanese developer Irem, the team best known for the R-Type­ series, was one of those studios that was easy to love. While its track record wasn’t exactly spotless, it developed a number of quirky (if problematic) titles that demonstrated their talents in remarkable ways. My personal favorite from them was a unique action-RPG called Steambot Chronicles, a game that was as much about player agency as it was punching things with a giant mech-suit.

Steambot Chronicles 2

What It Was: An action-RPG developed by Irem and the follow up to one of their most popular games

What Happened: It, along with the company itself, went under as a result of the 2011 earthquake that hit Japan

Why We Wanted It: The original was a game unlike any other of that era, and the potential of a sequel that expanded on and improved those ideas could have been amazing

Steambot Chronicles had a ton of problems, but its approach to player choice was something that I hadn’t seen much of at the time. Sure, that’s the sort of thing that’s easy to find in games everywhere these days, but back then it was bit harder to come across. It was clear that there was more potential there than the PS2 allowed for, so the announcement that Steambot Chronicles 2 (or Bumpy Trot 2 in Japan) was being developed for the PS3 filled my head with all sorts of ideas about the potential a sequel on current generation hardware had.

Originally planned for the PS2, Steambot Chronicles 2 was announced at the 2006 Tokyo Game Show complete with a trailer. It showcased a new protagonist, bigger Steambots (the name of the mech-suits in the game), some brief gameplay demonstrations, and a snowy environment that was different than anything seen in the original. After a year of silence, a second trailer came out at TGS 2007 demonstrating the game’s move to the PS3 and letting the fans know that Irem was still hard at working making the sequel a reality. Little information was known about it beyond what was shown in those two trailers, but I quickly thought of what could have been expanded version of the original with improved combat controls. The possibilities seemed endless.

And then there was nothing. Irem continued to release other, smaller projects while remaining tight-lipped about the status of Steambot Chronicles 2. Fans were left waiting for a new trailer, or information from Famitsu — anything to keep hope alive that the project was still in development. It wasn’t until 2011’s devastating earthquake rocked Japan and shook up the Japanese game industry as a whole that we heard Irem would be effectively canceling a lot of its projects, including Steambot Chronicles 2. The company then dissolved, leaving behind a strong legacy and dashing the hopes of the fans who dreamed that they would one day play the sequel to the cult classic.

It’s hard to talk about Steambot Chronicles 2 with the little information we had, but I can safely say that it was something worth being excited about. The original game was a title unlike any other on the PS2 and people fell in love with it despite its flaws. It seemed like Irem was focused on making a bigger and better version of that game, with more gameplay variety, more choices and what seemed like an improvement to the somewhat-clunky combat from the original.

The large emphasis on player choice, the interesting and varied combat and the sheer amount of content the original game had were more than enough to get people excited about the mere idea of a sequel. It’s hard to say whether or not it would have lived up to those expectations, but, like the original, it could have easily been a cult hit for the PS3 and one of the most interesting games released this generation.