Metal Saga and Bumpy Trot

Two very good games that were small hits in Japan last year are making it to your shores this year and I thought I’d see whether anyone was anticipating them here. I ask because one of the common criticisms of console RPGs is that too they are too linear and I think these would appeal to alleviating that criticism, though Bumpy Trot isn’t technically an RPG (it can feel like one), since these rarely get translated.

The first is called Steambot Chronicles, or Ponkotsu Romantic Theater Explosion: Bumpy Trot, as its known in Japan. Its basically a turn of the century, slightly steampunkish GTA-esque game. I say GTA because

  1. it largely revolves around vehicles (mecha)

  2. its very non-linear and open-ended

  3. but you can still follow a branching storyline wherein you can decide how good or bad you want your character to be.

There’s tons of stuff to do. The mechs in the game aren’t just for battle, but are used for everyday activities as well. On top of that, you can join a band, fight in an arena, help people in a variety of storylines and quests, dress up your character, play billiards and so on and so forth.

1up may be a really, err…icky site sometimes, but they tend to have good information about smaller game like this. You can find some good stuff at these links:

Interview w/ Lots o’ Good Info
Import Impressions


Metal Saga is an extremely non-linear (to the point where you could beat an entity that could be considered a last boss and reach one of the game’s many endings right at the beginning of the game if you wanted to) turn-based RPG that takes place in a slightly Wild Arms-esque wasteland after a supercomputer has wrecked havoc across the world. Its the latest in a long-running series of RPGs that have always been heavily open-ended, named Metal Max, inspired after…well I think you know what its inspired after with a name like that.

It has an enormously unique selling point that sets it apart though: the battle system revolves around customizing and fighting with tanks. This has some of the same kind of hyper-detailed geek-out appeal as doing so in Front Mission does. It follows the DQ-style, quick and efficient over the flashy FF-style of battle system, and its more than solid.

For its setting, Metal Saga can have an extremely odd sense of quirkiness. You can join a religion that worships muscle men, race frogs, go bar-hopping in order to have drinking contests and some of the many people who join your party are quite bizarre. You can also outfit heavy weaponry on dogs and bring them into battle to help you.

Last year, Metal Saga took hold of me early in the year, and despite the wealth of great releases, it continues to be one of my favorite games from last year. A downside to the game is that beyond some quests the characters who join you don’t receive a lot attention to the story, and the game is overall is definitely more gameplay focused, but on the upside: there’s SO MUCH TO DO!

There are no good English resources that I can see right now, sorry. (Why isn’t it getting any coverage?) Here’s a Japanese kouryaku site with some good screenshots though: http://www.geocities.jp/ystomy/metalsaga/old_index.html

-Kitsune

You need to do a thread on Earth Defence Force 2, and you absolutely must let us know how the 360 version turns out when that hits. They damn well better port the 360 version to the US. The videos almost make me want to mod my ps2.

For its setting, Metal Saga can have an extremely odd sense of quirkiness. You can join a religion that worships muscle men, race frogs, go bar-hopping in order to have drinking contests and some of the many people who join your party are quite bizarre. You can also outfit heavy weaponry on dogs and bring them into battle to help you.

That sold me right there.

Wow. How do the Japanese come up with these names?

Woah, both of these sound really fascinating. So, they’re getting translated. Do you know roughly when they’re due to arrive and on which system?

I’ll definitely get Metal thingy, if for no other reason then to put a cannon on a Chiwawa.

Chris Woods

I know that Bumpy Trot’s been getting reviewed pretty well in Japan but the friends that I know who have the game weren’t too wowed by it after the initial few hours…something about it feeling too puzzley and while the game itself is open, the gameplay wasn’t compelling enough to keep at it.

I haven’t gotten around to that game yet though, so who knows? I might like it :P

So that’s what “Ponkotsu Roman Daikatsugeki Bumpy Trot” translates into!

I call viral marketing!

Are there load times? Steambot Chronicles sounds very open ended, but if it has load times, then it’s not really like GTA. One of GTA’s big selling points is its seamless world. If anything, Rogue Galaxy looks to be the Japanese GTA of RPGs. I’ve read that it’s got no load times and heaps of open-endedness and Level 5 goodness. (How is it by the way?)

On a related note, while you’ve made it clear that some Japanese console RPGs are open-ended, I’ve yet to read about any that are open ended in any way beyond letting the player traverse an open world or play through portions of the game out of order. Can you name some JCRPGs that allow for the type of open-endedness found in games like Fallout, Planescape, Baldur’s Gate 2, and, hell, even Knights of the Old Republic? More than just traversing an open world and experiencing game events out of order, these games model, to varying degrees of complexity, the effects of player actions on themselves and the world around them. I think the morality systems found in the above mentioned games allow for a great deal of this, but other interrelated systems also contribute to the sense that the player is part of a living/breathing/reacting world. I’ve yet to read about or experience this depth of open-endedness in any JCRPGs (consider, for instance, the complex and impactful dialog trees of the games I’ve mentioned versus the meaningless yes/no dialog choice provided occasionally in every JCRPG I’ve ever heard of). Can you name a few that are like this, and, with any luck, might be heading over here?

I’m really looking forward to Metal Saga. It’s like a continuation of the Final Fantasy IV --> FF7 “I’m fighting a HOUSE??? Why is a HOUSE an enemy???” kind of weirdness that’s been missing in the later JRPGs. Well…except for all the Shin Megami Tensei’s. (Those games made me into an Atlus fanboy.)

For a month, my work PC’s wallpaper was one of those dog-with-bazooka from Metal Saga. Not many people at work will talk to me during that time…

As for Steambot Chronicles, I will get it as well (fanboy alert!) but I wonder if I will like it. Freeform games are not really my cup of tea…I tend to get lost wondering what should I really be doing.

Sign me up for Bumpy Trot, that sounds awesome, and I dig the cel shaded steam mecha. Errr, well, assuming it’s not drug down by endless random encounters.

You need to do a thread on Earth Defence Force 2

I’m playing through this now, and even though it’s pretty rough around the edges, it’s one of the most enjoyable pure explosion-fests I’ve ever played. Kind of like Mercenaries with godzillas, giant ants, and mile long spaceships instead of Chinese people.

I’m really rather curious as to how the 360 version is going to turn out and if they’ll bring it to the states.

What? The ones I’ve singled that have made it to the US or the other ones? Either way, I’ve singled out more than games like that (and really that definition only applies to games like Legend of Mana, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance). The ones I’ve talked about, for instance, Romancing Saga allow you to play through the story in any way you want, not just experience events out of order. That means, ignore or participate in the events you want, choose the storylines you want to follow, have any party members you want in your party and so on and so forth.

Metal Saga’s storyline isn’t really the point, the idea is to do whatever you want in its world, with its gameplay. Its not a story-focused game. Bumpy Trot isn’t an RPG, but it does have a morality system of sorts and the open-endedness isn’t just playing things out of order.

My posts about this are scattered all over the place, so I’ve written about this topic and given examples beyond what you name many times, but for completeness’ sake, I’ll round them up here again.

Can you name some JCRPGs that allow for the type of open-endedness found in games like Fallout, Planescape, Baldur’s Gate 2, and, hell, even Knights of the Old Republic? More than just traversing an open world and experiencing game events out of order, these games model, to varying degrees of complexity, the effects of player actions on themselves and the world around them. I think the morality systems found in the above mentioned games allow for a great deal of this, but other interrelated systems also contribute to the sense that the player is part of a living/breathing/reacting world. I’ve yet to read about or experience this depth of open-endedness in any JCRPGs (consider, for instance, the complex and impactful dialog trees of the games I’ve mentioned versus the meaningless yes/no dialog choice provided occasionally in every JCRPG I’ve ever heard of). Can you name a few that are like this, and, with any luck, might be heading over here?

Well I can name waaaaaaaay more than a few. But you’ll have to realize two things:

  1. Japanese RPGs aren’t as universally focused in modelling morality

  2. and they aren’t as focused on world-building as Western RPGs are.

Having said that, here goes the list:

Oni series - instead of a system of good and evil, ran on a sense of karma, you got bad karma for doing certain things, good for others and it followed you around.

Tokyo Majin series - Hideously complex dialogue choices. It was a combination of choosing from a number of dialogue responses and giving one of nine basic response types to a stimulus and it controlled what fights you got into, who came on your side, how well you worked with others in battle and the branches of the plot.

Weltorv Estleia - In this game, you could do anything from buying a house and getting married, to becoming a pirate, to becoming the new dark lord and terrorizing the land.

Soldnerschild - This game cast you as an up and coming in a country’s army, then throws you into a huge political conflict, how you react determines how the war turns out, how loyalties play and so on and so forth. In fact, I think this is the best representation of such an idea ever seen in a game, and goes way beyond similar ideas seen in things like Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Z’ill Oll (Infinite too) - In this game, you had a soul with ratings that would rise or fall based on your actions (things like your bravery or purity), your soul woudl change and so would the game. Depending an ultima like beginning sequence, you could also start in one of six starting storylines and the way the soul system interacted with a guild quest system and a heavily, heavily branching storyline made for one open-ended RPG.

Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke - You raise a family of many generations in order to get rid of a curse, the way in which you acheive this goal is veeeeeeeeeeeery open-ended and has a huge effect on the history and the gameworld.

Lolita Fantasy: Warty Penis Dreams - Just seeing if you’re still with me.

Romancing Saga 2 - Nearly all the Saga games are open-ended, but this I think, is, in the best way. It tasks you of taking control of many generations of a country and your actions in one generation determine the outcomes of future generations and it just keeps on snowballing.

Lunatic Dawn series - You can get married, have children, divorce, kill your wife, steal the kids and raise them to be the leaders of crime syndicates if you so wish. Your actions don’t just affect characters, but the ecosystem of the game too, having an effect on the land and towns development around you, as well as the populations and kinds of monsters. You can be virtuous, or get involved in the shady underworld. Lunatic Dawn games almost have too much freedom.

Venus & Braves - You play an immortal tasked with the burden of preparing against a great catastrophe in the future, time is at your manipulation. In this game you can CREATE the legend of the hero and the sword by manipulating the people involved and then manipulate the future youth who will find it. Party interaction is greatly emphasized over the course of many, many, many dozens of years.

Valkyrie Profile - Its well known by now, unfortunately I can’t really tell you what it is you can do in this game, as would consistute a massive spoiler and I wouldn’t dream of ruining the surprise. Beyond that though, I can tell you there’s a lot of leeway in how much you listen to Odin’s demands and what kinds of decisions you decide to make and when. It helps that this is also one of the greatest video games ever made. :P

Atelier series (note: excludes the Eternal Mana games)- You can have an effect on the development of your town, get involved or completely ignore relationships and developing storylines with any number of different characters, your reputation goes up or down, any number of possible goals are available, each with their own ending, etc.

Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War - This is, in my mind, one of the best examples of where open-ended design can get you. Sure you can’t do the campaign out of order, but that’s to the game’s benefit. What you can do is influence relationships and leadership to such a degree that the entire game’s second half is different.

Chester the Crab and His Adventures in China Vagina Land - Again, just wondering if you’re still paying attention. Sadly, this is an actual title over here, but not of a game.

Ogre Battle series - Whether you decide to be merciful and lawful or ruthless and reckless has a great deal to do with troops you can hire, what scenarios you get landed with, who will be your friend, how much people trust you and which one of the endings you get.

Since by this time everyone is well aware of the Megami Tensei games, I doubt I need to bring that up again. There are more, but I’m guessing you’ve got the point now. Japanese open-endedness isn’t always so much about morality, (though there are plenty where it is) its usually more about relationships and are some kind of dynamic unique to the game’s storyline.

In addition, here is a list of games released in the States where your dialogue choices do have an effect on the game:

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2
Persona
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
Romancing Saga
Tales of Symphonia
Star Ocean 2 & 3
Riviera: The Promised Land
Suikoden II
Suikoden III
(I heard a story that the Konami Suikoden designers got so swamped in reaction mail from the “No really, I insist you drink this poison” dialogue “option”, that they vowed never to do it again)
Radiata Stories
Tactics Ogre
Front Mission 3

There’s also Suikoden IV, but I was trying to limit myself to good games. I probably missed a few, I can never quite keep track.

The only game besides the two in this thread I know of that’s coming out in the US that’s open ended is Ryu Ga Gotoku, though I believe its going to be called Yakuza. Its an action RPG. I can’t tell you in what way it is open ended yet, because I have yet to play it, I just know there’s a lot of leeway in what you can do.

-Kitsune

So, I see that Metal Saga is out, and getting abysmal reviews - aside from Kitsune, has anyone played this? Is it really as bad as the reviews claim?

Do either support 720p or (yeah right…) 1080i? I’m having trouble enduring the jaggy hideousness of the ps2 now… Especially when I know it can output those resolutions but noone bothers because they hate pretty things etc…

I don’t think so on either game, and you’re definitely not going to play either of them for their graphics.

As for the reviews, so what? Plankton is smarter than most of those reviewers (don’t think I’m just siding with the positive reviewers, the positive reviews are dumb too). Take a look at Nightmare of Druaga and Romancing Saga, too mostly excellent RPGs that got dragged through a muck of shitty criticism and reviewed badly in the Western press.

-Kitsune

Having been a reviewer, I’m not sure whether or not I should take offense at that, Kitsune. :P However, I’m asking the question because I know how much someone’s feelings about a genre can influence their feelings about a game. I already know that you love these titles, and that’s enough to get me interested, but not enough to get me to purchase them. If more people agreed with you, on the other hand… thus the question. There are certain games that frequently garer badly done reviews, and many of them seem to come from Atlus. For better or worse, a lot of reviewers can’t handle weird or very foreign games. Maybe that’s the case here - or maybe Metal Saga just sucks. It would be good to have some other opinions, either way.

How hyper-detailed is the hyper-detailed tank customization? I like messing with that stuff to an extent but there comes a point when I want to just blow stuff up.

I remember the first time I got the Bumpy Trots… I had eaten several ears of corn…