The developer of the Fire Emblem series brings an all new IP where Abraham Lincoln takes the lead in fighting Aliens in “Code Name: Steam” for the Nintendo 3DS. When I first heard about the game, I was skeptical due to its title and I hoped that it would be as good as the Fire Emblem series. After spending hours through the plethora of missions the game has to offer, it gave me mixed feelings where I felt the game was decent but at the same time can be a drag.
Code Name STEAM takes place in steampunk London where aliens have invaded. With Abraham Lincoln leading the special organization called STEAM that specializes in taking down invaders, a group of elite soldiers are formed with famous heroes like Tom Sawyer and John Henry joining the team. Each of the characters that will be joining STEAM have their own distinct abilities that will help you out in finishing a mission like John specializing in bombs and Henry with a medic gun that can heal allies. The majority of the characters that you will meet in the game are famous and they’ll have their own take in this fictional light-hearted story where it’s guaranteed that it will put a smile on your face. The story is not too serious like Fire Emblem, but it’s certainly entertaining.
For gamers who have played Valkyria Chronicles on PS3, figuring out how to play this game wouldn’t be too hard. The combat of Code Name STEAM is similar to Valkyria Chronicles where you are free to move around the battlefield until your moves are up. For this game, moves are measured through a steam energy icon and it’s shown at the bottom of the top screen. As you move one square on the battlefield, one steam energy is used. Aside from moving, the steam energy is also used when attacking an enemy. Despite the game being a tactical RPG, you’ll feel that you’re playing a third-person action game as you are free to aim your weapon at an alien. The amount of damage that you deal depends on the location where the enemy is shot. You are not just only planning out your moves, but you also have to know which part of the body you are supposed to hit to make sure they die in one shot.
At first, I thought the battle system was somewhat easy, but it gets harder as you go deeper through the missions. As more new recruits join, more abilities open up and the more complicated the battle can get. With several characters having a unique ability that can be used in battle, it’s important to know how they need to be used. With steam energy you have to worry about, you can decide whether you want to take the shot at an enemy right now, or wait and have your character in a defensive position. Whenever your character is in a defensive position, aka Overwatch, you can have them attack an enemy that passes right in front of them. The outcome of the battle rests at your hands and with the deep combat the game has to offer, you’ll always want to look forward for your next turn just to see how the battle will play out.
Since what you will be doing for hours is going through missions, it’s important that you have a Circle Pad Pro or at least the New Nintendo 3DS. With the help of the second analog stick, you are free to move around the camera when it’s your turn. The over-the-shoulder camera helps out a lot in aiming at your enemies and knowing where your character should go. At times, you can move it in an isometric view to have a look of the battlefield see any loot that you can pick up like hearts to restore your health, save points, coins boxes and crates that you can destroy. The coins that you pick up are important as it can be used in restoring health while using the save point and to gear your characters since the game ditches the leveling system from traditional RPGs. It’s sad that you can’t level up your character as I was hoping it would be similar to Valkyria Chronicles where you can level up your unit, tanks, and more.
While it’s fun to move around the camera when it’s your turn, when it’s time for the enemy’s turn, make sure you have a lot of patience. Whenever it’s the alien’s turn, you will not be able to skip and see for the most part what they are doing. With no way to control the camera when it’s their turn, there will be a time you’ll be staring at one spot. Another big problem this game has is not being able to fast forward the battle. Sure, I can understand that you can’t skip the enemy’s turn but with no fast forward, it can take a lot of minutes for the enemies to do their turn and it can get really annoying.
When it comes to visuals, it looks colorful as its done in a comic book style. The majority of the cutscenes have voice overs and it adds life to the entertaining story the game has. As the cutscene plays, you’ll see speech bubbles appear and other comic style effects. It’s quite stunning when in 3D, especially if you have the new Nintendo 3DS. As for the level design, the first few missions have a decent sized map but as you go farther in the game, the level designs gets big to the point that finishing one mission can take more than an hour and combine that with the part where you can’t fast forward the enemy’s turn. Can you imagine how much patience you will need?
Exclusive to those who have bought the New Nintendo 3DS, you can recruit characters like Marth and Ike from the Fire Emblem series only if you have their Amiibos. Unfortunately, those are the only Amiibo that are compatible, though they really are helpful when used in battle. Also, with the New Nintendo 3DS, you can benefit with the built-in C-Stick without having to bring that Circle Pad Pro with you.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a great game that is unfortunately held back by some frustrating design choices. Like watching the enemies’ turn might be enjoyable for some, but this is something you should be able to skip, not to mention other disappointing aspects like the lack of customization. If you can look past these things you’ll find an enjoyable game with a deep combat system, supported by an engrossing story filled with memorable characters.