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North American cover art
|Developer(s)||Capcom Production Studio 4
|Genre(s)||Action, Vehicle simulation|
Steel Battalion (Japanese: 鉄騎 Hepburn: Tekki?) is a video game created by Capcom for the Xbox console where the player controls a "Vertical Tank"—a bipedal, heavily armed mecha. To control the tank and play the game requires the use of a large controller made specially for Steel Battalion.
The controller has two control sticks and around 40 buttons. The game, bundled with the controller included, launched at a retail price of around ¥19,800, £130, or $200. Only limited quantities were made available. These quickly sold out, making the game a collector's piece. It has since been re-released in limited quantities worldwide, with blue controller buttons distinguishing it from the first edition with green buttons.
At the beginning of every mission, the player must 'start up' the machine and operating system; this is handled through a series of switches and buttons dedicated to this purpose. If the player does not eject when prompted, the player's in game character will die, and all saved data will be lost, causing the player to start over. If a corner is turned too fast, the machine will tumble over. If the player's machine overheats, its operating system must be reset. The game even simulates window wipers in case of mud hitting the monitor.
Vertical tanks (VTs) are the vehicles piloted in the series. Essentially bipedal walking weapons platforms, VTs are classed by their developmental generation and sub-categorised by their combat role. Primary combat roles are standard combat, assault, support, scout, and fast attack. VTs are divided into three weight classes: light, medium and heavy.
- Light VTs focus on mobility. They are designed to pursue fleeing enemies or attacking weakened bases. Light VTs are capable of being transported by air and are designed to be dropped into key drop spots. Their use can be pivotal for air assaults on bases.
- The Medium VT is the most common, featuring a balance of firepower, armor and mobility. This VT has the most possible variations through add-on armor and weapons.
- Heavy VTs employ heavy armor and great firepower, but lack mobility compared to other VTs. Consequently, heavy VTs are mainly used to protect key locations and bases.
As the player progresses, new generations of VT will become available. This allows a newer, more advanced operating system, startup sequence, and combat functions, as well as a wider cockpit view and layout. New generation VTs also handle better and can provide better firepower over previous generations.
Steel Battalion was developed by Capcom Production Studio 4 in collaboration with former Human Entertainment designers that would go on to form Nude Maker. Producer Atsushi Inaba stated at the Game Developers Conference in 2005 that the Steel Battalion was a "product-focused project" in which the team initially focused on creating a new peripheral and software designed to go with it. Inaba's superiors were skeptical about putting such a game on the market. The amount of staff working on the project grew according to the team's experience with making new hardware. The earliest build of the game was created for the PlayStation 2. However, when the Xbox became available, the development team switched to it because of the system's greater power. Online play was taken out of consideration close to the development's start due to being too ambitious. While the game and its special controller received critical acclaim, the project turned little profit. Inaba stated that Steel Battalion was developed to show "what can be done in the game industry that cannot be done in others."
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Steel Battalion was the 5th best-selling game during its week of release in Japan at about 15,092 copies. Inaba concluded that the game ultimately broke even in terms of units shipped and units sold.
The third installment called Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor was announced at the Tokyo Game Show 2010. This installment uses the Kinect motion sensor control rather than the original controller. The new game was released in June 2012 and received poor reviews.
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