tailconcerto1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Tail Concerto for the Sony PlayStation, published by Atlus and released in the United States in August of 1999.]

Less bumpy, more fuzzy.

I wanted to like Steambot Chronicles a lot more than I did. It sounded like something I'd enjoy, being a fan of multigenre blends and all, but it suffered for having too much dialogue and not enough action, and ended up becoming boring quickly. It didn't help that the game looks and plays a lot worse than I ever thought it could, either.

Tail Concerto is like a prototypical Steambot Chronicles. Both games promise a lighthearted adventure coupled with steam-powered robots, but only Tail Concerto delivers on this promise in the context of an entertaining game. It's weird that I'd enjoy one game and not the other, though. Maybe it's my anti-mech bias kicking in again. Or maybe if the creators of Steambot Chronicles had fixed up the controls and changed the human cast into kitties and puppies, I would've liked it a lot more. One of those things, I guess.

tailconcerto2.jpgOutgrowing RPGs kind of sucks.

Tail Concerto is one of those action games that had hyped its "RPG elements" to such an extent that it made me a little wary at first. Personally, I always think of "RPG elements" as being the boring parts of a game. Whenever an action or adventure title suddenly decides to shift into RPG mode, this almost always means that a lot of talking, exploration, or leveling up are in store. Depending on how well these elements are implemented, a game can either benefit from the added depth or become terminally dull in the process.

Tail Concerto succeeds in making its RPG elements as painless as possible. The dialogue is brief and the voice acting is good, but most importantly, the exploration elements are actually fun. Much of Tail Concerto is made enjoyable by your character's ability to enter houses and break stuff during exploration segments. The game encourages this, in fact -- many items can only be found by walking into peoples' houses and destroying their furniture. There's never any punishment for this, and it effectively allows for Tail Concerto to be both an action game and an RPG simultaneously, with neither genre ever becoming overwhelming enough for the experience to become repetitive.

Taste bubble justice, misguided kitties!Because shooting bubbles at things just works.

Despite its RPG-like qualities, however, Tail Concerto is very much a 3D platformer. You play as a mech-piloting puppy who shoots bubbles at kitties. The world's cat population is causing trouble with the dogs, see, and it's your job as an officer of the law to capture them. There's fetch quests and a few segments involving the dreaded mine cart, but everything in Tail Concerto is handled with a charm that makes even the most mundane of video game conventions seem fresh and enjoyable.

Fans of the Mega Man Legends series (and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, in particular) would do well to check out Tail Concerto, as the games share a similar lighthearted vibe and graphics style. Even if you prefer your video game storylines to be serious and brooding, though, you could still find yourself falling in love with Tail Concerto's levity and optimism.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]