As a habitual rail commuter, I’ve grown accustomed to setbacks. Regularly, the morning train is at least ten minutes behind schedule. Other times, the locomotive careens past its designated stopping point, forcing the train to reverse into place, and likely causing an additional delay.
In Japan, these types of gaffes are virtually non-existent, with the country taking great pride in the punctuality of its complex network of interconnected lines. Here, a delay of more than a few minutes is an extreme rarity, prompting a heartfelt, personal apology from the conductor and the option for a “delay certificate” to show the boss. In short, there’s little room for error for a rail engineers.
The recent release of Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey to Okinawa demonstrates this minuscule margin for miscalculation. The title places players in the engine cab, where they’ll stop at the proper mark across a succession of stations, and obey a strict set of speed and time limits. While the game might have limited appeal, those who do purchase the eShop title might just gain insight into the acceleration and braking systems of light commuter rail, as well as an appreciation for the hard-working individuals who are in charge of moving thousands of commuters and sightseers each day.
Following the completion of the 6999 block/896 megabyte download, gamers commandeer the Okinawa prefecture’s only public train, commonly known as the Yui Rail line. Altogether, there’s fifteen stop along the elevated tracks, as players guide the two-car passenger train from the Naha Kūkō airport station to Shuri castle, modeling the 12.9 kilometer, 27-minute trek. At each station a countdown timer gradually winds down until it’s time for departure and the doors automatically close. Once this happens, players can use the ‘Y’ button to release the brakes, before using the directional pad to increase the speed on the master control switch. Alternatively, players may opt to use the stylus to interaction with the levers that are rendered on the bottom 3DS screen.
For the minute or two duration between each stop, players are responsible for setting the velocity of the train. Here, Japanese Rail Sim does an admirable job of articulating speed limits, with either glowing indictors on the accelerometer or text to show the restricted speeds when leaving stations or around bends. Periodically, the game even asks players to sound the whistle when rounding a corner, with overzealous blowers receiving a point deduction. Tension mounts as warnings alert players to an upcoming station, where they have to bring the hurtling, transit train to stopping point the size of a coin.
Bypass the mark (inevitable will the first few times) by more than a meter and the game will immediately end, signifying a conclusion to your condensed career as a rail engineer. Those who do bring commuter train successfully into the station receive a grade based on precision and punctuality. This is tied to a rewards system with players earning up to three unlockables, with pictures and factoids serving as an electronic travel guide. Successful completion of the route with “A” grades opens up a Night mode, which offers a dazzling alterative to Okinawa’s azure skies.
While the evening journey is undeniably picturesque, the day trip is no slouch- with the monorail snaking through Okinawa’s business and residential zones. Players are treated to a three-dimensional, full motion video sequences which reveal the engineer’s point of view. Although Monorail Trip to Okinawa shows improvement over its predecessors, the visual delivery still sn’t perfect. When your locomotive is hurting along at 50 kilometers per hour, the scenery is wonderfully fluid. But when the train is coming to a halt, and you really need to monitor your velocity (fortunately, an overheard visual representation is offered on the right side of the screen), video is slowed down to as little as a single frame per second. Peripheral elements like cars seem frozen, sullying the game’s reproduction of movement. Fortunately, the aural delivery is flawless, with both games offering a realistic recreation of roaring engines, squealing brakes, and in-train announcements in Japanese and English. If you’re ever traveled on any of Japan’s trains, the twinkly, cheerful melodies that are played on the trains are certain to muster halcyon memories. What’s more, players can unlock music that can be played in-game, which an includes a track by idol group “Lagoon Blue”.
Considering that gameplay consists of regulating speed and making precision stops, Japanese Rail Sim 3D likely won’t interest the average player. But those with an appreciation for trains or Japan’s natural beauty might want to hop aboard one of Sonic Powered’s sims. While each title has a limited amount of interaction, the subject matter and the organic splendor won’t be found outside of this series. Given Monorail Trip to Okinawa improved video quality, the latest release makes an ideal place to begin your journey.
Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Monorail Trip to Okinawa was played
on the 3DS with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Sonic Powered Inc.
Publisher: Sonic Powered Inc
Release Date: August 25th, 2016
Price: $19.99 via eShop