In the 3DS library, there is a rather unsurprising gap of management sim games. The niche genre essentially revolves around placing the player in the chair of a person in charge of a large city or company, tasking them with running it and maximising profitability. This is something of a double-edged sword; patient gamers will find plenty of enjoyment if they're willing to work for it, but most will likely lose interest before realizing the hook of the gameplay. Ultimately, A-train: City Simulator is a staggeringly in-depth game that's held back by an extremely steep learning curve and some archaic design choices.
A-Train 3D: City Simulator puts players in charge of a major transportation company that runs most of the public transportation for a city. As players have a pivotal role in the development of a budding city, the goal is to see the city realize its true potential over a period of years while still keeping the company in the black. In the main mode, progress is made by partaking in set "Scenarios" which act as extra long levels that place the player in a particular scenario and set goals to be reached over a period of years, such as expanding the population to a certain point, turning enough profit, or developing an industry. As one will quickly find out, playing the part of a CEO brings with it a lot of responsibilities. These various responsibilities are taught to the player by a series of tutorials that endeavour to explain every facet of running the company at maximum profitability.
What this means is that it's quite a slog to get through the opening acts. There are numerous variables, expenses, and assets to be considered before making any decision, and while the game does a fairly good job of guiding the player through it, it can be a lot of information to take in. In fact, the tutorials added up are easily 8+ hours, and that's of a near constant barrage of text that explains increasingly more complex functions. It doesn't help that there isn't a place where all the lessons taught in these tutorials are compiled for later reference, meaning that if the player forgets how exactly to navigate the endless menus to perform a particular action, it's a case of trial and error until the action is rediscovered. The tutorials are not required to play through the first scenario, but good luck trying to make sense of the staggering amounts of spreadsheets, graphs, charts, and menus that the player is expected to be fluent in. However, when the stars align and everything clicks, it can be incredibly rewarding to see hours of labour come to fruition as the company fires on all cylinders.
The presentation is functional and rather subtly charming, though it lacks the feeling of being alive. Players navigate the isometric, grid-based map using the stylus to perform most actions and particularly important information will be relayed or explained via various employees of the company, such as the CFO or the Secretary. These characters are displayed in a pleasant anime-style and while they may be fairly one-dimensional and lifeless, they manage to give the player the sense of really being in charge of a vast corporation.
While the camera view is primarily set from the isometric standpoint, it can be adjusted to a sort of first person view in which the camera is on the train and the player is given a street level view of the city they're helping to build. This is a neat feature, but it's rather basic and forgettable as textures are muddy and the models are quite basic.
For the extremely hardcore players, there are a few DLC scenarios available that will help add more value to the package. It's nice of Natsume to have these, but the reality is that most won't make it past the tutorials, let alone the nine scenarios that only ascend in difficulty. While it's unknown whether or not Natsume will release more scenarios in the coming weeks and months, it's still a feature worth mentioning as there are some who will manage to conquer all existing scenarios and still wish for more challenges.
It's difficult to recommend a game such as A-Train: City Simulator, simply because of its nigh impenetrable barrier to entry. Fans of simulator games such as these will find a rewarding and incredibly in-depth simulation of running a big business, but most will miss this and be lost to its confusing and unforgiving gameplay. Ultimately, it's worth a shaky recommendation as there is a significantly in-depth simulation to be found here, but let it be known that newcomers are not welcome. Truly, this is a title "for super players only".