Usually the world of video games takes players to far off fictional lands filled with magic and wonder. I am an Air Traffic Controller Airport Hero Narita (yes, that's its actual name) does not take place in such a location. If one couldn't tell from it's exceedingly long and descriptive title (which is going to be referred to as simply Airport Hero Narita) the newest entry in the world of gaming simulation is set at the actual Narita airport, located in Tokyo, Japan.
Anyone who has flown in or out of Narita will recognize various aspects of the airport that can be seen from above. It may be realistic, but sometimes that is even more interesting than a world of make believe. Spoiler alert: the Pokemon Store on the 4th floor of the 2nd terminal is not included.
In fact Airport Hero Narita, as one would suspect, only takes place outside the airport. Players are in charge of arriving and departing aircraft at one of the largest airports in Japan. For some that may be hard to understand. It in no way means players will be piloting planes. This game is sadly not a Star Fox reskin set in present day Tokyo. Your job as an "airport hero" is to guide planes to the right takeoff and landing points, as well as direct them to the correct gates without smashing them into each other. Airport Hero Narita is a game about safety and precision. If that sounds dull to you, then you're not alone.
While one might think, "Who in their right mind would play such a game?", this writer can assure there are apparently many. The Air Traffic Controller series has been around in Japan since 1998 and has done well enough to spawn dozens of games that cover airports from all around the globe. Heck, in Japan the 3DS has eight of these games. EIGHT! The only other one that has been shared with the rest of the world is the Hawaii iteration, which we covered last year, and it didn't exactly become a best seller.
The main gameplay (if one can call it that) is found under “Operation Mode" and gives players three views of the incoming and outgoing aircraft. As an air traffic controller players can switch views at any point and zoom in and out as they please. Each plane is classified on the touch screen in either the "arriving" or "departure" sections, and when each one is tapped they indicate what actions can be taken. Players can slow down incoming planes, taxi ones on the runway, and inform incoming traffic where to land. The worst part of the whole procedure, though, has to be the waiting. Sometimes there is literally nothing to do but watch planes slowly get closer or further away. It's maddening.
There are multiple different difficulty levels in “Operation Mode", and four stages for each of the three levels. To unlock new stages and difficulty levels players have to complete the stages in a specific order or use the 3DS camera to scan in new content via special QR codes . As players move on they are saddled with handling more and more planes both coming and going from Narita. The depth of the game really just comes from moving to more difficult stages and taking on more responsibility as an air traffic controller. Which… is fun, if you like the concept.
Maybe it's because the average person just isn't used to being an air traffic controller, but even the easier stages can be a tad difficult to understand. The tutorial isn't quite as helpful as one would hope, as it tells players exactly what to do next, but doesn't go into detail about how to handle different situations one may face during actual gameplay. After a few stages players will surely get a better grasp on the controls, though they may still manage to crash a few planes here and there. Speaking of which, if a player does happen to fail their current stage there are no checkpoints to fall back on. If one makes it to the end of a stage (they can last for a good long while) and then makes a mistake they're going to have to start all over again. It's beyond frustrating. This was an issue also noted in our Hawaii review.
The visuals of the airport and various aircraft that players guide are simple, but well done. Everything looks crisp and pops nicely when the 3D slider is pushed to its max. The menus throughout the game are simple and easy to navigate, though there is a bit of broken English here and there. Even the touch screen somehow manages to squish all that airport data into nice neat sections for the player's guiding pleasure.
There's a wonderfully realistic touch thrown in with all the codes and actual dialogue from airplane captains and crew; it actually sounds like a real traffic control tower. The music that plays while players help the planes down from and into the sky is upbeat with a tropical vibe. It's very reminiscent of 2012's 3DS launch title Pilotwings Resort, in that aspect.
If air traffic control sounds enjoyable, or if a player knows it is from past experiences, then some enjoyment is possible with this game. If the thought of telling planes where to go doesn't excite you then don't take your chances on Airport Hero Narita. This game isn't hiding any part of what it offers, and it's a decent simulator. The simulation just isn't something that the average gamer is going to find worthwhile, especially with the high price tag at launch.
I always preferred a simpler, more arcade-y approach to Airport management.
Sure that might sound dull but Simulators haven't really gone out of there way to be unrealistic, and for some reason this reviewer is pleading for that.
@Hero-of-WiiU I'm not pleading for it, I'm just disappointed at how unexciting being an Airport Hero is
It's good to note what you're getting in an airplane-based video game, as most of them involve actual plane flying.
A 3DS airport simulator game?
Kinda reminds me of Taito's Landing High Japan, which was an arcade airplane simulator that you could find on any Time Out or any arcade place.
Best game name ever.
Wait, did I say best? I meant worst.
I'm really not sure which is it, to be honest.
I love these Airport Simulators. Once you get going it gets very hectic and finishing a stage is very fulfilling. Plus the fact the game is in 3d brings a very nice realistic approach to the game. Again like Train Simulator Japan I would rate this a 7. There are still 3 more versions of these airport sims in Japan and I hope we get them all. The prices are a little high but believe it or not they pay about 10 dollars more than we do in Japan for these games. In a sense they have lowered the price. I do recommend waiting for a sale Sonic has had a couple sales on their software just keep your eyes open. You can more than likely snag this for 9.99 when the time comes and the game is well worth playing at that price. These are retail games in Japan. I kind of wish we would get them retail so I could have my cartridge. I would pay 29.99 for them. I think they are that good. To say this game is not exciting is very subjective as lovers of Airplanes would find plenty of excitement about this game. In my early days of working I worked at America West Airlines and this game kind of reminds me of working there. Another bad review of a Sim game here at Nintendolife I'm seeing a pattern. It's subjective for sure.
This is what I recommend. Get the demo and play it and try it is all I can say. If you like it buy it. If you don't move onto gunman Clive or whatever you like to play. For those who end up liking this game they made sure you can play it forever with an AR picture taking mode to the game which randomizes missions for you. So basically the game never ends. More games should do this. It's nice after beating the set missions.
let's hope those planes are snake-free... You can never get too safe on a plane... Even if this game is about safety...
It is obvious some are not into simulation. I downloaded the demo and love it.
I used to play MS Flight Simulator use real charts and airport plates. This game does a great job simulating ATC. Sometimes I really need those guys to abbreviate more so I can get more traffic flowing.
I give it 8/10.
I love the Hawaii version. I wouldn't exactly call this series a simulation game, but more of a rather unique puzzle game. I'm going to get this sometime.
I was going to add that these type of games aren't going to appeal to everyone (such as yourself). Most simulation games only appear on PCs, and that's where most of the fans of these games are. I love simulation games like SimCity and Transport Giant Gold.
I wish we could EDIT our posts. If it was me reviewing, I'd give it a 7 or an 8. I really hate giving out random numbers to reviews, though, but unique games like this can be really fun if you're interested in the subject. The dialog between air control and the pilot in this series sounds really authentic to me, and watching those planes fly around, especially while they're landing or taking of at night, is really cool. Anyone who loves planes and/or wanting to be an ATC should get it.
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