Every once in a while you play one of those games where it just makes you ask, "Why?" This isn't necessarily because the game is bad, as such, but occasionally one wonders what compelled the developer to make a game so decidedly perplexing. Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 is one of those games. While it more or less succeeds in fulfilling what it sets out to do, that central purpose appeals to a very limited audience and ultimately just doesn't work as a game.
Players take on the role of a train conductor on a Japanese train line, meaning that it's your job to deliver the passengers to their next destination in a timely and smooth manner. Coupled with the actual 3D footage of Japanese countryside that plays in front of your windshield, this actually doesn't sound half bad, right? Well, the actual results are middling.
To start, the real world footage is relegated to perhaps a little bit less than one third of the upper screen; it's bordered by a cheaply rendered shot of the metal interior of the cabin, a clock that keeps your schedule, and a top down 2D animated render of the train which uselessly displays it travelling in a straight line. There's an option to clear out most of the display and have the footage take up the majority of the screen, but this exposes the poor quality of the camera and results in a blurry, low-res appearance that's pretty rough to look at.
Now, let's move on to the meat of the "gameplay". On the bottom screen, there's a display meant to simulate the controls that an actual train operator uses, but they're (understandably) dumbed down to the point that there's very little to actually do. Once the passengers get on the train, you turn off the brake and accelerate until you reach coasting speed. Then, you just occasionally adjust your speed marginally up or down according to curves and hills until bringing it to a stop at the next station.
Ultimately, this means that the player sits there and watches a low quality video of Japanese countryside while occasionally tapping a button a couple of times to adjust the speed of the train. It's mildly interesting for perhaps ten minutes, and then it becomes just about as much fun as sitting on a train and staring out the window as you observe an unexceptional rural town on an overcast day. There's not enough detail to the video to make the view particularly entertaining and the "gameplay" is so stripped down and simplified that it can scarcely be considered actually playing a game.
For those of you that are willing to work for it, there's actually a surprising amount of replayability. At the end of every stage, you receive a rating that calculates how precise you were with timing your arrival and lining up the train with the drop off point. Considering how difficult it is to meet both of these criteria on the dot, a theoretical gamer that enjoyed the gameplay would have plenty of reason to replay stages to chase that perfect rating.
On top of this, a surprisingly interesting and in depth library is filled with short write ups and history lessons on the surrounding areas and the culture of them. Documents are unlocked by high ratings on levels and typically go into a decent level of detail on whatever historical topic is being covered. Considering that there are three difficulty modes, this means that there are lots of documents to be unlocked and that could certainly be a motivator for fans to go through a particular stage yet again to try and get the top mark.
Overall, Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 fails to impress or provide any meaningful reason for why the gamer should continue subjecting themselves to the repetitive and extremely slowly paced gameplay. While there's a decent amount of replayability and an interesting library of historical facts, these do not save the game from its poor video display and boring gameplay. If you'd like to see footage of the Japanese countryside, do yourself a favour and look it up on Google Street View or YouTube. It's free, the picture quality will likely be better, and it's roughly as interactive.