Last year, Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 came out on the eShop, a game that centered around the concept of being a real life train conductor in Japan. It wasn't very well-received here, but the title gave away the fact there would inevitably be at least one sequel. One would think that Sonic Powered Co. would've learned from the mistakes it made in Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1, but unfortunately the snappily named Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 Vol. 2 has rectified none of the problems of its predecessor.
The premise sees players controlling a train as it rolls along a line in the Gifu prefecture of the Japanese countryside, while actual footage scrolls by on the upper screen. The problem with this stems not from the idea of it, but the way that it's actually played out. Simply put, the game fails to deliver - in a satisfactory way - what it promises, giving players little reason to invest much time in it.
For one thing, the player actually has very little input into what happens on screen. You can set or release the brake and there is a grand total of five speed settings, but beyond that all you can do is sit and wait. It proves a little troublesome at first to figure out how the train moves and when to brake or accelerate, yet once the player gets the feel for it the experience tanks and becomes mind numbingly dull. Perhaps it could be made more exciting if there were more variables to juggle, but simply adjusting a train's speed does not make for a terribly compelling experience.
This is worsened by the low quality and generally disappointing footage shown on the top screen. Perhaps the two-bit gameplay could be overlooked if the footage up top was something nice to look at or visually stimulating, but the actual result is less than ideal. The default view keeps the action relegated to a laughably small window in the middle of the screen, bordered by a half-baked image of the cabin's interior. Rooting around with some settings gets rid of the cabin view and blows up the footage to nearly the whole screen, but here it's revealed why the footage is defaulted to such a small view.
The image quality is quite poor and blurry, making it difficult to discern much detail in what you're looking at. Worse yet, there are issues with framerate and the image occasionally stutters or jumps. Considering that this is one of the main selling points of the game, one would think more attention would have been paid to capturing some good footage of Japan, but the final product seems lazy.
In terms of replayability, there's a surprising amount of library content to be unlocked. After pulling into each station you're graded based on how smoothly you drove, whether you stopped at the right point, whether you paid attention to speed limit and so on. Based on this grade you can receive short blurbs that discuss something about the architectural, geographical or historical aspects of the area. These are actually interesting, but they aren't quite worth sitting through the monotony of each stage to obtain.
All told, Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 Vol. 2 is a disappointing and uninteresting experience. While the idea behind it is solid enough, the execution is so poor that we couldn't recommend this to anyone. The trivia included is interesting enough, but it certainly does not compensate for the mindless gameplay and poor camera quality. Do yourself a favour and don't get on this train.