The oddly named Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 Vol. 3 is finally here, promising more train driving action to all who are interested. For better or for worse, this entry in the series is virtually indistinguishable from its predecessors; none of the flaws have been improved upon, nor have any of its strengths been built up.
The premise sees players in control of a train that operates in the Gifu prefecture of Japan, with the goal being to deliver your passengers to the next stop as safely and efficiently as possible. Along the way real footage of the view from the train scrolls by in an effort to give the player the sense that they are actually in the situation. This is a sound concept, but it is unfortunately poorly realised by the dumbed down controls and shoddy camera quality.
To start, the controls are far too simple and have been dumbed down to the point that there is actually very little for the player to do while in control of the train. Granted, the actual controls of a train may be perhaps a little too complex for the typical individual to just pick up, but here the only thing you can do is adjust the train's speed. In action, this results in a situation where all you do is speed up or slow down the train according to slopes and curves before bringing it to a final stop. Initially this is entertaining, but it quickly becomes boring when you realise the game is just a one trick pony and that there's nothing more to the gameplay.
On the other hand, there is plenty of replayability for those that are willing to slog through it. Three difficulty modes are available, and while the difference between them feels marginal, they each offer a chance at unlocking more library content. Completion of each stage results in the player's performance being graded based on how closely they stuck to the schedule, followed all the speed signs and so on, with high grades being rewarded with interesting trivia about the surrounding area's history and culture. There's lots to unlock here, and while it ultimately doesn't redeem the game, it does give some incentive to keep improving one's score.
Moreover, the real world footage – which is evidently the whole point of this game – is grainy and fairly low quality. While it's a given that the 3DS screen itself isn't terribly high resolution and can't push high definition visuals, the footage is blocky and blurry, like the environment is being viewed through a cloudy camera lens. This is almost passable when the footage is kept to a ridiculously small window in the middle of the screen, bordered by a bland still shot of the cabin's interior, but blowing it up to almost the full screen reveals just how bad the footage is.
As if the quality wasn't bad enough, the framerate sometimes chugs as much as the train, resulting in a picture that skips frames and creates a sense of disconnect. This is unacceptable considering the premise of the game, and one would think that the developers would've gone to more pain to get some high quality shots of the countryside. It comes across as being lazy and unfinished, unacceptable considering that it's arguably the main reason one would play through this game.
Essentially, Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 Vol. 3 is exactly what its predecessors were, nothing more, nothing less. If you enjoyed any of the previous ones, you will also enjoy this one, as it's virtually just a glorified DLC pack. If you were put off by the previous games, then we'd advise you to stay well away from this. Ultimately, we wouldn't recommend you pick this one up as both the footage and gameplay are severely lacking, which gives one little reason to invest a significant chunk of time into this. It's best you just let this train roll by.