Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 Vol. 4 is – like its predecessors – one of those games that's either loved or hated. That being said, this niche genre is not best represented by this fairly half-baked train sim. The gameplay is mindless and the real world footage is below acceptable quality standards, leaving us with a game that is both mediocre and uninteresting.
The premise aims to give players a taste of what it's like to really drive a train through the rural Gifu prefecture in Japan, as you sit up front in a first person view. You're tasked with getting your passengers to the next stop in the safest and most efficient manner possible, and your performance is graded upon pulling into each station. It's not that the idea itself lacks potential, but the way it's executed leaves much to be desired.
For one thing – and perhaps this is just something that comes with the territory – the controls themselves are extremely simple and relatively easy to master. You can set the brake and adjust the train's speed between five different settings, and that's really it. Occasionally a curveball is thrown at you when approaching a bend or incline of some sort, but these typically aren't significant enough that they change up the experience in a meaningful or interesting way. This leads to a gameplay loop that stagnates very quickly, as you realize that the game has little else to offer than a mild change in scenery.
Of course, one could argue that the gameplay isn't exactly the point of a train sim – and it really isn't in this case – but the actual world footage is also severely lacking. By default, a very small window in the middle of the screen displays actual footage shot from the front of a train that runs along the real track in Japan, and if it's kept to this small window it's passable, though difficult to make out much detail. Blowing it up to nearly the full screen reveals how low quality the footage is, as the player is faced with a grainy and occasionally stuttering image that leaves much to be desired. If a game is to be centered around the concept of actual footage of something, one would expect more effort to be shown in this respect, but the final product is middling at best.
Now, for those who are willing to look past this game's significant shortcomings, there is plenty of replayability. There are three difficulty settings, and high completion of each stage is rewarded with fascinating bits of trivia on the surrounding area. While it may be that you could find most of the stuff online if you really wanted to, it's still a cool way to learn more about that part of the world, and it's a real shame that this aspect is so firmly buried by the rest of the game's flaws.
All told, Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey in Suburbs #1 Vol. 4 is a noble attempt at educating players on a different part of the world while also giving them a look at what it's like to be driving a train. Unfortunately, its barebones gameplay and low quality footage of the surrounding environment overshadow the interesting trivia that can be learned. While fans of previous entries will find plenty to love, we'd recommend you pass this one up. Leave this train in the station.