Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey to Kyoto is the sequel to Journey in Suburbs #1, which was released in June of this same year. Just like its predecessor the title centres around the idea of playing the role of a train conductor in Japan, in this case the city of Kyoto; unfortunately this title fails to change the tracks and suffers the same fate as the previous entry in the series.
The main selling point of this iteration is the city of Kyoto and the Momiji no Tonneru, a tourist attraction where a stretch of maple trees grow on both sides of the track, giving the impression that the train is passing through a tunnel.
Reaching said tunnel is not an easy task, fulfilling the role of an Eizan Electric Railway driver, your job is to arrive at each station on time and stop the train at the designed area on each platform. Part of the challenge of each of the 14 sections of the ride comes from adhering to the rules of the railway, which vary for each section of the trip. Some sections have speed radars in which the player has to adjust the speed of the vessel accordingly to the speed limit, especially when exiting or entering a station. In addition, curves also have a set speed limit and slopes affect your progress either by halting or accelerating the train.
As mentioned above, the game is presented in individual sections - each trip lasts between one and two minutes; at the end of each section players are evaluated based on their arrival time and position at each stop. Depending on the score, a set of "documents" can be unlocked in the game library, and these display information and trivia of each section of the ride.
It all sounds great, right? After all, who doesn't want to travel to an exotic locale in a distant land, while at the same time conduct a train and learn about the region through snippets of fun trivia? Sadly, though, this game not only shares part of the title with its predecessor, it also shares its biggest issue. The problem with the Japanese Rail Sim 3D series is not in the idea, but the execution of said idea.
Just like in Journey to Suburbs #1, the "game" requires the player to control the train via two handles: the Master Controller (mapped to the D-Pad) that serves the purpose to adjust the throttle of the train, and the brake handle (mapped to the ABXY buttons), which well… controls the brakes. And just like the previous iteration, instead of having precise control of the speed, the designers of the game decided to give the player only four presets, and they are all useless - either the train goes too fast or too slow.
In addition to the issues stated in the previous paragraph, the trip through Kyoto is quite mundane, especially when travelling at the incredible speed of 30 km/h (or 18mph for those who prefer the imperial system). It doesn't help that the quality of the visuals displayed in the upper screen is quite poor. The low resolution of the footage combined with the sub-par framerate make it difficult to tell things apart in the upper screen. Furthermore the view is constantly obscured by the HUD displaying the departure arrival time of each section and more information besides.
The worst part is that Japanese Rail Sim 3D simply is not fun. The fact that there's a scoring system to evaluate the player's performance isn't much of a defence; while some might find this feature engaging, it is still too shallow for it to be considered particularly enjoyable in the eyes of less lenient players.
The one redeeming quality of the game is the amount of endgame content. Once Section Mode is mastered a new mode appears - Full Line Mode is a 30-minute non-stop ride from the first to the last station, but instead of being evaluated at each station the player's performance is graded at the last station. If the player gets the highest rating possible in Full Line Mode a new iteration appears, Night Mode, which is just the same but the journey starts at dusk.
Yet these additions are not enough to make Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey to Kyoto an easy title to recommend. Most of the content available is available in YouTube and Wikipedia, and for those looking a better quality interactive ride, head over to Google Maps and make a trip from Demachiyanagi Station to Kurama Station, there are many small streets that have the Street View feature that travel on each side of the track.
The biggest crime of Japanese Rail Sim 3D Journey to Kyoto is that it didn't address the issues of its predecessor. The game is the same as the previous one, but with a different coat of paint and some extra features. It shouldn't even be considered a game as Journey to Kyoto suffers from an identity crisis. The title doesn't know whether to act as a simulator or an interactive tour. It doesn't have enough steam to keep its engine running - it's safer to call a cab or walk home.