Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Travel of Steam is a rail simulator for the 3Ds, developed and published by Sonic Powered Co., Ltd, who are also responsible for other titles in the series, such as Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Journey to Kyoto (2015). Like these previous instalments, you follow the railroad from beginning to end, in this case the Ogawa railroad, with the charm of the game coming from the steam locomotive you control to ensure the journey goes smoothly.
Your train journey begins from Shinkanaya station and ends at Senzu station, stopping at sixteen destinations along the way covering the total distance of 37.2 kilometres. At each stop you are given a description of the stretch of track that leads to the next destination, as well as some tips about any obstacles/complications you may encounter along the way. You are graded on the quality of your journey between the two stations based: on how well you keep to speed, how well you time the journey, whether or not you experience any malpractice, and when you blow the whistle. After you complete the journey for the first time, you unlock express mode which allows you to make longer journeys through multiple stations.
The game takes advantage of the two screens the 3Ds has to offer, the top screen being used to display the environments you pass through as well as to as to look out for signs to instruct your journey. The bottom screen holds the levers, dials and the coal pit which you use to control the train, ensuring you have a successful journey. The train’s interior (the cabin) is animated against the live camera outside, showcasing the gorgeous scenery, however this isn’t always the best quality due to the 3Ds’ low screen resolution, compared to that of other consoles. The sim also takes advantage of the 3D capabilities of the console, a feature which isn’t wildly popular, however I believe it is used effectively here as it makes the game more immersive that with the settings in 2D. The game was easy to navigate with clear menus and options. The how to play tutorial is a bit confusing so I would recommend skipping this feature as the game gives you hints in gameplay anyway. The music for the game isn’t amazing and is at many times, excruciatingly generic, however this is counterbalanced by the amazing audio for the train which bring forth a nostalgic feelings, especially the whistle.
The gameplay is also enjoyable. You can utilise both the touch screen and the buttons of the 3Ds, however I found the game easier to play using the buttons. You use the directional buttons to control the throttle (speed) of the train, and the letter buttons to control the brakes, with there being three levels to each contraption with the key being finding the balance to both to reach the right speeds at the right points. You have to use the touch screen to add coal to the engine to ensure pressure stays up to ensure you keep moving. You use the L button to operate the whistle and the R button to control the frame of the top screen, the back ground audio and the guide for the top screen. I recommend using the second frame always for the game as it gives you the exterior shot of the train, allowing for you to see more of the Japanese countryside instead of the inside of an animated cabin. For each level, you are judged on how well you meet criteria, such as your timing for the trip, and the quality of your arrival at each station. Based on this you get given coins which you can then spend in the library of the game, which offers trivia on the railroad, the places it runs though and the trains that run on it. This adds to the games replayability as it’s fun to get more coins and learn about the journey you are taking.
One change to the game I would make is to switch the outside cabin view the default option as otherwise it’s hard to see the scenery passing by outside which makes the game boring if all you have to look at are some dials. I would also improve the music to be more engaging as it really just left me uninterested.
Overall, Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Travel of Steam was a pleasant rail sim which provided me a lovely ride through Japan, which offering enough to keep me playing through the unlocking of trivia. And I can’t end without praising that whistle one more time!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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