Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Nurse Love visual novels are now in my rear view mirror, and I’m sorry to see them go. Sure, there were completely insane twists, and I think I have so many questions about what actually happens in a nursing relationship when it goes sour, but damn, was the art, the plot and the voice work beautiful. Still, the wheels of gaming keep on turning, and I must turn with them. Now we get a chance to view a brand new visual novel, one that caught a ton of fan acclaim in 2016, and is getting an anime release next week in Japan. It’s the perfect storm for many Japanese players: a combination of easy-to-believe self insertion, tons of animation and voice work, a fairly straightforward harem of women, and so, so many trains. This is the alternate reality of Japan that is Maitetsu ~ Pure Station.
Brought to us by a joint effort of Lose and Circle (Sekai Project did the original PC release), Maitetsu tells of a Japan where the railway system was once the most important infrastructure in the country, but it’s recently gone by the wayside due to the expansion of cheap, safe, easy air travel (in aerocrafts, no less). The trains were more special than you’d realize: all aspects of their driving and the tracks themselves were overseen by humanoid robots called RailLords (which is such an awesome name), but the RailLords now slumber in multiple locations, no longer having a use. Our protagonist is Migita Sotetsu, an orphan who lost his family years ago in a tragic train accident (which we see in a sort of dream sequence/flashback at the very beginning). His hometown is now considering opening up a massive factory that will definitely pollute the local river, and he is coming back home to try and stop this from happening. People sort of need the jobs that this would create though, so Sotetsu needs to find another plan to get money and commerce if he wants to prevent the factory. It just so happens that he stumbles into the local train station, and, after a flurry of events, awakens the RailLord Hachiroku, and now the future looks bright and full of train events. Oh, and Sotetsu also has a sister who is technically his adopted step sister, so it’s not weird, and the mayor is a little blonde girl, and now I’ve covered everything you need to know before starting off.
Right out the gate, it should be noted that Maitetsu ~ Pure Station is FULL of options and ideas, and I’m honestly quite impressed at the calibre of information available. You can set the languages, sure, but you can also set a secondary language if you’re someone who wants to read the Japanese and the direct English translation at the same time. Granted, because it’s translated by someone who outsourced to a localisation group, it’s certainly not perfect, but it’s a good opportunity to sight read some Japanese and pick up English at the same time. The Japanese also allows you to read along with the fully voiced game, and I mean FULLY voiced. Sotetsu, Hachiroku, every single person, even if they don’t have a name, gets a speaking voice if they talk aloud. All of Sotetsu’s inner monologues aren’t voiced, but that’s alright. You can jump back to literally any point in the game to revisit the conversation or hear the line again, and you can create a massive number of saves (called Bookmarks) to move throughout the plot and the routes as they unfold. You don’t want to wait till the end of the game to enjoy the soundtrack separately, either: there’s a jukebox unlocked from the very start to let you just listen to the beautiful music no matter what else you’re up to. Plus, as you unlock the different routes for everyone, you can actually see the groundwork being laid out in a separate system menu, making it incredibly easy to follow the progression down the paths you’re striving for. Maitetsu wants you to know what you have in store and what you need to do, and that’s pretty damn excellent of it.
With the story moving forward, there’s also some important things to note. First and foremost, the game fluctuates wildly between being heavily informative and also surprisingly empty. When it comes to things like trains and the train lines, you better strap on your conductor’s hat because there is no lack of terminology and ideals that rock through this game. Maitetsu is clearly built, from the ground up, for the very common Japanese fan who is super into anime and trains, so the information regarding the train is heavy and frequent. You get to hear all about the different machinations and styles, have meetings with Hachiroku and the others to decide what’s going to be happening with the trains on any given day, and really dig deep into what it means to have a countrywide rail system. Naturally, because Lose doesn’t want to get a C&D from the JR system, there’s fictitious information that pops up everywhere in order to keep things imaginary and theoretical, but there’s a lot of details that are spot on with the trains in Japan themselves, and there are references and parallels to real life train models and rail events that will probably not matter to the average Western player and also will not affect your gameplay whatsoever. While you do have a limited number of choices to make, most of them do not affect the future that Sotetsu is striving for with his hometown. Instead, most of the pathways are for enhancing the relationships with the women you meet, and I suppose that brings us to our second point.
Maitetsu ~ Pure Station is a full on H game on the PC (so there’s plenty of sex scenes). Those are, obviously, not present on the Switch release, so this is a bit of a hard sell for people who are in the know about the game. The hard sell comes in a threefold problem. First, this is more than twice as expensive as the current Steam price. While that shouldn’t matter for console gamers (who understand that porting and recoding are hard work), there’s the removal of the substance that might have been something you wanted in the first place, and that’s a bit of a bummer. Secondly, the affection points of the girls are permanently set on high. Like, you are a super, super likeable character to all these women, and you have to try pretty hard to get them to not like you. Thanks to the chapter progression bar and the background history collection in the system menu, it almost feels harder to get a bad ending than a good one. Plus, almost all endings are weddings, so it’s not like that needed to be changed in the first place. Still, the animations are really cute, and the characters are constantly showing some movements and gestures that help give them an extra amount of livelihood, so it’s a very cool thing to witness while bouncing along with the clean, properly voiced dialogue.
The third point, and this might just be for some people, but several of the love options look really young. I mean, they look really young. Hachiroku is a RailLord that’s technically more than a hundred years old, fine, but she looks like she’s cutting elementary school to be here. Reina looks like a damn first grader, which is highly concerning and I shouldn’t even need to explain why. Even the mayor, Paulette, who is arguably the oldest of the bunch, still has the appearance of a high school student, or maybe the beginning of university, and that’s generous. When you realize this game is meant to be a sex game on other platforms and is on the Switch through the grace of fine tuned editing, you really have to question certain things in life, and if Thanos had the right idea. Naturally, again, there’s no nudity or even highly lascivious behavior in the game (a couple of questionable scenes, but not devastating), but this is one of those “absolutely not on the train” sort of games. Which is a shame, because there is so many cool factors regarding the alt-world technology, and the rise of incredible AI, and the fact that you can get an ending where everyone is just amicably agreeing to compete for your love, including your airplane. That wasn’t a typo, Sotetsu’s airplane tries to win his heart at some point, and if you don’t find that funny then you’re a bit dead inside.
If you can take a deep breath and suspend your disbelief over how old a character appears to be versus how old the game says they are, then Maitetsu ~ Pure Station is an impressively built game. The replay value is long, the twists are predictable but still enjoyable, and the characters are genuinely adorable to behold. Like, the animation style they use here is something conspicuously absent in a lot of VNs, and I can’t figure out why. Giving a bit of motion and mentality to the different people makes the game come alive in a big way. I’m going to turn my SafeSearch filter on permanently and just decide that this Switch version is the only version of the game that exists: to the credit of the port, there isn’t anything that abjectly says “This is where banging should occur, but we can’t show you.” It may not be the next great novel, but it certainly is entertaining, endearing, and changed the way that I thought about trains. Just…not like that.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Maitetsu-Pure Station Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Well, that’s one way to rekindle Japan’s love of trains.