Review by kndy2099

"May seem uninteresting but actually is a very fun game/simultor."

Densha de Go! Pocket (Yamanote Line/Yamanote-Sen Hen) is the first Tokyo train game for the PSP. One of the highlights of the game is the ability to be a driver or a conductor as you drive passengers (and pick up passengers) to various destinations in the Kanto region such as Shibuya, Harajuku, Ikeubkuro, Akihabara and around 30 stations.

I know many of you may be wondering why? Why a train game/simulator. It doesn't sound as interesting to write or explain but playing it is actually pretty fun and will attract those who are interested in this part of Japanese culture or missing riding the trains in Tokyo (like I do).

There are several modes in this game:

DRIVER'S WORK: Your role is to drive the train to each destination and taking care of your passengers
CONDUCTOR'S WORK: Your role is to make sure the train goes to the right destination and you signal the correct time for the announcement. More or less a way to watch the train drive to destination from outside of the train in different camera modes.
DRIVER'S ROOM: Your stats
BUSINESS CARD EXCHANGE: This will allow you to trade business cards (think of it as a trading card) with others who own the game to play different trains they have accessed via wireless.
MUSEUM: Train Introduction and videos that you have opened
OPTIONS: Sound, Display and Controller settings

GAMEPLAY:

Starting off as a driver, your goal is to maintain the speed of the train (a indicator on the bottom right screen tells you of upcoming speeds (KMPH) that your train will need to be and also utilizing the brakes. The goal is to make it to your destination (the next stop) and stop exactly where the indicator says you have to stop. Go passed it or way before the stop area and you will receive negative points. Brake to hard and do something crazy and you will injure your passengers.

You start off with figures that represent your passengers (a total of 10) and you have to make sure you don't lose them all. By missing a stop or by braking too quickly, you will lose passengers and when you lose them all, your game ends. Fortunately, you can continue and start over.

You start off with three levels. The first is a tutorial, the second is where you need to complete around 8 stops and the next is where you need to complete around 4 stops. With each level, you get to operate different trains, in different weather conditions.

By successfully completing your stops and beating a stage, you earn money which can be used to buy new levels in the game. Otherwise, you replay the stages you played to earn the money needed to access the next level.

Also, by doing well, you will be able to access several bonuses and videos.

As conductor, it is very different. It's actually quite easy. The main goal of the conductor is making sure you announce the right stops. This may be difficult for non-Japanese readers or those not familiar with the Japan because you are told where to go, then given a map, you will need to select the area where you are going. Fortunately, the instruction booklet has the translation of the city stops (or you can select via direction pad and guesstimate the cities quickly). Otherwise, the main reason for this mode is to watch the train from the outside (overhead or sideways) as it is driving towards a destination.

GRAPHICS:

The graphics are very well done. I played the original PlayStation version and the PSP version is such a big leap in terms of graphics. How they captured the buildings, trees and local areas around the station while riding the train is beautiful. Only in Conductor's Work Mode, will you see something which I didn't like which was the people at the station. They are photo cutouts of people waiting. I wished that Taito would add possibly several 3D characters waiting or moving around the station like real life than just photo cutouts of people that are just standing there.

SOUND:

The audio in this game makes the game very much appealing. Hearing the music of the station before boarding to the female voice explaining about procedures for people to leave the train and much more. Also, the conductor talking about upcoming stops and much more. Just like riding a real train around Tokyo.

CONTROLS:

In Driver's Work: Controls are actual very simple. Directional pad up and down to control speed and square button to break and X button to release breaks. That's pretty much it. In Conductor's Work, direction pad selects the stops you are announcing and the shoulder buttons will be used to play the audio needed when riding the train.

USER FRIENDLINESS TO NON-JAPANESE READERS:

The game is actually very user-friendly for Driver's Work mode. Although the tutorial is an animated character explaining the game, diagrams and arrows telling you to press a button to break or to speed up is pretty self-explanatory. For Conductor's Work mode, it may seem unnerving at first if you have to select a city when the map comes on. Fortunately, you have seconds (enough time) to quickly guesstimate the stop that you are going to next by selecting stops on the map as quickly as possible.

OVERALL:

“Densha de Go! Pocket – Yamanote Line” is a very enjoyable game for the PSP. It's really hard to promote a game like this for American video gamers and will appeal to those who enjoy trains and want a simulator or those like myself who reminisce about being in Japan and riiding the JR trains everyday to get to destinations.

In terms of gameplay, Driver's Work mode sounds easy because the controls are simple but in actuality, it takes some patience and additional play to learn where to calculate your breaking as you try to stop in an exact area at the station without having your passengers rock around and fall (an indicator of people falling shows if you have done that) . At times, I felt that I got a fantastic rating by landing in the exact spot to find that I went over the stop area which can be a bit unnerving.

For Conductor's Work mode, it's very simple; you only have a few things to do. With only a few clicks of a button for the right stop and at the right time and the beginning and of arrival or departure, that's it. The main purpose of this mode is to watch the train travel from overhead or sideways and watch as it reaches the station.

And finally, I purchased this PSP game when a second Tokyo release (Chuuousenhen) and a new Osaka release (Osaka Kanjousen-Hen) was released in Japan with a few more added features over this first game.

Nevertheless, this game does what the game is intended to do. Operating a major train through Tokyo and stopping around 30 stations while maintaining happy passengers and getting them to their destinations in time. For me, it's more of a nostalgic feeling of riding a train to various locations and Tokyo (minus the large crowds) and thus making it enjoyable.

OVERALL SCORE: 84%/100

PROS:

+ A train simulator going through major stops through Tokyo and with nice graphics and sound, it's like riding in the train.
+ You can play the driver or the conductor
+ Ability to open up new routes and bonuses
+ Business cards allow trading of trains with people who have the game
+ Driver's Work mode is pretty user-friendly for non-Japanese readers
+ Quick load up time
+ Experiencing the ride through Shibuya and busy areas without having to experience the crowdedness in real life.

CONS:
- Although the control scheme is simple, maintaining happy passengers and breaking exactly in the stop areas of the station is a challenge.
- Wireless trading is great but chances of finding people living outside of Japan owning the game may be a bit rare.
- Conductor's Work mode maybe a challenge for non-Japanese readers or people familiar with the stops.
- In Conductor's Work mode, I wish there are people moving around instead of photo cutouts of people in line waiting for the train.
- For people who want negligence in the forms of bad accidents, you are not going to find it in this game. This is not Burnout Legends.
- BEING NITPICKY: Taito's opening theme sounds and looks like it came from a Japan Railways training video.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/05/06


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