Review by hooi

"Train journey with cute girls across Japan..."

INTRODUCTION
You embarked on a 15-days journey using a train (Vega) from one end of Japan (Hokkaidou) to the other end of Japan without any destination. During your journey, you will meet all kinds of people (mainly, girls, obviously) and interact with them. Will you be able to find your purpose of embarking on such a journey?

GAME INFO
''Ojousama Express'' or ''Ojousama Tokkyu'' was released by MediaWorks, the same company that produced ''Sister Princess''. MediaWorks is also a very well-known publisher that published popular magazines like Dengeki Playstation and published novels like Memories Off Bridge, Tengoku ni Namida wa Iranai series and Tokimeki Memorial series. ''Ojousama Express'' was released for both Playstation and Sega Saturn, but this review is for Sega Saturn version.

GAME SYSTEM
The game can be divided into two parts: train journey and train stop.

During your train journey, you can move around the train. You can even decide to keep yourself alone in the room to pass time while avoiding events that you do not want to get. It is very important to get a very good impression from the girl after your first meeting with her, otherwise it is likely that you will not able to arrange a date with the girl successfully at your next major city desitnation.

You can ask train conductor at driver's coach for the location of any girl who you already met if her name is known to you. However, the train conductor will tell you where the girl at that period when you ask her. So, it is likely that the girl will move to other places in the train, unless it is one of the girl's major event.

There are four minigames in Amusement center/coach. There, you can earn enough medal to exchange for girls' alarm clocks. A girl's alarm clock will give you encouraging words by the girl herself at the beginning depending which girl's alarm clock that you set to. However, if I recalled correctly, there are only one set of encouraging words from each girl, except Mirai-chan who has two sets due to her double personality.

Every time you start playing the game you will be given 100 medals and if you stop playing the game, you will lose all the medals that you have. You will need 1200 medals to exchange for each alarm clocks, except one (the chef?), if I recalled correctly. However, if you win that girl already in one of your previous games (get her love confession at the end of your journey), you will only need 600 medals to exchange for that girl's alarm clock. .

Probably, the hardest to win any medals is Sano-arm, a robot shooting minigame, but it was kinda fun in many ways. There are two mode in the game Easy Mode (choose the girl) and Normal Mode (choose the guy). The Slot machine is pretty tough too and it is very boring to play this game.

The best way to earn lots of medals is through a Poker game or a Black Jack game. If you win the game, you will be given the chance to double or even quadruple it in a High & Low game. The probability of winning a Black Jack game is much higher than a Poker game, but the probability of winning big in a Poker is much higher than a Black Jack game, so the two games' benefits kinda balanced out.

When the train stop at a non-major city, the train will stopped for 3 turns. You can get out of the train and it is very likely that you will get an already pre-determined event with a girl, unless you did not meet the girl or you did not impress the girl well enough.

When the train stop at a major city like Sapporo, Aomori, Sendai and Tokyo, the train will stop for a day. The day can be divided into 6 parts: arrange a date with the girl, morning, afternoon, evening, night and sleep.

When you arrived at a major city, you will automatically get a chance to arrange a date with any girl who you met who is still on the train. If you get along well with that girl, you should be able to arrange a date with that girl successfully. Obviously, there are exceptions like Midori-chan's case.

During morning, afternoon, evening and night, you will be able to go around the city (mainly, popular tourist spot of that city) and get girls' events (non-random, but time-specific) or dates (arranged with the girl on arrival at the city).

During a date, make sure you arrive exactly on time. During your date, you will be forced to choose a series of multiple choices, sometimes more than 10 of them. If you did not answer well, the girl might end the date earlier than it supposed to. That means ''you screw-up!''.

When the day ends, it's just like any day, you will get a chance to save your game and to see your standing with the girls who you met already. There are four stages a girl can be in: 'In Love With You' Stage, 'Have Good Feeling' For You Stage, 'Normal' Stage or 'Jealousy' Stage. The girl will only go into 'Jealousy' Stage if she saw you asking another girl out on a date or if you did not go on a date with her as promised. To fix her mood, you have to go to her room twice and her mood should be fixed when she started talking to you again. Just keep in mind that even if the girl is in love with you, you might not be able to get her ending if you did not get all her required events.

You know you win the girl if you exchanged phone number with her when she left the train for good. The disappointing part of using your hand phone is that most of the time, you reach her answering machine which is irritating and waste of time. What make it worse is that you cannot skip the dialing part which took a while.

Of course, there are also group events. This events are not required to win the girls, but you should see them at least once. There are two types of group events: Swimsuit Events and X-Files Events. This type of events requires you to meet all the girls and this is an event that I doubt, you can stumble onto them easily unless you have a walkthrough with you, especially those X-Files events that requires you to be at certain place at certain time in the major cities. The X-Files events also requires you, not to arrange any dates with any girls, which makes it a difficult to win another girl while getting these X-Files Events.

GIRLS
As I mentioned before, the key factor that determine whether a ren'ai (romantic love) game will succeed or not depends mainly on how appealing the girls to the gamers in the ren'ai game. Two major factors that determine how appealing a girl is are her background story and her character design. Obviously, people have different tastes in girls, so you have to know that the following comments are my taste and do not necessary reflect your taste. Anyway, the game consists of variety of girls, including nature-lover, idol, best friends, rivals, etc...

My favourite female character in the game is Nanao Tsubasa-chan. She is the player's childhood friend who moved away when you two were still young. She will get on the train in Sapporo, Hokkaido to attend her brother's wedding in Tokyo. Her brother is also your childhood friend. She is a typical ren'ai game heroine. She is the 'genki' or 'energetic' type of girl. She is also mischievious, playful and hate being treated like a children (even though she seems like one or is one... Shhh... don't tell her I said that. ^_^v). Most of her events are my favourites in the game, especially the event after you two attended her brother's wedding in Tokyo, when she sees you off. Her story is mainly about her starting to learn about love.

Another favourite character of mine is Iijima Mirai-chan who is a pop idol with two personalities. When she acting as an idol, she will say whatever on her mind amd is energetic all the time. However, in her private life, she is a bit down to life and very polite girl. Her manager reminded me of that manager in the bishoujo anime, Aquarian Age... a jerk. Story-wise, hers is quite good (a bit unrealistic, though) and she looks terrific in her white dress, the one she wore on a date for one of the night dates (her second date?).

My third favourite girl is Iwaizumi Kazane-chan, the nature lover. She is a diligent, innocent girl. She is also very intelligent and strong-minded, the type who cannot be swayed easily by other people's opinions. She has a cute pet squirrel with her all the time that people always confused it with rat. ^_^ I like her a lot, mainly because I like nature and animals too, AND she is quite cute in her hiking clothes. If I recalled correctly, she is one of the few who did not change her clothes when she goes on a date. Why? That's for you to find out.

Kitakumi Midori-chan is coolest girl on the train. She always treat everything coldly and did not say much. She looks like a conceited girl from the outside, but inside she is kinder than anyone else. Her ending was pretty nice, however she is acted a bit too cold throughout most of the game. In additional to that, you cannot arrange dates with her, so you only can go into the city and meet the girl herself there to get her events.

My last favourite girl in the game is Chitose Satomi. She is like Shiori-chan in Tokimeki Memorial, very good academically and very good in sports. However, when you talk with her, you will find her to be a normal girl. She has a very nice story and her last event was very nice if you two managed to run away from the teacher, however I really don't like her green dress that she wears for her date with you. Her normal dress looks much better.

Yamaguchi Seina-chan is probably the main heroine of the game. She is energetic, cheerful girl who never thought much about opposite sex. I don't like her too much because she is a bit too rough. Matsuura Ai-chan is a girl whose luck is very bad. Sound familiar? Right, she is just like Miyuki-chan in Tokimeki Memorial 2. I guess, Tokimeki Memorial 2 copy the idea from this game. Concept-wise, Ojousama Express is much better, as you attempt to help Ai-chan by ''turning'' her 'bad luck' to 'good luck'. Though, just like Miyuki-chan, I just don't like this type of story.

Kakogawa Akiko-chan is always in her own world. Above that, she is the jealous type. She is the so-called ''dangerous type''. She is determined that you are the person of her destiny when she met you for the first time. She is the most irritating girl in the game, as she is always in her own world, though she has a rather interesting background story.

Rivals... Tsuyama Nanako-san and Kashima Shizuka-san had been rivals ever since they first met in highschool. When their reunion takes place in Vega, their rivalry continues. What even worse is that they involve you in their rivalry. Basically, whoever that wins your heart will be the winner. Will you be able to coup with their competitive spirits? Quite nice stories...

Good friends... Herena Urey Nodies and Itou Komugi-san had been travelling together with a very limited amount of money. Herena is a foreigner just passing through Japan on her quest to journey to all kind of places in the world while videotaping the places. Komugi-san is following her with the purpose of writing a story about Herena because of her dream of becoming a journalist. Herena has two endings. Probably, the least favourite characters in the game, from the Japanese reviews that I read about the game. I also like them the least.

Of course, finally, the five train employees... They are the secret characters in the game, so their story backgrounds are very short. The only time you get to know the girl best is when you go on ONE and ONLY date with the girl. Anyway, I won't go into details, find out for yourself. ^_^

JAPANESE REQUIREMENTS
I recommend a JLPT level 2, as the dates are not short dates like those in Tokimeki Memorial series. In additional to that, you cannot save and load easily, so you have to compromise with your mistakes properly, otherwise you will waste a lot of time loading the game again and again.

FINAL COMMENTS
Main problem... The game system... You will get a bad ending if you miss an event and it is very easy to miss a certain event due to the random event on the train, unless you are very lucky. In additional to that, it is likely that you will get the other girls' random event on the train which is irritating, especially when you are trying to impress the girl enough to arrange a date with that girl successfully when you arrived at one of the major cities.

And to make it worse, it is very difficult to go after another girl at the same time, unless maybe she is one of the secret characters (train employees) or Midori-chan because you can only make one date at a time at any the major city.

Sometimes, it is hard to even get the girl's first event after your first meeting with her and you can't get help from the train conductor because you still haven't properly introduced to that girl yet, which is pretty irritating.

Believe me, you won't enjoy this game much without the help of a game guide. During the creation of this review, I found two Japanese walkthroughs available online for this game, one of them with all the recommended choices listed (not the best choices, IMO) for each girl, except two girls. With the guide, it will help you concentrate on a girl at a time. After a game or two, you should be able to learn how to avoid getting to know a girl (==avoid getting the first event after your first meeting) with a certain success percentage whenever you want to concentrate on a certain girl.

In additional to that, you only can save your game one time at the end of the day (game time) which can be very irritating if you make a mistake or if you want to try another choice (to see the girl's reaction) near the end of the day. To add fuel to fire, you can't load any time during the game, so you have to do a ''soft'' reset to go the ''Title'' screen to load your game.

However, there are lots of CGs in the game... I have never seen so many CGs (~2000 CGs) in a game before and the CGs are not that bad. However, it is very difficult to see all the girl's CGs in one game because choosing different choices (paths) might earn you different CGs. Take Sakurai Mami-chan as an example. You will get different CGs in an event in Tokyo depending on whether she completes a portrait of you or not (this also determines whether you get her ending or not).

In additional to that, some of the stories in the game are rather innovative and rather nice. Take Ai-chan's story for an example. When the train suddenly lost power and stopped, Ai-chan blamed herself for that, but you pointed out to her the good that come out of the train losing power completely... you can see the stars clearly... ^_^

Taking all that into account, I am giving this game a 7 out of 10.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/15/02, Updated 07/15/02


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