Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Journey in Suburbs #1 is an odd experience. I never expected to find a sense of accomplishment in a game series where each volume forces me to develop tunnel vision, yet here we are. It’s the sort of simulation that seems monotonous and tedious, yet in practice doesn’t run out of steam. As unusual as it may be, I can’t help but express a bit of appreciation for this unorthodox line.
As a bit of history, the Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Journey in Suburbs #1 series is broken up into four volumes on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. (Here, in North America! What a time we live in, folks.) Each installment is engineered to cover a portion of the local rail line running through Japan’s Gifu prefecture. Players take on the role of an engineer, required to display exemplary conduct so the train maintains a certain speed and arrives at each stop in a safe and timely fashion.
What does that actually mean? You’re spending between three and five minutes staring at gauges. It’s an on-rails experience where you do nothing but adjust the levels of acceleration and degrees of braking. Information barrels down on you, showing how far away the next station is, what time you’re supposed to arrive, the time you’ll probably arrive, the kinds of crossings ahead of you and speed limits for upcoming curves. You don’t control the direction, which is probably for the best given how much is happening. It’s easy to feel railroaded when the pressure is on and the game’s telling you all the things you should and shouldn’t be doing.
I’m not sure I’d even call it entertainment. There were times I enjoyed myself when conducting these trains, but not in a traditional sense. Rather, it’s more a feeling of satisfaction when things go right. Being told you’re on time is the greatest reward in a game that penalizes you for being both early and late. It’s about taking on a job and doing it well, to prevent pressure from building up and weighing you down.
Which, in a way, helps you appreciate what people who drive trains must actually go through. Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Journey in Suburbs #1 is about keeping to a schedule and providing a smooth experience. You need to get caught up in the minutiae to succeed. After a few successful runs, you’ll wonder why it seemed so initimidating and question things you used to be a-freight of. You begin to appreciate the care and finesse required to glide through turns and coast into a station, as well as what goes into maintaining the perfect speed.
After some hours getting people from point A to point B, I can see the appeal behind Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Journey in Suburbs #1. In life, it’s easy to get derailed and lose your train of thought, but there isn’t that luxury here. You’re forced to remain on track, constantly aware of your route and surroundings. Pacing and patience are important, and you’ll only achieve the highest glories by following every rule and following the lines. It’s not for everyone, to be sure, but a certain contentment comes from observance of conventional conduct.
Japanese Rail Sim 3D: Journey in Suburbs #1 volumes 1 through 4 are immediately available in the Nintendo 3DS eShop.