Densha de Go! Hashirō Yamanote-sen | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Densha de Go! Hashirō Yamanote-sen | Review | Switch

by Danny Bivens

Choo choo?
The Densha de Go series has been around for a long time. Starting out in the late 90s, the series has seen releases on a number of systems. Fast-forward to now, and the Densha de Go series has finally made an appearance on the Switch. While the game is definitely no joke when it comes to language barrier, is it still possible to get some enjoyment out of this game if you don’t know the language? And more importantly, is it fun?

Densha de Go on the Switch is a little difficult to wrap your head around at first. However, if you give it some time, the standard controls will become like second nature to you. This control method has you controlling acceleration and braking with the left joystick while the face buttons perform a variety of other actions. B controls your lights, Y controls wipers (for rain or snow), X is a confirmation button (used to confirm door closing and upcoming speed limit changes) and A sounds the horn. There are a few trains in the game that require a dual stick set-up, with the left stick controlling acceleration and the right stick controlling the brakes (more on that later). 
Driving the trains require significant amount of concentration as there are a lot of things that you need to pay attention to. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for speed limit notifications, oncoming trains (so you can turn off your lights) and be on the look out for maintenance workers or onlookers hoping for you to toot that horn. I spent quite a bit of time with the main mode of the game (more on modes later) going through the missions. Things start off easily, which gives you a chance to get used to the driving mechanics, and ramp up at a pretty generous pace.

Now that you have an idea of what the mechanics are all about, you might be wondering (aside from generally driving trains around Tokyo) what the goal is here or how you get evaluated. Generally speaking, you are able to complete missions by arriving to the next station on time. Not only that, but also receive bonus points for obeying the speed limit, dimming your lights appropriately, acknowledging fans and workers with the horn and arriving to the next station within a the displayed timeframe. Not only that, but you may net some bonus points for arriving exactly on time and/or stopping as close as possible to the goal. 
Overall, the gameplay is very addictive and will keep pulling you back for more. Runs in the main mode don’t take up a lot of your time, so it’s very easy to go through a run and go on with your day. My only complaint is that (as far as I know) there is no way to do quickly restart a run. For example, I was having a hell of a time achieving a mission goal that asked me to hit exactly 50 km/h at some point in the run and there was only ONE place to do this in the five station run (at the beginning). Even if you complete the other goals and go all the way to the end, you fail. You are able to quit and exit out fo the mission in the at any time, but you have to go all the way back to the mission selection screen. A minor annoyance, but still something that could be improved upon with a quick restart option. Another thing to note here - the capture buttons does work here…for screenshots only. You are unable to take video here unfortunately. 

Joy Con & Touch Controls
in promotional materials leading up to the game release, Taito touted that Densha de Go on the Switch would feature both Joy Con controller support as well as some kind of touch screen support. I want to clarify that a bit. Touch controls are possible in handheld mode, but there’s really not much that you can do here. From what I can tell, touching the screen while playing in handheld mode ONLY replicates the press of the X button. Kind of disappointing, but realistically speaking, the UI would have to be completely redesigned for anything more. 
Probably like many of you, I took “Joy Con support” to mean that the game would feature some kind of motion control options. This is not the case, for better or worse. What Taito meant by this was that by using the Joy Con in split form, you can get the feeling of controlling two specific trains (the Yamanote retired 205 and 103 series trains) in a semi-realistic way. For these two trains, the game require you to use the left stick for acceleration (this time pressing down on the stick instead of up to go) and the right stick for braking (by pressing right). When it’s all said and done, a motion control option would have been…weird and I couldn’t see myself using them outside of playing with them for a review like this. Still, it does seem a bit misleading with the wording here considering that pretty much any game can be played in this fashion.
There is some good news on the horizon for fans of special controllers. Currently, a company called Zuiki is currently developing a special One Handed Controller for Densha de Go!! Hashirō Yamanote-sen for the Switch. Details are very sparse right now, and the only thing you can do is sign up to be notified about more information about the controller as it becomes available. I’m going to try to reach out to them to see what I can find. Be sure to check the website for possible updates in the future. 

There are a few different modes on offer in Densha de Go on the Switch. Under “Uchi de Go” you have the Engineer’s Road, Daily Roulette, and Free Run. You’ll likely spend the majority of your time in Engineer’s Road, as it is kind of the main mode of the game. Here you can progress through a variety of missions (with increasing difficulty), unlock secret trains to use in other modes and more. I’ve spent the majority of my time with the game here as there are quite a few things to do. 
Daily Roulette lets you play through a random run once a day in an attempt to try to get a high score. Arcade Mode lets you go choose a line and then play through a variety of missions. There is also a tutorial that you really should check out before diving in. When it’s all said and done, the modes may seem a little bit sparse, but there are over 200 different missions to challenge and quite a few things to unlock. The Free Run Mode also gives you the ability to go through a number of different lines in a no-pressure kind of way. Not only that but you can choose the time of day and weather effects as well. Still, Engineer’s Road was my go to mode as I felt like I was actually make some kind of progress through the game and unlocking more train lines and types to choose from. 

Visuals, Performance & Audio
Densha de Go on the Switch is a decent looking game that runs very smoothly and is running on Unreal Engine 4. I will say that if you are looking for visual fidelity, you may want to look toward the PS4 version of the game which runs at 60 frames per second and just looks better overall. I’m not 100% sure, but it seems to me that the Switch version uses some kind of dynamic resolution scaling depending on what’s going on on-screen. For example, when there are multiple trains pulling into a station at the same time, you can clearly notice the text on the train being a little bit blurred while things are in motion only to become clear when things come to a stop. Other things, like occasional pop-in happen from time to time here as well. Textures are also quite blurry, vegetation and the character models are pretty low poly and offer slight movement to mix things up from time to time. 
On the flip side, there are several weather effects available here with sunny, rainy or snowy settings. Not only that, but you can also choose a handful of different times of day as well that all feature a different kind of look These effects are very impressive, especially the rain and snow. Rain beats on the front window, individual snow flakes appear and melt and the wipers realistically push away precipitation. These are all cool and very well done. 

Even with some of the nitpicks I mentioned previously, Densha de Go on Switch performs quite smoothly. I imagine if some of this stuff was smoothed out a little bit more in an aim for a more realistic look the game would suffer for it. While it is a bit underwhelming, Densha de Go on Switch is still a very good representation of what it’s like to cruise around on trains throughout Tokyo and the surrounding areas. 

The game holds pretty true to the sounds that you will hear when riding trains around Tokyo, too. From the low hum of the train picking up speed, to the occasional sound of bumps, announcer (complete with English announcements) and alarms, Densha de Go is extremely realistic. Outside of the real thing, this is about as close as you can get to riding on the train in Tokyo without actually being here in Japan. The only thing absent here are the melodies that play at each of the train stations. This seems to be a licensing thing, though, so there’s really not much that can be done about that, unfortunately. 
Language Barrier
As you can guess, with a super Japanese games like Densha de Go, the language barrier here can likely be a bit intimidating for many. While I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to known the language to play this game, knowing some basics, or at the very least knowing what some of the in game pop-ups will help you find enjoyment out of this game. I think the controls are relatively easy to pick up here, and once you nail where the modes are that you want to play, you can get by. Perhaps the hardest thing to worry about here are missions that have specific parameters. Kind of like I mentioned earlier, these don’t pop up for every mission in the game, but there are times when you need to understand what to do in order to clear the mission. Overall good driving can help here, but sometimes things are a bit tricky. When it’s all said and done, I think it just boils down to whether or not this game looks fun for you. If yes, go for it. If you see it as a pain in the ass, it might be best to stick to let’s play videos on YouTube. 

Densha de Go on the Switch might not be the prettiest game out there, but the gameplay and content are more than worth the asking price. Of course, the Japanese will likely be an issues for some. There are a lot of explanations or instructions that are laid out there, and if you’re not the kind of person who would take the time to figure out what the hell it’s trying to tell you, I would imagine you might find yourself frustrated from time to time. Still, for the brave and/or those wishing to travel around the Yamanote Line, you really can’t go wrong here. It’s a little tough at first (I was AWFUL when I first started out), but some time and patience will get you cursing around Tokyo to high scores in no time.

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