Densha De Go!2 Kousokuhen 3000 ban dai (電車でGO!2 高速編3000番台)

I am sure Densha De Go 2 is a game many gamers will dismiss due to its odd concept, abstruse controls and rather dated visuals. Besides, operating a train doesn’t sound like something that makes for a very exciting game does it. However, scratch the surface and you will find one of the most addictive, rewarding experiences on the Dreamcast.


The premise is simple, being a train driver on one of the many train lines in Japan, ranging from the Shinkansen "bullet trains" traveling at high speed along the length and breadth of the country, to the local commuter trains in Tokyo, it is your responsibility to drive the train from one station to another within the scheduled time. While this many not sound too taxing, the game is far from an easy-ride and just like with Tokyo Bus Driver there is a lot to consider when you are in charge of public transport.


Firstly, as Japanese trains are known for their promptness you are expected to be get from A to B as quickly as possible. Yet, you can't just burst full steam ahead as speed limits alter constantly, requiring you to halve your speed at the drop of a hat, and passengers will also complain if you suddenly jam on the brakes. Furthermore, if you pass a checkpoint going too fast or too slow, or ignore a signal then points will be deducted. You get 30 points, known as "waiting time", and each and game over.



Where most people will lose is points is not when driving but when trying to actually stop the train.  In Japan, when arriving at a platform you need to stop within the 1 meter area at the end of the platform so that all doors are lined up with the markings on the station platform. Yet, how are you supposed to stop a train still going at 90 Km/h exactly at the scheduled time and only a few hundred meters ahead. Furthermore, if you brake too hard you'll end up crawling through the station wasting a lot of time. This can be a nightmare as many a time you will end up stopping in the middle of a station and run out of time, or fly hilariously pass your station, incurring a game over. It requires precision timing and a LOT of practice. Luckily, the game doesn't put you back to the beginning but to the last station you successfully stopped at.

Due to its arcade style nature and strict time limits the game demands a certain obligation for perfection from the player. It is  very demanding but it is this fine line which makes the game so enthralling, as the littlest mistake is fatal, yet you never feel cheated by the game's mechanics. The game leaves it up to you to improve or get out. Likewise, there is a certain degree of replay ability as like most racing games, each vehicle handles slightly differently and familiarity with the track is definitely an asset, so although some routes are repeated it doesn’t detract too significantly from the experience.




Control-wise, the game can take a little time to get used to. Unusually, the analogue triggers are not used to drive the train which you would expect of a driving of game, but instead it is the d-pad that is used to switch between the levels of acceleration, 1 being the slowest and 5 the fastest. Likewise, the A and X buttons are used to shift between brake levels. It sounds odd, but after a little acclimatisation feels completely natural and reminiscent of what a train would feel like. Still, if you want an even more authentic experience you can pick up the Densha De Go 2 Dreamcast controller.




The trains are nicely rendered, and the locales are pretty authentic with some detailed looking stations but on a whole, the game is a step below what you would expect of the Dreamcast title, especially the pop-up which looks a bit poor for a 128-bit game. It falls in that awkward place similar place to Resident Evil 2 and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver in that they are a visually a step above what could be done on Psone, but not quite up there with native Dreamcast titles. Still, being a simulation title, it is not a huge problem as you will not have time to observe the backgrounds once the game sucks you in. The audio in the game is what you would expect to hear, especially announcers and the station melodies, and the chugging of the train sounds great. It is here that I have to give props out to Taito for their implementation of the Puru-Puru pack which gives you the real up-down, authentic feel of being on board a train.



I guess the one problem from a Westerners perspective is that all the onscreen advice and warnings ("slow down", "speeding penalty", "breaking penalty"etc.) are given in Japanese which could be confusing. I am sure though, after a while you could guess what they mean, but a knowledge of Japanese makes this game more enjoyable. Basically, there are two times on screen, time of scheduled arrival and calculated time of actual arrival and in the middle is your points. To the left you have your gears and to the right you breaks. Like I said, it may be off putting at first but any import fan should have no trouble getting into the game.


While some may say this is a game designed exclusively for train otakus, I disagree. It is much more than that. For me, it is an old school arcade experience - all about high-scoring and making that final couple of seconds- and if you have an interest in Japanese trains or want to relive the memories of a summer spent in Tokyo, then that is just a bonus. Besides, games are supposed to take you to places, and allow you to try things you would not normally be able to experience, and where else could you do drive a train throughout Japan?  These kind of a gaming experiences are few and far between these days (Taito have since put the series on hold) and so if you are looking for something a little bit different, or an accessible simulation game that you can sink your teeth in to, like Tokyo Bus Guide then you are going to be hooked.

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