Review: A-Train 3D: City Simulator (3DS)

Is Natsume’s sim game a smooth ride, or does it fly off the rails?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/26/2015 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Solid, if sedate presentation; Tons of details to learn and manage; Hefty challenge
Poison Mushroom for...
Steep learning curve will turn away many players; Slow pacing is similarly divisive

Natsume is primarily known in the West for its Harvest Moon titles, so it was refreshing to see the company spread its wings and bring A-Train 3D: City Simulator to our shores. With some unique presentation elements and a robust suite of features, A-Train tries to set itself apart from other simulation titles, but ultimately it suffers from many of the pitfalls that tend to hold the genre back. A-Train is an intricate, layered game that will reward players, but only if they have the patience to tackle its voluminous introduction and slow pace. The glut of material to observe and familiarize oneself with will prove insurmountable for most, making A-Train too daunting to recommend without reservations.

A-Train tasks players with running a public transit train system and to help direct the fate of a city on the cusp of greatness. Either responsibility could be its own game, but multitasking is at the heart of A-Train, as the success of one is contingent upon the other. Laying track, buying smaller companies, and keeping an eye on funds are crucial to making it through each of A-Train‘s Scenarios, which are essentially stages with set criteria to meet. These goals can include building up a particular industry within the city, bumping the number of residents in the town to a certain level, and so on. The Scenarios continuously ramp up in difficulty, and Natsume even has some additional ones available as DLC for diehard A-Train players. The touch screen is heavily utilized for the multitude of menus and commands the game has on tap, but traditional button controls can also be used.

So if that all sounds great, know that in many ways it is. The depth of play is out of this world, with a ton to do and monitor. As a simulation game, A-Train revels in its minutiae, presenting players with countless bits of information and responsibilities to be mindful of. For fans of the genre, learning the ins and outs of A-Train‘s elaborate play mechanics will be an absolute delight, and one that 3DS owners haven’t gotten much of a crack at over the years. That all said, A-Train demands every speck of a player’s attention and patience. The first part of the game is devoted to doling out its “basics,” but those basics take a long time to ingest, comprehend, and ultimately execute. Train direction, game clock speed, chatting with your secretary and other characters, and much more are explained to a degree that the average player will likely find tedious. I’ve played my fair share of simulation games in the past, but A-Train pushed my brain to its limits from the sheer weight of its information maelstrom. I honestly don’t mean this to sound trite, but fans will either love A-Train or hate it depending on how much of a detail-oriented micromanager they are.

What A-Train lacks in accessibility, it does try to make up for with its interesting presentation. The game is littered with a variety of characters who drip with anime charm. They cling to tropes a bit, admittedly, but if there’s another train/city simulation title on 3DS with an anime aesthetic, I can’t think of it. Visually, A-Train isn’t necessarily exciting, but it is competently constructed and the creators’ enthusiasm shines through in its meticulously rendered world. The characters are all hand drawn, as well, which nicely juxtaposes with the digital environments. Don’t expect to be wowed by A-Train‘s looks, but know that keeping track of trains and city development are a breeze thanks to the crispness of the graphics. The soundtrack is disappointingly pedestrian by comparison, but overall A-Train is a handsome package.

Though I can’t freely tell everyone to go out and buy A-Train, I think that any player looking for a steep challenge and elaborate system of controls and menus to learn will have a blast with this game. There are significant barriers to overcome in order to establish the skill set necessary to play A-Train properly, so those with limited time, attention spans, or both would do well to look elsewhere. The game is unflinchingly devoted to the niche audience that will gladly lap up every moment, so anyone who finds themselves in that camp should make their way to the 3DS eShop and give A-Train a download.

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