Densha de Go!
|Developer(s)||Taito, Unbalance (PC only), Ongakukan (in cooperation with Taito), Square Enix, Gree|
|Development status||Active: Square-Enix (Nintendo DS) and Gree (Mobile)|
|Platform||PC (Windows), PS1, PS2, PS3, WonderSwan, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, Neo Geo Pocket Color, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS, Mobile|
|License||Copyrighted, with third-party extension for BVE Trainsim; Densha de Go! interface adopted into Railfan.|
|Website||See "External Links"|
Densha de Go! (電車でGO! Densha de GO! (Lit: Go By (electric)Train)?) is a Japanese train simulation game series originally produced by Taito and more recently by Square Enix (who purchased Taito) and Railfan Holdings Co., Ltd. The game originates from a 1996 arcade version. There are also PC versions released by the Japanese publisher Unbalance. All of the games in the series are available in Japanese only. The latest chapter in the series was released on June 15, 2011 for Apple iOS devices.
Each Densha de Go title contains actual train (or tram) routes based on real services in Japan. For the most part, the user's task is to drive the train and adhere to a very exacting timetable, including stopping at stations to within as little as 30 cm of a prescribed stopping point, ideally within half a second of the scheduled arrival time. While the specifics vary slightly between versions, generally speaking along the way, the user is expected to obey speed limits and other posted signs, sound a warning for work parties along the track, arrive at between-station waypoints on time, and perform similar tasks.
Densha de Go varies from the Train Simulator series from Ongakukan primarily in that while the Ongakukan series uses video taken from cameras mounted to the front of real-world trains for its graphics, Densha de Go titles rely upon computer-drawn graphics.
Current state of the franchise
The last major title in the series, Densha de Go Final! was so named to signal that this was to be the end of the line. While still popular in an absolute numbers sense, the series had lost the novelty of its heyday while development costs for individual titles continued to climb due to the detailed virtual worlds that needed to be created.
However, Taito and Ongakukan have subsequently released a few co-produced titles for PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, and iOS with the title Railfan. Taito also divided the four routes in Densha de Go! Final into separate titles and released them on the PSP system.
The Japanese mobile game development company Gree continues to develop mobile versions derived from the franchise for phones in Japan, and in addition, a version of Densha de Go for Apple iOS devices has been released on June 2011.
Unbalance, who had long supported the franchise by publishing ports of each title to the Windows platform in Japan for over a decade, discontinued the last of its released Densha de Go! titles from retail as of August 2011. The company had been steadily discontinuing titles beginning with the "1480¥ Series", so-called due to their price point and comprised the earliest titles, in late 2010/early 2011 as supplies depleted. Later-released titles in the series--the "1980¥ Series"--were the last to be discontinued as of August, 2011. A line of custom USB controllers for the series had been discontinued even earlier and now command a large premium on sites such as Yahoo! Auctions Japan. Support through Windows 7 compatibility guides, FAQs and patches remains available through the Unbalance site, however.
Rejuvenation of the franchise
In April 2010, it was announced that Square-Enix had taken over the franchise and would release Densha de Go! Special Version -- Revived! Showa Yamanote Line for the Nintendo DS on July 22, 2010. This was a departure from the traditional publisher and distributor of Densha de Go, Taito. Densha de Go! Special Version—Revived! Showa Yamanote Line offers a variety of trains to control, from the early Yamanote Line up through the current rolling stock. Exclusive to the Nintendo DS, reportedly the controls are completely stylus driven, unlike the variety of custom controls offered in non-handheld versions.
More recently, on June 2011 a version of the game also covering the Yamanote line was released for Apple's iOS (only available in the Japanese iTunes Store). There is the option of using a simulated "master controller" on the screen or using touchscreen buttons to move the lever up and down.
Densha de Go! controllers
A large number of hardware train controllers were available for a number of platforms (PC, PS, PS2, Saturn, Wii, etc.) for which Densha de Go was available. This included versions that had buttons, levers, and pedals to suggest real-world train controllers, including traditional brake-and-throttle train controllers, "mascon"-type controllers (single lever for throttle and brake), shinkansen controllers, and tram controllers (ostensibly similar to the traditional brake-and-throttle style, but with different styling).
One of the most extravagant controllers for the Densha de Go! series was the Shinkansen Controller, which was released with the Densha de Go! Shinkansen EX game for both the Wii and PS2. The Shinkansen Controller for the PS2 comes with a LED screen display of speed and controls and a foot pedal to blow the horn, whereas the Shinkansen Controller for the Wii lacked these features, replacing the LED screen with a representative sticker. The Wii version of this controller commands much higher prices than the PS2 version by virtue of relative rarity.
There have been many versions of Densha de Go, some of which have quite similar-sounding titles, such as Densha de Go Pro, Densha de Go Pro 2, Densha de Go 2 Kōsoku-hen 3000-bandai, and Densha de Go 2.
Versions of this game (presented in rough chronological order) include:
- Densha de Go! (電車でGO！), for Arcade, PS1, PC, WonderSwan, and Game Boy Color
- This is the first in the series.
- Coverage: San'in Main Line (Sagano Line), Keihin-Tōhoku Line, Tōkaidō Line (JR Kyoto Line) and Yamanote Line (portions of each of these).
- By the standard of later titles, this game was very strict, demanding that the user memorize routes. This strictness was caused by the fidelity of the PS1 and PC versions to the arcade version, where normal users it was generally hoped would not play for more than a few minutes per payment for economic reasons.
- The Windows port also includes the longer version of the Sagano Line from the EX version (see below), as well as an additional variation of the Tōkaidō JR Kyoto Line.
- Densha de Go! EX (電車でGO！ EX (?)), for Arcade and Sega Saturn
- An additional route was added to the Arcade version, where a section of the Sagano Line that was skipped in the original is fully playable.
- The Densha de Go port for Sega Saturn was based on this version of the arcade original.
- Kisha De Go! (汽車でGO！) for PS1 and PC
- Kisha means 'steam locomotive.' This version allowed the user to drive steam locomotives.
- The coverage included portions of the Keihin-Tōhoku Line, Shin'etsu Main Line and Ban'etsu-Sai Line.
- Much of this was taken from the original Densha de Go, and that which was not was done it seems somewhat hastily as the quality is not up to the standard of previous or subsequent routes using the same technology.
- The controls were made slightly more complicated to reflect steam operation.
- Densha de Go! 2 Kōsoku-hen (電車でGO！2 高速編), for Arcade, PS1 and PC
- Coverage: Akita Shinkansen, Hokuetsu Express Hokuhoku Line, Keihin-Tōhoku Line (portions each). The PS1 version also includes Osaka Loop Line and Kagoshima Main Line.
- The overall trackage was significantly greater than in the original Densha de Go. However, this game was likewise quite strict.
- Hacks were made available via the Internet to the PC version to reduce the strictness by giving unlimited points.
- The arcade version was also ported to Neo Geo Pocket. The PS1 version was also ported to WonderSwan and Game Boy Color.
- Densha de Go! 2 Kōsoku-hen 3000-bandai (電車でGO！2 高速編 3000番台), for Arcade, Dreamcast, and PC
- Contains the same lines as Densha de Go! 2 Kōsoku-hen Arcade version, as well as Ōu Main Line, Tazawako Line, Tōkaidō Main Line (JR Kobe Line) and Yamanote Line.
- The strictness of the previous versions was somewhat relaxed (e.g. by giving more points to some routes while taking away less points for delays).
- Densha de Go! 64 (電車でGO!64 (Go by Train 64?)), for Nintendo 64,
- Densha de GO! Professional (電車でGO！プロフェッショナル), for PS1 and PC
- Same lines as Densha de Go! and Densha de Go! 2 Kōsoku-hen, as well as some Kantō area portions of the Tōkaidō Line
- Featured some further strictness relaxation through a number of features, including the addition of a panel at left which allowed the user to see a map of the upcoming track segment, including speed limits, which greatly reduced the amount of memorization & allowed a player to react beforehand. The overall relaxation of strictness in the game reflected Taito's shift in emphasis from arcade to home-play versions as time went on.
- Densha de Go! Nagoya Railroad (電車でGO！名古屋鐵道編), for PS1 and PC
- Featured railways belonging to the Nagoya Meitetsu private railway company.
- Coverage: Meitetsu Nagoya Line, Meitetsu Inuyama Line, Meitetsu Minomachi Line and Meitetsu Monkey Park Monorail Line.
- This was the first version to feature a monorail.
- This version also featured a Meitetsu hybrid light rail route which ran both on regular train lines and as a sort of urban tram on special lanes in city streets. Part of the gameplay of this required the user to stop for regular traffic signals and avoid car traffic. This was the Densha de Go player's first opportunity to drive a vehicle much lighter (and thus shorter stopping distance) than standard trains.
- In this version, the driver must sound the horn before beginning to accelerate out of a station. This is unique to this title.
- The gameplay, physics, and strictness of this version were all somewhat relaxed compared to previous versions.
- Densha de Go! 3 Tsūkin-hen (電車でGO！3 通勤編), for Arcade and PS2
- Coverage Sasaguri Line, Kagoshima Main Line, Sanyō Main Line (JR Kobe Line), San'in Main Line, Chūō Main Line, and Chūō-Sōbu Line.
- Was the first version to use a new, much improved 3D graphics engine with different GUI, better models & textures and more realistic depiction of truck features incl. signaling & game world overall. This engine however was not used in subsequent titles. This gives this title a rather distinct look compared to other titles.
- While previous versions of the game allowed for the same route to be run, for example, during day or night, this was the first version in which the user could see the time of day dynamically changing as the ride progressed.
- The overall feel of this title is unique for the series. Timetable restrictions, for example, are fairly relaxed and the user had significantly more choices as to difficulty settings compared to before - there are in fact 3 distinct gameplay modes.
- Densha de Go! 3 Tsūkin-hen Daiya Kaisei (電車でGO！3 通勤編 ダイヤ改正), for Arcade and PC
- Basically the same as Densha de Go! 3 Tsūkin-hen but with a slightly different title.
- Densha de Go! Professional 2 (電車でGO！プロフェッショナル2), for PS2 and PC
- Despite what the title may imply, this title both appeared after the above versions of the game and was in many ways completely radical and new, including featuring a fairly updated graphics engine.
- Coverage included the Shōnan-Shinjuku Line, Tsurumi Line, Kosei Line, Seto-Ōhashi Line, Nagasaki Main Line and Sasebo Line.
- Unique elements to this game included the crossing of the Seto-Ōhashi bridge, a trip which involves the changing of the driver and the coupling and de-coupling of the train.
- Densha de Go! Shinkansen Sanyō Shinkansen-hen (電車でGO！新幹線 山陽新幹線編), for PS2, PC, and Wii. Densha de Go! Shinkansen EX was released for Wii on March 1, 2007 in Japan.
- Coverage included the Sanyō Shinkansen and Hakata Minami Line
- Again, this version featured a significantly different graphics engine.
- Innovations included graphic interludes which showed routine passenger activities and the optional ability to see both the train from the outside and see a detailed, 3-dimensional cab view from the inside.
- Breaking the trend to this point, this title demanded more exacting driving by the user - often as little as half a second to correctly respond to speed limit change indications.
- Despite the intrinsic appeal of being able to drive a train at over 300 km/h, this version suffers from somewhat repetitive gameplay, as the Sanyo shinkansen consists of a fairly monotonic series of tunnels and viaducts.
- Also available as Densha de Go! Shinkansen EX Sanyō Shinkansen-hen (電車でGO！新幹線EX 山陽新幹線編), for Wii.
- Densha de Go! Ryojōhen (電車でGO！旅情編), for Arcade, PS2, and PC
- This version focused on trams and light rail
- Coverage Iyotetsu Matsuyama City Line, Enoden Line, Randen Arashiyama Main Line, Randen Kitano Line, Hakodate City Tram Line Route 5 and 2.
- While apparently sharing much of the same graphics engine with Densha de Go Shinkansen, the user interface of this version was on the other hand quite different, taking a significantly gentler approach.
- Trams could be viewed externally and also in a cab view.
- As the driver, the player is also responsible in this version for making station announcements and opening the door on the correct side.
- Due the overall gentler nature of this game, it is hard to get a harsh game over message here as it was usual in early Densha de Go versions. Continues are plentiful and, while timetables exist, they can be stifled completely or simply looked at generally for much of the basic play. That said, unlocking some tram variants requires accurate completion of some scheduled routes.
- There is significant extra multimedia content in the game.
- Train Simulator + Densha de Go! Tōkyō Kyūkō-hen, for PS2
- Mobile Train Simulator + Densha de Go! Tōkyō Kyūkō-hen, for PSP
- Basically the same as the PS2 version, but optimized for the PSP
- Densha de GO! Final (電車でGO！FINAL), for PS2 and PC
- Coverage: (the complete) Yamanote Line, (Rapid) Chūō Line, (the complete) Osaka Loop Line, and (much of the) Tōkaidō Main Line (specifically, the JR Kyoto Line and JR Kobe Line). The (Rapid) Chūō Line as modeled represents the period during which the tracks west of Mitaka were undergoing substantial engineering work connected to the eventual (and now completed) track elevation project.
- At first glance, features more arcade-like gameplay, due to its system of chained points; despite of that the gameplay is relaxed.
- Features a large number of trains and the most advanced & detailed graphics of the series (although many textures look artificial and undersaturated).
- Trains can be seen from external views, but there are again no internal cabs.
- Gameplay innovations include conductor mode where the player acts as station announcer and door opener rather than driver. This requires the user to have memorized (or have readily available) a list of the stations.
- There appears to be relatively little time and intra-station compression in this game - distances are more prototypical. Furthermore, scheduled routes and timetables are more prototypical.
- Densha de Go! Pocket Yamanote-sen-sen, for PSP, Yamanote Line, Densha de Go! Pocket Chūō-sen-hen, for PSP, Chūō Main Line (Tokyo Station to Takao), Densha de Go! Pocket Ōsaka-kanjō-sen-hen, for PSP, Osaka Loop Line, Densha de GO! Pocket Tōkaidō-sen-hen, for PSP, Tōkaidō Main Line (JR Kyoto Line and JR Kobe Line).
- These Pocket versions are basically the ports of the Densha de Go Final to the PSP handheld console containing corresponding lines.
- Densha de Go! Special Version—Revived! Showa Yamanote Line, for Nintendo DS (July 22, 2010). Covers the Yamanote Line's historical rolling stock through present along with several other tacked-on trains and lines.
- Railfan (contains Densha de Go! mode), for PS3
- Mobile games (i-mode & EZ WEB & Vodafone Live!)
- Handheld electronic games, some lines from above consoles. Included LCD versions which embodied the spirit of the Densha de Go series, if nothing else.
- Simple 1500 series and Simple 2000 series, some lines from above consoles.
- Official website for Densha de Go! Special Version -- Revived! Showa Yamanote Line (Nintendo DS) (Japanese)
- Official website of the game series, as provided by Internet Archive (Japanese)
- Information resource on Windows-specific Densha de Go! Conversions by Unbalance (English)
- Densha de Go! Forums (English)