Retro Review: Densha de Go! 2 (Neo Geo Pocket Color)

Densha-De-Go-2-NGPC-ReviewA train simulator. On the Neo Geo Pocket. Actually, a port of an arcade train sim with a dedicated train-like controller. On the Neo-Geo-Pocket... Recipe for disaster right? Wrong!

There’s really nothing about the idea that should have worked, but it looks like Taito didn’t get the memo. The reason their train game is so successful is because they pinpoint the one part of train driving that will naturally appeal to all arcade gamers – driving skillfully and within a strict time limit.

The basic aim of the game is to get your train through its route and stop at the correct station at the correct time, sounds simple enough doesn’t it? It’s not as if there’s going to be anything else on the track to get in your way! But of course it’s not as easy as just powering along and then slamming on the emergency brakes at the last minute, there are a ton of rules and regulations to keep you on your toes as you speed through Japan’s rail network. There’s varying speed limits, signals, upcoming speed reductions, gradients, weather and platform distance to consider, and ignoring these will deduct precious seconds from small amount of extra allotted time you’re given at the start of each stage – once this reaches zero you fail!

It’s not all about punishing mistakes though, a well-timed horn toot before a tunnel or passing through a station exactly on schedule will add to your pool of extra time, even over and above your starting amount, so there’s plenty of ways to build up a safety net for the next leg of the journey and not have an unexpected emergency stop send you back to the title screen.

Densha-De-Go-2-NGPC-Screenshots

There are two modes of play in the Neo Geo Pocket version – arcade and original mode. Arcade mode gives you six routes to play with, all modelled after real Japanese train journeys and designed to get progressively more difficult. Original mode removes that smooth learning curve by randomising the time of day and weather on the route – snow and rain all effect how each train accelerates and brakes, and fog or night driving make it difficult to plan ahead, especially for the hardcore types who like to play in professional mode (that’s with the distance-to-station gauge turned off, forcing them to rely on trackside details to measure distance travelled). There’s no way of choosing the sort of conditions you’ll end up with which means you’ll never quite know what you’re going to get so even when you’ve played so much Densha de GO! your Neo Geo Pocket’s all worn out and you know the tracks like the back of your hand there’s still a fresh experience to enjoy every time you turn the game on.

Still not convinced? Densha de GO! 2 really is perfectly suited to handheld play; routes tend to be pretty short and sweet and the gameplay rewards skill, practise, and precision – there’s even a high score table if you do well! It’s the embodiment of what Japanese developers do best – take a completely bonkers idea, pour their hearts into it and somehow craft a game so enjoyable we’re all left scratching our heads and wondering why it took so long for anyone to come up with the idea. The series is readily available on most gaming platforms between the Game Boy Colour and the Wii (Japan only, of course) and it’s more than playable without one of those fancy special train controllers so go on, give it a try!

Densha de GO! 2 (Neo Geo Pocket) Gameplay

Link: Find Densha de GO! 2 on eBay


Last Updated ( 17 November 2013 )  

Comments 

(Link to this comment) GuyFawkesRetro 2014-02-20 11:13
You have convinced me to play this, somehow.
(Link to this comment) Mischief 2014-12-18 22:30
I have this game. I will give it a second chance now that i've read this review :)
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