“ Manufacturer: Fortyfive / Genre: Strategy „
"Tokyo Bus Guide" is a simulation video game. It was first released for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999 by Foryfive. At the time of release, the title was available for importation outside of the Japanese market and requires an import boot disc to load it on European consoles. I was not able to immediately find an age guidance rating but would likely find it appropriate for all ages.
I can't quite remember how I came across this video game but have always found it to be a difficult venture. Players assume the role as a bus driver on the streets of Tokyo and must pick up and deliver passengers on route within a designated time limit. The concept could be fun in an action genre, however Tokyo Bus Guide is a rigid simulation which requires the driver to adhere to all legal operations and Japanese road laws. Players have a health style metre at the bottom of the display and any penalties incurred, such as speeding, rushing through a red light, or failing to use turn signals, will tick away at said metre. More serious offenses such as mowing down a pedestrian will immediately end the game. The gaming experience at large is slow paced and could be described as almost hypnotic due to its relaxing yet very repetitive requirements.
As I am not familiar with the Japanese language, Tokyo Bus Guide overwhelmed me at first. It is very cartoon-like in its presentation but a few unguided button strikes on my Dreamcast game pad led me into the game. From there, the experience becomes very easy to follow with on screen prompts guiding the player to each subsequent mission objective. The bulky Dreamcast controller seems well suited for games such as this. Players will often find themselves making use of the trigger keys assigned to the back of the game pad which activates the bus' acceleration throttle. Players must be wary, however, as holding these buttons for too long of a period will incur a speeding penalty.
The graphics are presented from a trailing view of the player's bus but can be adjusted to an internal first person view. The impressions of cartoon imagery seen in the menu system transferred well into the gaming experience itself. The characters, vehicles, and the streets of Tokyo are presented in a well scaled three dimensional environment The player's bus moves at a smooth and fluid rate, though I don't feel this level of fluidity was applied to other motorists who often speed ahead and chop along the display unless right next to the bus. The soundtrack is suitable for a simulation based video game. There is a distinct absence of music which favours the rumbles and clunks of a large city bus.
Tokyo Bus Guide would likely satisfy a dedicated simulation enthusiast's want for bus based transportation. The gameplay experience is very sensitive to the slightest fault which makes for a very difficult time in front of the games console. I didn't find Tokyo Bus Guide to be an enjoyable game because of this, and due to the region incompatibility would be hesitant about recommending this to prospective buyers.
Most games either try to be too serious or too wacky. Games that attempt to be too serious are often overly complex, pushing as many polygons as possible while attempting to convince the gamer that the environment is as close to reality as possible. As a result such games are usually time consuming, boring and mundane. On the other hand games that are too wacky often tend to be too basic with not much to do.
This leads me to the topic of this review, a game that manages to find the perfect balance. Produced by Japanese developer Fortyfive, Tokyo Bus Guide was released in 1999 on the Sega Dreamcast.
The aim is to drive a bus along one of several routes through Tokyo. As the driver, you must obey the Highway Code, stop at the requested bus stops, keep within your lane, check your rear view mirror, indicate and avoid any reckless driving. You also have to take care not to run over pedestrians in busy areas or bump into other drivers. There are a variety of different roads consisting dual carriage ways, major intersections, and single lanes.
Each route takes up to 20 minutes and the course must be completed within a given time limit. A meter indicating the standard of driving is present at the bottom of the screen. The more errors you make, the lower the meter goes, the better the driving, the higher the meter goes.
The routes pass through a range of areas including shopping and commercial districts, and suburbs. The makeup of environments is interesting and not too repetetive.
With its steep learning curve, Tokyo Bus Guide is very challenging but also very rewarding. Finishing a route, the player is rewarded with either a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal. With no save points during each route, if you mess up at any point, you have to start again. This game requires a lot of patience but with practice it becomes easier.
Games that attempt to push every single polygon possible often lead to a visible mess with less than optimal frame rates especially if the design is average. Tokyo Bus Guide has a consistent frame rate that renders the key aspects of a bus simulation very well. The graphics are simple yet the art work and design layout are effective.
The music is relaxing and puts you in the mood for some bus driving action. Stuck at an intersection waiting for cars to pass, the music helps you keep calm and hold concentration.
REGION & LANGUAGE
As this game hasn't been released outside of Japan, it is only available on import, however it is still playable on a domestic machine with an action replay disc. The menus, text and voices are in Japanese but since the menu layout is simple it won't take long to figure out what's what. During the story mode, passengers board the bus at intervals and a Japanese dialogue appears. The game isn't really story based, so you won't be missing out on much. Don't let the language barrier put you off.
This game requires a lot of patience but it is probably one of the most addictive and fun games I have played in the last 6 years. Tokyo Bus Guide has that middle ground that simulates the key features of driving a bus while keeping the controls and layout as simple as possible. This is what makes Tokyo Bus Guide fun. If you enjoy Tokyo Bus Guide there are also other simulation games one shouldn't miss out on such as the Densha De Go (Train Simulator) series and Flight Academy.
Developed by Fortyfive
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Available from major video game importers