The Densha de Go (電車でＧＯ!) games are train simulators using real routes in Japan and featuring real trains. They might appeal to anyone who has enjoyed recent titles like Euro Truck Simulator. The series has featured in arcades, home consoles, and portable systems including the Japan-exclusive Bandai WonderSwan.
The first entry on the WonderSwan features 4 different routes with 4 different trains. This game can be quite difficult at first and you really have to learn your routes well to improve. Hopefully this manual will help.
To navigate menus, use the X buttons like a D-pad to move the cursor and use A to select and B to return.
Densha De Go is played in landscape orientation and makes use of most buttons to control your train. There are two control modes: the 1st emulates using two levers (one for speed and one for braking), and the 2nd emulates having a single lever that operates both speed and braking. From a gameplay perspective they’re very similar but the 1st method is more authentic to the arcades, standalone peripherals available on other systems, and to a lesser extent real trains. Even if you’re considering using the 2nd method, please read the description of the 1st as there I’ll explain the concept behind the levers.
Control Method 1 : “two-handle”
The X buttons (lower left corner of Wonderswan) represent the “Master Controller”, a lever that controls the train’s acceleration.
- X1 — Moves the master controller down a level
- X3 — Moves the master controller up a level
- X2 — Sets the master controller’s level to zero
A higher level means a higher speed. Each level has a maximum speed, so when you increase to a specific level the speed will increase until it reaches the max for that level.
Notice that the gauge for the master controller starts at the top. The higher the level, the further down the gauge it appears. The number shows your current level, so you don’t have to count the filled bars.
The brakes are controller in a fashion similar to the master controller, but the gauge might be counter intuitive to some. The brake controls and gauge aren’t related to speed but strength. Unlike the master controller that made the train faster as levels increased, the brake levels represent the strength of braking. A higher level means you will decelerate more rapidly.
- A — Increases the braking force
- B — Decreases the braking force
- Y3 — Emergency brake
The gauge can also be confusing. Here the bars fill from the bottom of the gauge rather than the top. If you think about the master controller and Brakes as having levels of power, the gauges seem to work in opposite directions. But if you just think about the overall speed of the train then their orientation makes a bit more sense. High speed means a full Master Controller gauge, which is filled towards the bottom. High speed also means an empty Brake gauge, which would also sit at the bottom of the screen. You just have to remember that the gauges fill in opposite directions.
You cannot accelerate with the master controller and decelerate with the Brakes at the same time. In order to increase speed using the master controller, you first must remove the brakes entirely.
X4 is the train’s horn. You press the button as soon as you see the prompt to sound the horn. This will be explained further in the gameplay section.
The Start button pauses the game during gameplay. The top option is to continue and the bottom is to quit.
Control Method 2 — “one-handle”
With this control method, both master controller and Brake gauges are combined with the Brakes below the master controller.
- X1 — Increases brake strength or reduces master controller speed
- X3 — Decreases brake strength or increases master controller speed
- X2 — Sets the master controller level to zero
- Y3 — Emergency brake
- X4 — Horn
- Start — Pause (top option is to continue, bottom option is to quit)
The game screen
Densha De Go has quite a lot going on during gameplay so you need to become familiar with the user interface, especially if Japanese isn’t your first language. Note: The top screen in the image is for control method 1, which is closer to the real thing and how the game is played on other systems. The only difference if you’re playing with control method 2 is that the brake gauge will be combined with the master controller gauge on the right instead of being near the top left. It is marked as 10 in the lower image.
- Target time. You are supposed to reach your destination for this time.
- The current time. It counts upwards (e.g. if the target time is 1:20 and you’re on 0:50, you have 30 seconds to arrive).
- Your remaining time. If it reaches zero then it’s game over.
- The train’s current speed.
- The distance to the next station.
- The master controller gauge.
- The brake gauge.
- Signs and signals you are to react to on your journey.
- If you receive bonuses or are penalised, messages will display in the middle of the screen.
The main menu of the game allows you start a game or change options. The WonderSwan version doesn’t allow you to use lever peripherals or voice input so the options are very simple. They appear in the following order (look carefully at the translations to make your choices):
- Difficulty: イージー (easy), ノームル (normal), ハード (hard), ベリーハード (very hard)
- Control mode: つーハンドル (two-handle), ワンハンドル (one-handle)
- Distance meter (distance to the station): On/Off
- Speed meter: On/Off
Starting a game
Choose “Gamestart” and then select one of the 4 routes:
The top left option. This is a beginner route while the other three are considered advanced. This is the Sanin Main Line, the main railway line in the Sanin region running from Kyoto to Shimonoseki. It’s quite beautiful, running along the Sea of Japan. The entire line is very long and includes Japan’s longest stretch of railway without changes. On this route you operate the KiHa 58 train.
The bottom left option. This more advanced route is the Tokaido Main Line. In real life it’s not really a “main line” now due to the bullet train but the route remains. It runs from Tokyo to Kobe and through many famous cities including Kyoto and Osaka. On this route you operate the 221 series train.
The top right option. The Keihin-Tohoku Line is another advanced route that connects Saitama, Kawaguchi, Tokyo, Kawasaki, and Yokohama. On this route you operate the 209 series train.
The bottom right option. The Yamanote Line is another advanced route that forms a loop in Tokyo. This is a famous line that transports millions of people daily. The game’s original manual describes this route as “the aorta of Tokyo”. On this route you operate the 205 series train.
The flow of a journey
When the signal shown above appears, you must set off. If you go too early, you’re starting to move the train while passengers are still boarding. This signal tells you all doors are closed. Remember your “remaining time” that you have at the top of the screen? That’s your leeway. When you make a mistake like setting off to early, you will have seconds deducted from your remaining time. When it reaches zero, it’s game over.
If you get the train up to a moderate speed using the master controller, you can decrease the levels and the train will keep inertia. In other words, bringing the master controller down won’t bring the train to a halt. You can use the brakes to slow the train down. You will need to adjust the speed as you see signs and signals that indicate stations and speed limits. The next section will explain all the different signals.
Braking for arrival
There’s a lot of skill involved in arriving at a station! Think of it like a big ship coming into a dock. If you’re going to fast and you start braking too late you will overshoot the stop. But if you brake too suddenly you might find you’re short. You can also lose points just for driving dangerously and this includes sudden stops, though it might be needed. You will lose points though. As you get used to the trains and different speeds you will find a knack for starting to brake gently before a station then braking a little more once you’re closer to the stop. The goal is to stop exactly in place so the distance to station is 0 metres. You will lose seconds from your remaining time if you fall to short or too far from the stop.
When you arrive at the station, you will be shown the evaluation screen where points are gained or deducted based on your performance. You will see how badly you overshot the stops, how often you accelerated dangerously within a station, and if you approached stations at speeds that were dangerously high. If all this brings your remaining time down to zero then it’s game over (you can still continue and start again).
Signs and signals
The traffic lights should be reasonably clear even if the original Wonderswan games don’t have colour. The top light is green, middle is amber, bottom is red. Green means you’re good to go ahead. If you’re entering an area with a speed limit and you’re within the limit then it will show green. If you’re good at the game, you will see green a lot.
If the bottom red light appears it should be time to stop. Of course, you will already have to have slowed down significantly before it appears so pay attention to your distances and learn where the stations are.
The amber warning appears with a speed (e.g. 45 km/h, see image). This means you need stay within that speed limit until the next signal, which would be red at a station or green if the restriction has been lifted. Once you get used to a route, you know when these signals will appear and should already be at the correct speed. If you’re going too fast, you will lose some of your remaining time.
Signs with numbers will warn you to reduce your speed to the speed shown (e.g. 25 km/h) before the next signal.
X (horn) sign
The X sign means you must use your horn. As soon as you the sign, press X4 or you will lose seconds from your remaining time.
These signs will point upwards to indicate an uphill slope or downwards to indicate a downwards slope. These affect your train’s inertia so pay attention and adjust your acceleration/braking accordingly. You might need a little more acceleration going uphill, but you might want to lay off the acceleration and make the most of a downhill stretch. Be careful as a downhill stretch could bring you over the speed limit if you’re not careful so be ready to brake gently if necessary.