Soapbox: My Favourite Game at Tokyo Game Show Wasn't Actually on PS5, PS4 1
Image: Push Square

Regular readers will know, perhaps rather unusually, I love trains. I’ve been covering Train Sim World in intimate detail for years now, much to developer Dovetail’s pleasure. (I will get around to reviewing Train Sim World 4 by the way, it’s just the schedule’s been brutal for me this past month. Also, maybe the studio would like to slow down just a touch with the sequels and expansions so I can catch up?)

I digress, but this does bring me comfortably to my next point: one of my biggest criticisms of Train Sim World has actually been its overwhelming emphasis on American, German, and British routes. I understand there are licensing issues at play here, and I know the developer would argue it has explored other areas, like Switzerland and France, but I’ve always dreamed of Asian locos, too.

In fact, driving Japanese trains is where I first fell in love with train simulators, in the decidedly more arcade focused Densha de Go on PS1. This started life as an arcade machine, but it was later ported to Sony’s home console in Japan, and I vaguely remember having access to it as a kid. (Whisper it, but I’m fairly certain whatever version I played was not legit.)

While releases have been few and far between in more modern times, there is a fairly recent instalment for PS4 which I’ve been dying to cover on the site, but haven’t had chance to remove the shrink wrap yet. Of course, these games are most fun when you have the official controller hooked up, of which there have been various permutations over the years. (Most recently for Nintendo Switch.)

I was vaguely aware that a standalone version, named Densha de Go Plug & Play, had released in Japan a few years ago – and I actually saw a used unit in a Taipei retro games store a couple of weeks ago which I was incredibly tempted by. But I had no idea Taito was planning a new version, and so I was surprised to see a couple of stations bookending another booth at Tokyo Game Show late last month.

Of course, I had to have a go! The staff, as helpful as they tried to be, couldn’t really speak English, so I was left to my own devices. Fortunately, I’m a train driving pro, and was quickly coasting along in a Japanese bullet train. There are six locos in total to choose from across various permutations of the Sanyo Shinkansen route.

The key thing to remember here is that this is a micro-console, so there’s no external hardware required: you connect the controller to your television using HDMI and you’re ready to go. The main train operation levers – for the accelerator and brake – felt fantastic, with a notable click each time I transitioned through the various speeds.

Taito’s claiming this version of the Plug & Play runs at 720p, and while it does still look a little rough compared to modern games – I’d put it on par with something you’d find during the very early PS3 era – it’s still good enough to sell the illusion you’re driving a train. Obviously, the Train Sim World routes look vastly superior, but I do enjoy the distinctly Japanese scenery in comparison.

If I had the space and a bottomless bank account, I think I’d buy the Densha de Go Plug & Play 2 system. Those are two crucial caveats worth underlining, however, as I don’t have room for it and I certainly don’t have the spare income. But I had a great time test driving this at TGS, and I’m hopeful there’s still enough steam left in the Densha de Go franchise to ensure a native PS5 entry at some point down the line.

Do you like the look of the Densha de Go Plug & Play 2 micro-console? Could you see yourself messing around with a system like this, or is it a bit too niche for your interests? Go by rail in the comments section below.

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