Japanese GTA (sort-of) on the Nintendo DS: A Review + Video

Dad has been to Japan several times and has experienced a number of things over there, amongst them an earthquake and expensive sashimi. One thing that he always mentions (besides the earthquake) would be the speed limit on Japanese roads.

Unlike the speed limit on Malaysian roads which can range from 70km/h to 90 km/h, the Japanese would have to contend with a sedentary and sleep inducing range of 40km/h to 60km/h, with the exception of highways, of course.

Busses and Trains

Now, you can actually experience of driving within this kind of limits on your Nintendo DS with the release of Norimono Oukoku DS: You! Unten Shichai na You! The game takes a feature found in Grand Theft Auto games, which is making money by jacking a taxi, picking up passengers and dropping them at their desired location, to greater heights, minus the criminal aspect.

Norimono Oukoku will have you driving buses, trams, cranes, ambulances, police cars and even more. The objective of the game is pretty simple. The game provides you with a vehicle, you drive the vehicle around town in a GTA-III-ish fashion in a 3D town (complete with other vehicles on the road and sparse pedestrian population which you won’t be able to run over) and complete missions to gain points.

Have Points, Will Drive

There are a certain number of points to be fulfilled in each level, and once done, you get to drive another vehicle. Before I forget, points are deducted if you get into too many fender benders or by hitting the curb too hard. However, you don’t get the stick for traffic infractions such as driving against traffic, going pass the red light, etc etc (funny eh?).

Touchy Feely

As mentioned earlier, the entire game is in 3D, and even though the graphics are a little wash-out, the game handles itself admirably with decent draw distance and constant frame rate. The game features the touch screen as the main means of driving the vehicle. Accelerating and braking are controlled by the D-pad but the touchscreen has the steering wheel.

The touchscreen also plays host to a number of vehicle specific buttons. If you are driving the ambulance, there are buttons to turn on the siren and to open the vehicle’s back door so that the stretcher (and patient) can be taken out or placed in.

A mini-map and a pager round up the rest of the touch screen’s features. Aiding the mini-map in navigation is an on-screen arrow that points to your next objective, which is triggered by accepting your pager calls.

Driving Limits Revisited

Ah yes, regarding the speed limit. The vehicles in the game seem to have the same rev-limiter, in which they chug along at 71 km/h per hour. The horn is pretty useless in the game; and other vehicles on the road seem undeterred by an ambulance (or police car) with sirens blaring, and won’t move over. I don’t know whether the same thing happens in real life in Japan, but people can die because of that.

The gripe about speed and ignorant AI drivers aside, now I’m driving a police car and nabbing people driving slowly in their fancy sports cars. Hehe.

Lost in Translation?

Norimono Oukoku is pretty playable despite being a true-blue Japanese game. Don’t let the long (and rather talk-ie) intro deter you. I would pretty much like to drive a fire-truck next, if there’s one in the game.

Norimono Oukoku is available at Play-Asia now. Click here for details.

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