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Video Game / A-Train

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A-Train (known in Japan as A-Ressha de Ikou or Take The A Train, after the Duke Ellington song) is series of business management simulation games created by the Japanese game developer Artdink that thrust the player into a leadership role in a railway company, that has the responsibility of making a town grow into a bustling city. Using the real estate, and stock market to grow your profits, and trains to move people, and freight you will grow your company. Later games in the series give you the possibility of using trucks, and buses.

First game in the series was released in 1985 in Japan. In 1988, A-Train II was released in Japan, and in the United States it was released with the name Railroad Empire. In 1990 A-Train III was released in Japan, and in 1992 it was released in the United States by Maxis, and in Europe by Ocean Software as A-Train. A-Train IV was released in 1993 in Japan, and in 1995 the game was launched in Europe, and the United States as AIV Network$ and C.E.O.

The A-Train series contains examples of:

  • A.I.-Generated Economy: Given enough building materials, new buildings will automatically be built near stations. Besides, the AI generates the real estate market and the stock exchange.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: Earlier installments in the series are some of the hardest "tycoon" games to date, where mistakes in the stock market can spell certain doom for your company.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In A-Train III, the AI keeps building shopping arcades and hotels on the rear side of stations where they will only generate losses.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The choice of trains in A-Train III. Only the AR III, the most expensive passenger train, really generates significant revenues.
  • Creator Provincialism: While the character faces have been changed in the international release of A-Train III, 14 out of 18 trains in the game (including the Shinkansen which is eventually built by the computer) are Japanese.
  • Diagonal Speed Boost: In the earlier games, the trains only move in steps of one square and at speeds of two or three squares per hour. Diagonal lines make no difference in this rule.
  • Easter Egg: Early on Christmas Day, Santa Claus flies across the map in his sleigh.
  • Easy Logistics:
    • You can only haul passengers and building materials. The latter are picked up when they're available near a station, and the train is empty, or unloaded if space for them is available near a station, and the train is loaded. However, unless the building materials are quickly used up, you should never let such lines operate unguarded for longer times because the trains may start hauling building materials back from where they're needed to where they should be picked up.
    • Averted in that you have to set each switch for each train by hand to make it go where you want it to go. Also, passenger trains carry more or less passengers, depending on when they depart where. They usually carry the most passengers at 8 in the morning, and they only pick up significant numbers of passengers at 6 or even 8 in the evening when there are enough offices and the likes around the station.
  • Expansion Pack: The A-Train III terrain editor.
  • Fan Remake: FreeTrain.
  • Holiday Mode:
    • Certain buildings only generate an income during certain times of the year. For example, skiing areas don't make a penny if there's no snow. However, they do make a decent revenue over the year, especially with strategically-based railroad stations nearby.
    • See Easter Egg.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: A-Train III may only have 16 colors (high-resolution VGA), but it changes large parts of its palette in real-time to simulate seasons (brown leaves in autumn, snow in winter) as well as nights with illuminated windows and gradual sunrises and sunsets with constant phases of twilight.
  • Isometric Projection:
  • Just Train Wrong: A-Train III (at least the export version) has got two American trains, the FP45 and the GP40, which run on 1435mm standard gauge tracks in Real Life. Nonetheless, the game allows you to operate them on the same tracks as the Japanese 1067mm narrow gauge trains.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: The only buildings not appearing spontaneously are skyscrapers, and even these only take a few weeks for maximum height.
  • Terrain Sculpting: That's what the separate A-Train III Terrain Editor is for. In-game, it's impossible.
  • Top-Down View: The first two games.
  • Video Game Time: The trains are awfully slow by concept. In A-Train III, "slow" (two squares per hour) three-car trains take one and a half hour for their own length. And if you want to max out your train revenues, you may build train lines so long that the trains take 23 hours between two stations. Or if the other station generates enough passengers in the evening, make it so long that your passengers only have one hour at work because their train arrives at 5 pm and departs again at 6.