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Game Play And Strategy Guide
A-TRAIN HX GAME PLAY & STRATEGY GUIDE. Â© ali3nSXaddict 2009-01-27 Version 1.0 Table of contents: 1. Introduction to A-Train HX 2. Game Overview 3. Game play guide 4. Links Introduction to A-Train HX A-Train HX was the first Xbox 360 release by Artdink from their A-Train series of railroad management games. These games have been popular with Japanese gamers for years though they remain a niche genre here in the west. A-Train HX is a modern train-empire management/urban development simulator that slipped furtively under the door of the UK early last year. I unearthed it late, by which time everyone else had lost patience and interest, but why? I had immediately engaged with the playful balance of city development and business empire building. The pace was satisfyingly off- beat in a typically Japanese way â un-hurried planning, experimentation or construction punctuated by the business of time tables and trading market shares - it was always quietly compelling stuff. Surely someone else could see what I did? But the almost total lack of interest was painful: Chatter on the forums was generally negative and the absence of any useful English language strategy guide, or even list of tips and impressions, was disheartening. A guide was badly needed. Something that might help stem the flow of misunderstanding; something that might assist newcomers to the genre (as I was) into the gameâs unique world. Thus Iâve attempted a general game play guide: Your aims, strategies that might be useful to achieve them and the tools at your disposal. This isnât meant to be a substitute for the paper manual or the Artdink walkthrough. Hopefully this will sit somewhere in- between and compliment them both. Iâve assume you have spent a little time exploring the game, are relaxed with the controls and familiar with the official game manual. For that reason I wonât be explaining the use and effect of all in-game tools and options â the official manual does a fine job it self. Hereâs a few of the complaints, misconceptions and untruths which have been circulating the net: HEY, THIS GAMEâS INSANELY COMPLICATEDâ¦ A-Train is the first Xbox360 release of what is an established and popular franchise from Japan. Each of us brought to it expectations, carried over from similar-looking games weâd played in the past, as to what we could expect. The game is essentially quite straightforward: By constructing railways (passenger and freight) you can encourage or inhibit city and population growth. The more people that ride your trains, the more profit your rail company will accrue. Reach ten billion in funds to clear any given map. In a nutshell thatâs it. â¦AND THE MANUAL IS USELESS! Oh, the manual! I wonât gloss over the fact that the paper manual doesnât hold your hand. Perhaps the biggest crime of the developers was to assume familiararity with A-Trains of the past. They could easily have included a section which walked you through the first few months of a game - that would have deflected much of the initial criticism; in a way they invited it. The most damaging omission was that it doesnât address what to do if your railway isnât making a profit (and this might be an early concern in-game) which effectively halts growth. I eventually found the answer on Artdinkâs English language HX site which made the whole thing clear (in fact, the starter guide they have on their site should really have been in the manual). So, what we are presented with is a snapshot of the main game screen with labels; an overview of your goals and means to go about achieving them; followed by explanation of the menu screens and options for construction and purchases. Itâs all pretty matter-of-fact. Nonetheless Iâd say itâs also invaluable until you are more confident with the game mechanics. THIS GAME IS SO BORING Another thing Artdink assumed in us was an appetite for experimenting enquiry and the free time to express it. But HX wonât be rushed. HX is about the subtle pleasure of unhurried construction as much as it is about being profitable. There isnât a particular right or wrong way to go about it because decisions you make rest upon how you wish a town or whole city to develop. Itâs a gentle, slow burn experience. A-Train simply isnât a game youâll âbeatâ over the course of a weekend unless you are spamming your way to the Achievements - and if thatâs the case then youâve missed the point. You are invited to relax, consider the aesthetics of the town, take pride in how your railway operates and gradually build your empire. ITâS JUST LIKE SIMCITY/THE SIMS/THEMEPARK MANAGER/ETC At first glance A-Train HX looks like it might be a close relative of other games youâve played in the past. But it helps if we unlearn some of the habits and strategies we used to rely upon. Your priority is to keep the railway profitable. Citizens exist only to make you money by riding your trains, purchasing at your convenience stores or relaxing at your leisure facilities â in fact, youâll never actually see them. You neednât try to keep them happy or fed. There are no disasters to contend with (natural or supernatural). No city management concerns like tax or pollution levels. HX is much less intimidating than SimCity to the newcomer and far less stressful. Furthermore city design has little impact upon overall profit other than the fact that your subsidiaries (business you build which helps fund your railroad expansion) are more likely to thrive close to a railway station. I donât necessarily agree that A-Train will appeal mostly to those who are âintoâ trains or have always dreamed of owning a model railway set (though itâs satisfying to watch night fall over your modern-Toy Town city with trains going about their business). Most likely the appeal will also be user-friendly financial management, the straight forward city building and relaxed pace. Trains enjoy far more respect in Japan than here in the UK. The Japanese train system is notable for punctuality, cleanness and modern, efficient service so little Japanese boys still dream of growing up to become a train driver. No surprise then that train-themed games are taken more seriously, too. ======================================================== GAME OVERVIEW ======================================================== You assume the role of a Railroad magnate who will strive to build a sprawling and profitable empire. People (or population numbers), Materials and Trains make everything else possible. Without population there is no one to ride your trains and consequently no money coming-in for you; but without your trains the population is unable to travel and they, as well as their town, stagnate right where they are. Without materials your city will be unable to grow and construct buildings; however, materials depend upon your trains and factories to transport to the city. So a symbiosis is established. Build an efficient train service between two or more towns, provide those towns with materials and people travel with their money as your city grows and becomes increasingly profitable. This is the basic game mechanic powering A-Train HX. But owning a Railroad company is a supremely expensive business. You must always invest for the future (since demolition and re-building costs you) and this means you are usually running at a loss, at least in the early game: Factories produce materials; materials in-turn stimulate development in towns and cities. So youâll need factories with adjoining rail facilities moving your materials into the city to encourage itâs development. Youâll want adequate housing or hotels for the people otherwise the population number will cap and growth will cease. Commercial enterprises can be built to raise funds for your Railway (these are the subsidiaries of your railway empire). Once you are making enough money you can then invest in very large projects â a Bullet-Train service, a magnificent landmark or airport - all of which bestow extra special bonuses upon the city. Then thereâs the railway it self. You have many trains at your disposal, various cost benefits, environmental impact, speed and capacity to consider. But a train must run on tracks, so you build them with branches, single or double-cross rails, bridges, tunnels and time tabling to exploit and maximise profits. You need funds to construct your empire. Money can be raised from trading stock market shares or procuring a bank loan. If things get very tight you might be forced to sell some of your subsidiaries. If things get critical and the railway is losing money then consult the Report menu, find whatâs causing the loss and act upon it! All this could have lead to a relatively dry management experience, or else a stressful lesson in juggling multiple and conflicting variables. But A-Train is never either of those things. Both the business management and city- building are accessible and creative which rarely, if ever, frustrate (since population and materials will influence most of your concerns and are straight-forward to remedy). The overall experience is playful and open- ended: Reach the financial goal for each map and you can carry on at your leisure. ======================================================== GAME PLAY GUIDE ======================================================== You can choose to play through the given scenarios which are graded - in terms of starting budget - by stars: (* being the easiest to *** the most challenging). Or you might like to start with a blank map, arrange your own geographical features and budget and go from there. The scenarios feature towns or cities in various locations in need of population growth, business stimulus or modernisation. Occasionally there is the open-ended question of how development might impact the landscape. This isnât prerequisite to completing the scenario, rather itâs offered as something to consider as you grow. Thus you could decide to increase the population of an historic farming region by encouraging numerous small towns to develop along the path of a river, leaving the farmland more or less untouched; then again you might decide two major cities are the solution and locate them right within the paddy fields. You might opt for a business-heavy town; you may prefer to focus on leisure by creating a ski resort. No one solution is best. All can work for you. Read the scenario introduction, consider the map and take a moment to decide how you want to develop. But Iâm going to assume you are starting a blank map without the expectations imposed by the scenarios. Iâll create a simple landscape with no other geographical features. I have one billion in funds. I stop the timer. Youâll need passenger trains to transport people, freight trains to move the materials which stimulate development. At the most basic level you will want to purchase: 1. A passenger train 2. Two stations 3. Two Goods trains 4. One or more factories 5. A Marshalling Yard 6. A Materials Yard Iâll go ahead and choose a station type to begin with. All stations can be toggled through size and number of platforms. Your choice is: COUNTRY STATION Traditional station with slowest population growth. Can be used strategically if you donât want the town to develop too quickly. ELEVATED STATION A modern construction which encourages faster population growth. Can be built up to several levels high. TUBE STATION Steady population growth but can only be constructed underground, perhaps if you donât want to destroy buildings above ground but do want to continue growing the city. MARSHALING YARD Used to move materials from factories into a city. Cannot be used to collect/drop people Iâll go with two long (to fit more train carriages), Elevated stations, though Iâm keeping mine at ground level for now, three platforms wide at a cost of 128, 880, 000. This sounds like a lot of money, but the thing with railway development is that you are always building with one eye on the future. I wonât need those three platforms for a while, but it saves having to destroy the station (which costs!) at a later date only to rebuild a bigger one when Iâm ready for my city to develop further. Itâs insanely expensive and you are mostly running at a loss in the early game (this is where your subsidiaries and dealings on the stock market will help enormously, but more on those later). A little way (but not too far) from the first station I build the second and connect them with tracks. Materials Yards will need to be placed adjoining the stations. ABOVE GROUND THEY MUST CONNECT PHYSICALLY WITH THEM. If they donât the Goods train will not be able to drop its cargo at your station and, therefore, you will get no growth. If you donât like having these materials yards right in the middle of the city you can, in fact, build them one level right below the station using the cut-away bar over on the right of the screen. Materials will be dropped from the goods train and removed for development in the usual way - itâs as if they were never thereâ¦. I peruse the trains on offer and go for the AR4 with 7 carriages. It isnât the fastest but does have the largest capacity. I wonât need 7 carriages for some time but Iâm planning ahead. Sooner or later theyâll begin to fill up and you can only purchase whole trains, not extra carriages. Around 12 passenger trains are open to you from the start. They vary in terms of their individual features. Donât rush to purchase the AR4 just because of the huge numbers it can transport. Instead, consider what will best suit your needs â speed? capacity? economy? If you want to keep a town medium-sized then a large, expensive train might not be the best choice (Remember, a smaller number of passengers and less materials both lead directly to inhibited growth which is good unless youâre planning a sprawling vertical city). In most cases youâre better off keeping trains with the same top speed using the same tracks. In some cases though, youâll want to squeeze a fast train between a gap in the time table of two slower ones. Multiple trains using one or two tracks are a positive way of reducing costs and maximizing efficiency. Will require branches, points and timetable gymnastics but very satisfying. Start the timer and let the train run. You might see a few paddy fields appear around the station; most likely though, nothing will grow at this stage. But why not? Check the train tab and youâll notice there are no people riding your railway. The city needs development to stimulate population growth. Stop the timer again because all the while itâs running youâre bleeding funds. Now place the Marshaling Yard, factory and Materials Yard together somewhere between the two stations. The larger the factory, the faster its material output.To generate even more materials - for faster growth - you must construct multiple factories, but whilst youâre spending keep one eye on your funds. Itâs too easy to find you suddenly no longer have the means to support a growing infrastructure. Keep funds around 200, 000, 000 just to be safe. Purchase a couple of Goods trains and set them at the Marshaling Yard. Take a moment to read their descriptions. Is the environmental impact, speed or design important to you? As ever, you plan for the future. I get a larger one than I need. But even with three trains running you still need something to kick-start population growth. Construct some business (your railroad subsidiaries) close to the two stations. Convenience stores and petrol stations are cheap initial sources of income, then thereâs hotels, housing (which wont gain you funds but will provide more space for the population to live), leisure facilities - anything to entice the public and relieve them of their cash but be creative and think of the type of city youâd like to develop. It might be useful to briefly look at the construction options here: -PUBLIC FACILITIES are generally aesthetic. They might, possibly, influence population but I donât know. Many of them will fit your vision for the city. I enjoy making rural areas and often choose parks or shrines. Your call entirely. -SHOPS AND HOTELS increase commercial value. I interpret this as real estate or property value. You might fancy a business area or high-end property zone close to a blue lake. Whatever, once the population starts rising you might notice your own small houses or flats changing, quite without intervention from you, into larger more expensive buildings. -OFFICE BUILDINGS AND TALL BUILDINGS increase business value. Presumably positively affecting the resale price of your shops and other businesses. Might be an idea to situate them close to other subsidiaries or make office âzonesâ rather than placing them close to houses. -SKYSCRAPERS take weeks to complete and you get the pleasure of watching their gradual construction. -LEISURE AND SPORTS FACILITIES are a bit of an enigma. Perhaps nothing more than encouraging population; itâs hard to see how cultural value would make an influence in any other way, but who knows. Experiment with them and see what happensâ¦ -LANDMARKS are my guilty secret because I have never constructed one due to my preference for rural maps. Iâm playing a game now, though, in which I plan to make use of them. They have a variety of positive yet unmentioned effects. With the timer now running you notice ground around the stations showing signs of development. Houses, office buildings and roads automatically appear and by selecting the train menu youâll see the number of people travelling between stations is increasing. In fact, the only thing not increasing quickly at the moment will be your funds. Open-up the Market menu. This is where you can trade shares, take out a bank loan or sell your property. A-Trainâs stock market is a simplistic and fun zero-risk waiting game. It has numerous fictional businesses, each with its own short biography. Theyâre cute to read but the business you choose to invest in makes no difference (itâs just an opportunity to creatively engage with the game by selecting a business that appeals to you for whatever reason. Choosing randomly has zero negative impact) and for all shares the prices rise and fall simultaneously. The lowest price I have seen shares at was around 2.40. With patience you can get them for as little as 1.20(ish). Purchase however many you want and then wait. Youâll get occasional reminders, as you continue the game, regarding whether the stock market is surging, crashing and so on. Best advice, however, is to check back regularly for yourself - donât rely on the game to point out the optimum time to sell or buy. Also, the terms âsurgingâ and âcrashedâ are used pretty loosely. A 'surge' may involve 4.00 shares rising to 8.50 before falling again. As a note of caution: Beware of investing too much of your funds into the market close to a Tax Payment Day. Once-a-year you are required to pay tax on your property, etc. Should this leave your funds minus youâll bankrupt and the game will end. The time between shares falling to their lowest and rising to their highest can sometimes run over a couple of months. Be prudent. If youâre hanging on for them to hit 18.00 with tax day looming or your money constantly draining from poor train revenue it might be best to just accept the 14.00 price and try again at another time. Also try not to get too hung-up on making the biggest possible gain every time. Buying at a cost of, say, 8.45 and selling for 15.01 is still a reasonable gain. Take it or risk the market falling unexpectedly, forcing you to wait even longer for a decent return. Several small gains over a short period are equally or more profitable than a larger one from a protracted and risky waiting game. Bank loans are more self-explanatory. You borrow a set amount to be repaid - with interest â at a later date. The same word of caution can be applied here regarding not over-stretching yourself close to a re-payment or Tax date. If you suspect you might struggle with repayments then stick with the stock market. Finally, if you find yourself in a position where you are close to bankruptcy you might wish to sell a few of your subsidiaries. In fact, if your subsidiaries are doing particularly well then you might want to sell them anyway for a massive profit. This strategy only really gives decent returns if youâve spent a lot of time and funds constructing multiple businesses in the early game when the city was still in a period of rapid growth and land was cheap to build on (yep, land prices will rise with the success of the city). So with two stations operational you may eventually notice that development has stopped; railway profits may cap, materials are not being removed from yards (meaning that your Goods Trains and factories have become a financial burden!), no more houses and roads are being built and you are not turning a profit quickly enough. But why? Your railway has reached itâs full capacity and you now need to expand it - remember that it is the growth of your railway that should concern you primarily rather than growth of cities (this is a railway management game before itâs a city building one although they are interdependent) â everything else you do will be towards expanding your business empire. Essentially more housing and trains and materials will equate to more funds in your account; contrary-wise fewer houses and trains and materials equates to arrested growth (no new buildings being automatically developed) fewer people commuting and less funds. A true Metropolis will require simultaneous railroad investment with inventive, economical integration of rail track and time table. Inhibited growth - which is fine if thatâs your overall strategy - involves raising multiple towns and squeezing everything you can from the limited population of each one (I already mentioned how I prefer picturesque rural maps and actively avoid encouraging Tall Buildings and big business development). To raise population for your trains you can begin by ensuring that enough materials are being dropped into the city to feed the construction â a fun way to look at it is that if a city or town isnât an attractive option to people they wonât want to live there. You may need to either increase the frequency of drops (add another train) or increase factory output by purchasing an extra one. Now look to your city Materials Yards. Are they large enough to hold more materials? Did you buy the cheaper Country Station? These stations will inhibit growth due to their small capacity for people. I use them extensively to promote the atmosphere of ski resorts or lake-side holiday retreats I have developed â but they will prevent you from expanding. Elevated stations are far better at this and you can, with time and funds, construct modern multi-level rail systems. Are you using the best train for the job? I wanted to purchase a new train and have it run during a gap in the two active timetables (I have been using the manual timetable settings and itâs the only solution if you want to run multiple trains at a profit. Theyâre really not complicated, it being a matter of, say, having two trains leave separate stations simultaneously then make a synchronised return, one branching-off to avoid the other mid-way). In A-Train HX your railway will have peak travel times during which youâll see more passengers. My trains were already running the two peak times (morning and evening office commuters). With a speedy train able to dart inbetween the other two, but with fewer seats - as off-peak travel is less busy/profitable - Iâd be able to take advantage of the new population members. I opted for the AR7 Limited Express. A full 40 kph faster than the other two, max 600+ passengers (unlike the AR4âs 1700 at peak times). Almost 80, 000, 000 but a sound investment which should immediately see a return. As has weâve seen, you could employ a strategy of limited-development for your cities whilst still expanding your railway. The ability to exert influence over the aesthetics of any particular city is another interesting feature of A- Train. Regardless of how many cities develop, youâll never see the same city twice as there is a certain randomisation in the game mechanic to prevent it. So say you wanted to see a landscape of paddy fields and small to mid-sized towns rather than vertical cityscapes. Is it possible to do this and still expand and profit from your rail empire? By exploiting the limiting influence of Country Stations and controlling access to materials a townâs population will eventually, as we have seen, cap. The correct type of train will still make a good profit in such a place. Within these towns you might feel that constructing fewer tall Office Buildings and more community-oriented subsidiaries and Onsen hotels rather than the city equivalent is the better direction to take. Itâs Your call. You might see the occasional tall building spring up but its development will be held in check by the lower population. The town will retain a certain rural appearance. But youâll need more of these towns in order to be profitable and, unless you also work on a major city in another location of the map, youâll not get to reap the benefits of the bigger construction enterprises like the Airport. ======================================================== That, in essence, is the main game. The paper manual does a good job of explaining the map creator and so Iâll not bother here - much like the rest of the game it is very accessible. It also does a sterling job of outlining the contents of each menu and the layout of the main game screen. Again, I will not attempt to go over them.I will update this guide as I get deeper into A- Train. If you feel Iâve missed anything important, made an error or you need more advice/information on this game please contact me. Also for a more complete version of this of this guide (with illustrative movies and screen shots) please visit my Blog. Clearly Iâd be happier if youâd not reproduce anything here but it happens. If you quote or borrow from this guide please do me the courtesy of stating where you saw it written first. Iâve been coming to GameFAQs for several years and dedicate this guide to all the gamers out there who help to keep this community alive. ======================================================== LINKS Outside of the Artdink site there is very little written guidance but please be sure to visit them at: http://www.artdink.co.jp/japanese/title/ahx/en_index.php MY EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org MY BLOG: http://lazyjedi.com/ ========================================================