A-Train 9 is a pretty game! The game mechanics work well as they did in A-Train 8 (but you will have to figure out how to play on your own as there is no real tutorial to speak of). I believe the main difference between A-Train 8 and A-Train 9 are graphic enhancements.
If by some strange situation you've learned how to play A-Train, then you are a step ahead of many. There are no tutorials in the game, although if you speak German or Japanese you will be able to find user created tutorials on Youtube.com But there is none in the game that will help you. You are basically thrown into the game from the start and expected to figure it out for yourself, which is really not an easy situation.
Some tool tips in the game are just plain wrong and may say the same thing but do completely different things. There is however a manual, in html format that comes with A-Train 9, but other than the hot key sheet it's pretty much of no value to you towards figuring out how to play the game, with some information provided being blatantly incorrect. And when there is information that IS correct, there isn't enough of that information to be of much help.
Here is an example of the manual's contents... The option is the main menu. You click that and you are shown an image of the game screen and they have circled 6 different areas of the screen and numbered them. You would expect to see the corrosponding text for each number to let you know what that part of the game screen does. However... All the text manages to say is the following:
"1 The Main Menu. You can control nearly all aspects of the game here, from saving the game to laying tracks and placing buildings. "
Yes, there are a total of 6 items that are circled on the main game screen image but all they tell you is you can control nearly all aspects of the game from here. The rest of the manual is no better than this so don't expect help from the manual.
I have to admit, the whole template, save, load, load as, import as, import template is probably the most difficult thing to figure out and it really shouldn't be. Doing common tasks in games like saving, loading etc are some of the most basic tasks one can do in a game but for some reason the developers of A-Train 9 have seen fit to make it a difficult chore. Let's say that you want to create a new map in A-Train 9's map editor... One would simply expect that you'd click "File/New" and be able to create a new map. Then to save one would simply expect "File/save". That's how most games handle such seemingly trivial things like this, but apparently not in A-Train 9. This is one area of the games manual that you will likely need to read to figure out how it works and one area of the manual that gives you just enough information that you'll be able to figure out the rest of what they don't provide on your own through trial and error.
It's a pretty game when you turn up all the options, which are not found in the game by the way, you need to use a seperate application that is in the installation folder of the game. Make sure to set your options before entering the game since you won't be able to while in the game.
For the most part, the visuals are very very nice, but when you have zoomed out to a decent level so that you can see enough of the landscape to work with it, they have seen fit to add a layer of fog over everything which makes it more difficult to see anything, and there are no settings that can be maxed out enough to get rid of that fog, it's actually quite annoying. But when you zoom back in, the fog leaves the world as quickly as it came into it, and you are left looking at a visually pretty game again. It's no crysis 2 with regards to the visuals, but for a Train management game it's visually pretty for the most part. However... Each building that you can place in the game has it's own footprint, and when you place two different buildings next to each other in the game the difference between the footprints is so shockingly different that they stick out like a sore thumb. However we have to keep in mind that this game is a sort of Train management game so things such as this should be overlooked if possible.
As far as the Train management portion of the game goes, I am the first to admit that they give you the tools that you need, and the information you need in the differet areas of the game that it's actually useful. This is where the enjoyable game play comes in, I was never left feeling that there was some sort of information missing from the game that I felt I had to have to be able to make proper decissions, it's all there as far as I'm concerned.
For $29.95 it's not a bad price, however don't expect hundreds of trains, that many trains is only available to the Japanese paying public with the expansions that they put out for our brethren over there, here in the N.A. game we are limited to only a few handfuls of trains, and other transportation vehicles as well as buildings. Don't get me wrong, I was just pleased to be able to get the game at all here in N.A. (Thank you GamersGate) Perhaps they'll make it available to us later if the game sells well, but if not you may end up feeling the way that I do, which is that you don't have nearly enough Trains, vehicles and buildings in the game, which detracts from the game overall every time that I start it up.
The game has a small grouping of scenarios if you wish to play them, however from what I've been told from some of my Japanese friends that play A-Train 9, the replay value is in the map editor and creating your own worlds to play in. Many of my friends are into the "N" gauge trains so they play with the map editor to create their own worlds where they can lay out their "perfect" layout of rails and roads. And i completely agree with them, the replay value in A-Train 9 comes solely from the map editor, so make sure you figure out how to use it else total game time might be under about 10 hours if you only try the scenarios one time
Sadly, I have not found a repository of maps for either A-Train 8 or now A-Train 9 so you'll be on your own to create your own maps with the map editor which most people do not have the patience and or time to learn how to use beyond making a game automatically generated map and throwing down some roads, and slapping a few buildings here and there before you either get bored or get frustrated.
Unfortunately... Due to the small amount of trains, scenarios (maps), buildings in the game and a lack of any real tutorial, I have to rate this game a low 3. I almost want to drop it into the 2 slot but the pretty visuals gave it a slight boost and kept it in the 3 rating area.
This is one of those games that looks lovely before you purchase it, but it's also one of those games that few people will actually spend the amount of time necessary to figure out what they are supposed to do in the game and just shelve it after a few hours of being frustrated at trying to figure out how to play it.
In the next version, I hope that they give proper video tutorials, and instructions on what you are supposed to actually do in the game instead of just dumping you into the game and leaving you to fend for yourself, it's not like a First person shooter game where you are dumped into a game world and know instinctively that you need to go and shoot at the enemy and avoid being shot by the enemy, this game is more complex than that, but unfortunately doesn't offer you instructions on what to do.
Overall, not a bad game if you have the patience and time to figure out how to actually play it.