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Good games for learning Japanese?

Juice

Member
Dec 16, 2004
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I've been learning Japanese on and off since college a decade ago. Even now, I'd rate my abilities at ho-hum conversational. I can get by when I'm speaking to someone who recognizes I'm not a fluent speaker, but most TV and movies quickly goes over my head.

Back when I lived in Japan in 2005, I sought out DS games that were slow paced and had a lot of practical text that I could practice with by translating (the harvest moon game of that era comes to mind, though it uses a lot of silly rustic language).

These days, living in America with US region hardware, what games would be simultaneously fun, educational, and not too overwhelming for a middling Japanese speaker/reader?

Key to my success would be text that has visual context (e.g. few long winded dialog boxes) so I'm not always translating in the dark but enough story content that I'm reading language aside from silly menu labels.

Any recommendations?
 

Jachaos

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Dec 18, 2012
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I heard Pokémon was pretty easy. I think it has furigana, and it's available on US copies too.

Edit: Ok, a quick search seems to indicate kana and kanji (and switching between the two via menu), but it doesn't have furigana.
 

Chairmanchuck

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Jun 18, 2011
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680
I've been learning Japanese on and off since college a decade ago. Even now, I'd rate my abilities at ho-hum conversational. I can get by when I'm speaking to someone who recognizes I'm not a fluent speaker, but most TV and movies quickly goes over my head.

Back when I lived in Japan in 2005, I sought out DS games that were slow paced and had a lot of practical text that I could practice with by translating (the harvest moon game of that era comes to mind, though it uses a lot of silly rustic language).

These days, living in America with US region hardware, what games would be simultaneously fun, educational, and not too overwhelming for a middling Japanese speaker/reader?

Key to my success would be text that has visual context (e.g. few long winded dialog boxes) so I'm not always translating in the dark but enough story content that I'm reading language aside from silly menu labels.

Any recommendations?
Maybe Go Go Nippon?
 

Kirlia

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Sep 24, 2013
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I heard Pokémon was pretty easy. I think it has furigana, and it's available on US copies too.
Pokemon X/Y and ORAS do allow you to play in Japanese (just kana, apparently). However, remember that if you start with Japanese (or any other language), you cannot shift languages at any point in the game. Only resetting the game will allow you to change the language.
 

Juice

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Dec 16, 2004
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I'm really open to anything. I'm fortunate enough to have iOS devices, PS4/Vita, Xbone (heh). Only thing that sucks is that Nintendo hardware is region locked.
 

super-famicom

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Nov 21, 2012
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Games like Pokemon or Animal Crossing come to mind. Youkai Watch as well. Most games aimed towards younger games use hiragana exclusively and very little to no kanji. They would probably suit you well. There are also educational games for Japanese elementary students that teach kanji; most of them have mini games as well.
 

Juice

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Dec 16, 2004
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Pokemon X/Y and ORAS do allow you to play in Japanese (just kana, apparently). However, remember that if you start with Japanese (or any other language), you cannot shift languages at any point in the game. Only resetting the game will allow you to change the language.
Seriously, the NA carts have Japanese text on them?! Weird that they wouldn't have kanji though. You mean to say they tend toward kana for lower reading levels? I couldn't imagine it being 100% kana unless furigana isn't possible in the 3DS
 

Juice

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Dec 16, 2004
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Games like Pokemon or Animal Crossing come to mind. Youkai Watch as well. Most games aimed towards younger games use hiragana exclusively and very little to no kanji. They would probably suit you well. There are also educational games for Japanese elementary students that teach kanji; most of them have mini games as well.
Specific names or platforms? Sounds like I'd need to import a Japanese 3DS?


(I just realized this thread is a subconscious rationalization for importing an n3DS)
 

Jachaos

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Dec 18, 2012
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Seriously, the NA carts have Japanese text on them?! Weird that they wouldn't have kanji though. You mean to say they tend toward kana for lower reading levels? I couldn't imagine it being 100% kana unless furigana isn't possible in the 3DS
I'm really not sure. Maybe someone with more knowledge of the matter could confirm. I remember hearing it was easy, but I haven't tried out what's available on US carts.

So you grew up in a non-English-speaking household? That's amazing if Pokemon taught you English.
That's somewhat true for me too. Growing up in Montréal and speaking french all the time at home, school, etc. I didn't have much of a chance to practice outside of video games and TV shows. I used to watch what we would get of american shows in Canada, like Pokémon, Digimon, Power Rangers and stuff on YTV and play Zelda, Pokémon and such with my dad helping translate the games to me. As time went on, I was getting through those games all by myself. My friends often didn't know what they were supposed to do/were stuck and I'd help them that way. So yeah, playing games and watching tv with my dad when getting back from school helped me a lot for English.
 

super-famicom

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Nov 21, 2012
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Seriously, the NA carts have Japanese text on them?! Weird that they wouldn't have kanji though. You mean to say they tend toward kana for lower reading levels? I couldn't imagine it being 100% kana unless furigana isn't possible in the 3DS
No, NA carts don't have Japanese. You mentioned in the OP that you lived in Japan and sought out DS carts, so some of us thought you had a Japanese DS/3DS.
 

Maid

Banned
Dec 19, 2014
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I'm against playing anything with Katakana only, since it will hinder your Japanese learning progress a lot. It's only working if you learn to speak before understand how to read the character, but not vice versa. Understanding Kanji should be the key, and it helps a lot since I could understand the meaning before remember how are they pronounced.

What kind of hardware you have right now?
 

Stuart444

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Pretty sure the Pokemon 3DS games have a language select tool (which includes JP and Korean o_O ) and if you choose JP, you can choose either Kana or Kanji. (No Furi I believe) And switch between Kana and Kanji from the options menu as you play the game.
 

super-famicom

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Nov 21, 2012
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Specific names or platforms? Sounds like I'd need to import a Japanese 3DS?


(I just realized this thread is a subconscious rationalization for importing an n3DS)
For Nintendo DS:
http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/aw/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?__mk_ja_JP=カタカナ&k=漢字ソフト+DS

This game lets you practice reading simple compositions

PC: Slime Forest Adventure- Teaches hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Free demo version available.


Also, a good friend of mine is an English professor in Japan, and uses Minecraft to teach English and also Japanese to non-native speakers. It's pretty cool! Here's his site: http://www.kotobaminers.org/
 

Kirlia

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Sep 24, 2013
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Pretty sure the Pokemon 3DS games have a language select tool (which includes JP and Korean o_O ) and if you choose JP, you can choose either Kana or Kanji. (No Furi I believe) And switch between Kana and Kanji from the options menu as you play the game.
YES. The Pokemon 3DS games have the language select option, and it DOES include JP and Korean.
 

Neiteio

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Nov 10, 2007
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That's somewhat true for me too. Growing up in Montréal and speaking french all the time at home, school, etc. I didn't have much of a chance to practice outside of video games and TV shows. I used to watch what we would get of american shows in Canada, like Pokémon, Digimon, Power Rangers and stuff on YTV and play Zelda, Pokémon and such with my dad helping translate the games to me. As time went on, I was getting through those games all by myself. My friends often didn't know what they were supposed to do/were stuck and I'd help them that way. So yeah, playing games and watching tv with my dad when getting back from school helped me a lot for English.
That's amazing. :)
 
May 25, 2014
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You don't NEED kanji, it'd help to learn that too, but it's fine playing with kana only and learning vocabulary and different sentence structures.

I used An emulated Japanese version of OG earthbound and it helped a lot with vocab. And it's a great game so win win
 

MissDeviling

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Jul 15, 2013
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I was watching Kouli on YouTube play Dragon Quest VII in Japanese on the 3DS, and though my Japanese is only ~N4 level, I was able to understand a fair chunk of it. Its dialogue is pretty simple, and the kanji has furigana. Maybe give the DQ games a go?
 

super-famicom

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Nov 21, 2012
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I decided to just skirt the import annoyance and paid a premium to Amazon Prime a Japanese New 3DS

http://www.amazon.com/New-Nintendo-3DS-White/dp/B00NAW5R0I/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1421390140&sr=1-1&keywords=new+nintendo+3ds

So that'll be here Sunday. As I looked around I realized that most of the games I'd like to use for Japanese practice were on Nintendo platforms and region locked. Thanks scumbag Nintendo!
Don't forget the face plate ;)

Also, dunno if you saw this in my edit; my friend (university professor) teaches English and Japanese using Minecraft: http://www.kotobaminers.org/
 

345triangle

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Oct 26, 2009
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tokyo, japan
love plus.

seriously! not many other japanese games out there that involve realistic dialogue choices spoken by actual human characters in a modern-world setting.
 

Holundrian

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Nov 1, 2014
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Started with ni no kuni years ago. In general you want to get anything with furigana 3ds is a great machine for that. But Most improtantly get something that keeps you motivated even if its a little hard at the start you'll rise up to the challenge if you have the motivation. My first Tales of game was tough skits were to fast for me but I got used to it halfway through Vesperia.
 

Juice

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Dec 16, 2004
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Started with ni no kuni years ago. In general you want to get anything with furigana 3ds is a great machine for that. But Most improtantly get something that keeps you motivated even if its a little hard at the start you'll rise up to the challenge if you have the motivation. My first Tales of game was tough skits were to fast for me but I got used to it halfway through Vesperia.
Yeah, this is why I'm hopeful I'll have more luck with games than other media. I just need to find an actually good game lol. Maybe xenoblade when that comes out for n3ds?
 

ATXAlchemy

Member
Jul 12, 2013
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Moon
Any recommendations?
I am not sure what you want to do.

You, apparently, have been learning Japanese for a while now, so I assume that you have at least got the basics down. Yet, you don't want anything too difficult?

And that brings another question in: there's the grammar part and the vocab part. Which are you having a hard time with? If it's the former, get some educational books, IMO.

If it's vocabulary, then you should not be afraid of dropping your game for a while and looking up the words.

Started with ni no kuni years ago. In general you want to get anything with furigana 3ds is a great machine for that. But Most improtantly get something that keeps you motivated even if its a little hard at the start you'll rise up to the challenge if you have the motivation. My first Tales of game was tough skits were to fast for me but I got used to it halfway through Vesperia.
If you wanna learn via games (or many other media), you should follow what this guy said. I don't think anything is wrong with "practice", but don't get the mindset that "I'll play ______ when I'm good enough."

Because you will NEVER be good enough. There will always be a word (vocabulary) or a rare/old grammar structure that you won't be taught in majority of books. And you'll only encounter them when you encounter them.

I have lots of linguistics-Japanese major friends from university days now on their job, and they use vocabulary databases and other assist software for their work. I also had a coworker whose work is translation and interpreter, he got his MS and PhD in a Japanese university, and he still uses references a lot for his work (which is technical, I admit).

Get a game you're interested in and play it.

You don't NEED kanji, it'd help to learn that too, but it's fine playing with kana only and learning vocabulary and different sentence structures.

I used An emulated Japanese version of OG earthbound and it helped a lot with vocab. And it's a great game so win win
Do not listen to this guy.

If you aren't learning kanji, you might as well not learn Japanese at all.

If I am not mistaken, games that have only Hiragana/Katakana are like that because of two reasons:
1. Children are one of their primary audience.
2. Resolution is too low that kanji with too many strokes are going to look like scribble.

Unless you're only planning to play games designed like that. :/
 

B-Genius

Unconfirmed Member
Nov 8, 2005
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I decided to just skirt the import annoyance and paid a premium to Amazon Prime a Japanese New 3DS

http://www.amazon.com/New-Nintendo-3DS-White/dp/B00NAW5R0I/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1421390140&sr=1-1&keywords=new+nintendo+3ds

So that'll be here Sunday. As I looked around I realized that most of the games I'd like to use for Japanese practice were on Nintendo platforms and region locked. Thanks scumbag Nintendo!
Good move man, you won't be sorry.

If you're feeling a bit brave, I highly recommend Protect Me Knight 2 (みんなでまもって騎士) which is on the JP Eshop for just over 800yen.

It's an old school top down action RPG, so you can burn your way through the menus and get to the meat of it without too much trouble (and just enjoy the amazing retro styling). But it also has unique characters and very funny dialogue if you feel like trying your hand at the story/flavour text. The theme song alone is worth the purchase imo xD

If you fancy a Japanese take on something like Shovel Knight with modern humour and not too much rustic language, it may be right up your street.
 

down 2 orth

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Oct 27, 2013
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What about Japanese versions of Vita games? Any games where the dialogue isn't too fast paced?
 

345triangle

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Oct 26, 2009
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tokyo, japan
Do not listen to this guy.

If you aren't learning kanji, you might as well not learn Japanese at all.

If I am not mistaken, games that have only Hiragana/Katakana are like that because of two reasons:
1. Children are one of their primary audience.
2. Resolution is too low that kanji with too many strokes are going to look like scribble.

Unless you're only planning to play games designed like that. :/
it can be a stylistic choice, as is certainly the case with the earthbound/mother series — those games are far more literary than most and are written exclusively in hiragana.

they're also a total pain in the ass to read if you have moderately good japanese! i find something like phoenix wright much easier than mother 3. japanese is a reader's language, and kanji are there to speed up comprehension. they're your friend, not an enemy.

bottom line is, kanji should be considered absolutely essential to anyone wanting any level of japanese ability. it's also not at all hard to learn the first 500 or so, which will cover a whole lot of basic action words and make your life much easier.
 

Zolbrod

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Jul 4, 2013
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Any modern Nintendo game really, but Zelda games are a good start.
Not super text heavy, not very complicated, but not exactly devoid of dialogue either.

Several of them also offer furigana options for kanji, which is nice.
 

TheBryanJZX90

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May 4, 2012
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Play the Ryu ga Gotoku games in Japanese. Lots of spoken dialogue, and you learn fun slang that makes you sound ridiculous and get lots of weird looks. Practice those rolled Rs!

At least it's better than the alternative. 90% of Japanese people looking to talk with westerners are girls, who you will probably end up dating and conversing with in Japanese, and then you end up speaking Japanese like a girl. Happens all the damn time.
 

Zalman

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Aug 5, 2013
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So you grew up in a non-English-speaking household? That's amazing if Pokemon taught you English.
Yes. Obviously Pokémon alone didn't teach me everything there is to know, but I'd say it certainly helped. I didn't really think about it at the time, I just played it because it was fun.

Actually, I'd say video gaming as a whole is the main reason why I've always been so interested/motivated in learning English.
 

BumblebeeCody

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Jul 30, 2013
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Visual novels easily. The Xbox 360 surprisingly has the most out there despite Xbox - Japan relations.
Steins Gate, Robotics Notes and more here. The Xbox One has 3 visual novels exclusives planned with Chaos: Code being the first an already available(It's OK).
They're pretty helpful I'd say.




And piss easy for achievements.
 

Gestahl

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Dec 5, 2008
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I'm against playing anything with Katakana only, since it will hinder your Japanese learning progress a lot.
Yeah I'd hold off on katakana only until you have a strong grasp on grammar and syntax. Kanji are sort of training wheels in that regard since they so easily signal the beginning and ends of sentence phrases, words, and so on. I went through 2 of the Mother games after getting a solid foundation and thought it was quite educational because of how kanji-less Japanese has to be formed and structured. Going through that without knowing barely anything I don't think would have been all that useful in comparison, in fact it probably would have been more frustrating than a Kanji based text.

As for games, I'd say just get a nico nico account and look up whatever random rpg/vn tickles your fancy, but if you want to play them yourself, in particular the Ace Attorney series is fairly Kanji friendly and has a fairly wide, modern vocabulary.
 

MatrixMan.EXE

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Sep 1, 2014
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Any game that uses kana only or uses furigana (which is excellent for learning kanji).

Your best bet on 3DS at least, are games like Pokemon, Youkai Watch, Dragon Quest and Taiko no Tatsujin