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Japanese-language gaming for learners

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Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby micahcowan » Wed 06.08.2011 3:27 pm

So, just thought I'd mention a few games I've been playing, and their various qualities as Japanese language-learning resources.

So I have a Japanese 3DS, and just downloaded the GameboyCOLOR )Legend of Zelda game that released yesterday (ゼルダの伝説: 夢を見る島, known in the US as Link's Awakening). It's pleasantly easy to read, being entirely in kana (the resolution of the GameboyCOLOR is really far too low for kanji in the dialogs at that font size - it barely accommodates the kana), and I find that I understand more of the vocabulary than usual.

I also have レイトン教授と奇跡の仮面 (Professor Layton and the Mask of Mircale, which uses kanji but has furigana for everything. Here too, most of the vocabulary isn't too difficult, and you may learn some new kanji or kanji usage from it.

Of course, both of these games require that you have a Japanese 3DS console. Obviously, both the console itself, and the games, will be much more expensive, since they must be imported. I got mine from Play-Asia.com. This obviously doesn't apply to the downloaded GameboyCOLOR game; but the exchange rate may bite you (slightly) there. In addition to these, I also got Splinter Cell and Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time, but as they're less text-oriented (especially Rabbids), I won't talk about them here.

I also am delighted to find that you can download all the greatest Japanese PSOne games on PSP. You need to have a Japanese PSN account (but not a Japanese console), which requires you to enter a Japanese address (I used one from a hotel in Tokyo, or maybe I used the Nintendo headquarters to be funny, can't remember :) ). USA credit cards aren't accepted, so unfortunately you have to buy PSN cash cards in Japan; I used http://www.japan-codes.com/. You may need to go to the "Restore Factory Defaults" option on your PSP in order to reset the PSN account registered to your PSP; it may also prevent you from saying some of your US downloaded games while it's registered to the Japanese account (doesn't apply to discs).

But if you're willing to go through that hassle, you can play your favorite Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX, and Xenogear, etc, and practice Japanese at the same time. I've only really started on FFVII, and I'll just mention that it uses kanji without furigana, and I found the vocabulary somewhat less familiar to me than the other games I've mentioned so far.

Be warned that in all of these games, colloquial Japanese, complete with non-"textbook" contractions and the like, are commonplace. Particularly with Barret's dialog in FFVII, who slurs his speech heavily (which should come as no big surprise to anyone who played the English-language version). Of the ones I mentioned, it's probably least common in the Professor Layton game.

I'll also mention The Last Story for the Wii, a Japanese-only RPG game that looked better than anything I've ever seen in the US for Wii. If you have a non-Japanese console, it requires soft-modding your system (I used this guide). I have to admit I haven't spent that much time playing it since I bought it; it's not particularly great for language-learning purposes, mainly because most messages don't stay on the screen long enough for a non-fluent Japanese learner to read. Fortunately, all the explanatory messages are also made available in the pause screen, so you can just pause, find the message, and decipher it at your leisure (it still disappears after a while, but you can just view it again until you got it all).
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby Disco » Sun 06.12.2011 5:13 pm

I too play a lot of Japanese games on my DS. The Nintendo DS is region free, but i:m not so sure about the 3DS and DSi, as I've heard that they are region protected. There are games like the Zelda DS games (大地の汽笛など) that have a very nice furigana function. Although its not displayed, if you touch the word you dont know with the stylus, it will display the furigana; and as a Japanese learner one can define it and stick it right in their SRS/Flash card system : ). I am however pissed at the fact that Japanese games are not sold in the United States, and furthermore they cost more. As much as I'd like to pay 90$ plus S&H for Final Fantasy XIII, that's simply not going to happen . So I've been getting by on Pokemon, Professor Layton (魔人の笛) which includes animated scenes with voice acting, much to my delight, and the Mario RPG series.
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby Hyperworm » Sun 06.12.2011 5:43 pm

The Japanese versions of Pokémon Black and White allow you to choose between kana-only (the previous standard for Pokémon games) or normal Japanese with kanji.
Kanji mode also uses slightly more complex vocabulary at times, e.g. kana-mode「やねのうえ」→ kanji-mode「屋上」(おくじょう).
Good for intermediate learners?

I'm currently playing Umineko no Naku Koro ni on PS3. I find that voiced visual novel games like this help to reinforce unfamiliar pronunciations/readings of kanji, but due to the amount of text involved you have to be able to read pretty quickly to enjoy them, and you need a reasonably large vocabulary as well. Advanced level only.
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I recommend 有罪無罪 for the DS

Postby nanikore » Mon 06.13.2011 12:43 pm

It's a great game for people who have a good grasp of the language.
In terms of difficulty it's JLPT2 level.

Basically the game is pretty much just reading, like an interactive book.

Japan has recently adopted the jury system, and you take the role of a jury member- attending court, examining evidence, questioning people, and discussing the case with the rest of the jury and court officials etc.

In terms of learning Japanese it's great- it exposes you to a wide range of Japanese words- from technical legal and scientific terms to gyaru slang, and also the different ways of speaking of each character.

Also, because there's so much reading, it turbo charges your reading ability- perfect for an upcoming Japanese test (i.e. JLPT 1 or 2), where being able to read and understand quickly is paramount.

There are 4 cases, unlocked sequentially, and they finish when you and the jury decide on a sentence. However, you need to find out the whole truth to each case to get 100% and "complete" the case.

It's very challenging, and manages to include a lot of humour whilst being realistic.


Unrelated, but "My Japanese Coach" is in violation of the trades descriptions act- I wasted my money on it a few years ago and I seem to remember the game claimed to have like 100 lessons or something, when actually most of the "lessons" are just games.
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Re: I recommend 有罪無罪 for the DS

Postby Hyperworm » Mon 06.13.2011 4:30 pm

Interesting ._. I hadn't considered giving that one a shot until now... :)
(Maybe you should have posted in the Japanese-language gaming for learners thread... this could be merged, even)

Have you played any of the 逆転裁判 (Gyakuten Saiban / Ace Attorney / Phoenix Wright) games?
If no, you should give one a chance :D (They're probably best played sequentially, but my favourite is probably 逆転裁判3)
If yes, how do you feel 有罪×無罪 compares? (e.g. sound; difficulty; interestingness of cases and characters; twists etc)

Also, allow me to mention 極限脱出 9時間9人9の扉, another excellent visual novel game for DS, though unrelated to courtrooms.
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby richvh » Tue 06.14.2011 4:12 pm

Merged.
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby phreadom » Tue 06.14.2011 7:03 pm

LordOfTheFlies mentioned 聖剣伝説2 「Seiken Densetsu 2」 (otherwise known as "Secret of Mana") to me as a game that wasn't as difficult as some of the others I'd tried... like Final Fantasy VII, or some of the Zelda games.

http://www.nintendo.co.jp/wii/vc/vc_sd2/vc_sd2_01.html

(Barrett's super informal/colloquial speech was the first thing that jumped out at me in FF7 and made me realize how in over my head I was. ;) haha)

I think I still need to get a better grasp on kanji before I tackle Seiken Densetsu 2. The grammar didn't look too difficult, nor the vocabulary, but not recognizing many of the kanji makes it very difficult for me to follow what's being said, especially when the text only stays on the screen briefly...

EDIT: Actually, while surfing around looking at stuff for 聖剣伝説2, I stumbled across the fact that recently re-released an updated version for iPhones/iPod Touches etc. And since my girlfriend has an old 1st gen iPod Touch laying around, guess what I just bought with some leftover iTunes credits we had?

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What I really liked is that you can easily buy this on the American (or wherever) version of iTunes Store as "Secret of Mana", and the game includes in it support for French, Spanish, English, Japanese, and Chinese (both Traditional and Simplified). So you can easily switch languages as you want. You just go to the Options screen from the main menu and tap on the language in the upper left to rotate through them.

Of course Meghan made me also buy her Angry Birds while I was at it, since technically I was using her credits, and it's her iPod... so she's busy playing that at the moment... but I'm kind of excited that it was so easy to get the Japanese version on an American iPod without any funny business. (iOS 3.0 or above is required... and luckily her iPod, while still a 1st generation, does support up to iOS 3.1.3 (and no higher), so we're good for now.)
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby furrykef » Tue 06.14.2011 10:05 pm

Don't forget that if you're into really old-school games (though we're gradually getting some newer ones), you can hang out with us at lltvg.com. ;)
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Also see my lang-8 journal, where you can help me practice Japanese (and Spanish, and Italian!)
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby LordOfTheFlies » Wed 06.15.2011 6:54 am

The SNES version of 聖剣伝説2 is much better, the controls are good and the UI is much neater and doesn't cover half of the screen. I'd strongly recommend playing it if you're into retro games and want a Japanese game with relatively few kanji and simple to follow conversational patterns.

I've played a lot of Japanese games myself and they've probably helped me the most out of all Japanese learning resources I've used. I've learned so many expressions, so many words including unusual ones, and most importanly; I've learned how to understand and decipher various contractions and slurs that you normally wouldn't understand if you use the textbook approach.

I made a thread about this a while ago(quite possible a few years ago) and I wrote a list about games I recommend for people of various level of Japanese knowledge. I wish I could find it but I don't know how to search for threads and posts by specific members on this forum.
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby phreadom » Thu 06.16.2011 6:21 am

LordOfTheFlies wrote:The SNES version of 聖剣伝説2 is much better, the controls are good and the UI is much neater and doesn't cover half of the screen. I'd strongly recommend playing it if you're into retro games and want a Japanese game with relatively few kanji and simple to follow conversational patterns.

I've played a lot of Japanese games myself and they've probably helped me the most out of all Japanese learning resources I've used. I've learned so many expressions, so many words including unusual ones, and most importanly; I've learned how to understand and decipher various contractions and slurs that you normally wouldn't understand if you use the textbook approach.

I made a thread about this a while ago(quite possible a few years ago) and I wrote a list about games I recommend for people of various level of Japanese knowledge. I wish I could find it but I don't know how to search for threads and posts by specific members on this forum.


http://thejapanesepage.com/forum/viewto ... 49#p151749

Do you mean that one?

When you view your own profile (which you can do by clicking on your username on these posts etc), over to the lower right side it shows how many posts you have etc. You can click "Search user’s posts", and then refine that search by entering something like "games" in the "Search these results:" box at the upper left of that initial listing. :) That's how I found the 2 posts on the thread I linked above. :mrgreen:

LordOfTheFlies wrote:I think you're rushing it a bit. I've been studying Japanese on my own for three years now and even though I've made great progress I wouldn't call myself fluent or even nearly fluent, let's just say I know a lot of Japanese but there's still much missing. We all have different methods of learning things. I never used a text book myself because I've had very bad experiences with them in other languages(English and Spanish). I acquired the majority of my Japanese knowledge by reading online tutorials, using online dictionaries, a grammar dictionary called 日本語文法辞典(中級編) and I learned a vast amount of vocabulary playing Japanese video games. On a different note I also learned most of my English from video games before school even started teaching English here, so it was kind of boring for me to sit in a class room and tell everyone what my favorite color was when I was pretty much fluent already. I'm not saying it will work for you but, if you enjoy playing video games you might wanna try playing some Japanese video games with lots of dialogues.

I don't know if you've been to the TJP chat yet but, there's often people there who want to practice speaking Japanese. I'm there almost all the time so, just swing by if you wanna practice your Japanese :p

And I'll let you in on a secret... Even after 15 years or so of speaking English I still make mistakes and I still run into words I don't know yet every once in a while. Learning a language isn't a walk in the park, after all you need to force massive amounts of information inside your head and retain it all perfectly.

とにかく、あまりに焦らないで勉強を続けてくださいね。


LordOfTheFlies wrote:
Disco wrote:>LOTF ( loved that book): I'm enticed by this frequently mentioned "日本語文法辞典(中級編)". Link? And yes I do play Japanese Video games. I've played ゼルだの伝説ムジュラの仮面、いろいろなゼルだゲーム、へイロ3、etc. Any that you recommend?
(also in Zelda: phantom hourglass, if you touch the kanji, the furigana appears, isn't that a great feature.)

astaroth linked it in the above post.

astaroth wrote:
Disco wrote:>LOTF ( loved that book): I'm enticed by this frequently mentioned "日本語文法辞典(中級編)". Link?

here http://www.thejapanshop.com/home.php?cat=371 http://www.thejapanshop.com/Dictionary- ... B003V539LI


I think it's an amazing collection of grammatical topics with explanations, example sentences and also usually includes a list of dos and dont's.

I've played a lot of Japanese video games. Some I've finished, some I've played fairly thoroughly and some I have only played a bit of. But I can give you a list of video games that I've played and I'll give you an idea of how easy/difficult they are.

聖剣伝説2(せいけんでんせつ)、Secret of Mana, SNES RPG (Easily read dialogues with spacing between words, mostly easily read kanji, uses very little kanji compared to other games, grammar ranges from simple to intermediate)
ゼルダの伝説・神々のトライフォース、Zelda: A link to the Past, SNES action/platform (Doesn't use too much kanji, very easily read and neat fonts, grammar ranges from simple to difficult)

クロノトリガー、Chrono Trigger, SNES RPG (Uses a fair amount of kanji, easily readable font however, grammar ranges from surprisingly easy to extremely difficult)
ファイナルファンタジーVI、Final Fantasy 6, SNES RPG (Kanji is splattered all over the game like in a newspaper, very easy to read as the font is pretty much the same as the standard ones used on computers, grammar is intermediate and very difficult at times)
ファイナルファンタジーVII、Final Fantasy 7, PS RPG (Uses much more kanji due to not being restricted to a low resolution, very easy to read, grammar ranges from intermediate to difficult)
ファイナルファンタジーIV、Final Fantasy 9, PS RPG (Uses a lot of kanji including very strange ones and ones that aren't normally used, slightly difficult to read due to the font being stylish rather than functional, grammar is intermediate or difficult all of the time)
ファイナルファンタジーX、Final Fantasy 10, PS2 RPG (Has voice acting most of the time which is subtitled in Japanese, the font is as easy to read as on a computer, grammar is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult)
エストポリス伝記II、Lufia 2, SNES RPG (Lots of kanji, kanji is sometimes difficult to read due to the fact that the game is really old, simple to difficult grammar)

ファイナルファンタジーIV、Final Fantasy 4, SNES/NDS RPG (SNES version is extremely difficult since it is kana only and the font is so bad it's painful to read, the DS version is better but it still has a fair amount of kanji and because of the small screen that the DS uses the kanji are somewhat simplified/distorted and can be hard to read, mostly difficult grammar and difficult vocabulary)
聖剣伝説3、No official English title, SNES RPG (Uses a lot of kanji, puts an extremely large variety of vocabulary into use, many difficult words, grammar is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult)


I think that's a good list to give people some ideas which games they might want to try tackling at their skill level. :)

I updated the link to the book you mentioned, as the old link no longer works.

Clay, is there a way you can make that book show up when you search for 日本語文法辞典 etc on The Japan Shop?
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby clay » Thu 06.16.2011 9:31 am

Clay, is there a way you can make that book show up when you search for 日本語文法辞典 etc on The Japan Shop?


Sorry about that. We are using Amazon's Webstore. One of the limitations is no non-English text in the title (mojibake results). I've asked about that but didn't get a satisfactory answer. I can put in search terms and I'm testing using Japanese there right now. If that works, I'll be sure to update all the books that have a Japanese title.
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby micahcowan » Mon 06.20.2011 4:00 pm

Disco wrote:I too play a lot of Japanese games on my DS. The Nintendo DS is region free, but i:m not so sure about the 3DS and DSi, as I've heard that they are region protected.


Well, the DSi doesn't have its own cards apart from DS, as far as I know, and the cards themselves lack any region-encoding, so I don't think DSi is any more region-protected than the normal DS(/lite). Of course, the online store will be keyed to the region of your DSi, and that region is probably hard-coded.

I haven't tested it myself, but the 3DS is consistently reported as being region-protected, which is why I made a point of buying the Japanese system (wouldn't be worth the expense just to get it a month before the US release, otherwise). I do know that the Japanese 3DS continues to play US DS cards just fine (since, again, the cards don't have any region information). But playing Japanese-language gameboy color games from the online store was a motivation for getting the Japanese console as well, as even if the cards weren't region-coded, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to purchase the Japanese-language games from the US eShop.

I am however pissed at the fact that Japanese games are not sold in the United States, and furthermore they cost more.


I'm fortunate enough to live near a (small) store (Santek) that sells Japanese games. They're expensive, and I'm not always sure I'll get a better deal buying there, than buying from Japan and having it shipped direct.

As much as I'd like to pay 90$ plus S&H for Final Fantasy XIII, that's simply not going to happen.


The US FFXIII has Japanese-language support, unless I'm misremembering.

I feel you on the pricing, though. I paid more than that for The Last Story on the Wii (which I haven't taken advantage of much :P ).
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby play_on_my_words » Mon 06.20.2011 6:39 pm

To have the greatest result from learning Japanese from a game, I would suggest visual novel games. They have voice that goes along with the text which is usually repeatable and you can also back track previous conversations. Besides that if you can't read the kanji the only person you really have to worry about is the main character ( you ). These type of games seem like the best way to go about learning Japanese from a game because depending on the game you can get stuff that emulates real life to a point, and after awhile you will start to pick up more and more kanji readings and vocab while you're at it. Anyway, this is just my 2 cents on the subject.
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby phreadom » Tue 06.21.2011 3:48 am

Can you recommend some? I wouldn't even really know where to begin without blindly shooting in the dark so to speak.

"google japanese visual novel game" or something... :P
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Re: Japanese-language gaming for learners

Postby micahcowan » Tue 06.21.2011 1:54 pm

I'm not really into "visual novel" types of games myself (even just for language learning), but I imagine the classic Japanese dating sim probably qualifies?
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