Friday, March 27, 2015

Which old or new games should I start playing to help me learn Japanese?

Well, there you have it: I'm trying to learn Japanese. Again.

You may remember that I said this very same thing (well, not the "again" part) a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, after memorizing the language's katakana and hiragana syllabaries and then beginning the process of learning actual words and grammar, my studies fell off a cliff. I don't remember what prompted that plumet, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with a deluge of freelance writing assignments.

Dragon Quest (Famicom)

Given the amount of time that has passed since that original, aborted attempt, I basically was forced to go back to the beginning for this second one. I'm already back to where I left off, though, thanks in large part to a couple of handful of apps I added to my phone a couple of weeks ago.

I'm going to keep using those apps, as well as a few new ones and even the GENKI series of textbooks, to continue my studies, but I also want to toss some slightly more entertaining, real-world "lessons" into the mix this time around. Specifically, I want to use Japanese games to bolster what I learn about the language via the above-mentioned applications.

Some of the games I'm currently considering for this endeavor:

Bitamina Oukoku Monogatari (aka Great Greed, GameBoy)
Chocobo no Fushigina Dungeon (WonderSwan)
Dragon Quest (Famicom)
Lunar: Samposuru Gakuen (Game Gear)
Madou Monogatari (Game Gear)
Mother (Famicom)
Pro Tennis: World Court (PC Engine)
SaGa (GameBoy)

I'm not far enough along in my studies to understand all of the Japanese text these games are sure to throw at me, but I should be able to understand the bulk of the katakana that pops up, plus I plan to regularly look up words that make use of hiragana.

Mother (Famicom)

I pretty much pulled the selections above out of thin air, by the way, so if any of you know of other games--I'm especially interested in hearing about any Japanese 3DS, DS, PSP or Vita games that could help me expand my vocabulary--that you think would be useful for this purpose, please share their names in the comments section below.


TruenoGT said...

When I was learning Japanese in college, I played Final Fantasy V on Super Famicom, writing down kanji and words I didn't know and looking them up later. Such a slow process, but really fun!
As for more recent games for the systems you mentioned, Game Center CX2 (DS) would be a great one, as would Rhythm Tengoku Gold (DS). There's enough text to be useful for learning, but not so text heavy that you can't enjoy them without knowing the all the words. If you have access to play Japanese Wii games, two other great opportunities are Kiki Trick (for listening especially) and Captain Rainbow. said...

These are great, TruenoGT. Thank you! I actually own both FFV for SuFami and RTG for DS, so that's a start, and I've *wanted* to own Game Center CX2 and Captain Rainbow for ages now...

The Punchingest said...

You want games (and other media), as a beginner, that are aimed at younger audiences of the native language. So stuff like Pokemon is usually recommended as older ones have little to no kanji and newer ones have lighter ones to digest. Kid and Teen audience games and stuff like shonen manga with furigana are what you'd like.

I'm currently replaying an old favorite of mine, Lunar, in hopes that I'm good enough to spot the differences between it and the goofy localizations. Games you like and have a fond attachment to can work as a great motivator.

Always just keep a few dictionaries on hand, maybe learn to read kanji by radicals (which is a rad way to learn, pardon the joke) which I like using for and soon enough you'll be deconstructing familiar kanji characteristics super fast

Good luck tho, man

Chris Walden said...

I think, at least for starters, you should check out a game that includes furigana. I forget if it was Pokemon X or Youkai Watch (may have been bother) that I played recently that had this, which certainly helps when reading sentences. Not the best in the long term if you want to learn kanji, but if you're just practising with hiragana/katakana, I'm sure it'll help with understanding what it is you're reading. said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, The Punchingest! I really appreciate them :)

Hmmm, the early Pokemon games definitely sound like a good idea. Maybe I'll take this as an opportunity to play through one of the early games I never finished, like Yellow, Gold/Silver or even, er, whichever ones came before Emerald (Ruby and Sapphire?).

Also, thanks for letting me know about the kanji-by-radicals thing. I'll check out your link tonight! said...

Thank you, Chris! I definitely want to learn and plan on learning kanji. In fact, it's part of the GENKI lessons. That said, I'm only just starting on this journey, and for the meantime, games that focus entirely or almost entirely on kana (hiragana/katakana) probably would be best for me, I think... said...

I agree, Justin. I think
the first Final Fantasy might be a good option, too, and for similar reasons.
And then there's Mother, which I guess could be good for learning the Japanese
words/phrases for all sorts of everyday items and situations.

Tom Badguy said...

Can't go wrong with Dragon Quest. said...

Thanks, Tom! I really can't imagine there's a whole lot of text in any version of that game, right??

Tom Badguy said...

After 15 minutes, you will at least know what Talk, Status, Equip, Door, Spell, Item, and Search are, lol said...

Yep, and that's fine by me. You gotta start somewhere, right? ;)

Rowan Carmichael said...

Oooh, well, all the DQ games are great. DQ7 also has furigana to make life easier. has a lot of info on what games include furigana or not. nintendo platforms after the original DS are THE place to go. said...

Thanks for the tip, Rowan. BTW, when you say DQ7 has furigana, do you mean the 3DS remake, too, or just the PS1 original? 'Cause I'd loooove to have a reason to pick up the 3DS remake :)

Also, thanks for letting me know about the gaijingamers forum. I'll check out that link tonight!

Rowan Carmichael said...

Oh sorry, yes the 3DS. The ps1 version I have never touched. said...

That's wonderful, Rowan. Thanks for letting me know!

Rowan said...

The best game I have found for practising Japanese (not learning it, you need to have a basic level of the language first) is the Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side series.
The games are fully voiced, feature casual everyday language you can use with friends, and even have multiple choice quizzes where you need to select the right response to your date--great for testing your language comprehension!
Plus the games are just plain fun. My favourite is the third game, it has the best bachelors imo, and the fashion system is so much fun.

A potential difficulty is that it may be difficult for a beginner since the casual language and dialects can be hard to work out if you have only learned the desu/masu polite forms. It's more useful if you are at least on the lower intermediate level. If you try it and find it too hard I would recommend something aimed at kids with just kana and gaps between words (something like the Cooking Mama series).

Oh but there are actually fan translations out now for the first two Tokimemo games. You could try playing the two versions at the same time on two different DSs--read the Japanese first then check the translation. It's an idea anyway. said...

Thanks for the update, Rowan! I've never really thought of this series as potentially helping me with my studies, but based on the way you described them here, I'm now definitely going to check one of its releases out in the near future!

I'm sure I haven't learned enough of the language yet to make sense of too much of what's going on, but I'm sure I could use the game to learn various words and phrases and the like. Anyway, I'll do my best to track down a copy soon and give it a try :)