2017.09.20

Games for practicing / learning Japanese.

General Stuff

1. If you don't always have access to a smartphone / internet, you should get  (NDS) 漢字そのままDS楽引辞典 Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten. It's a Japanese-English dictionary with handwriting recognition and word bookmarking. I’ve heard many people say it’s even better than $300 USD electronic dictionaries. If you're reading a magazine or something in real life then you can use this to look up words with.

JLPT N5-N4 level:

1. (3DS) とびだせ どうぶつの森 (Animal Crossing New Leaf):

The game itself doesn't have a plot and it's impossible to "lose" in it, so it's very low-stress even if you don't understand a single word. You catch fish and bugs, plant and pick fruits, play minigames, and upgrade your house, buy clothing, customize your character's hair, etc. It has a huge variety of speech patterns (ex. polite, impolite, dialects...), yet most of the speech is fairly every-day and you can still play the game without understanding anything. Almost every word has a picture attached in-game, except in dialogues and when reading mail. You can take screenshots of most in-game stuff and use them to look up unknown words later. Every single kanji has furigana and the game has real-life Japanese holidays (ex. setsubun, new year’s, children’s day) which are briefly practised and explained in-game.

You can also go into online mode and play with friends or strangers. When you play with strangers you can choose to play with "only those from Japan" or "people from the world over". Here are examples of dialogue (where the most reading happens), normal gameplay has less text:

2. (3DS) 二ノ国 Ni no kuni (Ni no Kuni)

Your a kid whose mom dies, and in order to see her again you go into a parallel world where her parallel-self is still alive. The parallel world is an RPG world being terrorized by an evil magician-like guy.

Furigana on every kanji; 1/3rd voice-acted. It repeats the words that it uses a LOT, and it's a very basic RPG game that's meant for both kids and adults. You can start playing while only knowing hiragana and katakana, and still learn a ton of Japanese because the context is (normally) so good. Sometimes you'll want a walkthrough, so I started making one.

3. (GBC) ポケットモンスター 金 / 銀 / クリスタル (Pokemon Gold / Silver / Crystal):

These games don't have a single kanji. You go around, talk to people and raise "monsters" that you battle with. The game's entirely in hiragana and katakana, and the dialogues are short (while still being funny). They're meant for kids so there's not much advanced vocabulary, you'll mostly be seeing "bug", "shop", "grandpa", "berry", "lemonade", "house" etc. You can play a Japanese GBC game on your GB, GBC, or GBA, or you can emulate it. If you own a Japanese 3DS you can buy these games in the e-shop but they won't be in colour.

There are more Pokemon games (Red, Saphire, White, X...) but out of all the ones I've tried in Japanese, Gold / Silver / Crystal were the easiest for beginning students of Japanese.



N3 Level:

1. (3DS) ポケットモンスター サン / ムーン (Pokemon Sun / Moon)

This is just slightly harder than G/S/C above (there's more talking and on more varied subjects), and has an optional kanji mode so you can play with or without kanji.

N3-N2 Level:

(PS2) .hack// (original 4 games; might be called ドットハック)

Your first day in a certain online game, you watch your friend get attacked — who then ends up in a coma in real life. You decide the game caused the coma, and the key to getting him out of it must also be in the game.

Voice-acted. After beating normal mode, "parody mode" unlocks which has a lot easier dialogue than normal mode. The game has fake news, fake Emails, fake forum posts, and fake other characters so you get a LOT of reading and listening practice if you want. I just play my copies on an emulator on the computer instead of using my real PS2, that way I can speed up the game / save at any point whatsover to clear it faster, and take screenshots of unknown words to look up later.

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