Imported Games w/o Subtitles

I recently imported Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin! for PS4 on Amazon. If anyone’s familiar with the Yakuza series, it’s a 19th-century samurai game with re-named equivalents of recurring characters like Kiryu and Majima. I’m attempting to use it for training and learning in reading and listening. Has anybody else tried using games for learning and have any tips or methods?

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Well, so far the only game I used this way was the original Pokemon for GB. It’s quite nice; although almost everything was written in kana there… On the other hand it made looking up unknown words much easier…

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Well… I tried doing this with Dragon Quest 11.
It… kind of worked for a period of time, but I think I chose the wrong type of game to do this at my level (I just baaaaarely passed N3 this December)

The first couple of weeks were fine. I spent almost 4 times more looking up meanings and discovering new grammar than I was actually playing.

After those couple of weeks it got a little better, I was getting accustomed to some vocabulary.

But I had 100 hours of game and I had done NOTHING. This frustrated me because I was spending so much time in a game I know I like and I was not actually enjoying playing it.

So I gave up on that one and looked for the translation.

The one I did play entirely in Japanese though was Mario Odyssey. It’s not so text-heavy so I could actually both enjoy learning and playing.

When I get to a higher level I will try with an RPG again.


I bought 二ノ国 for the DS, the Level 5 - Studio Ghibli team-up. Learnt a new word from it literally minutes before my first N3 exam which was subsequently the answer to question one of the exam. :grinning:

I haven’t touched it in a while, actually…


I never new there was 二ノ国 for DS… :sweat_smile: Anyway, if it’s like the PS3 version - then it’s a great game. You’re in for a real treat if you keep playing.

I played Pokemon Red for a bit in Japanese, but the no backlight on my GBC got to me. Told myself I’d get a Advance SP to play it on, and that still hasn’t happened…

I have a ton of old PS1 and PS2 games in Japanese, for years before I started trying to learn. Now, with adult life, I can’t really afford importing anymore, and don’t really want to hook up the old systems… Although I do want to play that copy of Funky Horror Band someday…

It’s a different game, incidentally. DS one is subtitled “Dominion of the Dark Djinn”, while the PS3 one is subtitled “Wrath of the White Witch”. DS one has never received an English release, supposedly because the hard-copy “Book of Magic” that comes with it is not worth the expense of reproducing. It’s a very pretty book, though.:slightly_smiling_face:

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My tip would be pick a game that is around your level of Japanese, especially if it’s a story heavy game. Otherwise you just end up skipping most of the dialogue and miss the point of playing JP version in the first place (I’ve done this too many times tbh). Sadly I just don’t have the time or energy required to translate complex dialogue.

For starters most Pokemon games are good. I’ve also played a lot of animal crossing (動物の森) on 3DS in Japanese. Basically you want to start with games aimed for younger audience just because they have either furigana or are full hiragana. Also games aimed for children aren’t usually as story heavy.

I recently completed Oreimo visual novels on PSP. Even tho my Japanese is pretty bad I understood what was going on enough to get best girls (=Ayase) ending, so yay I guess.
I see gaming more like a fun way to review stuff and maybe pick up some specific vocabulary than an actual learning tool.

I’ve imported games in Japanese for years, with varying levels of success and fun when I play them, lol. I can always tell if a game’s dialogue is over my head in terms of kanji/general comprehension, as I prefer to play story-heavy games and will tire fairly quickly if the vocabulary is too difficult for me at whatever level of study I’m at.

I’ve found a good difficulty balance to be in games where there’s some unknown words I might not be familiar with so that I can study them, but not so much that I have to constantly stop and look stuff up. I played several portable Legend of Zelda titles (A Link Between Worlds, Majora’s Mask 3DS, and Ocarina of Time 3DS) a few years back and had a great time with them, but since the 3DS is region-locked, that might not be the most cost-effective way to import for you. I also played a lot of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, and learned a lot of plant/animal/farming-related vocab as a result, lol.

Back before I got sick of using Anki, I would make decks of sentences from games I’d played if they had unfamiliar vocabulary, grammar, or sentence patterns, so you could try that if you like Anki. It did help me to learn some things that I had trouble with.

Oh! And you can always see if games that you currently own can be changed to Japanese language in their settings. Sometimes that might require changing your system language to Japanese as well, though. IIRC Breath of the Wild can be played in Japanese that way if you own a Switch, and a good number of games on Steam might allow you to play in Japanese that way, too.

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So, it comes with an actual book!
In the PS3 version there is an in-game book called “Wizard’s companion” (well, at least that’s how it called in the translated version) and it’s incredible. I’ve spent a lot of time there simply reading that book. But the DS version seems to be even better as you can actually hold the book!

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I’m probably a bit biased in my recommendations/tips since I really like that sort of stuff, but I’d recommend playing stuff that has quite a lot of slice-of-life elements? That way the vocabulary is easier to understand and probably easier to link in with existing knowledge?

Full voice acting is also nice to have, especially when you have to press to advance, since it gives you time to mull a bit over the meaning if you can’t quite catch it the first time.

If you’re looking for game recommendations, I really recommend something from the Atelier series, since I love those games a lot. There’s a lot of dialogue between the characters and the conversations are pretty easy to understand. There’s a lot of kanji for the items and bonuses that’ll be tough to understand, but as long as you’re comfortable with a bit of ambiguity, you’re good to go.

Speak of ambiguity, I’d say one tip would be to avoid trying to nail down the exact meaning of everything? For instance, in the Atelier series, there’s always a fewcharacters that talk really formally and stiffly, and you know what, I figure I’m kinda ok even if that dialogue goes over my head. I think you get a lot of mileage out of not spending too much time on those sorts of things.

In terms of using games for learning, I tend to view games more as a way of getting exposure and context to the language. I won’t sit down and try and working out everything word for word, but it’s nice when say you get a new vocabulary item in wanikani, and it’s something that you’ve come across before, so you have more context to use to be able to remember it. It’s more important to have fun IMO.

I should really get my copy of 二ノ国 out again and continue with it. I got stuck at a really early section where I think you have to light some torches to open the door? And I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Haha.

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While yes they are “renamed”, it is more that they just took people like Kiryu and attached him to the real life figure of Sakamoto Ryoma. The specifics of the story are fictionalized but overall it’s all true with Tosa and the Shinsengumi.

Also the game does have subtitles, just Japanese subtitles. But more so among the games in the series this isn’t a particularly easy one, aside from all the Kyoto-ben there’s a lot of period terminology and even an inbuilt dictionary for words like 郷士 they don’t expect people to know.

My best tip is that this is very much a game that’ll end up like @chofas story, it’s very text heavy and a 5 minute cutscene can take 45 minutes to get through sometimes.

This definitely depends on the game. Games like 戦国BASARA you can probably ignore most of the text if you want, but I was once playing a different Yakuza game, and for half the game I was totally lost because I had been mistaken in my understanding of one sentence early on.

I just choose to play what I like. If it’s a game you’ve already played in English I think it helps because you have an idea of what they’re saying so you don’t need to look words up. The less you look up and the more you just experience the better it is for me. I tend to look up words I see a lot and want to know more about.

So far this has been working well for me. I used to despise reading but thanks to games I can finally read all the manga I’ve been accumulating. I love playing games so this is my definite route!

Right now I’m playing Labyrinth and Coven of Refrain as well as Rune Factory 4. I also have the Daigyakuten Saibans, Gyakuten Kenji 2, FE Awakening, Tales of Berseria, and KH 2.8 to get get thru. I’ve played Danganronpa V3 this way. I’m getting a lot more Tales games soon I’m looking forward to!

Of course this is after a lot of exposure and I’m bad at the nose to the textbook method so this is how I’m choosing to learn… Combining fun with Japanese lol

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Hm, I mostly started playing games once I had reached a good enough level in Japanese to understand most of what it said (~N2? A bit before maybe) :thinking: so I wouldn’t say it counts as learning.

Before that, I was mostly focusing on games that where not text heavy, like Mario kart :smile: although I DID go through 幻想水滸伝 when I was barely N3. It took me forever, checking most stuff in the dictionary, but it indeed help me at the time. It was painful, but I really liked the story so it kept me going.

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I’ve been playing Story of Seasons Trio of Towns (formerly known as Harvest Moon, or 牧場物語 in Japan) in japanese. It uses easy japanese, so I don’t need to spend too much time looking for words. Although some parts during character events the japanese level turns up a notch…

I also tried Dragon Quest XI, but I was suffering from the same thing as chofas - I was spending much more time looking for words than actually playing it. So I decided to leave it for the future.

I also try playing some mobile games in japanese, but I don’t have much patience for mobile games, and the japanese just adds another layer of complication.

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The PS3 Collectors Edition had a printed, real life version of the book too.
It was pretty awesome.

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It’s exactly like the “Wizard’s Companion”! Congratulations on getting such a book!
Btw, if the DS version follows the spirit of the PS3 one - at some point in the game you’d be asked questions related to the book, and you’d need to actually type the answers (reminds me of the old Sierra quests - I haven’t seen such an aproach for many years, and definitely not on the consoles). So, these stories - not only are they interesting, not only they help you immerse in the game world, but they also have the practical use in the game!
And as you’re reading them in Japanese - they have practical use in real world too! :smile:

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Indeed. Here and there there’s “handwritten” notes in the margins too, and there’s one double-page spread which has an image of the dream world which is quite literally the only way to make sense of the dream world.