Starting first Japanese Game

So I decided I finally wanted to jump in and try playing a game in Japanese. I’ve chosen this one called Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth since I’ve heard it’s relatively easy and it’s been recommended to me a few times. From what I can tell it seems to be a bit of a mix between a visual novel and an RPG so far at least. I’m really struggling though, it’s taken me several hours just to get to the point where I could even save the game where it would take an English native speaker like 10 mins.

I’m questioning now if maybe I chose something too difficult to begin with. I am enjoying the dialogue, it’s keeping me engaged, but I just have to wonder if I’ll actually be able to get much from it with having to look up so many new words so often. Will struggling through it actually help me improve or will it just do nothing? I have no idea and I don’t want to get like 30+ hours in to find out I’m not any better from where I began. Those who have more experience with immersion than me, how did you do it and is there anything you would recommend?


Wanna hear how much time it takes me to read a page of a children’s book? :sweat_smile:

It will help you improve, but perhaps it’s not the most efficient way to start with.

Do you have prior experience with books, etc? Depending on how well you remember all WK kanji and how good is your vocab and grammar, it might be worth picking something a little easier first.

Here are the tradeoffs, though:

  • Children’s books will very likely have a lot less kanji so one might get confused by the overuse of kana where you would expect kanji. On the up side, you see mostly N4, maybe N3 grammar so the sentences are fairly simple and easy to follow.

  • Books for adults will have more kanji, but will also expect you to know way more vocab and grammar structures.

I started with a children’s book. It’s an absolute slog. However, with each page I’m genuinely learning new words and navigating through a kana-only text is also super important later, because not everything is going to be all prim and proper kanji wise.


You’re at a more advanced level than I was when I struggled my way through 逆転検事2, so I can’t swear it’d be the same for you, but it still helped me loads.

I was low-ish WK level with a terrible grasp of grammar. By the end of the game, it felt leagues and leagues easier.

Same with listening practice. Months of understanding a word here or there, but then I suddenly realise I understand so much more.

The reason I don’t know how much this would apply to you is that I was at skill level 0.1. That means there was a LOT of low-hanging fruit to learn. I still had to learn basic words and basic grammar. Like with any intermediary, progress for you would be more hard-won.

When I read far above my level, I can’t maintain it. But I also found there is a sweet spot of challenging, useful for learning, but still incredibly enjoyable. At this time, for me, that’s games aimed at a high school audience.

But if you enjoy it, that’s so important! Even if you remember zero of the words you look up - you used and enjoyed your Japanese! That’s our goal! That has merrit in and of itself, in my view. I get it if you don’t feel that way, but I’ve felt really invigorated by sometimes enjoying the language without forcing myself to take is a learning chance.

Hope you find something you love!


It’ll help :slight_smile:

Not least because you’ll be able to look back and remember how hard it was at the beginning. Games are especially good for that because even language aside - there’s a world of difference starting one vs. where you are at the end of it. In the same way you’ll get better at the game, you will get better at reading the game as well. It’s not going to single-handedly make you fluent or anything, but it certainly won’t do nothing.

Personally, I think enthusiasm for the material is a lot more important than difficulty.
It doesn’t matter if it’s slow-going as long as it keeps you coming back. So as long as that’s true, I think you’re doing fine and you’ll be surprised to look back and see how far you’ve come. Also, With the sheer volume of words in a language, it would be extremely difficult to avoid looking up a lot of words at one point or another. I just don’t think a perfectly smooth ramp-up is possible, so there’s gonna be some intimidating slopes in the mix and it’s just about balancing those so things stay fun enough to keep going.

My first major game in Japanese was something I played before I felt at all ready for it, just because it was a new untranslated game in a series I already liked. I was so anxious about it that I actually recorded my gameplay at first, expecting to try to rewatch it back and figure out what I’d missed. And while it was slow going at first, once I fell into the rhythm of the game the need for that safety net fell away and that anxiety finally faded as I got more and more used to the game and the process of playing it. It ended up being extremely rewarding, probably my biggest major milestone with Japanese, and pretty much the best time I’ve had with a video game.

Which is just to say - if I had let worry that I wasn’t at the right level stop me, I would have missed out.

As for recommendations - personally I just use an app on my phone (Takoboto) so when I look up words I can add them to wordlists. It helps a lot for me to be able to see when I’ve looked stuff up before - since a big big aspect of one’s first steps into long content is just learning what words and structures are common and getting used to them. I know some folks have tools that can pull word lists for games or something like that though.
Also - maybe give recording gameplay a shot? I didn’t actually end up using those recordings I made very much, but OBS is free and would work fine if you’re playing on PC, and it genuinely eased a lot of my anxiety just knowing that I could go back and review if I needed to, helping me acclimate to moving forward when I needed to even if I wasn’t 100% on everything. Finding a JP longplay or let’s play might work in a pinch as well.

Good luck!


Well I might not have as much knowledge towards kanji and their application here’s my two cents on immersion.

You have to be okay with not knowing in the beginning and over time it’ll get easier. When I started on WK I listened to Japanese podcasts and over time I picked up several words and the grammatical structure made way more sense even if I don’t understand the word meaning itself.

You could also start listening to a variety of different media that uses similar language to the game. Something like Sword Art Online, if you’re into that, can help you pick up words that are commonly used in RPG games.

You could also decide how many words you want to look up per dialogue or within a certain time frame. While this won’t help understanding it can help you get through the game faster and over time you can pick up the words that you missed.

I’m not sure if this will help at all but I hope your gaming experience goes well. :relaxed:


You’ll learn plenty, but I would recommend srsing stuff you come across if you aren’t already. I’m not sure what your vocabulary is like, but if it’s mostly words you’ve learned from wanikani then it’ll be far less than what you need.

If you can’t get a text hooker to work on that game, then I would consider using a different VN that enables text hooking so you can more efficiently mine. Realistically though, so long as you are able to understand what the sentences mean thanks to looking it up, you’ll learn. Ultimately the best thing to immerse in usually has a lot more to do with how many hours you’ll be willing to spend doing it rather than difficulty so long as it’s not too easy.

Besides, 30 hours in the grand scheme of things is nothing so don’t feel discouraged if you can’t notice any progress. If you’re playing through a visual novel and mining a whole bunch and srsing it over like 60+hours, then yeah you’ll see a lot of progress. but just casually playing an rpg for 30 hours not so much.


I’ve recently tried a bit of rebirth 3 in Japanese, and I found the dialogue relatively easy… however I will say that it’s like VERY casual and slangy, which isn’t too much of a problem for me since I’ve picked up a lot of that from anime and such. If you aren’t as confident with those structures that might give you some trouble! It’s hard to build vocab without context, it’s definitely painful at first but I think the more you read and the more things you expose yourself to, the better. I would say don’t beat yourself up if completing the whole game in Japanese is beyond where you’re at right now.


Thanks all for your replies, they definitely helped. I think continuing on would be good for me. So far I’ve just been doing so only looking up unknown words quickly then moving on, but I guess maybe I should try adding them to SRS to really solidify them. I do have all 3 re;birth games since I bought them on sale a while back and just never bothered with them until now. If I enjoy this one and manage to get all the way through it I may try and get through the others too. Eventually I’d like to try harder (but more fun) JRPGs like Final Fantasy and the Tales Of series


If you’re going to do cards from VNs, I would look check out or they have pretty good guides on how to set up very fast and high quality card making from VNs iirc.


I briefly gave it a look and I already pretty much have all that set up from a guide I found somewhere else like a year or 2 ago, minus automatic card making since that only supports Anki which I don’t use. I don’t mind manually making cards too much though

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Poggies. Mine your way through a couple games and you’ll be hardcore chillin.

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Played some puzzle games before, but skyward sword is the first proper attempt at playing a game in Japanese. It helps I’m familiar with the game. Definitely not the easiest game to play first, still I enjoy it and it is good practice so I consider it a success.

I would just keep in mind it’s natural you take more time and make mistakes.

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Sounds how it was for me when I started playing games in Japanese. I had to look up everything essentially, so tasks that should take you just a few minutes extended to hours. Just a note, the beginning of a game is always a bit heavy on new information, so hopefully things will start to get smoother for you. Still, it probably will require a lot of patience on your part to do it.

I do think it’s valuable though. It’s a great way to get a deeper connection to words. I think games are superior to books/manga in that you can’t skip anything really to be able to play and enjoy the game. So, it pushes you in a good way.

You say you enjoy the dialogue and that it keeps you engaged - and if that’s the case just go for it, imo. That’s the main factor if you’ll be able to put up with a slow play-through tempo really. Expect your next game to get a bit smoother, but not a lot (I guess that depends on how you work with new items you encounter). But eventually, you’ll get to a more normal reading tempo. It just takes a lot of effort to get there. So hang in there! ^>^


I think that helps you progress and grow quicker for sure. I never did, but just making a list of items I encountered, meant I internalized some of the items anyway (with from repeat exposure in the game). But, defo, it’s a more of a hit and miss method (though also very unintrusive as it lets you just enjoy the game). Go for whichever is more enjoyable I’d say. :slight_smile: