Studying through games?

I recently came back to studying after taking a long break. And reset my WK level from 50, down to 10, since I felt I forgot too much of it. But on to my main point here, I was thinking of playing a video game in Japanese to help with my reading, but I’m worried about how much I would understand of what’s going on, and wondering if maybe I should just study more kanji and grammar before I start playing.

The 2 games I am considering right now are:

Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth 1 - I played this in English a few years ago, so that should help with the understanding.

Atelier Ayesha - I’ve seen this one get mentioned a lot here. And I’ve played other games in the series, so I am familiar with some of the game mechanics. But I am a little worried about the time limit they give. How lenient is it? I played Atelier Firis (in eng), and the “main” part of the game has a time limit, but I found it was very lenient and had no problem at all.

The first game I played in Japanese, was Criminal Girls on the PSP about 2 years ago, before I took my long break. And while it was rather simple for an RPG, I felt I understood most of what went on.

For those that play games to study, what do you do when you see kanji or a word you don’t know? Ignore it? Look it up? I imagine looking it up and adding it to an SRS would be best. But pausing the game every minute or two, sounds like it would get boring pretty fast.

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I’m still in the middle of 二ノ国 on the DS, though I confess I’ve not touched it in… years. I tend to look up words I don’t know - everything has furigana (albeit really really teensy furgiana) which makes it easier.

Which was fortunate when I was playing it to pass the time immediately before my JLPT N3 exam started, and came across 生える, a reading for 生 I’d never seen before - and guess what was literally question number 1 on the exam.

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I clearly remember that question from the N3 of something like 4 or 5 years ago. Obviously at the time i had no idea of that reading :sweat_smile:

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I play a game I know well enough in English but w/ a Japanese patch, so I can figure stuff out w/o having to look it up.

Sadly theren’t aren’t many options for me.

Worked decently in Skyrim (except that I got bored of the actual game), but if you got the steam version of newer Bethesda games, you can set them into Japanese (audio and text) or just one and the other in English

Personally I don’t play in Japanese games I’ve already played in English simply because I’m not the kind of people who likes playing the same solo game multiple times.

Instead I play children Japanese RPG like Pokemon, Yo-kai Watch or Paper Mario for example. I’m not a fan of Pokemon but the latest one has a more involved story with a lot of vocab I don’t know. It takes time but at least when you finish speaking to someone you can just play for a long time without having to translate dialog (some rpg have 20min of dialog at a time which would mean 2h for me to translate ahah).

I also use RPG to have the time to translate the text and Pokemon has a lot of attacks using simple words which is nice.

I’ve been playing Pokemans Sun and tried to play both by pausing to note down new words and just burning through trying to understand the general meaning of the scene. Usually you’ll get a bunch of new words up front, but then they spend time talking about that specific thing anyway. Generally though it depends on how I’m feeling and if I actually want to study or just enjoy the game.

I also have Animal Crossing on the back burner which I go back to every now and then. That game is deceptively difficult to understand solely because the NPCs talk about such random shit all the time :smile:

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I played a nintendo DS game aimed at kids (can’t remember much, it was pokemon-like) when I was about N4. I did look up everything I didn’t understand, but it was simple enough that it didn’t feel too much. (Also, the text doesn’t move forward until you press a key during dialogs, so it was fine).

I played 幻想水滸伝 a first time when I was N3 and boy that kicked my ass.
I came back to it around N2 and it was more manageable at the time, but yeah, hardcore.

In between, I played a bunch of simpler games (i.e. not RPG). It felt fine as a learning tool, and it always feel nice to consume native material.

After N1 I got and played Dragon Quest 9, and it felt awesome to barely need any dictionary look-up anymore. (I understood maybe 90%, and could figure the rest through context). Although, it means I wasn’t really studying anymore, but that’s always going to be a risk. You are either studying or enjoying the content (enjoying the content means it’s below the optimal difficulty for studying, I feel).

When I tried playing 閃の軌跡Ⅲ on Japanese I played the prologue twice.

First run was only looking up enough words to comprehend the sentence. I skipped words that I could infer from the context and didn’t really pay attention to special grammar. The “I kinda know what’s going on”-kind of approach.

Second run I was looking up every single word I didn’t know and tried to understand every sentence. The result was I spent more time looking up words than playing the game. To be fair, I was only WK level 10-12 so I didn’t know that many words to begin with.

In the end it depends on how much looking up words disturbs the flow of the game and how much it bothers you. In my case I just put the game back into the shelf and will try again once I know more vocab. The story of the game gets kinda complicated at times and covers a broad range of topics and vocabs so it might not be a good title to begin with.

I think I’m using a kinda unique setup for playing games that are not Visual Novels. I’m using a tablet with pen support and write words I don’t know into (Web) Discord and use rikai-kun to look up the meaning. When I’m done playing I have my “search history” in the chat log available on my PC so I can do whatever with that.


Currently getting back to Breath of the Wild. The vocabulary is difficult enough to make it interesting and there isn’t too much text, making the ‘understand every sentence’ mindset doable. Plus it’s balanced quite well with gameplay, making the look up a lot more bearable than visual novel.

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I’m currently playing Breath of the Wild in English. Maybe I should check out the Japanese. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve been playing Bayonetta 1 and 2 in JP and other than the words i didn’t know I did not feel like it was too much trouble when i started around level 50, since i could read everything or at least knew the kanji, but if it is, as you said, that you have forgotten a lot you might want to wait until you get back to level 30+ until you tackle playing a game in japanese, cause I imagine it to be very frustrating when you can’t even recognise the characters used and have to spend ages looking them up by radical search. (Well you could use google’s brilliant OCR, but I find that I hardly remember any of the words that I use it for)

Edit: Also played the latter part of BotW in JP and it is quite manageable.
Now looking forward to Octopath :smiley:

The only games that I play that are in Japanese are the Tecmo-Koei Warriors games and their Romance of the Three Kingdoms games. I don’t use them to study, but the RotK games would not be a bad candidate for that because of their slow pace; you could easily take your time reading and looking things up when you have to.

In the case of the Warriors games, I can’t imagine they help much with learning. After all these years, I can’t tell you how to say “An enemy officer has been defeated!” in Japanese, so if I haven’t learned it by inculcation by now, it’s obviously not a good way to learn.

A little bit of topic, but about watching someone gaming and explaining vocab and grammer points, I believe. It was posted on reddit a while ago.

I’ll admit i haven’t watched, but i think/assume that this video has a roadmap of games for difficulty. Might give some ideas of what to play.

And his channel:

I’m currently playing “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney”. Since I played the games in English not too long ago I still remember a lot of the plot and that helps somewhat, but I’m also using a basic walkthrough in English so I don’t get stuck or make bad decisions because of mistranslations. :stuck_out_tongue:
And it’s also a little crutch for me to see if I understood what I’ve read.

I have an excel spreadsheet where I write down unknown vocabulary and phrases, made up of three columns: The word in Kanji, then in just Hiragana and the translation. Helps a lot especially if the word is coming up pretty often, and in that case I also include the ones where I don’t know the Kanji yet. Eventually you just recognize the word when it pops up.

While playing I have this spreadsheet open just to do a quick search if I have to. I also have a separate text file open to write down sentences and/or vocabulary which I’ll add to my spreadsheet later on.

Not gonna lie, it can be a bit tedious from time to time and makes me pause the game quite often, but I love the Phoenix Wright games and it’s a fun alternative if I don’t just feel like doing Genki. It’s not the usual “gaming experience” but I don’t mind.

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When i got level 27 in wanikani i started to play Jeanne Dark for psp. Its a good game, like final fantasy tactics. In that level i could see how much repetition system works xD
Theres an app for iOS called Shirabe Jisho (its a dictionary), that i use to draw the kanjis i dont know when gaming.
The feeling after i finished Jeanne was quite unique.
Well, now im playing Xenogears (for playstation 1 (using an emulator)). Theres a huge problem about this one, and its the fact that you cant see clearly the kanjis because of the resolution. Really, 80% of the text is okay but that 20%, omg… Sometimes i have to use the google translate app to take a picture of the game and draw the kanji for me… really, its annoying.

Anyway, for the ones that play ni no kuni for ps4, its a good game? And theres an option to set the text to japanese or you must create a japanese account and buy the japanese version?

This happens more often than not when trying to play through older games on the PS1, SNES or Mega Drive/Genesis. Sometimes it’s okay as you can kind of get the gist from context, but there’s a lot of kanji which are so mangled that it’s impossible to read no matter what you try.

Thanks for that. I believe I was around lv30+ when I played Criminal Girls, so that would be a good point to play games without needing to look too much up. I think I’ll try playing now, and if it’s too difficult, I’ll put it on hold until I’ve studied more. Well I tried playing a little of Ayesha so far, and aside from the little tutorials, everything has been fully voiced, so that makes looking things up easier. And for the parts that aren’t voiced, I can look them up using google and my phone. I’ve added some of those words to a text file, in case I need to check those again.

And what’s great is that if you’re playing it on the Switch (rather than the Wii U version), then you don’t even need to get another copy of the game! The beauty of the Switch is that many games do include the Japanese version – some in the game’s settings, and others by switching the console’s language to Japanese. :slight_smile:

I’ve been trying to learn through various Visual Novels, although there is one game I’ve been interested in and if I end up getting it would definitely try playing in Japanese. That is Shining Resonance Refrain. It looks very interesting but I think with this kind of game the type of words and manner of speaking would be too complicated for me to understand right now.

Pokemon is pretty simple