To play or not to play

Hey guys, looking for advice about this super difficult life decision I gotta make: playing a video game.

tl;dr Pick what level I should aim for before starting to play:

When to Play
  • YOLO do it now
  • Level 11
  • Level 20
  • Level 60

0 voters

Basically, the game is called Gerokasu (cw: lots of death and despair) and it’s probably never getting localized so I’ll need to play it in Japanese. It’s a visual novel with very little player input so understanding enough to just play isn’t the problem; it’s more about reading and following the story. I’m pretty good at listening but my kanji skills are, uh, not up to par. I watched ~1 hour of playthrough on Youtube and, based on that, I understood ~90% of the dialogue but only ~25% of the text/kanji. There’s probably more dialogue than text but there’s plenty of both.

If I wanna play the game and follow the story well (which I do), I gotta get better at kanji pronto. Based on some very lazy manual checking by handwriting the kanji I didn’t know and looking them up in WK, I have these (totally sketchy/unreliable) estimates:

  • Level Now: I understand ~25% of the kanji
  • Level 11: I’ll understand ~50%
  • Level 20: ~70%
  • Level 60: ~90% (there were a fair number that just weren’t on WK :angry:)

So the ultimate question is: when do I start playing? I’m currently leaning heavily towards YOLOing it and diving in while basically skipping most of the text, which is probably a bad idea. This author loves doing complicated tricks/puzzles/plot twists which I probably won’t understand if I’m skipping a bunch of text…

On the other hand, I don’t think waiting past Level 20 makes much sense because (a) I’m a two-marshmallows-now-impatient kinda guy and (b) whether the % kanji I have to look up is 10% or 30% is not gonna be that different an experience in terms of reading I think. The other big issue is that the longer I wait, the higher chances of the plague coming to an end. And I expect that if that happens, I’ll probably spend a lot less time on video games in favor of, well, having a life (not that I remember what that’s like).

Anyway I’m looking for advice/suggestions on this front: I figure most of you have more experience reading/trying to read Japanese stuff above your level than I do!


I have a similar problem with God Eater 3, to be honest. Yes, I can read the English subtitles, but where’s the fun in that, eh? :wink:

I would aim for level above 20, more in the 40s maybe. Or just try other games which might be easier to understand :slight_smile:

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Ahaha personally I think I’d be more ok with YOLOing it for an RPG (that’s what God Eater is right?) because, like, the gameplay itself might be worth it. It’s much more annoying for a visual novel 'cause the whole reason you play one is for the story…

The limiting factor for this kind of thing is how much patience you have for looking things up while you play, because even if you know a lot of kanji you will still have to look things up in a game made for natives. So if you feel like you already have that passion and patience, then why not just go for it. If you don’t think you will, having a lot of kanji under your belt won’t necessarily make it an enjoyable experience.

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This also highly hinges on your grammar ability. I started playing Fate/Stay Night Realta Nua around level 30-something and it wasn’t too bad, but I also had N3-N2 grammar and vocab under my belt.

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I’m all for jumping in if it’s something you want to do - but having to look up 75% can get frustrating. Looks like you’ll get a big boost from just getting to level 11, which you can do in 5-6 weeks, depending on your leveling speed. It’ll make the vocab lookups easier if you recognize more kanji and sounds like a timeframe that doesn’t kill the anticipation.
Having said that - finding content you are really interested in is usually an important factor in the drive to go at it!

At lvl 20 you still won’t know many of the common kanji. I’d aim for lvl 30-35.

On the other hand, what are you gonna lose if you try playing now? See how difficult it is for yourself.

Also, grammar can be a huge blocker. Unlike kanji grqmmar points may be a challenge to look up.

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@Leebo Yeah I totally get what you’re saying… I suppose the concern here is that I’ll understand the dialogue well enough to keep up and simultaneously be too lazy to actually look up the kanji
@TrinityBringer I think my grammar/vocab’s pretty decent, especially when it comes to anime/school/murder mystery stuff that’s relevant here. You bringing up Fate makes me think though: I played one route (Saber’s?) years back - maybe I should try another route in Japanese now since the context might make things easier to follow?
@rwesterhof Ahaha I agree with you. Nobody seems to like that option in the poll but Level 11 was the best “compromise” option in my mind - I kinda suspect there’ll be other things to do (in a mostly post-corona world :crossed_fingers:) by the time I’m past Level 20…
@d-hermit But Level 30’s sooooooo far :cry: I do kinda lean towards jumping in asap. I think I’ll be fine with grammar because I don’t have issues watching anime w/out subs and this game isn’t gonna have more complex language than that

If you’re planning on playing on PC, you can use something like Visual Novel Reader to facilitate looking up words on a dictionary. It’ll save you a lot of time, probably.

As for your question, try playing it now and see how it goes. If you’re comfortable with what your current level allows to understand then great, if not, you can come back to it later :slight_smile:

That’s what I’d do at least.

Good luck!

Edit: It looks like it’s not on PC so there goes my suggestion lol

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Yeah, maybe? I’m going to admit, I’m not even a Fate fan, I just needed something easily obtainable in Japanese to read… :joy:

why not just try and see how it goes?

the idea with a game you already have experience in also makes sense. for me that meant switching stardew valley to japanese ^^

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@Milgram Yep, unfortunately the only way I’m even getting the game is by making a sketchy Japanase account on my Switch… Thanks for pointing me to VNR though it could be useful in the future. (I feel like something like rikaikun for PC games would be even better but hey I’m not in a position to complain!)
@TrinityBringer We’re birds of a feather then…there’s a reason I never played more than one route :sweat_smile:
@Mrs_Diss Yeah I’m leaning towards that now (although the Level Up coalition is still beating the YOLO candidate in this election…)


You could also build a flashcard deck with the game vocab you get from some source. Like the playthrough, or some wiki, or your knowledge of the series.

But I’m not sure I feel that would be much better than just jumping right in and looking things up on the go :thinking: it would probably just make you stop a little less to look stuff up

I tried this with Final Fantasy X to get the Japanese voice acting, since the English dub made me cringe big time. The problem with FF games is that much of it is horribly butchered English in Katakana, which I still struggle with (step 1 - read aloud, step 2 - what could it mean in English? step 3 - what did the writer mean…?)

For some games, like Final Fantasy X, it’s enough to switch the Switch’s language to Japanese (and change region to Japan) to get the Japanese voice acting, but that doesn’t seem to work on the store since it’s still region-locked :frowning: . Had similar problems.