A while back I wrote about the Top 5 Nintendo DS Games for Learning Japanese. I still think that those are great resources for gamers learning Japanese, but what if you’ve already played those? What if you crave more extreme graphics and more complicated technology? Well in that case, we’ve got the 3DS.
Japanese games with furigana (pronunciation kana over the kanji) are always nice for learning Japanese because they make for easy lookups on kanji you don’t know. The game company Level-5 made some great DS games with furigana and their latest portable offering, Youkai Watch, looks like it could be another winner.
Why Might I Want a 3DS?
As with anything, there are pros and cons. First off, you need to be pretty decent at Japanese (think early intermediate and above) to get the most out of a study material like video games. If not, you’ll be looking up a lot of words and not getting the sentence structure and grammar and might end up just frustrating yourself further. We don’t want that. If you’ve ever tried to read Japanese media like manga before, you probably have a pretty good idea of how well you’d be able to handle something like this.
So, if you’ve determined something like this is within your abilities, let’s check out the potential pros and cons.
Advantages of a Japanese 3DS
- You Can Play Games that Never Come Out in Your Home Country: Of course this is an advantage that comes with owning any Japanese game system. You’ll have access to a lot more titles, some you probably didn’t even know existed. All your friends will be super jealous.
- It’s Backwards Compatible With Regular DS Games: Just in case you never jumped on the Nintendo DS bandwagon, the 3DS is backwards compatible with old DS games so you can play awesome Japanese titles like these.
- It’s Great, Fun Practice: You learn the most when you’re having fun. It’s true. So if you like video games, you’ll have fun studying this way and you’ll learn words relevant to your video game interests and make subsequent games all the more easy to understand and enjoy.
- The Japanese Yen is Currently Weak: Like Hashi mentioned earlier this week, the Japanese yen is weak right now which increases the buying power of your foreign currency. Why not take advantage of this opportunity and get a Japanese 3DS and some games on the relative cheap?
Disadvantages of a Japanese 3DS
- The System and the Games Cost Money: Regardless of the yen being weak, a 3DS and games still cost some cash. If you don’t have too much extra dough to throw around or you’re on the fence about whether or not you’ll be able to handle this level of Japanese, you might be better off using some free or slightly cheaper materials on the internet or elsewhere. There’s plenty of other Japanese media out there to consume.
- Not All Games Have Furigana: Again, this depends on your Japanese ability. Personally, I dislike playing games without furigana because it gets really frustrating trying to look up new kanji, especially when some of the characters are small and slightly pixelated on the screen. But if you’re super good at kanji, this won’t be as big of an issue for you.
If you know you can handle the Japanese level in video games and have some disposable income to spend on a Japanese 3DS system and games, this is a no-brainer. Assuming you like video games, that is.
Like I mentioned before, Level-5 is coming out with a new 3DS game soon. This is the game that inspired me to write this post because it looks really cool and exemplifies all the great things about playing a Japanese 3DS game.
Youkai Watch takes place in Sakura New Town and stars a protagonist named Keta, who’s joined by two youkai (Japanese ghosts), Jibanya and Whisper. In the game you’ll be exploring towns, advancing the story, and fighting battles. Using Keta’s special watch, you track down and recruit other youkai into your battle roster, kind of like Pokemon.
The various youkai all have their own moves in battles which are controlled via the 3DS touch screen. Three youkai can be active in battle at any given time and they can be rotated in as you see in the video above. There’s also an “Aim” command which allows you aim at enemies using the stylus for a super awesome hyper-tensioned ultra ultimate massive attack. Or something.
Anyway, the game looks like it could be super fun. RPG games are always the best for Japanese practice because of all the spoken dialogue and text in battle and menus and such. Games similar to Pokemon are great because everyone loves Pokemon. The only reason I never recommended Pokemon games before was because to my knowledge they never had a furigana option.
Luckily, as with most Level-5 games, furigana is included in Youkai Watch. This makes it much easier to read and look up kanji and words you’re unfamiliar with. Nothing’s worse than reading along in a Japanese sentence and stopping because you don’t know how to pronounce a word, let alone know what it means.
So tell me, have you ever played any Japanese 3DS games? Have any suggestions for good Japanese games to play, 3DS or otherwise? Let us know in the comments!