The Sega Genesis Mini was released this past fall as Sega's contribution to the recent trend of top-shelf mini consoles featuring video gaming's "greatest hits" from the 80s and 90s. This little machine has more than just a stellar library, excellent emulation, and faithful controllers—Sega went a step further and included a feature to the Genesis Mini that has not been seen in similar products: Japanese versions of every game. By simply changing the language in the system settings, the entire interface changes, and all games become playable in that language. This is a great resource for Japanese learners who want to practice their reading skills with retro games.
Of course, the best reading practice will come from the text-heavy RPGs and action-RPGs like:
- Shining Force
- Phantasy Star IV
- Beyond Oasis
- Light Crusader
- Monster World IV
- Wonder Boy in Monster World
While those seven will be your best options, the rest of the games still provide varying amounts of Japanese text in between puzzle-solving and monster battles—especially text-medium games like Ecco the Dolphin, ToeJam & Earl, Comix Zone, and Dynamite Headdy.
Even though the Genesis Mini offers a rare and eclectic mix of Japanese games with emulation incredibly close to the original hardware, it can't be ignored that reading pixelated kanji and kana can be an acquired skill. Even those who grew up with games like these are now accustomed to computer and phone screens that display Japanese characters in incredible detail. Pixelated fonts can take some getting used to, so anticipate that roadblock as you dive into your gaming-related Japanese practice.
Overall, this is one of the better (maybe the best) mini console system released so far, and the Japanese option makes the handful of text-heavy games worth the price for Japanese learners who are also fans of retro games.