Let’s face it, learning a language requires a lot of time, memorizing and practice. It’s no surprise that many of us associate language-learning with long, boring study sessions in drab classrooms with tests and exams to boot.
Well, worry no more! The Learn Japanese to Survive! series aims to flip this around and turn learning Japanese into an enjoyable experience.
Launched on Kickstarter in 2015 with its first game, Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle, the creators hit their goal of 4,651 AUD (403,000 JPY) in sales. What’s even more interesting is that the publisher, Sleepy Duck, is not Japanese but an independent educational game developer based in Melbourne, Australia. Since then, the game has received almost 800 reviews on Steam, with an overwhelmingly positive response.
Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle places the learner in the middle of a game scenario, where the learner role-plays a character making use of his hiragana knowledge (one of the three writing systems in the Japanese language – the other two being katakana and kanji) to battle monsters. The player will need to select the right pronunciation of each word in order to defeat them. These increase in difficulty as you progress and the monsters become harder and harder to defeat.
In addition, Hiragana Battle provides how-to-write animations for each character, pronunciation samples, and a study guide after each chapter – thus giving the player the full learning experience, with the added value of it being incredibly entertaining to play.
Following the success of Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle, Sleepy Duck launched a follow-up sequel to the game in January 2017 called Learn Japanese to Survive! Katakana War which focuses on the katakana writing system of the Japanese language. This time, the Kickstarter project (from July 2016) blew through its goal in just two days!
With a similar concept to Hiragana Battle, Katakana War takes the player on a journey through a Japanese town which is suddenly invaded by katakana monsters. A chance meeting with an English teacher in Japan nabs you a mentor and a friend. Alongside your newfound party of foreign friends, you fight your way through increasingly challenging katakana monsters, learning a new set of katakana in every chapter that enables you to deal with higher level creatures.
The mechanics are done surprisingly well, with dungeons interspersed with learning sessions in the classroom, and while there are constant reminders that the game is – at its heart – a learning game, one is also fully capable of spending hours and hours in the game without feeling that it is a chore. Just like any regular RPG (role-playing game), there is plenty to do around town and a lot of interaction with other characters. You even get an “affection score” reminiscent of the Japanese Sim dating games.
Both games are worthy of standing on their own. The player is not required nor expected to have played through Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle in order to play Learn Japanese to Survive! Katakana War, making it ideal for Japanese language learners who wish to pick and choose sections of the Japanese writing system to learn.
The Learn Japanese to Survive! series is a great introductory step into the world of the Japanese language and just that kick you need to get your studying on the right track!