Once you reach an upper-intermediate level of Japanese, your options for study materials really begin to expand.
The bad news is that it takes a lot of work to get to this level. I remember when I was still at a rather low level, I used to dream of reading novels in Japanese (and sometimes wasted money buying books that were way too difficult for me).
But if you keep studying consistently over a long period of time, you will reach a higher level of Japanese. And when you do, studying Japanese by playing games on your mobile device (iPad, iPhone, etc.) is just one more awesome thing that you'll get to do.
I got a really big translation job that I was working on in in the fall of 2014, which kept me pretty busy. In my free time, though, I also got kind of obsessed with an RPG that I downloaded onto my iPad.
Chaos Rings III
The game I played was Chaos Rings III. There were two main reasons that I chose this game:
1) There is a lot of dialogue, which, in turn, means a lot of Japanese.
2) There is usually audio to accompany all of the dialogue. This can be really helpful if you can't read some of the kanji that appear in dialogues. Also, reading and listening to conversations can be a great way to learn new phrases and all that good stuff.
One downside, though, is that (being a Japanese game) there is also some ridiculous content that you probably don't even need to know or understand... and would have embarrassing results should you ever use it in conversations.
Like, this dialogue has the word 鋭角 (eikaku) in it, which means "acute." As in, "an acute angle." Not sure how relevant that is to my Japanese studies.
As an interesting side note, though, last night I was reading a book in Japanese on my Kindle Voyage. I'm reading The Two Moons, by James P. Hogan, which, in Japanese is called 星を継ぐもの (hoshi wo tsugu mono). So, I'm reading, and the word 鋭角 (eikaku) appeared! I couldn't believe that it came up so soon after learning it. But then, that's how it always seems with new words.
To be fair, though, that book is so unnecessarily wordy and technical that it's going to melt my brain before this is all over. So I'm still going to go ahead and say that I don't need to know the word 鋭角... although it wouldn't be too hard to guess the meaning of it, anyways, once you know the kanji.
Downloading Japanese Games onto Apple Devices
Since I'm using Apple devices at the moment, that's really all I can write about with any semblance of knowing what I'm talking about.
The good thing about Apple devices (such as iPhones and iPads): If the operating system is set to Japanese, then the games and apps you download will automatically be the Japanese version (assuming that it's localized for Japanese). So that's easy.
The bad thing about Apple devices: It's not easy accessing the Japanese iTunes store.
There are so many Japanese-language games, apps, etc. that appear in the Japanese language store, but never make it to the iTunes stores for foreign countries.
However, with iTunes, you have to have either (1) a credit card from that country or (2) an iTunes gift card bought in that country.
I'm not sure I've ever met a non-Japanese person with a Japanese credit card. (I could write 100 pages about my problems with the Japanese banking system).
As a side note, Play-Asia.com is pretty much the only resource I know of (aside from eBay) for buying Japanese video games and hardware.
Long story short, I think that video games can be a really interesting way to supplement Japanese studies. Especially for RPG's, you can log dozens of hours of gameplay, which in turn means dozens of hours of studying, right?
The downside is getting to a high enough level to actually be able to enjoy the game. Even then, it might be a struggle.
Downloading Japanese Games on Other Devices
It has been a while since I first wrote this article, though here's an update on where I'm usually getting Japanese games these days:
- My PC (via Steam), as a lot of games have Japanese available
- Nintendo Switch
That said, I haven't been playing games much now that I have 3 kids!
If you're too busy for games, then you can still make progress in your Japanese learning, if you use a streamlined learning system like NativShark.