In yet another dig through Steam’s infinite library of obscurity I stumbled upon something terribly unique that, if I’m honest, really shouldn’t be. I am talking about Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle.
I don’t want to bore you with edutainment games, but it was a little refreshing to see this pop up while I browsed through endless droves of the same mindless murder-fests I’ve been playing since grade school. I played my share of educational games as a kid. Shout out to Math Blaster, Gizmos and Gadgets, Treasure Cove, Midnight Rescue, and who can forget Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. But all that was different, and while I do recommend you go to xtdos.com or myabandonware.com for a nostalgia fix, I’m talking about a game that is useful to adults.
Hiragana Battle is built on what appears to be Rpgmaker and is your standard jRpg from the 80’s and 90’s. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you there’s anything special about the gameplay, story, graphics, or really anything. Sounds like a rave review, right? It is just engaging enough to keep you going back for the next set of characters. Granted, this is a very niche audience of nostalgic rpg gamers who are also interested in learning Japanese, but at the same time, it’s the perfect medium for this particular language. It is exactly the crowd who does want to learn Japanese!
There are probably better ways to learn Japanese, and maybe better ways to learn Hiragana, but there are not better ways for me to learn either of these things. I can jump in, complete a lesson, wander the world map and fight enemies in different areas, each enemy being one of the Hiragana characters you are learning, and only be knowing what it is can you even hit it to defeat it. Then I can go do something else and jump in when I feel like it again and it doesn’t feel like I’m opening a textbook, it’s just another gaming session. The repetition of fighting the same characters over and over in an area is actually quite standard in rpg’s, and in this one it is to its credit, because it jams those characters into your brain piece for you to memorize. Then you complete a little side mission and fight the big boss man before he runs away to fight you again, later.
I’m not finished with the game by any stretch so I can’t comment on how well I’ve learned Hiragana as yet, though I suspect it is starting to stick. The idea seems like it should be obvious, the execution is well done, by no means perfect, but enough to have earned my purchase and an 8/10.
Learn Japanese to Survive! Battle Hiragana was developed by Sleepy Duck Educational Games in Melbourne, Australia and can be found on Steam.