Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

My Japanese Coach (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for My Japanese Coach on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Since Nintendo’s revival of the gaming market and subsequent release of the Nintendo Entertainment System worldwide back in the Eighties, videogames have had a particularly strong presence in Japan. So much so that many games, some of them highly anticipated by the West upon announcement, do not see a translation or release to overseas markets. As such, many gamers turn to learning gaming’s resident language, and most in that position are left wondering: with all the genres and varying games on the market right now, why is there nothing that will teach me Japanese? The DS’ success in appealing to all ages and demographics has now given gamers that chance, with Ubisoft’s My Japanese Coach. The question now is, is it more like a sweet haiku, or a dive-bombing kamikaze?

One of the biggest problems with past educational Games - or ‘edutainment’ titles, if you will - is that the actual learning part of the game is often meshed with boring or arcane gameplay, thus destroying the will to learn in the first place. My Japanese Coach already has an advantage, as it is one of very few games to teach the language, although that does not hide the game’s weaknesses in general.

Upon start up, you’re given three profiles to choose from and then set a small test to kick things off. This test’s aim is to gauge how much Japanese you already know; you might know basic phrases like konnichiwa or sayonara, or some of the English language’s borrowed words such as karaoke, or tsunami. In one way, it’s an effective test, in that it eases you into the game’s main learning mechanic. An animated portrait called Haruka guides you through pages of text with definitions of words given, spoken aloud and broken up into groups of similar terms (one group is for numbers, another for months of the year, etc.) with mini-games. In another way, the test isn’t an accurate guesstimate of what you know because anyone would guess, when presented with choices, that kamikaze would be kamikaze in Japanese, even without knowing what it means. Thus, although the game will skip a couple of lessons based on how you do, it is best to play them all in succession if you want to gain a better understanding of the language.

Each lesson consists of a group of words, be it numbers, greetings, or various others, and completing the mini-games for each enough times will gather the necessary points to unlock the next lesson. The games are fairly simple, mainly exercising your ability to remember the words themselves, how they are spelt, matching them up to their English translation, and so on. These games can be extremely basic, and wouldn’t look out of place in a typical low-budget DS mini-game collection, but since they do not distract from the learning purpose at hand, they work fine here. The entire game is touch-screen orientated, and works all the better because of it; an especially vital advantage for learning and writing kana and kanji - that is to say, the written language of Japanese - later on.

Screenshot for My Japanese Coach on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

My Japanese Coach sticks strongly to its objective, by way of starting off lessons on easier aspects of Japanese. The DS microphone comes into play for practicing pronunciation too; no mini-games revolve around the tool, but it is useful for trying out newly discovered words. Not only that, but a changeable difficulty level for the mini-games ensures you a choice of higher complexity, which will earn you more points to unlock further lessons, or a lower setting that you can take your time with.

One thing that My Japanese Coach has trouble maintaining however, is the motivational aspect. Mini-games are varied throughout the lessons, and you can select whichever one you like from the main menu to revise the group of words you’re currently on, but all of the lessons throughout follow the same structure; look at new words or letters, memorise, practice in mini-games. As such, it is difficult for someone to maintain the minimum 15 minutes study a day the game requires, as constantly following the same formula for lesson upon lesson would bore anyone, even those with high aspirations for learning the language.

It may not keep everybody’s interest for too long, but My Japanese Coach certainly has the content for any serious student willing to give it the time; there are over 1000 lessons on offer here, dealing with nearly all important elements of Japanese: study of the three writing systems, conversation pieces, sentence structure, mannerisms, and many more. The game also has an extensive reference section, where you can check on words you’ve already learned, or find a phrase you can’t remember at that point in time; all are fully voiced and easy to find. Provided you have the motivation, and another source of learning that offers diversity from this one, My Japanese Coach should be a strong consideration for both beginners and more advanced students of the language alike.

Screenshot for My Japanese Coach on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Does what it sets out to do, albeit via a consistent method that may get tiresome. Uses the DS functions well, both in learning aids and mini-games.

Graphics

Generic, but functional. Haruka’s jittery animation is the most advanced you’ll see here, but the mini-games are varyied enough in design aspects.

Sound

Although nothing remotely memorable, the game makes effective use of sweet Japanese chimes, and clear and concise pronunciation for words.

Value

If following the game’s 15 minute a day recommendation, you can expect this one to last you years. For the dedicated learner, a vast number of months await.

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Good - Bronze Award

About this score
Rated 7 out of 10

Although still not quite placing enough emphasis on the gameplay aspect, My Japanese Coach proves how far edutainment titles have come in regards to both learning and actual entertainment. My Japanese Coach is a highly useful tool, ready for use in small bursts as all good handheld games should be, though it is best not used as a sole method of language education.

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12.07.2010

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Developer

Ubisoft

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Educational

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

i got this shortly before going to japan on holiday. It worked a little but you really need to play it more for it to sink in, its very effective, just takes time.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Hmm...I always got the impression this is one of those 'companion' style efforts, where some basic understanding of the language was at least required in order to get the best use out of it.

My Word Coach and My French Coach on Wii were bloody awful, so obviously I am sceptical about this, and yet you've given it a very positive review.

Hmm, perplexing! Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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