🎮 Video Game + Visual Novel Natively Levels

So Natively currently does not have video game / visual novel support, so in the meantime I figured we could use a thread to discuss the Natively levels of games we’ve played.

What games have you played in Japanese? Which games are easy to start with? Does the game have audio, or is it just text? Or is the dialogue all audio with no subtitles? :fearful: Is it a text heavy game? How long is the game? These are just some possible questions I’m throwing out there.

:warning: Reminder: if you discuss spoilers of any game, please blur those spoilers!

I actually haven’t played any games yet so I can’t contribute right now :pensive: but I’m still curious how people grade the games they’ve played

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Also I have no idea if there’s any overlap with the Wanikani VN club and the Natively forums since the VN club doesn’t have many members, but if there is: what levels would you say the VNs you’ve read so far are?

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Ah, a thread I can contribute to!

…Tomorrow, once I get some sleep, haha.

Edit: Added a home post for my games here.

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Hello, it’s me, the overlap (although I’ve only played a few chapters of Loopers so far) :smiley:

Anyway, like @eefara, looking forward to contributing to this thread tomorrow! I haven’t actually finished any game in Japanese yet, but of those that I have started I at least have a vague idea where they might be level-wise.

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I’ve played a few games in JP over the last 2 years, but I usually don’t worry much about comprehension when playing a game. If I can understand the basic meaning enough to progress, then I’m happy. That said, I’m more then happy to offer very rough and subjective impressions of language difficulty! I’m putting numbers on these to try and separate them from each other more clearly, but I don’t think it’s a very strong mapping to the book levels on Natively. From roughly easiest to hardest:

A Short Hike, PC, 2019 -- L23?

Not originally in Japanese, but I thought it would be fun to try in JP. I don’t remember encountering any major issues with the translation, and the game itself is very fun and wholesome. No autoscrolling text iirc.

洞窟物語 (Cave Story), PC, 2004 -- L24?

This was the first game I played in Japanese over 2 years ago now, but had no issues getting through it even at the time. It’s not text dense, and what’s there isn’t too crazy either. iirc there’s some autoscrolling text though.

カエルの為に鐘は鳴る (For Frog the Bell Tolls), GB, 1992 -- L25?

This game never officially released in English, but characters from it show up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as spirits, so I looked into it and bought a copy. It’s a really fun game, with solid gameplay and great comedic moments, including some meta-humor I usually associate with modern indie games. No autoscrolling text in this one, and almost no kanji because it’s at Game Boy resolution. It’s worth noting that understanding character dialog is crucial to figuring out what to do in this game, because it doesn’t follow a common plot framework at all.

Ib, PC, 2022 (original was 2014) -- L25?

This is a remake of what’s apparently an iconic old RPGMaker game, and it was very interesting. Horror’s not usually my thing, but I enjoyed this one. No autoscrolling text is a major advantage too!

デンシャ (Densha), PC, 2014 -- L25?

This was another really interesting RPGMaker game. It’s a puzzle game with some minor horror elements and a really interesting story with a cool ending. Lots of fascinating ideas here from a puzzle designer’s perspective, and almost no autoscrolling text.

ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ (Zelda: Ocarina of Time), N64, 1998 -- L26?

There’s not much text in this game, but a lot of it autoscrolls and there’s unusual fantasy vocab all the time. This is another one you can probably beat even if you don’t understand all the text, since it’s classic 3D Zelda formula.
Oh, and if you have an international N64, you can actually play Japanese N64 games with no issues, the only ‘region locking’ is the shape of the cartridge back. You swap the back panel from any international N64 game onto the JP game and it’ll fit and run just fine.

ゼルダの伝説スカイウォードソードHD (Zelda: Skyward Sword HD), Switch, 2021 (original was 2011) -- L27?

This is another Zelda game, but it has more text than OoT. It has a kind of hard to read font, but there’s furigana everywhere so it’s not too bad. Only a little bit of hard vocab in this one, and once you learn it, the same terms get reused all the time. Not much autoscrolling.

Stray, PC, 2022 -- L27?

Cat Game! This one wasn’t in JP originally, and the translation feels a little strange sometimes, but it wasn’t too challenging. Text is also mostly divorced from the gameplay, so you could probably complete the game even if you don’t understand a lot of the text. There is a lot of text though, and it occasionally auto-scrolls

ゼノブレイド3 (Xenoblade Chronicles 3), Switch, 2022 -- L30?

I’m a big fan of the first game, and played both XC 1 and 2 in English, but decided to hop to JP for this one. I’d rank this game below 1 but far above 2 in terms of story, but I’ll spare you all the details of my Xenoblade opinions :stuck_out_tongue: It has lots of complex vocab, complex systems you’ll need to read in-game tutorials to understand, autoscrolling text (mostly in cutscenes, but there’s some non-voice-acted autoscroll text too :angry:), and it’s just really long, so I’m giving it a high difficulty rating.

大神 絶景版 (Okami HD), Switch, 2018 (original was 2006) -- L36?

This is my favorite game, I’ve played it probably 10 times in English, so I know the story and characters by heart. Despite that, it was still really confusing, and I totally lost track of the dialogue at times. Particularly when brush gods or other ancient beings are involved in a conversation, the language is filled with archaic speech patterns and fancy yojijukugo, so I spent ages looking up words during those sections. A lot of the older terms and idioms aren’t in jmdict either, so I was forced to use J-J dictionaries or just google them. I watched a 実況 of the game on NicoNico after finishing it and found out that I missed a ton of small jokes in the text, but was also reassured that at least a few of the most unusual terms were hard for a native Japanese speaker to read, too.


Some other ones

I played ゼルダ無双:厄災の黙示録 (Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity) in JP, but to be honest I barely even read the text in this one while playing, so I couldn’t tell you how difficult it is.

I’ve also played some 原神 (Genshin Impact) in Japanese, and it has remarkably complicated language. Especially the area based on China has a lot of Chinese words brought directly into the JP version, but even dialogue isn’t afraid to use rare terms or weird speech patterns, and there’s no furigana anywhere. It’s probably one of the hardest games I’ve played language-wise (maybe like L33?), but thankfully the gameplay systems are so cookie-cutter modern open world that progressing even when I was confused was never an issue.

I just started Oneshot (World Machine Edition) too. I played the original several years ago in English, but I wanted use the new version as an excuse to experience it again, and decided to try the JP version this time. It seems like a really good translation so far. A lot of unusual vocab has appeared already and I think it would be quite confusing as a learner without prior knowledge. I might put it somewhere around L27 compared to other things in this list.

I’m looking forward to seeing other peoples’ lists! I wouldn’t be surprised if people disagree with some of my evaluations, so hopefully there’s some overlap to get more perspectives.

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I’ve read a few VNs in Japanese but its hard to give them a precise difficulty rating. Most of the stuff I’ve read that is on this site seems to be in the low/mid 20s so its hard to get a feel for the upper difficulty of things but I’ll estimate the best I can.

生命のスペア - L23

Inochi no Spare | vndb - This was the first VN I ever completely finished in Japanese. There’s a few medical terms in here but overall the reading was pretty easy. Honestly by the end of it, it was starting to get boring with how often they repeated some phrases and whatnot in the narration portions. The sentences were pretty short overall too.

ネコぱらExtra 仔ネコの日の約束 - L18

Neko Para Extra: Koneko no Hi no Yakusoku | vndb - This VN is really short and has no serious plot. Just raising some “kittens”. Its fine if you like cute slice of life stuff and the scenes are pretty short so you can pick up and read whenever. Can’t think of anything difficult about this VN.

月の光 - L22

Tsuki no Hikari | vndb - The nice thing about this game is that it is fully voiced and I mean fully voiced. All of the characters and narration is voiced, so you could put the whole thing on auto mode if you wanted to and play it in the background for listening practice. The game is mainly a slice of life romance type thing. None of the vocab is hard but some of the sentences in the game are longer than what I normally find at this difficulty level.

Monkeys!¡ - L32

Monkeys!¡ | vndb - I love this VN so much. It is definitely a VN that I am going to try and re-read in a few years when my jp is better. I think my biggest problem difficulty wise with this VN was the huge number of unique words (11,025 unique words compared to something like the Bloom Into You spinoff novels with 7,239 unique words). So there would be some sentences where it felt like I knew none of the words they used. They also had a lot of weird analogies and stuff related to food that went over my head.
But with that said, there was a lot of slice of life dialogue that was pretty straight forward. Its one of those games where the difficulty spikes back and forth a lot depending on who is talking. All the girls are お嬢様 but to different degrees so they have their fancy way of talking.

推しのラブより恋のラブ - L26

Oshi no Love yori Koi no Love | vndb - I don’t have too much to say about this game. It was just okay. Its about a girl (the MC) who is obsessed with some edo-period gacha. While she is obsessed with that, there is another girl who is into the MC and is trying to date her. Most of the difficulty for me came from gacha and otaku terms used in it (the MC is a huge otaku).

クロウカシス ~七憑キノ贄~ - L26

Caucasus ~Nanatsuki no Nie~ | vndb - A murder mystery game set in an old-mansion. I thought this game was going to be super hard before I played it but the ease of the game surprised me. Maybe its because of the setting but everyone speaks very “proper”, I can’t really think of any slang or anything and that made it very easy for me to read it. There was one huge info dump scene that was kind of hard to follow but outside of that, it’s relatively easy. One of my favorite “murder mystery” games. I highly recommend it.

LOOPERS- L25

LOOPERS | vndb - I read this with the WK VN club. Story-wise the VN was, uh, not my favorite but I think is a decent VN to get into reading with. Most of the sentences in this game are rather short, I think most of the difficulty comes from the characters all having different styles of speech so there is a lot of slangy stuff in it.

オトメ*ドメイン - L27

Otome * Domain | vndb - This is a pure slice of life story which is okay. I usually love slice of life but I found it hard to be that attached to any of the characters. This is another game that takes place at an お嬢様 type school but the girls in this aren’t too formal. One of the main heroines is actually a huge chuuni and half the time she talked, both me & the MC were left thinking what the heck did you just say :joy:

ふゆから、くるる。- L32

Fuyukara, Kururu. | vndb - The best way to describe this game is that it is insane, crazy, all of those type of words. If you read spoilers on this game you might not even believe they are real because of how crazy the plot can be. Having said that, the game is really fun for the most part. Most of the difficulty comes from there being a lot of really long sentences and that the things the characters say can be so weird that it makes you question your understanding, as in did they really say that or am I reading this wrong. The game also gets really philosophical at times and I struggled a lot when it came to that.

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I played some games back in the days, but I had to mostly stop about 7 years ago.
Some of them were from the cheap bin of my local Book Off and were completely unmemorable (so I can’t even remember their title).

Stuff I do remember:

  • 幻想水滸伝ティアクライス (DS) Text-heavy RPG. I’d say L30?
  • Skyrim (Xbox 360) Text-heavy RPG. L32?
  • ロストオデッセイ (Xbox 360) Text-heavy RPG. L32?
  • キャサリン (Xbox 360) Puzzle game? With some heavy discussion parts. L35 due to the play on names (the two love interests have the same katakana for their names). I never finished that game because I’m just bad at thinking under pressure… so timed puzzles was not my thing :sweat_smile:
  • 真・女神転生 (Super Famicom) RPG. L35? (The extra difficulty is because it’s entirely written in kana; you can’t rely on the kanji to guess the meaning of words you don’t know).
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I’ve attempted Fate/Stay Night & Fate/Hollow Ataraxia, and am currently playing through うたわれるもの: prelude to darkness (though I am not very far in). This is a stab in the dark, but I’d put the Fate ones in mid to upper 30s, and うたわれるもの in the mid 20s. うたわれるもの has a lot of voiced lines. Fate has some, but also lots of inner monologue.

By way of comparison, I have an easier time reading Sword Art Online light novels than Fate VNs - both for vocab and grammar. Otoh うたわれるもの is definitely simpler than SAO - though some of the kanji are less common. I haven’t read enough other LNs to place it super well, but I feel more comfortable reading it without English than many manga I’ve tried.

For w/e it’s worth, jpdb has Fate at 7/10 and うたわれるもの at 5/10.

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Unfortunately I can’t advise on difficulty levels (my grading ability seems to gear towards how difficult it is for me personally and that seems to be based on lack of vocabulary not grammar levels) but I do have a fair few games that either have both text and voice over in Japanese or just japanese voice overs though I tend to play voice over in Japanese with English text.

The ones I’ve played most recently:

Tales of Arise
Tales of Vesperia
Tales of Zestria
Tales of Berseria
Final Fantasy VII remake
Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core reunion
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy type 0
Yakuza 0
Yakuza
Yakuza 2
Yakuza 3
Yakuza 4
Yakuza 5
Yakuza 6
Yakuza: like a dragon
Digimon cyber sleuth
Digimon Hackers memory
Digimon survive
Dragonstar Varnir
Dragon Quest XI
New Pokemon snap
Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Strikers

Stardew Valley (text based only - no voice in game)

There are others but these have all been from English versions of the game with the ability to change the in game language.

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I’m currently playing through the original Phoenix Wright trilogy in Japanese :grin: I have played them a couple of times in English, and since I’m a fan of mysteries most of the vocab is familiar and I’m not stopping to look anything up. It’s interesting to find out what changes between the English and Japanese versions! For instance ‘Lotta Hart’ is supposedly from the southern states in the English version, but she’s from Osaka and speaks with Kansai-ben in the Japanese version!

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I have played

which was text-only when I played it, but it now has a full-voice version

and

which is fully voiced

Both are free. Language was pretty easy. If you are N3 or above, you should have no problem.

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Oooh thanks for posting these. I didn’t realize there was a free Nekopara game. I’d only seen the paid ones before.

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Home Post
(Note: all levels are approximate. My memory’s also not all that great for furigana support.)
All kana = no kanji in the game (aside from, like, the title or somesuch)
No furigana = the game does have kanji

Unless I specifically mention voice acting, the game probably doesn’t have it.

シアトリズム ドラゴンクエスト

Game link - 3DS - don’t remember furigana status - N3? - There’s very little text in this game; most of it is help text/text relating to your party (names, items, skills, etc.), so even if you’re not 100% sure of what the text’s saying, you can still pretty easily play, since it’s a rhythm game.

ポケットモンスター 緑

Game link -GB - all kana - N3? - Despite being in all kana, the text is generally fairly repetitive; you’re going to see a lot of set phrases (“A wild ____ appeared!” “Dang, I can’t believe you beat me!”, etc.). Understanding the text is not essential to beating the game.

ポケットモンスター 金

Game link - GBC - all kana - N3? - Despite being in all kana, the text is generally fairly repetitive; you’re going to see a lot of set phrases (“A wild ____ appeared!” “Dang, I can’t believe you beat me!”, etc.). Understanding the text is not essential to beating the game.

テイルズ オブ ファンタジア

Game link - SNES - no furigana - N2? - So this is a long RPG (35-45 hours), one where you’re not going to have a fun time if you don’t understand what’s being said. Grammar was fairly easy (~N3 iirc), while vocab was much broader (~N2-ish). Bumped it up to N2 to account for the fact that it is a story-driven game and there’s no furigana. Plus, being a SNES game, you might run into difficulty identifying pixelated kanji.

キングダム ハーツ ファイナルミックス

Game link - PS2 (played on PS4) - no furigana - N3? - Has subs with its voiced cutscenes. Vocab and grammar are fairly run of the mill; any specialized vocabulary is generally written in katakana. I would say you do not need to understand what they’re saying to play through the game, though the plot is pretty important to overall enjoyment.

キングダム ハーツ メロディ オブ メモリー

Game link - PS4 - no furigana - N3? - Similar to シアトリズム, this is a rhythm game where not understanding the text is not detrimental to your playing experience. Lots of repeated words and phrases throughout in menus and items. There’s a tiny bit of story at the end (voiced cutscenes + subs) where you’re going to need actual language skills (N3/N2, depending on vocab) to understand it, but otherwise you can drift on by.

あつまれ どうぶつの森

Game link - Switch - don’t remember furigana status - N3/N2? - Grammar’s easy, and your day-to-day will likely have extremely similar vocabulary, but the vocabulary range is pretty broad. It’s all common daily items, at least, so it shouldn’t be difficult to look things up. No real story you need to follow.

ポケモン不思議のダンジョン 救助隊DX

Game link - Switch - at least some furigana - N2? - There’s a nice story to the game, but I don’t believe you need to understand it to finish the game. There’s generally lots of text everywhere on screen relating to stats, actions, locations, items, etc. while you’re in a dungeon, and it is recommended being at a high enough level to parse all that so you don’t die in strange and mysterious ways.

キャッスヴァニア 暁月の円舞曲

Game link - GBA (played on Switch) - no furigana - N2? - Not really a whole lot of story; you can play the game without it. You do need to be able to read a little bit in order to follow clues to get the true ending, however, as well as understand the monster souls you can equip and what they do. Pixelated kanji + a generally brief and sometimes awkward script had me bump this up to N2; there’s nothing too difficult here, but the full package may make the actual reading bit a bit tougher than it otherwise might normally be.

神巫女 -カミコ-

Game link - Switch - no furigana - N3? - Almost forgot about this one. My memory’s hazy, but I remember almost 0 text, and what was there might have been in ye olde Japanese?? Absolutely no clue at this point. Suffice to say you don’t need to understand anything they might be saying to beat the game.

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I’m hoping to add to my home post in the future, so I made it separate. I haven’t had much time to play games lately :cry: due to all the book reading I’ve been doing, but here’s a couple more in-progress ones that, if I ever finish before the heat death of the universe, I’ll add to my home post:

All of these besides ファイナルファンタジー I’ve played before in English, so they tend to get pushed to the side… I will say, playing デビルサバイバー has really opened my eyes to the horrors of kanji on a 240p screen. :scream:

I haven’t played any visual novels in Japanese, thinking about it. I’ve played a decent amount in English, but they all predated my “serious” Japanese study period.

Oh, is there a GBA version of this? I’m only familiar with the all-kana GB version. This one’s been on my to-play list for a while. From what little I’ve played I’d mark it up higher than L23 because of all kana + humor, that latter bit especially.

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I forgot 1 game:

This one is a bit more difficult and fairly dark. N2 recommended.
Also free. Not voiced, but you can find playthroughs on youtube. :smiling_face:
My recommendation: 【レムレスブルーの午前2時】僕は幽霊に恋をする。【よなが/#新人Vtuber】 - YouTube

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Nope, I just typed GBA by accident somehow, good catch. Maybe I should have waited until this morning to post like everyone else :sweat_smile:
iirc, the game did have a few kanji like 十 or 大, but it is almost all kana. The level might be a little low now that you mention it too, it’s been quite awhile since I played so I don’t remember the language complexity super well. It is probably worth mentioning that understanding the text is crucial to knowing what to do and where to go in this one, so I might bump it up for that reason as well.

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i’m playing deltarune and it’s a really nice translation I think. it’s really amazing how they translated the unique quirky voice of undertale and made it japanese somehow. the only downside is that there are some sections where the text just goes on without you so you have to keep up.

you might think it’s fully kana like earthbound or DQ or something, but it’s actually not.

i think it’d be around 25

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I’m still fairly new to Natively so I’m not super well versed in the rating system, but I can try to ballpark the handful of games I’ve played in Japanese:

  • ワールズエンドクラブ - fully voiced, no furigana, but otherwise friendly vocab (it is aimed at younger audiences, after all). N3 range
  • ポケットモンスター ソード - every Pokemon game between gens 5-8 has kana-only and kanji (with no furigana) options. I played this in kanji and was still pretty early in my WaniKani progression at the time, so I spent a lot of time on lookup. Though, as eefara mentioned, completely understanding the text is not essential to beating the game. Upper N3-N2 range?
  • ポケットモンスター バイオレット - the kana/kanji options are now gone, and all the text uses kanji and complete furigana (Legends: Arceus does this as well), which makes it a fair bit easier to parse & look up if needed. Some text auto-scrolls during battles or cutscenes, and some side characters’ unusual styles of speech could be a bit of a stumbling block - though none of this makes actually clearing the game harder. Same difficulty as Sword/Shield, roughly. (I definitely recommend playing this one docked - dakuten on the furigana can be really difficult to see on the Switch screen!)
  • AI:ソムニウム ファイル - fully voiced except for some narration and gameplay text, no furigana. The main story dialogue isn’t too difficult, save for some technical/police jargon that the game’s own appendix explains, and a copious amount of puns. N2 range

Quite some time ago I booted up D.M.L.C., which I’m hoping to actually read one of these days, went “oh jeez I need to hit WaniKani 60 before I even think about starting this,” and closed it. It’s unvoiced and doesn’t include furigana, and while I haven’t seen enough to properly rate it, it’s definitely at least N2.

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I’m currently playing through Octopath Traveler 2 and it’s probably the hardest game to rate because of the 8 stories. They all vary a lot in their vocabulary, like the doctor will use a lot of medical terms that you’ll only see in her story.

I’m not too sure how to grade it but I’d say it’s probably somewhere in the N2 level? It’s definitely kind of advanced. It doesn’t have furigana or a text log but it does have voice acting in just about every story cutscene. You can take every line of dialogue at your own pace and you can even replay the cutscenes so that’s nice.

The game does have a fair bit of very rare language here and there though. Also there are a lot of times where they’ll throw an entire paragraph on the screen so that’s obviously going to be more of a challenge than the dialogue.

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I usually try to grade stuff for where it’s “comfortable” to get through it. So, if an N2 person can read something without looking too much up, I go with that. It signals N3 people that they could probably do it, but with extra effort, but it probably keeps N4 away and thus from getting frustrated and N1 know that it’s gonna be a breeze for them. :thinking: Or at least, that’s how I treat ratings. :see_no_evil:

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