News Article

Guide: Understanding The Basics Of Japanese For Import Gaming Goodness

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

Prospective import players: We've got you covered

Buying and playing Japanese imports is one of gaming's little adventures. It can be exciting and rewarding, but it's not without its pitfalls — the most obvious of which is the language barrier. While many import games will feature a small amount of English text, most will be impenetrable to those who can't read Japanese.

Fear not, however — we're here to help. The table below is a quick reference guide of some of the most common and important terms a gamer playing a Japanese game is likely to encounter. It’s far from being exhaustive, but it should help avoid any accidental save deletions and give a general idea of what’s being asked.


English: Start/Begin
Japanese: スタート OR はじめる OR 始める

English: Continue
Japanese: コンティニュー OR つづく OR 続く

English: Delete
Japanese: けす OR 消す

English: Load
Japanese: ロード

English: Save
Japanese: セーブ

English: Overwrite
Japanese: オーバーライト OR 上書き

English: Yes
Japanese: はい

English: No
Japanese: いいえ

English: Name
Japanese: ネーム OR なまえ OR 名前

English: Options/Settings
Japanese: オプション OR せってい OR 設定

English: Password
Japanese: パスワード

English: Next
Japanese: つぎ OR

English: Finish/End
Japanese: おわり OR 終り


So there you have it. While you still may not be in a position to tackle the latest text-heavy 3DS RPG, you can at least spot the vital words in menus and this should hopefully make your import adventures that little bit easier.

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User Comments (40)

Blast

#1

Blast said:

If I lived in Japan... My gaming library would be pretty freakin' huge. Thanks for the tips!

Lin1876

#2

Lin1876 said:

I wish this guide had existed when I first imported games! These days I can read just about enough to navigate menus and answer simple questions, but one time I had to click everything to try and save (and found the quit button, infuriatingly).

So, ありがとうございます from my past self!

Chomposaur

#4

Chomposaur said:

i tried to play Dragon Quest 6 back in early 2000s on a ******** it was in full japanese i tried so hard to get into the game but being a text heavy game i could not get past the first village without knowing what to do or buy

Thankfully it came out on the DS several years later :-)

TruenoGT

#5

TruenoGT said:

My first import game was Tobal 2 for PSX, but I also imported Final Fantasy V for SNES before there was a translation patch and good SNES emulation. These would have helped! :)

I was just starting Japanese in college, so I ended up printing FFV's entire script at the library and following along while searching for the right dialog. I gradually got better, but it took like a year to beat it!! :) Most recently got Kiki Trick and Captain Rainbow for Wii, but my Kanji is awful so it's been tough going...

Gioku

#6

Gioku said:

No way I can memorize any of that... Japanese still looks like absolute gibberish to me, haha. :P

CanisWolfred

#7

CanisWolfred said:

I already have most of these memorized, thankfully, all through frustrating trial and error...the rest of you guys should be thankful you get a helpful guide, though. <_<

@Blastoise-san Games there costs 30% more, though, even when the Yen is not so strong...I think your backlog would actually be smaller. :P

Azooooz

#8

Azooooz said:

Thanks, but I prefer playing English versions to Japanese ones. I just want to avoid headaches of memorizing the Japanese words.

DarkKirby

#9

DarkKirby said:

I'm a great fan of Japanese games, anime, and manga, but I've had little luck learning Japanese, and I'm terrible with 2nd language learning to begin with.

It does not help that, for me, one of the most important parts of games are the story and characters, so being able to navigate through the menu's isn't enough for me to enjoy a game.

EarthboundBenjy

#10

EarthboundBenjy said:

Learning kana is not too much of a hassle if you're someone who's really into Japanese stuff. Most of these terms are English loanwords anyway.

Senario

#13

Senario said:

While I can read all of that I think a full text based Japanese game might still be out of reach for understanding, with a few exceptions like Pokemon. I do a lot better at listening and speaking when it comes to the language. Writing and reading a little less so.

TheRealThanos

#14

TheRealThanos said:

@EarthboundBenjy They may be English loanwords, but they're definitely not displayed in English so all in all this article is pretty useful to a lot of us.
All I ever played in Japanese (on my Sega Dreamcast) is arcade racers and beat em ups, since they're not so text-heavy and you quickly learn which option to select to be able to play and then the rest of the text in-game is largely in English.

Einherjar

#15

Einherjar said:

I always wanted to learn at least the most basic japanese characters to understand some import games.
My top candidates would be anything "Supr Robot Wars" ;)

brianvgplayer

#17

brianvgplayer said:

Because it's the SEGA licensed Sakura Wars GB. It's not actually published by SEGA, just licensed from them, though. I usually avoid the more text heavy imports like RPGs, but I have played through Goemon 4 SNES and Super Robot Taisen J GBA. I also found some strategy games like the original Famicom Wars easy to play with memorizing the menus. I stick mostly to shmups, puzzle, and action games for imports, though.

CureDolly

#19

CureDolly said:

A number of games actually have furigana (it is easier these days with higher resolution) Animal Crossing New Leaf does, for example. Pokemon X/Y has the option to play all-hiragana or with kanji, and if you choose kanji they do mostly stick to the simpler ones and put difficult words in hiragana.

So if kanji is your problem you can actually find a lot of games that you can play.

ShadJV

#20

ShadJV said:

When I was younger, I seemed to lack patience in waiting for games to be localized, particular in the Pokemon franchise, and so I would play leaked Japanese versions on my computer (for the record, I have legitimately purchased said titles when they reached US shores and I no longer would do such activities for ethical reasons, I was a kid, I don't condone pirating). Although I couldn't fully enjoy the games due to having limited Japanese understanding (could understand some spoken but none limited), I did my best to remember names of Pokemon, as well as deduce moves and items (or at least the effects, I wasn't always sure what the move or item was). To this day, the most I remember from those experiences are "yes" and "no", due to confusion for awhile since child me assumed that, since "yes" is longer in English, it would be longer in Japanese. That confusion was remedied after I realized that my answer kept not lining up with what I deduced I was likely being asked. ><;

CureDolly

#21

CureDolly said:

@SMEXIZELDAMAN

Pazudora (Puzzle and Dragons) Z looks very good. I played the demo and loved it. Famitsu rated it 9:9:9:9 and sold through 3/4 of its initial shipment in Japan on release day. (It also has furigana!).

I am hoping to get it for Christmas and I am really excited.

CanisWolfred

#22

CanisWolfred said:

@Einherjar Super Robot Wars is a great franchise to import. If you've played the GBA game, you can handle virtually any other game in the series with a bit of help - there are plenty of translation guides telling you which skill is which, which is the most difficult thing to figure out, IMO.

element187

#23

element187 said:

My problem is the only games I would be interested in importing would be JRPG's, so I would have to actually learn mostly the language to be an import gamer... My wife is thai, I think she would get super angry if I learned Japanese before I fully learned her language.

There is really a ton of great language learning software on IOS and android. I mostly learned Thai from these apps, but there is a ton of free Japanese (and paid apps as well) for learning Japanese. I would imagine you could learn enough to play games after 6 months. I can almost have a normal conversation with my wife's mother after 6 months of study just using the apps on the IOS store.. I mention this because Rosetta Stone is a ripoff when the same material is free or near free on android and iOS

Einherjar

#24

Einherjar said:

@CanisWolfred Really ? I mostly looked up translation patches / hacks and those are...well, pretty scarce.
And im NOT in for the story, i want to play these games simply to watch these sick animations roll out :P
I once saw a written "translation" script, but got pretty overwhelmed by constantly having to look up and analyse the symbols to tell what im clicking on. Maybe i give it a shot again some time.

DarkSplaoonLink

#25

DarkSplaoonLink said:

I've actually learnt a lot of Japanese from imports. I study Japanese anyway, so I can usually navigate reasonably but it's been great to learn a few extra kanji. Honestly I really enjoy Japanese, and if recommend trying to learn some!

Turnip

#26

Turnip said:

This is a nice guide for navigating menus and stuff, but if you want to import lots of Japanese games, it's best to just learn the language. If you're diligent, you'd be able to learn enough grammar and kanji to tackle a text-heavy RPG within 1-2 years, which isn't very long if you ask me.

nilcam

#27

nilcam said:

This is a great guide! I learned all of the important stuff via trial and error while playing an import copy of SD G Generation Gundam DS. I still love that game. Playing import games is a blast!

Yoshis95

#28

Yoshis95 said:

I can usually guess my way around japanese games alright, but one time i was playing the Gurren Lagann game on the DS and i accidentally erased my save file... This guide probably would've come in handy then. Bookmarked

Epicnessofme99

#29

Epicnessofme99 said:

Pretty useful guide but the way I'd find out how to make my way through import games is just trial and error and good guessing of what a normal English menu would look like and then doing that.

Artwark

#30

Artwark said:

If people can learn how to speak Japanese, it won't be such a problem getting into the text. Only problem is that games are more expensive there than US I think....

WanderFan91

#31

WanderFan91 said:

I think I've got it covered (especially for when I play SFC-exclusive RPGs), but thank you anyway! :)

CanisWolfred

#32

CanisWolfred said:

@Einherjar http://akurasu.net/wiki/Super_Robot_Wars

That ought to help with quite a few of them. And no, I'm not talking about the story. The stories are terribly written fanfictions most of the time, told through largely still images and text boxes (even on the PS3 game...), anyways. I'm talking about strategies, and more in-depth menues like skill lists and stuff. But again, if you've played the GBA games (Orginal Generation 1 & 2) you'll know what you're in for. In fact, from what I've played, the series is kinda easy, especially compared to Original Generation 2.

ogo79

#33

ogo79 said:

also dont forget about imported games that dont need an english trans.
like ghost sweeper mikami and majyuuou, in order to play the games

Einherjar

#34

Einherjar said:

@CanisWolfred Thanks a bunch ! That will definitly help a bit. I guess ill give it another shot then. Since i dont have to work till new year, i have enough time on my hands to delve into it.
Thanks again for the help :)

EarthboundBenjy

#35

EarthboundBenjy said:

I got the European version of Bravely Default.
The language options are Japanese, English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. The voiceover options are Japanese and English.
This game can be entirely played in Japanese on a non-JP region 3DS system, which I find pretty cool! I wish Pokémon allowed you to switch language at any time, but alas...

I was wondering whether the Japanese version had English voices or text? It probably doesn't have the other European options, but if it doesn't even have English, then it means that the EUR version of Bravely Default is completely superior to the JP one in every way.

Turnip

#36

Turnip said:

@EarthoundBenjy The updated Japanese version of Bravely Default (the one America and Europe are getting/got), titled "For the Sequel," does include an English text/voice option, though the non-updated version does not.

CanisWolfred

#37

CanisWolfred said:

@Einherjar No problem. Eying any title in particular? I've played about a dozen entries in the series (1, 2g, EX, 3, Shin, a3, Z, Z2, OG1, OG2, OGs2, A, and J) if you need a little help.

Teyon

#38

Teyon said:

If you have any suggestions of games worth importing drop us a line on Facebook (@TeyonGames). As you may or may not know our company publishes Japanese games in the eShop and we always look for good stuff:)

gblock

#39

gblock said:

I just want the Taiko no Tatsujin series to be released in the US for Wii U (or for them to drop region lock) I've played all 5 of the japanese Wii releases.

PrincessSugoi

#40

PrincessSugoi said:

I'm starting to learn some hiragana now using some free android apps like element187 mentioned. It really helps with learning when you constantly are in contact with the Japanese language due to certain hobbies. Seeing this article though has just reminded me I actually do have an imported Japanese game I can practice on lol. Now just need to find that elusive PSP of mine... :P

Good write up, thanks for this. :)

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