The Nintendo 3DS may be region locked, but if you want access to a great catalog of Japanese games, importing a system from the 3DS line is worth the trouble. This is because it can access Nintendo’s digital store, the eShop, and is jam packed with JRPGs. Once you import a system, there isn’t really a need to import games because most of them are on the eShop. Plus, with a bank account that lets you make international purchases, like Ally Bank or something, you can use the debit card from your bank to buy games. Buying eShop gift cards from international sellers and having the codes sent to you is also an option though. With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the games.
I may have said 3 games in the title, but I’m about to drop a bunch of games right here so get ready.
Pokemon X and Y
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire
Pokemon Sun and Moon
Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon
For those of you keeping count, that’s 8 games. And if you’ve already played one of them, you may already know why they’re so special. All of these titles allow you to pick what language you want to play in when you start a new file so you can run to your local game shop right now and buy a game to play in Japanese.When I was a kid, I’d buy both versions so I could trade with myself (I’m a grown man. I can own that.) but with X and Y I eventually got both versions so I could have an English file and a Japanese file.
Once you choose Japanese, you also have the option of choosing either kana or kanji. This can be good for beginners that don’t really know kanji and for more advanced learners that do, but for those in the middle, not having furigana can be a bit of a pain. It’s Pokemon though, so it has tons of everyday words, and not so common words, wrapped with laid-back gameplay that many people are already familiar with. For beginners, combing through Pokedex entries is a great way to encounter words that won’t be showing up in your textbooks for awhile.
Familiarize yourself with words from the Pokedex and other Pokemon words here. Or get to know the residents of New Bark Town here.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Not only is this just a great game that gets overlooked, but for our purposes, it checks the ‘has furigana’ box and is a good introduction to all kinds of fantasy words without being dense like a Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy. The downside when compared to Pokemon (one it will share with many games) is that it doesn’t have language options. This means you’re going to have to import it to play in your Japanese 3DS or buy it from the eShop on your Japanese 3DS.
But this game has a trick up its sleeve in the form of a massive screenshot and video library from Legends of Localization. Clyde Mandelin has provided over 8,000 screenshots across both titles and over 100 videos of him playing through each version. To start, you can use these as a barometer to see if you’re up to the challenge of playing in Japanese (you may surprise yourself). You can also try comparing the English and Japanese on parts you’re having trouble with. Or you could just read a bunch of screenshots and call it a day.
Click here to check it out.
The last game I want to cover was massive hit in Japan with tons of spin-offs and mainline entries coming out in rapid succession. The series is still humming along, but it’s not quite the phenomenon it used to be. The game itself is solid though, and a good graphical showcase for the 3DS. It really does feel like a little cartoon slice of Japan in a lot of ways. The first time I came to Japan I would take walks and find it weird how different places reminded me of different areas in Yokai Watch.
What really makes Yokai Watch a great choice is that there are tons of everyday words and interactions with so many touches that make it seem like Japan. You don’t talk a guy selling jewel encrusted helms, you go to a convenience store. It also has furigana and writing meant for children to be able to understand too so it’s great for the beginner-ish intermediate range. You can pick up a copy dirt cheap at a used game store in Japan so if you’re ever planning a trip to Japan, don’t forget to grab it while you’re here!
I got a lot of mileage out of my imported New 3DS so I’ll be breaking down more of my experiences with it in the future.