My motivation for playing Greco’s Hall of Kanji Learn Japanese was to prompt my eldest to stay on top of her Japanese ability. Being half Japanese, it was a must. However, I would be doing the review so wanted to test it out to see how effective it can be, plus I have a reasonable amount of knowledge on the subject to be able to gather if it’s good or not. Least, that was my intention.
Handing the reins to my daughter, she was immediately frustrated that the Pro Controller had zero effect and we couldn’t play through the TV as the game was designed for touchscreen use. This promptly put a dampener on things, as it was going to be a good opportunity for me to watch how she performed on the big screen. Instead, she scurried away and got stuck in. For a 9-year-old, the menu system wasn’t intuitive enough, and she got frustrated as she started with a writing game – not knowing the kanji beforehand and quite quickly gave up. I then tried with my 2-year-old who enjoyed it (with guidance, of course) but it couldn’t hold her attention. It is for ages 3 years and above, and that makes sense.
A quick summary of the Japanese language (assuming you have an interest in Japanese as you’re reading this review and are already familiar. I’ll keep it brief). There are two entry-level parts of the language called hiragana – Japanese words and katakana – mostly for foreign words. The final bulk of the language is kanji, which derives from the original Chinese characters. Most study aids and Japanese games tend to focus on the first two, but aside from numbers and colours, the kanji can be quite tricky when first starting out.
I decided to have a go. The game begins with the option to play a Writing Challenge and Hide and Seek Challenge. With the latter, you see a kanji that you are perhaps already familiar with and then draw it in the right-side panel. Bear in mind that you need to know the kanji, plus it’s moving around making it tricky to see. The second option, which is where you should start, is the Writing Challenge.
This section shows a ghost on the left sporting a kanji on its belly. To the right, you have the target character that you must draw in order. The kanji is opaque, and when you run your finger across, red lines appear over it. Kanji feature a series of strokes and school children learn the order that you write each part, named a radical. You need to use your finger (or a stylus) and repeat each stroke in order. Do this three times, and it defeats the ghost. Beat a further four spectres and you unlock these kanji, which removes tiles to a picture available from the menu screen.
I have to say that I was impressed. I believed that the kanji on offer would be characters like ‘one’ and ‘two’ (a horizontal line and two horizontal lines respectively). Still, some of the characters were quite advanced. I’ve been in various stages of studying the kanji and can say that the longest kanji I knew was 45 strokes – so they get quite challenging, but they don’t get as crazy here. As Greco’s Hall of Kanji Learn Japanese <Beginner> is supposedly entry-level, it’s refreshing to see the variety available. They aren’t in a structure such as the JLPT (a Japanese proficiency exam), but they are handy kanji nevertheless. Once my daughter saw me get into it, she jumped on and started to enjoy it.
The character Greco appears on the Nintendo eShop quite often, with titles to help with English and Maths. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t expecting much with this game and thought it would be watered down. Sure Greco and content are targeted at children, but at my level, I was happy to play this and will be looking out for more advanced levels. Can you learn the kanji with this? I’d argue you can apply it to some degree. It will help you determine the stroke order so that it becomes natural, but you won’t get an expanding library of new words – this is aimed at learning the variations and how to write them. It’s clear why this is handheld only – it defeats the object with a controller.
At present, I don’t have a stylus for the Switch, but if other titles are coming out, then I would most definitely buy one to use with Greco’s Hall of Kanji Learn Japanese <Beginner> . You can learn the shapes and stroke order using just your finger, but unless you’re communicating to Japanese people with sand, best learn with a pen like everyone else. Hello, Stylus. With Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training coming to the Switch in early 2020, I may be buying a stylus sooner than later.
Going back to the game’s avatar, Greco himself is a little dull. I’m not the target audience (?) but he didn’t really ooze appeal and took a backseat most of the time. I understand that Greco represents more than one subject, but the vampire/horror element didn’t really tie-in with learning Japanese. Not that I’m suggesting him don a samurai helmet, that would be too cliche, but observing my daughter playing, she skipped over whenever he gave feedback. The presentation is pleasant enough, and the sound effects appropriate for an educational game but don’t expect to be turning the volume up or marvelling at the visuals. It’s perfectly functional.
The replay value, other than the actual learning part of the game, is its strongest point. Learning is a lifelong process, and for a second language, it’s always worth reinforcing to commit to memory. Greco’s Hall of Kanji Learn Japanese <Beginner> already has games that will drill new vocabulary/characters in a fun way. Still, the game needs to be played regularly to keep that familiarity going. I suppose that once kanji are unlocked and either you or your children are ready to move on, there will be a new title out. I know I will be in the waiting lines to pick it up.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Greco’s Hall of Kanji Learn Japanese Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
For children, this is great – though the menu systems aren’t initially apparent. As an adult, don’t expect this to replace your Japanese studies if looking to play import games or read manga due to the level. For all beginners, though, this could complement your learning in a game format.
Teaches the correct stroke order for kanji
Repetition in the form of fun games
A good range of kanji to learn
Beginner level so won’t replace your dictionary just yet
Could do with a couple more readings of each character
The actual character Greco lacks a bit of charm