Our reviews evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of games as educational tools.  We hope that these recommendations will help you find a game that will benefit your studies!

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Samurai Champloo Review

The name "Cowboy Bebop" should be familiar to any serious anime enthusiast. It appears on virtually every "top" anime list, and many fans consider the series to be one of their personal favorites. Cowboy Bebop also received the prestigious Seiun Award in 2000, joining the ranks of other science fiction classics such as The Empire Strikes Back, Alien and Blade Runner. The series established Watanabe Shinichiro as a top director, whose ability to synchronize action and story to any genre of music gives his work a unique quality that is rarely seen in other shows. In my opinion, however, Samurai Champloo is his finest effort, and perhaps the best anime of all time. That is why no one should ever watch it.

Disgaea 3 Review

Disgaea (魔界戦記ディスガイア) games are designed to make completionists insane and the third installment, known in the West as Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, has enough content to keep our great-grandchildren busy long after we have passed into the Netherworld (where the series is set). No mortal will ever be able to take full advantage of the advertised ten million hours of gameplay, but normal humans can complete the main storyline in around thirty-five. Japanese learners taking a trip to the Evil Academy (魔立邪悪学園) will graduate with a stronger grasp of the interesting ways in which dialects and kanji can be manipulated to add flavor to a narrative. In addition, the self-referential jokes about RPG clichés make understanding Japanese humor, normally the toughest aspect of learning a new language, very accessible to gamers.

Reader Impressions

The PlayStation Vita is an impressive immersion device. It can display complicated Japanese characters with unprecedented clarity for a handheld, and its memory cards can easily hold enough data to support games that are fully voice acted. An extensive library of classic role-playing games from the original PlayStation and PlayStation Portable, along with many free-to-play titles and social applications also add to the experience. Now a digital comic reader as well, the Vita can be used to view thousands of volumes of manga from hundreds of series, giving gamers access to a virtually endless supply of Japanese media. Reader is still far from perfect though, and Sony must put some more work into the application before their new portable can compete with physical comics and other similar devices.


For the first few months after its release, I played Samurai & Dragons (サムライ & ドラゴンズ) regularly, spending some time each day leisurely upgrading my city or sending monsters into battle. One afternoon, however, I logged in to discover that another player had invaded my kingdom while I was at work. When the dust finally settled, it looked as though would take days to recover from his destructive attack. Therefore, instead of waiting for my resources to replenish and my army to rebuild, I decided to cut my losses and quit playing for good. In retrospect, “retiring” from Samurai & Dragons was the right decision, but even though the game is no longer part of my daily routine, I still highly recommend it to Japanese learners.

Time Travelers Impressions

Between their popular Professor Layton adventures, two entries in the Dragon Quest series and Ni no Kuni, a collaborative effort with Studio Ghibli, Level-5 is a force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry. For Japanese learners in particular, they are an incredibly important developer; their games are designed to appeal to people of all ages, giving anyone the opportunity to experience intriguing stories in very accessible Japanese. The multiplatform visual novel Time Travelers (タイムトラベラーズ) is a departure from their usual style, however, exploring mature themes not commonly seen in other Level-5 work. Fortunately, even Time Travelers is an ideal game for Japanese learners of all levels, despite being geared towards older native speakers.