I have been an avid player of the Animal Crossing series of video games since the days of the Game Cube. Known as Doubutsu no Mori (Animal Forrest) in it's home country of Japan, this game was a staple of my childhood as I'm sure many of you played the game too!
I was so happy when, last fall, Animal Crossing released it's first mobile app! It's a cute, relaxing little game that brings me right back to my childhood.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a simple game that is non-competitive and easy to learn. Just like in the games from the video game consoles, you spend your time building friendships with adorable animal neighbors. You get to decorate and customize your very own campground and camper van with different furniture pieces. All the activities from the old games are here too - fishing, fruit picking, bug catching, gardening, shell collecting, and favor completing! Events and surprises happen often.
Take a Look at the Game in Japanese!
One day, I found myself looking through the settings of the app. To my surprise, I found that Japanese was available under the language tab. That's often unavailable in US apps, so I felt extremely lucky that day!
Here's one of my favorite characters from the game, and she's a squirrel, of course! In English, her name is Peanut. That's cute and all, but I find her Japanese name even more appropriate for her peppy persona and pink fur. She's called ももこ (Momoko) and I think a good interpretation into English would be Little Peach. And just look at her! What a sweet little peach she is!
In this picture, our friend Momoko is posing for a fashion show. I got to customize her outfit at my campsite. お花のシャツは可愛いだね！
Would Pocket Camp Help my Japanese?
Well, let's get one thing clear. If you are just starting to learn Japanese, then playing in Japanese will be very frustrating than rewarding. This would be best utilized by students with an intermediate to advanced level of understanding. The kanji in this game, while I wouldn't consider it difficult per se, is very advanced compared to the stuff a beginner would know.
If you're an upper-beginner and think you're up for the challenge, here's a good "litmus test" for you. Look at this profile for Momoko. How much can you understand? If you know her birthday, her favorite theme, and at least one way to describe her, then maybe you should give the Japanese version a try!
Here's the English translation of Momoko's profile: Animal Information: Special Request: Satisfied for now. Profile: Favorite Theme: Fancy. Birthday: June 8th. With her big, sparkly eyes, cute gestures, and innocent smile, she is always bright and cheerful! She has so many "charm points" that I can't pick just one!
That all being said, I would wholeheartedly recommend Pocket Camp as a tool for self-study. It's a fun way for students to expose themselves to more challenging Japanese. The tone of the in-game speech is very casual - something that's hard to find in textbooks. Of course, formal Japanese is the most important to know. But if you want to sound natural when you talk to your friends, this is a great way to expose yourself to that style of speech!
Here's how to set it up!
Flip through the steps outlined in this slideshow, and you'll be playing Pocket Camp in Japanese! Written instructions appear when you hover the mouse over the image.