Kana Quest is a cute and fun puzzle game to help you learn Japanese! It is available on Steam for PC.
Kana Quest will start off with a few tutorial rounds and then you’ll be into the main game pretty quickly. The aim is to solve puzzles by matching and chaining sounds, very simple in design but actually quite challenging! You can listen and learn the sounds of a kana symbol by clicking on the block. You will then match them according to sound by dragging similar ones next to each other. As this is a puzzle, you must solve it in as little turns as possible to earn the best rank. You can also replay a round to try and beat your own score. To start with, there are 8 puzzles available and to unlock new levels, you will have to earn a certain amount of coins by winning with a gold or silver ranking. Gradually new kana will be introduced the further you get and puzzles will become harder. To continue on to a new set of puzzles, you will need to drag the screen from right to left, which I found wasn’t entirely obvious once I had completed the first world of puzzles.
Kana Quest has pixel style graphics that are reminiscent of the 16 bit era of video games. Immerse yourself in vaporwave styles with a lovely use of colors, gradients and pixel dot shading that make you feel like you’re playing a Sega Mega Drive. The backgrounds of the worlds where you’ll be puzzling through have Japanese landscapes to match the theme of the game. There’s an overall nostalgic feel to the artwork which I really love.
To match the graphics, the music has that retro chiptune vibe that will make you feel like you’re playing an old console from the early 90’s with blends of traditional Japanese sounds. The music is fairly relaxing and won’t interrupt your train of thought as you try to concentrate. However if you do find it too hard to hear the kana pronunciations over the music, you can adjust the levels of music, effects and voices to your liking.
I would like to note that the game has not specifically pointed out that Japanese has 3 different “alphabets”. Hiragana are the main kana for writing Japanese words, Katakana for writing foreign words and Kanji are single kana that are a whole word rather than individual sounds. This game will have you tackling both Hiragana and Katakana!
If you are a complete beginner to Japanese, it may help you to write down each new kana you learn in the game and practice writing them over a few times. In the options menu is a handy Hiragana Table for referencing all the kana. Clicking on each one of these will sound it out but also show you the correct stroke order for writing in the top right box. This is valuable information for a beginner, as practicing writing will also solidify your memory.
Alternatively you can completely switch the chart to Katakana mode instead. If you want to practice your Katakana in the games puzzles this can be switched on via the Options section by checking the Katakana Enabled box.
This is a great supplementary game to your Japanese studies as it really challenges you to remember the sounds, as it will probably have you chanting them out loud to see how your intended puzzle solution works before using up those precious turns! Plotting out your puzzle on a piece of paper is a good opportunity to practice your kana writing skills as well. So keep playing and practicing and you’ll be on your way to mastering Japanese!