Learning any language is tough, but Japanese has to be up there with the toughest. For a start, it has three different scripts to learn, all with different uses and origins.
You may have heard of kanji on your travels, but to master Japanese you’ll also need to learn hiragana and katakana. And all three work completely differently from the language you’re reading now, with symbols representing syllables rather than single letters.
If you want to learn, though, we recommend you do it by playing Tokyo Ride, an innovative new educational casual game from Tokyo studio Sola K. K.
The premise is that Riku the pink squirrel has lost his prize nut. He was dozing in his tree at the foot of Mount Fuji when a powerful gust of wind simply carried it away.
Fortunately, Riku can fly, and so he takes to the air to retrieve his nut, which glides tantalisingly a few yards ahead of him as they cross the skies over Tokyo.
At the top of the screen are alphabetical syllables, and columns of four Japanese symbols appear one after the other on the right. Tapping on the left and right of the screen to steer Riku up and down, you need to guide him into the correct symbol to advance. You’re allowed two wrong answers, but after that your lives are used up and the game is over.
Tokyo Ride is aimed at a wide range of abilities, and as such it has several different modes and difficulty levels. In the main campaign mode, called The Ride, you have to collect new characters and finish stages, while in Free Run you just have to get as far as you can.
Go for a Tokyo Ride
Then there’s Learn, for players who don’t know a single kanji, hiragana, or katakana. Here the correct answers are highlighted, and you don’t lose lives for getting the answers wrong.
On top of all that, Tokyo Ride also gives you a neat little tour of Tokyo itself, with stages set in various districts throughout the city. Riku is also customisable – as are all of the stages, with even more content to be added in future updates.