Monday, August 22, 2005

[Game] Project: LRNJ



Summary
Name: Slime Forrest Adventure
Abbr: LRNJ, SFA
Author: Darrell Johnson
Homepage: http://lrnj.com/
Forum: NO
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Status: Various Registration Levels ($10-$99) *Currently, only the 'limited' free version is available, and that is what is reviewed here.
Summary (from site):
The goal of Project LRNJ is to make LeaRNing Japanese fun and easy with a retro-style RPG: Slime Forest. The game is still under development, but many students already find it useful, and it can currently teach you katakana, hiragana, and over a thousand kanji, essential character recognition for reading Japanese.

Advantages:
  • Multiple platforms

Disadvantages:
  • Not free
  • Short storyline
  • No sound


Review
Slime Forrest Adventure is an RPG that helps you learn or review the different Japanese writing systems.

Story:
Sell potatoes. Save the princess. Nothing to write home about.

Graphics:
Fans of old-school tile-based RPGs (eg early Final Fantasy) will feel right at home. The graphics are pretty basic, but functional. Remember, this is a one-man project; there's no separate graphic artist.

Sound:
None. There's no separate sound artist either.

Gameplay:
Pretty much standard RPG fare, although somewhat limited. There's not much story to this game. You start with the goal of selling your potatoes, and end up trying to save the princess. There's not a lot more to it than that, although there is a bit of a side-quest involving spicing up your home-cooked food. The point of the game is not the graphics, sound, or gameplay though. The point is the battles.

Battle:
Your enemies are various types of slimes. You start out against kana slimes and work your way up to kanji slimes. This is the part of the game that really shines. For learning the kana, this is the program to use. Some might say it's little more than a fancy flash-card system, but it is. The time pressure of seeing a kana and recognizing it and typing it in before the slime can attack does tend to focus one's concentration more than a simple flashcard would. The kanji slimes only have a keyword. You are given no stroke-order information, nor ON/KUN readings, nor multiple meanings. You are given a mnemonic to remember the keyword, and you can pick them up pretty fast (for some reason, 'well' really sticks in my head as a great example. Look it up in the game).

Conclusion:
The game is good, but not great (ie, not worth paying for, at least not yet). I was dismayed to see it teaching obscure kana that are no longer part of Japanese, but there are few of them, and it's easy enough to learn them with the others. Learning the kanji through keywords is the same concept used by the fantastic Heisig books, but that series eventually teaches readings as well. Unfortunately, you can't mix Heisig and SFA, as the mnemonics differ and it gets confusing. The story is not compelling enough, and the rewards are few and far between. This is not a game that is impossible to put down (on the contrary, it's quite easy). This game will not teach you the Japanese language. However, if you are just starting out and need to learn the kana, use this.

Screenshots



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