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Gleaves

The Grand Gaming Project

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feihong

I love Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap! It's a very well-designed game, and I learned a ton of new vocabulary playing it. A lot of the flashcards in my Anki deck come straight out of the dialogue from that game.

@murrayjames: The next game you might want to try after beating Minish Cap is Super Mario RPG: Shining Star Saga for GBA. It has more dialogue and it's written at a slightly higher level.

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feihong

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NOTE: This game is currently free for a limited time. If you like old-school adventure games, grab it before the price goes back up to 99 cents!

I just want to call attention to a new-ish game that can be found in Apple's App Store: Dr. Stanley's House 2, an adventure game whose dialogue is available in both Simplified Chinese and English (not at the same time). According to reviewers, it's a fairly long game so would presumably contain quite a bit of dialogue. As for the difficulty of the language, it seems pretty easy but one early puzzle involves looking through drawers full of herbs whose names contain relatively obscure characters.

So, is the game fun to play? The answer to that really depends on how hardcore of an adventure gamer you are. This game is just brutally unforgiving. For example, in the game's first location, if you accidentally go into the women's bathroom and are caught by the nurse, she will consider you a pervert and refuse to talk to you, making it impossible for you to get the maintenance key you need to advance. The only way to deal with this conundrum is to... start the game over from the beginning, and not make that mistake. This is a perfect example of why people don't play these kinds of games anymore. You could play the game using a walkthrough, but that detracts from the fun of figuring out what to do next (it would be nice if the game had a built-in hint system). Another issue for language learners is that the dialogue goes by pretty quickly. I have to double-press the Home button on my iPad to pause the game whenever I get to a new line of dialogue, because I know it will likely disappear before I can finish reading all of it. And the game's auto-save feature prevents you from replaying a scene to read the parts you missed.

All that said, the graphics are very nice, the puzzles are clever (perhaps too much), and the music fits the atmosphere of the settings. I believe it's a well-made game, just not the kind of game I like to play. If you like adventure games and are a fairly speedy reader, than this game is for you.

Links

Original Flash version of the game (always free to play)

Walkthrough (absolutely necessary in the first part of the game, as there seems to be a bug that causes two of the pages in the medicine handbook to be missing).

The first game in the series (the game I just reviewed is actually a sequel)

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feihong

Here is my long-overdue review of 逆转裁判, aka Ace Attorney for GBA.

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Ace Attorney is a visual novel in which you play a criminal defense attorney. Although it does have graphics, sounds, and music like any other videogame, the gameplay is mostly text-based. There are two modes of play: Courtroom and Investigation.

Courtroom segments have you trying to find inconsistencies or contradictions within witness testimonies. For example, if a witness states that the time of death was 8:00pm, you can present a coroner's report from the court record stating the time of death to be 6:00pm. If you successfully highlight an inconsistency or contradiction, it will cause the witness to modify their testimony or else be removed from the stand.

Investigation segments have you traveling to different places and interviewing persons of interest and gathering evidence. Interviews consist of pre-determined question and answer blocks and just require you to read a lot of text. Sometimes a new line of questioning can be opened up by showing the interviewee an item from the court record. When you visit a crime scene you can click on items of interest; sometimes this will cause an item to be added to the court record.

Is it fun? I certainly think so. Since gameplay is so basic, the emphasis is on the writing. The characters are completely over-the-top and the plot has an enormous number of twists and reversals. The music is charming in an old school kind of way. If you were ever into choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid, you would like this game.

Is it educational? Yes. Although the game is not even remotely close to being a courtroom simulation, it does contain a lot of legal terms. The translation from the original Japanese text is very idiomatic, so there is frequent use of chengyus and some attempts at reproducing the feel of colorful regional dialects (for example replacing an Osakan accent with a Shandong accent). Also, all the cases involve very different settings and contexts, so you might pick up quite a bit of incidental vocabulary. I like that there is a certain redundancy in the text, so if you don't understand something, it's OK because it will be repeated with different phrasing in another part of the game (e.g. the court record, courtroom dialogue, etc.) I should mention that the game punishes you for making arbitrary guesses during cross examination. That is, if you present an item totally unrelated to the witness's testimony, you will lose some of the judge's faith in you. Do this too many times and the judge will declare you incompetent (game over)! So you do need to understand what's going on and think through your actions a bit.

What is the level of difficulty? I think a 14-year old Chinese kid could comfortably play this game. I rate the difficulty higher than Sloane & McHale due to the sheer amount of text in the game. The amount of text in this game really is equivalent to that found in a short novel. If you are a slow reader you might get frustrated by the pace of the game.

Character set: Simplified

System requirements: You need a GBA emulator or a device capable of playing GBA ROMs (e.g. Nintendo DS Lite with slot 1 flashcart)

Trailer:

(trailer for the English DS version)

NOTE 1: There is also a translation of the DS version of this game, which contains two additional cases. However, as far as I know, that translation is incomplete (court record items are still in Japanese), so it is far more difficult to play.

NOTE 2: There are a lot of different versions of this game floating around on the Chinese internet. Some versions do not have all four cases translated. The one I linked to at the top of the review does. On the download page, make sure to click on the link that reads "下载地址".

NOTE 3: There are two sequels on GBA, one remake and one sequel on the DS. All these games have similar mechanics, so you can pretty much treat this review as a review of the entire series. There is also a spinoff series called Miles Edgeworth Investigations, which is more of an adventure game than a visual novel. All games in the series have been translated into Chinese, although I can't attest to the quality of all the translations.

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Gleaves

Whoa. Sweet. I had not heard of Dr. Stanley before. I'm a big adventure game fan, so I will definitely be giving it a try. And Ace Attorney is awesome.

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Gleaves

I added a post on the 古剑奇谭 RPG I am playing. It has been a fun and challenging Chinese experience thus far.

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feihong

I noticed that there are a number of escape games in the Apple App Store. One particular company, IDAC, likes to release their games in multi-language versions that include English and Chinese. Their latest offering:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/escape-game-the-broken-flower/id439267402

For those of you who don't know, an escape game is a type of adventure game where the protagonist attempts to use the items inside a locked room to, well, leave the room. It's generally played from a first-person perspective, and there are no characters that you can talk to. There are quite a lot of escape games in Japan, but it doesn't seem to be that common in the West.

I didn't play this particular one, but I have played one for the DS. I think they're good for a little bit of language practice, but the amount of time spent reading is easily dwarfed by the amount of time you spend trying out every object on some other object (gameplay tends to devolve into brute force combination, since the leaps of logic required to solve the puzzles can be a little extreme). And since there's no dialogue, you're mostly reading expository text. However, if you already like this type of game, you should give it a shot.

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feihong

Just finished Ace Attorney 2 (aka 逆转裁判2) for GBA in a marathon gaming session over the weekend. I think it took me about two months to finish, much longer than I expected. I guess I still don't read fast enough to comfortably play these kinds of games. In my defense, this game is pretty long, and it does have a weird aspect where the fourth and last case is longer than the previous 3 cases combined. Although I mostly liked the game, I was a bit tired of it by the end so I'm going to take a break from the world of Ace Attorney. However I think I'll probably try some more of Sloane and McHale's Mysterious Story 2, since that's more of a lightweight, pick-up-and-play kind of game.

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feihong

Just noticed that Civilization Revolution, the newest iteration of the Civilization franchise, has an official Chinese translation which was released earlier this month.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id433077147

It seems to be on sale for $0.99, which makes it way cheaper than the English version of the game, which is still $6.99. It's too bad that they couldn't just come out with one version of the game that has both languages, but... oh well.

I assume playing this game you could pick up quite a bit of vocabulary related to geography, warfare, technology, etc.

UPDATE: Apparently the HD version (for iPad) is a separate app, and costs $1.99.

http://itunes.apple.com/cn/app/id439611147

I went ahead and bought this because it's pretty cheap and probably worth at least a few playthroughs, even if Civ is not my usual cup of tea.

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Aaron MH

I too have been playing the Chinese version of Minish Cap and nearly finished it - after this it is Link's Awakening. At the same time I am playing through Zelda: Twilight Princess in Chinese as well.

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Gleaves

Good work on all the Chinese Zelda. How are you playing Twilight Princess (Is that on a disc or is it some sort of emulation/hack)?

I think I might pick up Civilization. Good find. And a review notes 翻译的也挺好.

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Aaron MH

I live in Shanghai and was able to find it on a disc, but I'm sure it is downloadable as well.

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Gleaves

I haven't been Chinese gaming much this summer as I've been busy with other things. I hope to get back to some games this fall. I do have a post on the classic Chinese RPG 仙劍奇俠傳 coming up.

Here is an interesting blog. Chinese Through Final Fantasy III. (I saw it here.)

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Mike N

Does China have a digital distribution platform which resembles Steam? If I could have something like that for Chinese that would make all of my woes disappear in terms of locating and acquiring content.

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feihong

There's Apple's App Store, which contains quite a few Chinese language games. Also, I believe there is a bootleg version of the App Store that runs from somewhere in the mainland. I assume you have to first jailbreak your iOS device to access it.

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Gleaves

App store is a good call. I don't know of a Chinese service quite like Steam. I would also be interested. But I think it would still come down to software companies either offering a Chinese version or not (I feel like much of what I end up playing is fan translated).

I think there are a few games on Steam that are available with Chinese text, but no voice. I think the Witcher and Left 4 Dead, off the top of my head, but there are probably others. If anyone knows of an easy way to search through Steam to see if there are others, I'd be curious to see.

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Mike N

The App Store would be my first stop--if I had an iOS device! I'm an Android guy. However I did uncover this article on Penn Olson that has links to 8 alternative Android app stores home-grown in China. I downloaded 豌豆荚 yesterday and I'm currently trying to find some decent games on there.

Here's a link to the article: http://www.penn-olson.com/2011/09/05/8-android-app-stores-china/

I'll look into Steam some more, I suppose. I'll try posting in their forums.

Thanks for the responses!

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Mike N

Found a nice website for Android apps in China (though not all are in Chinese) today and downloaded a couple of games.

Here's the link: http://www.mumayi.com/

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feihong

Bla Bla, a weird art game from Canada, has an official Chinese translation:

http://blabla.nfb.ca/#/blabla/zh

Although, don't expect a ton of text coming at you. However, it's an amusing little diversion.

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yersi

Other than playing 古剑奇谭, which has its own thread, I've also been playing a bit of 幽城幻剑录 (nicknamed Castle in English), which is considered one of the all-time classics of Chinese RPGs. It's from 2001, meaning right around the end of the golden age of domestic RPGs. It has a significant following and there's even a

. They're over half-way done, by the looks of it.

The story takes place during the early days of the Northern Song dynasty. You play as Xiahou Yi (my first time seeing this compound surname), a blonde, blue-eyed teenage boy who leaves his hometown for the first time when he`s asked to buy a medicinal ingredient in Lanzhou. Or something, I'm fuzzy on the details. In Lanzhou, he meets proto-cougar Feng Lingsheng, who has gotten in trouble for stealing a mystical scroll from a powerful general. They then escape from Lanzhou to a cave nearby, where they find a futuristic-looking dome with a silver-haired woman in levitating hibernation. This woman then wakes up and says something about the main character being the love of her life and that she will always be by his side. She later proceeds to lose her memory. I won't even bother with what happens next because so far it's just been an absurd chain of events, albeit one I'm sure will end up making sense in the end.

I'm not feeling this game as much as I'd like to. First of all, the difficulty is relentless. The battles are way too taxing for me. It's a mix of turn-based and real-time: enemies and characters have a meter which, when fully charged up, allows them to perform an action. Enemies keep attacking you while you're making choices, so hesitate too much and you're dead, basically. I'm at the very beginning, and as badly as things are going right now, I'll probably resort to a trainer not too long from now.

Then there's the matter of the dialog. This game is renowned for having one of the best stories of Chinese gaming, yet the characters keep going into inconsequential tangents and often talk like they're the Song equivalent of high school kids. I guess when people say "story" they're really talking about the narrative at large, and I'm sure that it'll become excellent at some point, but so far it hasn't made a good impression on me at all. I'll post more impressions if I get further into the game.

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feihong

@yersi: There are a lot of so-called "classics" from the JRPG genre that are exactly like the game you just described. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. Many games from 10 years ago have not aged well at all.

This reminds me of when I tried to play the Chinese translation of Mother 3. I think this game actually does have a pretty decent story, but I had to stop playing because of the excessive amount of grinding that totally sapped the fun out of the game. You can bet that a more recent RPG would not force you to do all that crap, or at least have a difficulty setting.

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