PEGBRJE: Monsters of Kanji and Ghost Story
Monsters of Kanji is a spin on traditional JRPGs made by indie dev sleepy-racoon based out of Germany. This title is actually the first of two, for Monster of Kanji 2 is currently in early access to expand the title into the most obvious next step: the galaxy. So how do we get from small individual in a tiny house to the moon? Well, it’s time to follow our protagonist Marty and find out — and maybe learn some sweet Japanese characters.
In every way, shape and form, Monsters of Kanji is an homage to traditional JRPGs. Players will explore a plethora of areas connected via the world map where they will attempt to solve simple puzzles and unravel the mystery of Marty’s missing friends. Exploration is dangerous, however, for monsters lurk in every corner of every map ready to jump out and initiate a randomized encounter. This will bring players in to the combat screen, with Marty and friends on the right and enemies on the left, taking turns attacking each other back and forth until one party is completely wiped. The player’s party members each have access to different abilities outside of the normal ‘attack’, such as Techs that utilize ‘tech points’ and Arts that invoke special moves through the SP system, requiring attacks on either party to generate. Victory through combat rewards Marty and friend with currency and experience, which levels up the party and grants them new abilities and more capacity for their meters. I’ll be honest, JRPGs have never been my specific ‘jam’ as it were, but the dedication to the genre and the love shown cannot help but be admired.
Where Monsters of Kanji spices things up a bit is implied in the name; Kanji. See, there are dozens of signs scattered throughout the world that can be interacted with and are viewed as collectables. These contain specific words/collections of words written in three different ways to help express them; romaji, kana and kanji. Now technically there are two different kinds of kana, but unfortunately I do not know which was used within this context — if it was mentioned, that’s on me for not seeing it written anywhere. The point however is that players are given the kana and romaji to help those of the latin alphabet to make the connection between the sounds made by the kana through the romaji, so that when the kanji is shown it can be associated properly. This is, at least to my knowledge, a fantastic way for written language users to learn, as kanji is said to have over 50 000 characters and memorizing all of those isn’t easy. That seems almost unfathomable to myself, a simple English speaker of 26 characters strung together to make words.
Now that I think about it, those three words are also written in romaji, and that’s blowing my mind.
Thing is, Monsters of Kanji is a JRPG first and a teaching simulation second — it even has a disclaimer that those looking for formal or professional language tutorage should seek elsewhere, for this is more for the fun of learning characters than learning how to read properly. This is why it is in the collectables section of the game and not more integral in the systems itself, for it would take away from the RPG system that the game is built upon and split the focus too much. Instead the game feels more like an edu-tainment sidegrade, where the education is there but more for the fun of possibility rather than hoping to teach concrete lessons within a gaming sphere. These collectables also have a slight in-game application, for the more collected means the more unlockable alternative skins one can get for the main characters. It’s to push players to grab and learn the words and I can’t lie, it worked for me — I loved looking for ways to grab those signs and learn some new words.
Monsters of Kanji is a bit hard to categorize, but at its core is a JRPG for fans of the genre to enjoy. The ability to learn some basic characters and words of the Japanese language is a fantastic secondary ability to explore and learn, but is just detached enough to not draw away too much focus. If you’re a fan of the traditional style of JRPGs with full on grinding, turnbased combat and random encounters, then this title might just be for you. Do be aware that it is super packed full of content — I will fully admit that I didn’t finish the title after realizing that I may have only been half way to completion. It’s massive, just like its traditional roots. If you have the time, go for it.
Ghost Story is an adventure RPG demo made by indie dev okboy out of the United States. Within this slice of a title, players will be following an unnamed ghost who has no idea who they are or how they got here, only to be recruited by a giant eye to fetch them eyedrops. So away we go.
As a ghost, the protagonist has the absolutely bonkers ability that every action/RPG protagonist wants; the ability to ignore gravity. The ghost simply floats through the world to explore, worried not about how difficult the ground traversal may be and instead focuses on the level structure and how it constricts a flying target. In this regard, players will spend most of their exploration searching for the hidden pathways that lead to either the next area to continue the plot or to discover the hidden piece that helps solve the puzzle. This involves a lot of running in to walls, but many of the levels are designed to give hints as to where they could be. Outside of this, players have numerous ghostly abilities that they can utilize such as the ability to teleport a short distance. While mostly used for traversal, it is also the focal point of some puzzles that need the player to jump across areas either to activate switches rapidly or avoid dangers. Items can be picked up as well to be stashed away in the inventory or carried around by our little ghost — keys especially need to be carried, for I found that the doors never opened if the key was in the inventory. Later on the ghost will gain the ability to phase somewhat into the backdrop and utilize the friends they make along the way for special abilities, mostly to solve even more puzzles.
As a demo it’s meant to be short and punchy, get player’s excited for the prospect of a full title and Ghost Story definitely delivers. The character sprites are utterly adorable, with our ghostly friend being the cutest of them all. The dialogue between the bewildered ghost and the others is colourful and fun, with each giving off a strong personality mixed with a few quirky lines of dialogue to keep the tone light. Since the entire gameplay is built on the ability to fly and the puzzles surrounding the world, I’m definitely intrigued as to how the title continues to flesh out. If you’re looking for something to scratch that ‘adorably clueless protagonist explore quirky yet possibly depressing world’ itch, then this might be the title for you.
Monsters of Kanji
BE WARNED: This is no real learning software. If you want a professional guide to the japanese language, look somewhere…