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Voice of Cards: One of the Best Video Games to Help You Learn Japanese

If you’ve ever attempted to play your favorite video games in Japanese, you know how frustrating the experience can be. Massive 60-hour role-playing epics from the Final Fantasy series can obliterate your motivation once you realize just how long it would take to get through them in Japanese. Other games may be simpler, but they often lack features friendly to language learners, such as Japanese on-screen text synced with audio to match. In many games, the action is just too fast-paced, with text speeding past your eyes and audio grazing your eardrums before you have a chance to question and capture the Japanese content you’re experiencing.

Fortunately, Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars, offers eager Japanese learners of all levels an amazingly accessible way to engage with the language. First catching my attention in a Game Gengo video, Voice of Cards is a uniquely simple role-playing game (RPG) with a compelling narrative set in a fantasy world of swords and sorcery. However, despite its simplicity, this is no ordinary RPG. The game emulates the tabletop roleplaying experience, complete with dice-roll skill checks, a witty game master, and card-based gameplay.  How does all of this make for such an immersive Japanese-language experience? Read on to find out.

Play and Learn at Your Pace

A Voice of Cards screenshot shows several cards. Three of them represent fantasy characters in middle-age attire: a male traveler, a male mage and a female mage. In the middle, a text card written in Japanese explains the traveler card.

For Japanese learners, the most attractive aspect of Voice of Cards is the fact that every facet of the game can be played at your own pace. Since the entire game is built around reading dialogue and information on virtual cards, much of it duplicated in the game master’s audio narration, and you are never rushed to act or make decisions. This means that whether you like to read for speed or look up unknown vocabulary or grammar as you go, the game accommodates your learning pace. Additionally, since the game never progresses faster than you allow it to, you’ll never miss an opportunity to capture a screenshot that you can later add to your favorite flashcard application. Finally, with an average completion time of 15 hours, you can make a realistic goal of completing it, entirely in Japanese.

Language Options Galore

The developers of Voice of Cards have provided a generous array of language settings for you to customize your Japanese immersion experience. Even the North American release allows you to switch the entire game—text, and audio—into Japanese, which is perfect for advanced-level learners.

Language options can be mixed and matched, so even if you’re a beginner-level Japanese learner, you can immerse yourself in Japanese audio while reading English text. For the record, the North American version of Voice of Cards includes the following language options:

  • Japanese and English audio
  • Japanese, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish text

Voice of Cards Is Actually Fun to Play

A Voice of Cards screenshot. At the top, two foe cards representing goblins are laid on a virtual table. At the bottom is the players' hand with cards representing a mage and several magic powers represented by flames and stars. Cards representing characters have several numbers on them.

All the language learning benefits in the world are meaningless if a game isn’t enjoyable. Fortunately, Voice of Cards is a pleasant experience in any language. The basic role-playing and exploration mechanics are actually a refreshing change of pace from intricate systems found in the big-brand RPGs that dominate the genre these days. Voice of Cards includes towns, dungeons, and an overworld map, but the game’s card-based interface distills these classic RPG elements to their core. Exploring the overworld map means flipping over cards to reveal terrain as you move a game piece across a virtual board. Enemy encounters are random, and combat is strictly turn-based. This might turn off some gamers, but if your goal is learning Japanese, this simple-yet-enjoyable gameplay is a godsend. Additionally, the game’s stellar artwork and soothing Celtic music are a pleasure to behold, ensuring that you’ll keep coming back for more, even when language learning gets tough.

Start Your Own Journey

A Voice of Cards screenshot shows many cards laid adjacent to each other. their back represent natural elements: fields, mountains, rivers, deserts... Some cards are turned and show a treasure, a town.

In Voice of Cards, everything, including the world map, is made up of cards (photo credit: Square Enix)

Perhaps, even after reading this column, you’re still not sure if Voice of Cards is worth your hard-earned yen. Fear not, as a free demo is available for every platform on which you can play the game (PlayStation 4, Switch, and Steam). It costs nothing but a little time to see if Voice of Cards is right for you. Explore a fantasy realm, encounter fast friends and formidable foes, and experience an engrossing narrative, all while immersing yourself in Japanese. Language learning doesn’t get better than this.

Originally from California, I've been living and working in Japan, now my second home, since 2009. My work as a communications consultant lends a unique perspective to my writing, and I often explore the business behind Japan’s beauty. When I’m not working, you can find me hunched over a screen reviewing kanji flashcards in my never-ending quest to master the Japanese language.