Nintendo set to develop games for smartphones and tablets

In a move that will surely have a polarizing effect among nostalgic gamers, Japanese video game maker Nintendo will soon venture into smartphone games. It will partner with Japanese mobile gaming production house DeNA to develop games for mobile devices that make use of Nintendo’s extensive portfolio of iconic games and characters in an attempt to “ensure the quality of game experience that consumers expect.” The move comes years after facing increasing competition from other companies, including PlayStation maker Sony and Xbox maker Microsoft, who have been offering customers a mobile experience.

The cross-platform service will run across smartphones, tablets, PCs and Nintendo’s own devices, and is set to launch in fall of this year.

Struggling with Japanese? Let Tako lend you a hand… or tentacle.

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Yes, I know octopi have eight tentacles not six, but Tako of Takos Japanese has five. It’s the same cartoon logic that makes the Simpson family all have eight fingers. And yes, I know the name should probably read “Tako’s Japanese.” Really though, let’s not get bogged down in talk of appendages and apostrophes right now.

Today we’re here to look at a new Japanese study app released by Spain-based Giant Soul Interactive. A lot of Japanese study apps found online are either fun but limited in content or deep but boring and stodgy. Learn Japanese with Tako (recently changed from “Takos Japanese”) aims to strike a happy balance of a fun way to learn the language that’s also rich in content. Let’s find out if they succeed.

■ Brings the cute

In Learn Japanese with Tako you assume the role of the titular Tako, a young octopus studying the ways of reading and writing Japanese. You are aided by a wise old octopus in the ways of properly writing in the three language sets hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

The animated menus and practice areas are all brightly colored and downright cute, which really goes a long way to help you forget that you’re essentially doing handwriting and reading drills. More than just an added frill, the entertaining style of it helps keep you focused on the task at hand.

■ Handwriting Practice

It starts by teaching the hiragana alphabet and uses Latin characters as references. First, Sensei demonstrates the proper stroke order and direction of the characters on a white board which you can follow along.

A common weakness of these kinds of apps is in the handwriting recognition. In an old kanji study app I would sometimes have to write something as simple as the number “2” 20 times before it could register as anything other than “N.” Learn Japanese with Tako, however, seems to understand our handwriting with a good degree of leniency.

It’s not too loose though. I got marked down as not learning my あs (Japanese equivalent of the letter “A”) because my loop at the bottom right was hanging a little too low and it pissed-off Sensei octopus. However, rather than the confusing mess of the “2=N” fiasco, this app let me understand what it was about my あ that led to the problem and allowed me to correct it accordingly. As a result I’d like to think my handwriting is now just a little bit prettier.

■ Mini-Games

After learning the basic writing and reading of the characters you are given a mini-game to review. They all focus on memorizing the characters in different ways. For example, my weak point has always been remembering the correct pronunciation of kanji despite knowing the meanings. This means I’d benefit from the Izakaya mini-game the most.

In this game we have to serve the various sea creatures their order label in kanji as they call out for them phonetically. Like all the games it’s timed which adds a good level of challenge and pressure. There’s also a whack-a-mole game requiring even faster matching of character and pronunciations. Even more advanced students of Japanese might find themselves scrambling with basic words on this one.

Other games include an arcade machine where you have to memorize the order of flashing kanji with their English meanings. There’s also a baseball game which requires speedy handwriting skills. They’re all pretty fun and simple games that you can play whenever you have a minute or two.

■ Room for more

Learn Japanese with Tako starts with hiragana then moves into katakana and beginner kanji. As of this writing it offered up to the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N5 level but they plan to roll out N4 in the coming months. That should be more than enough content for those just starting out learning the language but for people further along it only serves as a nice brush-up program for the moment.

Also, although the games are fun and well designed, it remains to be seen what replay value they have, especially for people just starting out. Learning Japanese can be a long haul and the games will have to be addictive enough to sustain that journey. To address this concern, Giant Soul say there are currently working on expanding the types of mini-games based on user-feedback.

Overall though, Takos Japanese is a very well designed study app both in terms of presentation and educational value, and it has a solid, sleek interface. Another great feature is that in addition to English,the app is available in Spanish, Korean, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German.

▼ Why not switch the language setting and learn two languages at once!

For anyone starting out in Japanese it would be a great tool well worth its 400-yen (US$3.40) asking price the Japanese app store (prices may vary according to region). For those further along, you might want to wait until if they add the higher level kanji. Hopefully they can soon!

Takos Japanese is available from

iTunes
Google Play
Amazon

Put some old-school in your new-gen with this 20th Anniversary special edition PlayStation 4

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The original PlayStation turned 20 years old last week, so to mark the occasion Sony Computer Entertainment has unveiled a special limited-edition “20th Anniversary” PlayStation 4 console pimped out with the original 32-bit PlayStation’s color scheme and logo as well as commemorative etching on both the console and controller.

Sexy hardware photos and videos after the jump!

Announced during a celebration event yesterday, just 12,300 units (most likely a nod to the original console’s launch date of December 3) of the “Original Grey” PS4 will be made available to the public, with the launch date and details on how interested parties can get their hands on the console due to be announced this coming weekend.

The PlayStation 4’s visual design may take cues from the PlayStation 2 with its blue lines on black plastic and sharp edges, but this commemorative version borrows heavily from the original 32-bit PlayStation, right down to the four-colored PlayStation logo on its top-left corner and controller’s Home button.

 

Check out these official shots from Sony:

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At present, only the European and US pricing (€499 and $499, respectively) for the console has been given, but Sony has confirmed that it will be available to purchase worldwide.

The console comes packed with a special edition grey DualShock 4 controller (whose touchpad even features additional detail) and, whether it’ll end up gathering dust or not, a grey PlayStation Camera. Each unit will also be stamped with an individual serial number, so if you ever discover that the number on your special edition PS4 matches that of your friend’s, you can be sure that at least one of you got ripped off.

We’ll leave you with the reveal and unboxing videos from Sony. Best of luck to those of you who do try to pick one up when they become available; we look forward to crossing paths with you on eBay on the run-up to Christmas!