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

RocketNews 24:

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

Get some Nintendo on your Sony with these PS4 skins

PS4 Nintendo

RocketNews 24:

As odd a concept as it may sound to some, had the 1991 deal between Nintendo and Sony gone off without a hitch, not only might the PlayStation brand as we know it today not even exist, but gamers the world over might be able to play titles like Super Mario 3D World and Wii Sports on Sony-made hardware. Instead, with Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all vying for our hard-earned cash, console gamers are faced with a choice: choose a platform to invest in or live on nothing but baked beans for a year and buy them all.

If you’re a Sony fan and have already picked up a PS4, no doubt you’re as pleased with your purchase as we were with ours. But there’s no denying that Nintendo’s creations have a certain appeal to them, and few of Sony’s first-party characters could ever compete with Mario et al. Thankfully, third-party retailer LUCKY D has you – and your PlayStation – covered, as they’re selling sticker skins for PlayStation 4 featuring everything from Pikachu to Evangelion‘s Asuka.

We’ve seen all manner of limited-edition PlayStation 4 case designs since the console’s arrival just over a year ago. Besides the beautiful real-wood PS4, few have really caught our eye, though, and for those who picked up their console at launch it can be irritating to see alternative designs coming out just months later.

LUCKY D, however, has a solution. With their “PS4 Skin Seals” PlayStation owners can deck out their console with all manner of alternative designs. Nintendo fans especially will be pleased to learn that the Japanese retailer stocks two special skins which permit the unholy matrimony of Nintendo and Sony to take place, offering a sticker set featuring Mario and friends, and another which turns your PS4 into everyone’s favourite yellow lightning rat, Pikachu.

According to their Amazon JP listing, the stickers come in pieces, covering the PlayStation 4 console itself, DualShock 4 controller, and even the tiny touch panel on the controller’s front. It looks like the stickers wrap right around the PS4, too, giving the underside a splash of colour – something which those who stand their console vertically will no doubt appreciate.

▼ Mario and pals

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▼ Pika-pika-PlayStation!Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.01.38 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.01.47 PM

 

▼ LUCKY D is also offering this rather sexy Black Rock Shooter skin,

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▼ a tremendously cool skin featuring Asuka from Evangelion,

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▼ Boob pillow-cum-virtual idol Super Sonico,

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▼ and this Kantai Collection skin, which is sure to please fans of all things moe.

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The skins retail for between 3,200 and 3,672 yen (US$27-31) on Amazon JP. We’re sorry to say that our favourite of the lot, the yellow Pikachu skin, is already out of stock, however, so you may want to bookmark that page and check back regularly. As for whether these things are officially licensed, or how long Nintendo will allow the LUCKY D to use their characters on stickers designed for a rival console, only time will tell, so if you’re looking to add some Nintendo to your Sony, you may want to move quickly.

Korean illustrator gives Western fairy tales a whimsical Eastern makeover

 

elsa

RocketNews 24/Bored Panda:

What would some of our favorite Disney fairytales and Western stories look like if they had been conceived in Eastern Asia? Korean illustrator Na Young Wu has an idea – her illustrations feature Disney characters new and old reinterpreted through the prism of modern Korean cartoon illustration, also known as “manhwa” (the equivalent of manga in Korean).

Wu, who also goes by “Obsidian,”(@00obsidian00) on Twitter, is quite a prolific illustrator. She has created character illustrations for games such as Japanese mobile game Furyoudou~Gang Road~ and Korean production Age of Storm: Kingdom Under Fire Online.

It’s been a year since the release of the mega hit animation Frozen, but as much as some of us can’t wait for it to fade into the shadows, the icy queen and her Frozen empire are still staying put in the spotlight, as if the movie had only been released last month.

We previously saw Elsa and Anna looking glam in some beautiful Chinese dresses. Bet you’re not surprised that we found her donning a Korean hanbok this time! Some of you might be thinking, “RocketNews24 is writing about Frozen AGAIN”, but don’t roll your eyes just yet, because Elsa is just one of the many stunning East-West fusion pieces that Korean illustrator Na Young Wu has created. Check out her other Western fairy tale interpretations after the jump!

Furyoudou~Gang Road~
furyo1

furyo2

 

Although the girls she created for Furyoudou~Gang Road~ are an impeccable mixture of cute and sexy, it is her Korean manhwa drawing style that really brings out the unique atmosphere in her Korean-Western fairy tale series.

 

Alice in Wonderland
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Little Red Riding Hood
red riding hood

Beauty and the Beast
beauty and the beast

The Frog Prince
frog prince

The Little Mermaid
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Snow White
snow white

Head over to Obsidian’s blog or Twitter to see more of her fantastic illustrations!

Video

Iijima Hiroki : Portrait of a Kendama Samurai

Almost everyone in Japan has played kendama at some point in their lives. Most people learn how to play it as a pastime during their childhood, then eventually move on to other activities after they get the hang of it and become bored. A select few, however, go on to hone their skills to perfection and actually compete in organized competitions similar to yo-yo tournaments.

Enter 22-year-old Hiroki Iijima, who has not only mastered all the regular tricks in the book but has also combined his love for street dancing to create a new freestyle activity: “kendama street dancing,” if you will.

Link

Flappy Bird’s creator says he pulled the app for your own good

Engadget:

If you were hoping Flappy Bird would find its wings and fly back onto the App Store or Google Play, its creator has some tough news for you. Less than 48 hours after he pulled the explosively popular game, developer Dong Nguyen briefly emerged from his self-imposed exile to talk to Forbes about why that little bird will flap no more.

According to Nguyen, the game was designed to help people relax, let players blow off some steam when they had a spare few minutes. Instead, Flappy Bird became an “addictive product” that was causing him, and its players, issues. Nguyen became the subject of intense media scrutiny, while players became enraged by their tragically low scores.

To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever,” he told Forbes, shortly after he’d had an impromptu sit down with Vietnam‘s deputy prime minister.

Since it disappeared, owners of the app have put their phones and tablets up for bidding on eBay, with prices reaching $1,000 for an iPhone with the app pre-installed. Despite its popularity, and reports that Flappy Bird was reportedly making $50,000 a day in ad revenue, Nguyen says he has no regrets: “I don’t think it’s a mistake,” he said. “I have thought it through.”

If you didn’t manage to grab the app before it was pulled, there’s no shortage of Flappy clones on the App Store or Google Play — just in case you need a Flappy Angry Bird fix.

Check out this link:

Flappy Bird’s creator says he pulled the app for your own good

Link

Developer Dong Nguyen yanks ‘Flappy Bird’ after game soars to success

Flappy-bird-4

CNN:

Flappy Bird” has flown the coop.

The addictive game that soared to the top of iPhone and Android app downloads disappeared from app stores on Sunday, though players who already have it apparently can keep on flying.

A tweet from the game’s creator suggested that its sudden success had become an albatross.

I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down,” developer Dong Nguyen wrote on Saturday. “I cannot take this anymore.”

Nguyen, a Vietnamese developer with a studio called DotGears, did not reply to CNN’s request for an interview last week and has stayed mostly quiet in the wake of the game’s recent and sudden success.

His no-frills game gave players a chance to steer a tiny bird through an obstacle course of metal pipes. But it’s unclear why it shot to the top of the most downloaded charts.

It was originally released for the iPhone in May but didn’t become the top free iPhone app until mid-January, following a surge in popularity that seems to have kicked off in early December.

Nguyen told Chocolate Lab Apps he created the game in two to three days and says he did not promote the app in any way after its release.

In a series of Twitter posts Saturday, he said he wouldn’t sell “Flappy Bird” and would continue to make games.

It is not anything related to legal issues,” he said. “I just cannot keep it anymore.”

There were some unproven theories floating around about the game’s success, including the use of bots to get it on Top 10 lists artificially, organic enthusiasm on social media and a surge in amusing user reviews in the Apple App and Google Play stores. Last week, “Flappy Bird” had an average four-star rating from more than 543,000 reviews in the Apple App Store and 228,000 on Android.

Many of the reviews were lengthy, tongue-in-cheek tales of time lost, marriages ended and people going cuckoo after playing the game.

Check out this link:

Developer Dong Nguyen yanks ‘Flappy Bird’ after game soars to success