So you want to start playing RPGs in Japanese
Maybe you’re like me and grab the nearest available Final Fantasy game (which in my case was FFX). After all, what could possibly go wrong?
Then you get to the status screen and it’s like “boy, what should I even be looking at here.”
So, I decided to put together a little guide on how to read the status screens in jRPGs. Of course, every game is going to be slightly different here, but they all tend to have some similarities. I’m going to look at the stats from a couple popular RPGs and we’ll see how they compare.
First, let’s look at the stat screen in Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken (released simply as Fire Emblem in the West).
The kanji are a bit pixelated, but we can work with it. The left column of the blue box is what we’re primarily interested in here (the stuff on the right is pretty specific to this particular game, but what’s on the left is more universal to RPGs in general). From top to bottom we have:
- 力 – Translated as Strength in English. The kanji itself has the meaning of power, and make a mental note of it, because I guarantee it’s going to keep. Showing. Up.
(FYI, Lyn, whose stats we’re looking at here, is a sword-user, but if we were looking at a magic-based character, in place of this we’d have 魔力, AKA Magic. It’s just 魔, the first kanji of words such as 魔法 (magic) or 魔女 (witch), mashed together with 力. Magic power!)
- 技 – Translated as Skill. In many games this word would be used to describe the skills or techniques characters use in battle, but here it’s used as a stat instead.
- 速さ – Speed. If you already knew the adjective for fast – 速い, you’re good. In Japanese, you can usually replace the final い in i-adjectives to make them into nouns (if it’s a na-adjective you instead just add a さ to the end).
- 幸運 – Luck. Nothing special to say here, but it’s also a stat that often appears in RPGs. Usually it’s the one nobody is sure what it actually does.
- 守備 – Defense. The first kanji is the same as in the verb 守る (to protect).
- 魔防 – Magic Defense. Because armor might protect you from swords, but it’s powerless against magic. You might notice the 魔 kanji appearing again. Also, keep the second kanji, 防 (defend; protect), in mind, because it will come in handy later.
Fire Emblem also provides us with some more useful stats to remember for later. Take a look at the four I’ve marked:
- Top-left we have 攻撃 – Attack, which is another term that’s gonna crop up all the time in games. Remember the 攻 (aggression; attack) kanji for later too.
- Below it, there’s 命中. Literally it refers to “hitting something you have aimed at”, “hitting the mark”. It’s usually translated in English as Accuracy. Often seen with 率 (percentage, AKA how likely you are to hit stuff).
- Top-right there’s 必殺 which literally translates to “bringing certain death”. Since this doesn’t roll off the tongue too well, it’s usually translated as Critical or Critical Hit.
- Finally, there’s 回避 which simply means Evasion.
Now, let’s compare this to another game, and one most should be familiar with – Pokemon. I’ll be using Pokemon LeafGreen for this example, but the stats are the same in each Pokemon game aside from the very first ones.
This time, the right-hand side is what we’ll be focusing on. You’ll notice straight away everything is in hiragana, unlike Fire Emblem. For the record, even in the newer Pokemon games, where you can swap between kanji and hiragana modes, the stat screen will still be primarily in hiragana.
So, from top to bottom:
こうげき should sound familiar – it was written as 攻撃 earlier and here, it refers to physical attack.
ぼうぎょ (防御) – is (physical) defense.
What makes it different from 守備, then? They both translate as “defense” into English, but in a J-J dictionary the definition for 防御 means “guarding oneself from an enemy attack” while 守備 is more like “preparing to protect an ally from an enemy attack” or “protecting one’s field from the enemy”. This makes sense, considering Fire Emblem is a tactical strategy game, but overall, it’s just a difference in nuance. For the record, 防御 is the more common word for “defense” in games in my experience (I’ve only seen 守備 in the Fire Emblem games so far.)
とくこう is a bit strange. In Pokemon games there’s no “magic”, but non-physical attacks are called “special”. The とく here comes from 特 (like in 特別 – special). The こう is the 攻 from 攻撃
とくぼう is a similar case, except the ぼう comes from 防 from 防御 (I said this kanji would come in handy!)
Finally, there’s すばやさ (素早さ) which is similar to 速さ from before (though with different kanji). It also comes from an adjective and the difference between 速い and 素早い is basically – the latter means nimble or agile, not just fast. It was translated as Speed all the same, though.
Omake: Take a look at what’s right below the picture of Bulbasaur. けいけんち (経験値) is another useful word that pops up in games a lot. If the EXP bar hasn’t clued you in on what it means yet – it’s simply experience points.
Bottom line: the stat names will differ depending on the game, but there are some things to look out for:
If it has 攻 in it, it’s most likely something referring to physical attacks
力 indicates the power of something (not in the mathematical sense) or simply means power/strength, if it appears on its own
Anything with 魔 in it will be magic-related
Stats with 防 or 守 in them will be in some way related to defense
Well, I hope this helps at least a little bit. Feel free to comment if you have any more questions!