When you search how to learn Japanese you get told this:
Which is…helpful but also not very helpful, in a way. I didn’t find it helpful because it’s very vague. I don’t do vague well! (⌒_⌒;)
The reality is some learners play games, never study, and they still learn the language. Others learn it with textbooks. Others use Memrise and Anki, apps/website to help remembering content thanks to SRS and mnemonics. Others mix them all up.
It’s up to you to decide which you prefer, as a learner and knowing how you best learn, or discover it by trying them all.
Now what’s my way to approach otome gaming?
First and foremost: to make your life easier do a crash course in the interface/menus kanji. Memrise has a course called Japanese Video Game Vocabulary for that exact purpose, I’m sure you can find lists in Wikipedia or Anki, to help you with that.
Second: you choose which game you want, or based in which criteria.
I’ve been told many people play Pokémon first because it’s all in Kana (means no kanji). I personally didn’t, but that’s me. There’s also a website for children’s with translations with mostly Kana that will help you get acquainted with the kana writing system if you aren’t yet! （＾ω＾）
My first otome was Amnesia because my criteria was “mute protagonist“. Arcana Famiglia and Kiniro no Corda are also mute but are harder/more complex in themes/gameplay, respectively. Amnesia does have some flashbacks/written scenes but they’re few.
VNDB lets you search for tags such like mute protagonist or voiced protagonist (or whatever you want) and search on your target platform. I can’t tell you how important it is.
Third: once you pick something that fits your criteria, look at reviews to see if the game is good or interests you personally. That’s important. You can also choose to read summaries of the story/characters before (full of spoilers) or after playing to clear doubts if you want.
Fourth: Another important thing is guides, Japanese guides are the best to match with your Japanese choices. Search name of game (Japanese) + 攻略 and you’ll discover guides for the game.
Fifth: You picked a game and it has a theme to it. Be it music, astronomy, biology, etc. You don’t know those terms, so what do you do? If you guessed crash course it, you guessed right! I can’t tell you how important it is, specially so you don’t get overwhelmed at the beginning of playing. I did it for Starry Sky in Spring and it really helped smooth my way into the game! (*^▽^*)
Sixth: Recognise that starting out you won’t understand even 50% of what’s going on unless you’ve had a lot of exposure to the language before. Be prepared to get overwhelmed by your lack of knowledge and looking up kanji at the beginning. My rule of thumb: if you see/hear it a lot, search it. If it seems important to the conversation, look it up, otherwise don’t sweat it.
Seventh: If you feel like you’d like to do some intense studying, either because you’re motivated or have interest, then do so. I did some JLPT (N5 to N4) because they were easier to find a lot and also meant it was divided in chunks and helped me keep my earlier motivation up for a longer span of time. Choose at your taste/feel like.
Eighth: You can learn quicker than you think as long as you do it every day and get exposed to it. Be it games, anime, raw manga, raw books/light novels, news websites, whatever interests you. You can learn the Joyo kanji (the minimal amount of kanji for newspaper which is 2150) in a year. A year. That’s not much at all.
Ninth: You can learn just by playing games and using hooker’s to extract the Japanese sentences from the game and use it to quickly look it up. AGTH is one example of such. I don’t know how effective, or quick it is, since I use SRS for it and play only on portables.
Tenth: Grammar and numbers are all about patterns. Once you start seeing the pattern of how they’re used, by being exposed and/or studying (either in Tae Kim Guide or an app), it’ll start fitting in your knowledge and cover the gaps.
Hope this helps for now! I’m actually currently writing a more in depth guide to learning Japanese with Memrise/other free resources available online, where I’ll try to walk you from absolute beginner and up. Are you interested in it? It’s been kinda going slow because I feel like there’s probably better ones out there, but when I personally decided to study there wasn’t one as helpful as the one I’m creating :’D