I don’t yet know what to make of The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa. Seemingly developed by one guy in Russia, The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa sees you play as a directionless high school thug who is threatened with expulsion from his school, which he hardly attends due to spending all his time getting into gang fights. It’s like a tribute to NES classic River City Ransom or some sorta slice of life anime like Cromartie High School which I’ve never watched but Deguello says is a parody.
There’s no handholding, no markers, no world map. My first night I just wandered around until 4am because I couldn’t find my house, dashing past rival gangs fighting under the bridge. Eventually I stumbled in and put myself to bed for a couple of hours before getting up to goto school again. The following days I found that if I just got into fights until I lost, I’d wake up in my bedroom.
The game has an incredible openness to it. You can just explore the town, get in fights, talk to girls, read books at the library or the cafe, goto class or ditch it, I mean who cares right? The game itself feels directionless, reflecting the titular character’s outlook on life.
Playing around in the menus I found a hunger status, I hadn’t really been eating much because food cost so much and I hadn’t figured out how to make money. There was some indication that a scholarship might earn me a living, but I was getting Fs. Fortunately I discovered that I could rob the pockets of fallen foes. This discovery came on the Saturday though and I regretted all the hapless saps I had failed to fleece of their change earlier in the week while spending my last yen on some vegetarian rice at the local café.
Many games today are like a bong hit, giving you a surge of instant gratification. The Friends of Ringo Ishikara is more like a cigarette. It takes a while to consume and the reward isn’t so much what you’re smoking but the melancholy of the moment. The time you have to yourself. I’ve only played a couple of hours, I have no idea how long the game is. I imagine I’ll get there, but there’s no rush.