The friends of Ringo Ishikawa

released on May 17, 2018

A highschool gang leader Ringo Ishikawa trying to live through his last autumn before graduation. With his best friends.

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Fui conquistar suzuran e ganhei depressão.
Não tem muito o que falar da historia sem estragar a experiência. São jovens confusos no seus últimos dias de colegial buscando objetivos e novas experiências, e com isso muitas das vezes se expressando com a força.
Na estrutura, ele é um jogo é um mundo aberto sem mapa ou qualquer objetivo, o jogador é livre para fazer o que bem entender diariamente controlando Ringo. Seja estudar, trabalhar, malhar, roubar, entrar em confusão e etc.
Na parte técnica faltou um polimento, mas nada que vá estragar o jogo. O combate é bem simples, um botão para soco outro para chute, novos golpes são aprendidos praticando alguma arte marcial.
Não sei muito bem como colocar em palavras o que estou sentindo sobre ele no momento mas com certeza um dos meus favoritos, cada hora nele valeu muito a pena, é minha ambientação e tema favorito nos mangás e aqui é feito com maestria. É muito bom vivenciar o drama de cada personagem.

Los amigos de Ringo Ishikawa juega al despiste constantemente con las expectativas. Tras su apariencia de beatem up clásico se esconde un relato íntimo y existencialista sobre un grupo de adolescentes que no sabe qué hacer con su vida una vez que lleguen a ser adultos.
Y lo hace con una filosofía de diseño de mínimos y con mecánicas que nunca se molesta en presentar que nos deja descubrir, experimentar y combinar por nuestra cuenta. ¡Y que satisfactorio es cuando eso pasa!
Es el anti videojuego en el mejor sentido de la expresión. Uno en el que puedes estar minutos pulsando un botón para que tu protagonista esté leyendo un libro, mientras pasan las horas del día y que, tras terminar, tras haber perdido tu valioso tiempo, la recompensa sea… ninguna. Y parece una decisión de diseño horrible pero no lo es, porque Ringo Ishikawa es una de esas experiencias que no pueden ser definidas por palabras, si no que tienen que ser vivida. Porque a veces está bien perder 6 horas de tu vida en jugar a un simple videojuego.

As a guy who loves Crows and Kyou Kara Ore Wa, and who hates Tokyo Revengers, I can safely say this game was good.
While I kind of wanted a little more to it (like perhaps the ability to join the basketball team or something, idk), I understand that the scope of a game like this has to be relatively small. It's a game where everything is inevitable.
The only thing I would probably change is the music that plays when you enter the school, and the fight music interrupting that beautiful guitar on the west-side of town.

The game starts with a battle inside a train. In the aftermath, the beaten thugs stay on the floor until the train stops. Once off, another fight begins. After that, you proceed to the next screen and another fight begins. This one has no end, just a fade to black and a title drop. No catharsis on any punch or on any victory. After that, another message. A year has gone by. The same gang feud is still going on and getting worse.
After this skip, the first thing you see is Ringo's professor telling him that the last days of high school are coming up, and it’s time to decide where to head on with your life. In here, the already decontextualized beat’em up setting gains a new dimension when noticing that the violence is not just non-cathartic, but a background. Some gangs fight each other, some others want to fight you, you can run away from any of them and if you get beat up there is no fail state, just another action in the world and waking at home after some rest.
This may be a disheartening view of the world just because, but when examining your own actions, it becomes evident that there is no other way, or not easily so. You have no financial support and will starve for most of the time, at the very least on the first days. Your only income source is to pick money from beaten thugs, by your own hand or not, and it’s easy to assume that most of the teenagers around are in a very similar place.
The means for covering basic necessities is just a small part, since Ringo’s life is explored in all its aspects, since he wakes until he goes to sleep. Here it is interesting to see his approach to hobbies or interests like literature, studies, or even exercise, be it through fights or through training with some masters. In any case, the result of taking interest in those topics will be some numbers going up. Simple abstraction or not, intentional or not, despite whether Ringo is interested in what he is doing or not, what remains is a cold number, an objective. This could be compared with how modern Persona games free time actions help you build stats making every decision a strategic decision, at least partially, but here the answer is more vague, or directly non-existent, there is no benefit to what to do or not to do because there are no good or bad outcomes. The usual short length on most events, just a few lines of dialogue, help to convey both the fugacity and sudden impact of the small moments and their relative insignificance on the bigger picture when searching for a change.
The game takes influence from Yakuza and Shenmue, and while it’s easy to see where it comes from, there is a major difference. There is no immediate catharsis on the infinite time for side activities like in Yakuza and no real objective to struggle for like in Shenmue. If anything, it looks more like what San Andreas would be if there were no missions, just going around the neighborhood as the days go by. But the days will eventually end. To me, the most similar game to Ringo Ishikawa is Boku no Natsuyasumi.
Of course, with a very different tone, there is a similar sense in getting up every day and going around from one screen to another looking for things to do in the city. Also, at least in my case, a certain routine started to appear, making each day like a small poetry exercise. I liked to go to some places at some time, to repeat some activities, to create my own daily plan in both games. In both, the intention is to get the better of every day. In Boku no Natsuyasumi, the conclusion was that even the days when nothing happened were as good as any other. In Ringo Ishikawa, even when something happens, the sense is that of still being lost, and then marching another day trying to find something.
Here is a lot to praise about how the map and the scenarios are constructed. Even though the tall infinite buildings can be seen in the background of many screens, the feeling when running around is that the place is too small and that there is a kind of life that cannot be escaped whatever you do.
If Kunio-kun and the eighties manga school gangster aesthetic suggest some sense of freedom through the sheer strength of youth, Ringo Ishikawa uses the template to illustrate the opposite, the end of the fantasy and the realization of how hard it is for a teenager to escape from where they are, or if it is even possible.
I went to school every day because I knew my friends were there.

It matters not how you play, this game will give you a lot to think about. Regardless of your monitor, you will feel yourself reflected on it.

This review contains spoilers

I've been doing a repeat run of The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa alongside a friend of mine who's been playing for the first time, Discord streaming his playthrough. This particular friend sends Ringo to class every day without fail and pushes the mortal human's ability to stay awake just to cram in as much studying/exercise as possible. He is - by the game's standards - richer than god, and yet he routinely risks Ringo's wellbeing to loot random enemies in the world for truly pathetic amounts of money, usually less than 50 yen. He is as mystified by my playthrough as I am by his: if his Ringo is about making numbers go up, mine is about the intangibles. I have not purposely improved a single skill that the game measures. My Ringo is a voracious reader, but makes no special effort to dedicate time to employment or education - not unless it helps him buy books.
I suppose I'm the one with the aberrant playstyle. The experienced gamer knows that more often than not, filling every spare second with stuff pays off - more XP, more money, more NPC affection, etc. But I know how this whole thing ends. I know that Ringo Ishikawa is stubborn. You can study all you want, but he will never let his teacher read his essay to the class. You can make him read Anna Karenina and Rumble Fish and Winesburg, Ohio and Confessions of a Mask and by the time you reach the only conversation in the game where he discusses these books with someone else, it's pretty clear that Ringo is not "in it" to brag about what he read or watched or played or did. He speaks brusquely, frequently teases his closest friends, and maintains a kind of... firm kindness with acquaintances. It feels somehow appropriate to have this stubbornly principled teenage delinquent skip school to read The Brothers Karamazov in a single sitting before declaring "I'd need to re-read it a few times to let it all sink in. A powerful read."
The game is going to start laying out the hints pretty early - Ringo's friends are becoming their own people, and while the gang is ostensibly still together, nobody's heart is really in it anymore. With this, your time is limited.
With this - this realization - how do you spend your time? Watching my friend trek all the way to school and back feels like reaching that point in a conversation where you realize that your brain is just not wired in a way that allows you to fully relate to the other person. Their perspective is too alien, their values too different. Perhaps you can understand the thoughts that lead them to their conclusion, but the idea of your own brain producing those same thoughts feels... wrong. Improbable.
Why does my Ringo read? If I'm honest with you, it's not for him. When you make Ringo read, he sits down, a page counter appears above his head, and you watch it tick up as the day passes - no fast forwards, no special music. Ringo reads for the same reason that he and his friends will sometimes stop in the park, or in the rice fields outside of town, or on the balcony of his apartment, smoking and having conversations that they can hear but I cannot. He does it because it lets me linger in the empty space, because it makes me feel overwhelmingly present in those moments. And when you sit there with them, maybe you can push it to the back of your mind that Ken probably won't join any more of your fights, or that Masaru keeps asking you for money and never explains why. Those precious seconds where the gang is still together stretch out into minutes - but no more than that - and you have to move on.
As of the time of this writing, my friend still has not finished the game. It's actually been almost a month at this point, and there's a solid possibility he may not return to it. I won't push him. Maybe he didn't like to linger in those moments like I do. Maybe he moved on, moved past the gang, maybe his Ringo grows up. Perhaps he'll enjoy it better that way: as a little slice of life where everything was still just fine - not perfect, but fine. The last thing his Ringo does is drag his friends to support Goro's newfound passion for theater. My Ringo?
My Ringo boards the train alone.