Monday, April 8

Review: The Friends of Ringo Inshikawa [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One of the really cool things about indie games is that they’re able to consistently subvert expectations, taking you on a journey of surprises of sorts rather than just serving up more of the usual. Of course, that path can be rewarding but also very risky for both the developer and the buyer so it’s always best to walk into such endeavors with an open mind and an understanding that non-traditional won’t always work out for you. Possibly among the most surprising departures from the norm I’ve played in some time is The Friends of Ringo Inshikawa, a game that looks like a pretty standard retro beat-em-up but is instead somehow more of an open world rumination over the pressures of making decisions about what to do with your life.

First and foremost the thing to understand about this game is that it doesn’t hold your hand. This is both its greatest strength and weakness, depending on what you’re looking for. As the game starts it feels like it makes sense, you’re in charge of a street gang and are caught up in what seems to be a turf war. Fast forward a year though and your character, Ringo, appears to be in a potential transition with a decision to make in how he is going to lead his life… and that’s the decision that will be based on how you choose to play the game, and where you’ll try to focus.

Initially you’ll need to do quite a bit of wandering, getting into conversations and potentially making some mistakes as you try to figure out what you’re doing. You could choose to buckle down and work on your academics, raising your grades which provide some benefits. You could choose to train yourself to become a more powerful and proficient fighter, there’s only so much getting beat up when you’re overmatched that you can take. You could take on a job, but just remember to keep your schedule or you won’t be keeping it. In many ways it’s almost like a life simulator for a troubled youth who shows potential but has a checkered past and finds himself at a crossroads.

Much like other games in this sort of thread where you’ll partake in a daily routine there’s almost a calming quality to the game, at least that’s potentially depending on what sort of path you forge for yourself. Also similar to those other games there’s an element of risk since there are no clearly defined goals you’re working towards so if you’re hoping to get tastes of a greater purpose, aside from some odd conversations that crop up periodically where you’re more of a passenger than in control, there’s not much. If you’re looking for something a bit different and can keep your expectations in check The Friends of Ringo Inshikawa is a different sort of journey, just with it being so open ended it’s unclear whether it will ultimately lead you to a reward for your investment beyond the experience of it all.

Score: 7

  • A thoroughly different sort of game, mixing daily tasks with a rougher edge than you’d normally see
  • With it being so open-ended you’re free to pursue your own path and see where it leads you

  • The reason there’s so much room for choice is that the game has no clear path for you to follow, which can make it all feel a bit aimless
  • If you were looking for an entertaining brawler experience this will likely disappoint