Alright, back to your regularly scheduled Posting by the main author of this blog, Me.
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Anyways...... I played Ringo Ishikawa last week, pretty much right after Nier Automata, and lo and behold, it is another one of my all time faves now!! When you boot it up it seems like an old school beat-em up, but once you get past the intro you see the real core of the game: It's a social sim a la Persona! Well, it works pretty differently from Persona, but it definitely is a social sim. In fact it's an unbelievably chill social sim, the kind of game where you can spend seven hours bumming around with your buds or going to the gym or studying. Or you could try to do everything and end up forgetting about your plans like I did, locking me out of getting to know my favorite character outside of the main cast (Aiko).
But it's more than a normal social sim. For one, it's a pretty ok beat-em up as the intro implies. When you're bumming around with your buddies you can beat up other little gangs. The fights are kinda claustrophobic and imprecise, but that's how real fights are, so it's pretty fitting for a social sim with fighting elements. However, My favorite parts were absolutely the writing and storytelling.
The story is told very naturalistically. Basically, if you enter an area and there's a story event trigger there at that time, a cutscene happens. That's the underlying mechanic, but when you're playing it feels much more like the way stories develop in real life: randomly. Sometimes you walk into school, say hi to your friends, and go to class, but sometimes as you're walking in one of them starts talking about stuff that happened to him over the weekend, or asking for help with something. Now this would already be chill as all get out, but the writing in this game is next-level.
It's all told in this slightly mangled yet extremely literary English, where the characters kinda talk like if Catcher in the Rye was translated to Japanese and back to English, or if you were playing the video game of Good Will Hunting as made by Square Enix in 2002. Everything feels serious yet also like it doesn't really matter, just like real high school! Everyone speaks like they're trying to seem older and more mature than they are, with the worst culprit being you, Ringo Ishikawa.
Now the social sim doesn't directly interact with the narrative, but the context it provides for your character deepens everything about the game. You can be working yourself to death studying every night, but when you get into a cutscene and your friend asks "so are you gettin your act together" you just say "maybe". You can keep beating people up, deepening the tough-guy Jotaro Kujo act Ringo puts up. The only thing you can't do is drop the act. You've got no reason to.
This is a poignant game written like a novel, yet also it's a chill game that plays casually and easily. The only skill needed here is time-management, and it just sucks you into the world. And once you're there, you can't come out, even as things start to spiral around you and your friends. I loved this game, and if you like social sims or, uh, books, you probably will too. Thanks for reading!!!!