I’ve been playing The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa, a sort of life sim where you play the leader of a small teenage gang (five guys, I think). The most obvious comparison game that I’ve played it Street Gangs (better known as River City Ransom), in that it’s a side scrolling brawler where you can enter shops and schools and buy food, read books, buff stats and so on, but I guess it’s got a bit of Persona going on, where you have a clock ticking each day and can complete a certain amount of tasks and up your stats/get money.
It’s kind of opaque - it starts with a bit of a tutorial that teaches you the basic controls, but after that you’re left to figure things out. I maybe ruined it for myself a bit by looking up some of the mechanics rather than just stumbling through. There are a few things I never would have figured out on my own, like that you can go to the park and jump under the play equipment to have Ringo grab onto it and do pull-ups to raise maximum HP. I’m not sure how much raising stats matters. You can improve your academics by studying and your combat stats by fighting - even losing fights improves your defence, but it also ends the day early. I took on a part time job that I have to attend three times a week, partly during school hours, if I want to keep it, which restricts me a bit, but I don’t know if there’s much benefit to keeping it or if I’ll actually get fired if I don’t turn up. I just got some scholarship money after doing well on a test, so that might be a better source of income.
The other thing that’s kind of opaque is that Ringo clearly knows a lot more about his world than the player does. I’ve spent a lot of time just figuring out my way around town, which presumably Ringo already knows. He has relationships with a lot of people and you can talk to them, but quite often the player isn’t let in on the context. Presumably over time I’ll get a better sense of who’s who and what’s going on. Most members of my gang can be spoken to or added to my party, but there’s one guy whose interact prompt is always greyed out and I don’t know why. I thought maybe he and Ringo aren’t getting along, but then he showed up for a cutscene and they seem fine. Dunno. Maybe he’s just busy.
The control scheme is interesting. There are three buttons used, plus one for the menu. In combat, the buttons are punch, kick, and guard, with a jump from pressing punch and kick together. It took me a while to realise that you can just hold guard all the time to block most attacks. Out of combat, the punch button interacts with stuff, the kick button lights a cigarette or throws it away if you already have one (this is context dependent - sometimes Ringo will flip a coin or throw a rock in the river instead), and holding the guard button puts you in what I think is called “delinquent mode”, in which Ringo puts his hands in his pockets, walks more slowly, will punch if you press that button, or open and close his mouth (presumably mouthing off?) if you press the kick button. This allows you to start fights if you want to. I did this a few times in the early going and usually lost, and afterwards I had a rival gang show up at my house to complain about how I’d broken our truce - I’ve been leaving them alone since.
Delinquent mode, along with a lot of other stuff, seems to at least partly be about atmosphere. There isn’t much point to making yourself walk slower and look meaner, but it’s role-playing. When you go to class, you can hold a button to take notes, but you can also press down to slouch in your chair or up to look out the window. I’m not aware of any benefit to doing that, whereas if you take notes your academic stat for that class goes up, but it fits the character/what being in class is like. When I was taking a test, I mostly held down the write stuff button, but I also took some time to look out the window, like I would in a real test if I had to think about something.
I’m not sure what to make of the game yet, but it’s kind of neat to just hang out in so far. I think looking up some of the mechanics has led me to worry more about min/maxing than I would have, but the benefits of doing so are not yet clear so I’m trying not to overdo it. My current in-game goal is to get enough money for the TV/VCR combo unit so I can start hiring movies and then maybe get the off-brand Famicom to go with it.
Also, no mention of this game is complete without pointing out that it was made by one guy in game maker, with hired help for the backgrounds and I think the music, and he got his dad to learn pixel art and do the character animations. Seems like a cool dad.