NS Review – The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa (Switch)

The friends of Ringo Ishikawa is a 2d side scrolling, open world, school/life/Yakuza style delinquent simulator that throws you straight in with no explanation as you satisfyingly beat up some delinquents. You get some basic tutorial, ‘R’ is block and the like and not much else. The friends of Ringo Ishikawa lets you explore and discover at your own pace, at the start of the game you don’t even know if there is a story to the game other than you need to improve at school or you’ll be held back a year. Quite frankly I love this approach it leaves the player intrigued wanting to explore the town and find out what activities are about.


Sounds like a good business investment.

On the other hand I didn’t know when classes start and if you’re late you don’t get let in, then for some inexplicable reason I couldn’t go to Judo club despite being there on the right day at the right time. I later found that you have to be in the gym before the club starts, one second late, no judo for you.

At this point you don’t really know what you’re doing in The friends of Ringo Ishikawa except you’re a badass bancho, so let’s go beat up some street punks. Wait!!! You will get your arse kicked. This game doesn’t just have an old school look it has old school brutal difficulty too, if you don’t have a crew of buddies with you, you will lose. Pick your fights wisely because losing results in a decrease of stats making future brawls even harder.


Maybe I won’t mess with so many.

Okay you’ve got your posse of fellow badasses, let’s go kick some butt. There’s no locking eyes in anime style like Kenka Bancho, you just hold R to go into a fight mode when near other delinquents. Now you quite literally punch, kick, throw and guard your way to victory and damn you better get good at guarding quick or you will eat a lot of dirt and lose a lot of stats. The combat is fluid and basic, very old school beat ’em up but with blocking, you do unlock some special moves to go along with your punch, kicks and grabs though. One problem I encountered was that sometimes my compadres were a bit too eager to fight and would get into scuffles when we were horrifically outnumbered, at which point I fearing for my precious stats ran straight past resulting in losing my amigos for the rest of the day. I suppose being badass banchos, they couldn’t back down from a fight even if destined to lose so I won’t hold it against the game.


Let’s steal some money while they fight.

The friends of Ringo Ishikawa is far more of a life sim than I thought it would be going in but this isn’t a bad thing, I did a lot of studying because that’s the only thing I knew I should do at the start but there’s a few shops about, a bar you can play pool at (the most dumbed down game of pool ever but pool nonetheless), you can buy a table tennis table for your crews school top hang out, get a part time job. Much like Animal Crossing it’s strangely addictive despite being a wee bit monotonous.


Pressing A with gusto!

The graphics are pretty typical pixel art side scrolling 2d beat ’em up like a more realistically proportioned River City game. They look absolutely fine but don’t make me want to scream and shout about how beautiful everything is when the market is saturated with similar looking games. Sound is super important as you learn class times through listening out for the bell at school, turns out they are 9-11 and 12-2, but don’t be too late or you won’t be let in. Speaking of classes, a nice addition is that you can change your pose of nonchalance loafing around during class with the d-pad or actually take notes and get more from class by holding A.


History does not amuse Ringo.

The music is chilled which helps create the perfect atmosphere for running around aimlessly, something you will be doing a lot of for the first few hours. It would’ve been nice if they was a change to something a lot more upbeat when the action starts but alas you’ll be beating down other banchos and stealing their lunch money to relaxing beats.


Select a ball, hold A for power and boom!

An important thing to do is try to learn the town as there is no map and you don’t want to get lost and miss school/club/get home too late to recover your health. Time ticks away 10 minutes every few seconds and this sounds fairly slow but it’s very hard to be punctual and I often missed clubs and classes because I was too far away to get there on time or got held up in a throwdown.

The friends of Ringo Ishikawa is a game of discovery as much as anything else as everything is left for you to work out, for better or for worse. Really this will dictate how much joy it brings you. If you love knowing nothing and the only way to find out is exploration and trial and error, as well as school/life sims, old school beat em ups and mellow tunes than stop reading and go download The friends of Ringo Ishikawa. Otherwise it is a frustrating but ultimately fun experience so long as the basic combat and difficulty of fights doesn’t put you off.

The friends of Ringo Ishikawa is available digitally on Nintendo Switch from 4th April 2019 for £13.39/$14.99/€14.99. Thank you to CIRCLE Entertainment for providing the download code.

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