Libra: The friends of Ringo Ishikawa

Libra is a series which will provide first impressions of games well before a review. As is the case with our formal reviews, these will generally be spoiler free, however some very minor spoilers could still lurk ahead.


Since I’ve jumped head first into the Switch gaming scene, I’ve not really kept up with many titles outside of that circle. And this is exactly why a game like The friends of Ringo Ishikawa, originally released back in 2018 on Steam, flew completely under my radar until arriving on Switch just a few days ago. With a look and feel not so different than my beloved River City Ransom, I simply had to play it. While I’ve yet to roll credits on it, I can confidently say that this one is, so far, turning out much different that I originally expected, but that is definitely not a bad thing!

The Gist

The friends of Ringo Ishikawa follows the everyday life of a gang leader by the same name, as he takes on the last quarter of high school before – hopefully – graduation. Surprisingly, this game is primarily focused on storytelling, with a distant secondary focus on exploration, combat, and mini-games. In many ways it almost feels like a 2D Shenmue, but on a much smaller scale. Outside of the aesthetics and some portions of certain systems, which were clearly inspired by games like River City Ransom, it is very different than the NES cult classic.

+

  • Beautiful pixel art with clear inspiration drawn from the Kunio-Kun series (which I adore).
  • A true story-driven experience.
  • Combat, while confusing and a bit rudimentary at first, grows on you and is surprisingly satisfying later on.
  • The characters are entertaining and the writing suits them well enough.
  • Lots of things to see and do, should you put forth the effort.
  • Soundtrack, sound effects, and animations are wonderful.

  • Outside of a couple of controls, nothing is explained whatsoever. What do the individual stats do? What do level ups do? How does the hunger system work / what does it affect? How do you read books from your own personal bookshelf? Not asking for hand-holding here, but just a little bit to go on would have been nice.
  • Menial everyday tasks, like going to school and studying, are not exciting at all. Even with the combat and mini-games, it is not a game meant for those that favor gameplay over story.
  • While the characters are interesting, the writing suffers from spelling and grammatical mistakes at times.

Be on the lookout for my official The friends of Ringo Ishikawa review soon!

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