Total Games Played
Played in 2023
Recently Played See More
Recently Reviewed See More
The game starts with a battle inside a train. In the aftermath, the beaten thugs stay on the floor until the train stops. Once off, another fight begins. After that, you proceed to the next screen and another fight begins. This one has no end, just a fade to black and a title drop. No catharsis on any punch or on any victory. After that, another message. A year has gone by. The same gang feud is still going on and getting worse.
After this skip, the first thing you see is Ringo's professor telling him that the last days of high school are coming up, and it’s time to decide where to head on with your life. In here, the already decontextualized beat’em up setting gains a new dimension when noticing that the violence is not just non-cathartic, but a background. Some gangs fight each other, some others want to fight you, you can run away from any of them and if you get beat up there is no fail state, just another action in the world and waking at home after some rest.
This may be a disheartening view of the world just because, but when examining your own actions, it becomes evident that there is no other way, or not easily so. You have no financial support and will starve for most of the time, at the very least on the first days. Your only income source is to pick money from beaten thugs, by your own hand or not, and it’s easy to assume that most of the teenagers around are in a very similar place.
The means for covering basic necessities is just a small part, since Ringo’s life is explored in all its aspects, since he wakes until he goes to sleep. Here it is interesting to see his approach to hobbies or interests like literature, studies, or even exercise, be it through fights or through training with some masters. In any case, the result of taking interest in those topics will be some numbers going up. Simple abstraction or not, intentional or not, despite whether Ringo is interested in what he is doing or not, what remains is a cold number, an objective. This could be compared with how modern Persona games free time actions help you build stats making every decision a strategic decision, at least partially, but here the answer is more vague, or directly non-existent, there is no benefit to what to do or not to do because there are no good or bad outcomes. The usual short length on most events, just a few lines of dialogue, help to convey both the fugacity and sudden impact of the small moments and their relative insignificance on the bigger picture when searching for a change.
The game takes influence from Yakuza and Shenmue, and while it’s easy to see where it comes from, there is a major difference. There is no immediate catharsis on the infinite time for side activities like in Yakuza and no real objective to struggle for like in Shenmue. If anything, it looks more like what San Andreas would be if there were no missions, just going around the neighborhood as the days go by. But the days will eventually end. To me, the most similar game to Ringo Ishikawa is Boku no Natsuyasumi.
Of course, with a very different tone, there is a similar sense in getting up every day and going around from one screen to another looking for things to do in the city. Also, at least in my case, a certain routine started to appear, making each day like a small poetry exercise. I liked to go to some places at some time, to repeat some activities, to create my own daily plan in both games. In both, the intention is to get the better of every day. In Boku no Natsuyasumi, the conclusion was that even the days when nothing happened were as good as any other. In Ringo Ishikawa, even when something happens, the sense is that of still being lost, and then marching another day trying to find something.
Here is a lot to praise about how the map and the scenarios are constructed. Even though the tall infinite buildings can be seen in the background of many screens, the feeling when running around is that the place is too small and that there is a kind of life that cannot be escaped whatever you do.
If Kunio-kun and the eighties manga school gangster aesthetic suggest some sense of freedom through the sheer strength of youth, Ringo Ishikawa uses the template to illustrate the opposite, the end of the fantasy and the realization of how hard it is for a teenager to escape from where they are, or if it is even possible.
I went to school every day because I knew my friends were there.
Maybe it's just my personal associations with the pixelated view of a world full of nature and my memories of the indie scene at the time, but the first impression of Proteus is reminiscent of Minecraft. Where the world importance comes from its elements and not their particular arrangement, capable of being procedurally generated, making each particular world unique and common at the same time. The major difference, all your world changing actions are taken away. What is left is one of the most important aspects in any game, and in life, to observe. Navigating through a hypersensitive world, since observation and perception are the sole focus, everything seems to carry some life.
Observing how the world changes and how perception changes the world. Getting atop a mountain when the rain comes to see the sky again, to know what time it is, look down again to see that the land has turned into the sea, descend into it and watch how the sky is now the sea. To find comfort upon finding that this world has a moon when the night comes too. Try to find a pattern in the stars, look at the land and see that the lights are mirrored below. Discover that, same as everywhere, magic appears at night.
One of the most important moments is to stand still and observe what's out of reach. How the clouds move, how the sun goes down and how the moon rises on the opposite side. Everything is the life of nature, except for the human tombstones. Because it's about opposites too. To appear on the sea facing the land where to spend the rest of your time. To do anything but escape the cycle of day and night and then seasons and then life.
If Proteus is about life, and life is about observing, the game, of course, can only end in one way. An eye getting closed.
According to Orchids to Dusk, life, or rather, a kind of permanent static living being, can be achieved (or given life) upon accepting that (human) death is inevitable, or rather, taking steps towards instead of running away from it. According to me, that permanent (will it be permanent?) mark left behind is not due to the acceptance of the inevitability of death, but to the inevitability of life