We’ve all been there. You initiate a conversation with some NPC off the side of the road. Suddenly, you’re trapped in the world’s longest and most non-skippable conversation. Your fingers hurt as you mash the buttons really hard. Your eyes glaze over as the other person goes on and on and on. You gnash your teeth as you pray that all of this information will be in the quest log later. But no, Like A Dragon: Ishin! actually gamifies this excruciating process by giving you a pop quiz at the end. And I love-hate the developers for it.
Like other games in the Yakuza series, Ishin has “side stories” that humorously flesh out the colorful residents who live in its open-world city. The modern games had gems such as a yakuza boss with a diaper fetish, a chicken named “Nugget,” and a failed dominatrix. Ishin has none of these characters. Instead, it has Sakiko.
Sakiko is a middle-aged woman who has lost most of her friends because she won’t shut up. She knows that she has to stop telling endless stories in order to keep her friends, so she wants to tell you one last tale.
I agreed. How hard could it be? I thought that most people were simply weak and unable to listen to an older woman for longer than thirty seconds. She can’t be that long-winded, I thought to myself as I listened…and listened…and listened. I pressed the X button diligently, but my brain was elsewhere.
Oh my god, she really can’t stop talking. The problem wasn’t that she spoke a lot of filler words, or that her stories took place over a long period of time. The problem was that she had no sense of what sorts of details might be interesting or personally pertinent to the listener. So she dumped all of them on me. Every time I thought “Surely she will finish soon,” she launched into a new story about her life. And then she had the audacity to give me a pop quiz afterwards.
It’s my literal job to listen to people rant while sustaining a facade of attentive interest, but Sakiko really tested me. In fact, there are guides on multiple gaming websites that tell you exactly what to say to her. Fortunately, I was able to get all of the correct answers by taking notes. But my real-life patience is finite, and so is my memory for throwaway details. This is an interaction that could only work well in an RPG format, which mostly gives you an infinite amount of time to minmax your way to the ideal outcome.
I’m happy that Sakiko’s story resolves happily, but she reminded me of some of the most frustrating people one can encounter in real life. The problem with Sakikos isn’t that they talk a lot, but that they either don’t notice or don’t care about the comfort levels of other people. If she paid more attention to people’s reactions and adjusted her story accordingly, then she could have been talkative without scaring people off. It was always about the delivery—not the conversation length.
We all live in a society. Some people just choose to ignore it.