Young adult fiction and movies have been a lucrative business for years. As video game technology has advanced, so has the ability to tell increasingly complex stories through the medium, and with that complexity comes the ability to tailor stories to specific audiences. Therefore, the rise of video games for teens was inevitable. Throughout 2015, the series Life is Strange capitalized on the youth market to great success, and after two sequels, a prequel and a spinoff, the original game and its prequels have been released for PS4, Xbox One, Steam and, most recently, Importantly, the Nintendo Switch. Despite being labeled a “remaster,” the recently released Life is Strange Arcadia Bay Collection looks and performs like a seventh-generation game when played on the Switch. Fortunately, the game’s storytelling draws attention away from performance flaws and makes it more accessible to a new generation of players.
At the heart of the Life Is Strange experience is the branching choose-your-own-adventure-type storyline. The story of the original game and its prequel, Before the Storm, are perfect examples of young adult fiction, for better or worse. The characters are poorly written comic book characters that don’t actually exist in the real world. Dialogue feels stiff and awkward, full of overused hipster slang and the smell of “hello kids” energy. The level of cognitive dissonance required for the audience to ignore the hypocrisy of one of the game’s main characters, Chloe Price, is nothing short of utter insanity.
Despite poorly written dialogue and shallow characters, the utterly absurd plot that grows more and more exaggerated as each layer peels back is still very enjoyable seven years later. Max’s original ability to travel back in time requires the audience to suspend disbelief for a moment, as the game never seems to care about establishing any consistent time travel rules. But her abilities allow her to travel back in time through photos and alter past events, creating alternate timelines that can only be taken seriously in young adult stories. The fact that the writers clearly take their story so seriously and invest it to such extremes makes for a fun progression. Choose your own adventure games are naturally drawn to string theory and Max’s ability to reverse time and allow players to see paths not traveled, yet create something unique on a tried and tested formula so little, yet so quickly. flavor.
Unlike the story, the gameplay is a part of Life is Strange and shouldn’t be seen or heard. Life Is Strange’s game systems and mechanics are designed to convey the clear purpose of the story to the player in the most seamless and unobtrusive way possible, and the game has been a huge success. Gameplay consisting of walking around and pressing buttons to talk to characters, interact with objects, or just take a closer look at things in the world is not and shouldn’t be at the heart of the game. The controls are very intuitive, allowing the gameplay to break free from the story as quickly as possible. The only issues players may have with the Switch version of the game are caused by the Joy-con’s control scheme and ergonomics. When playing the game in handheld mode, it’s easy to accidentally press the left and right shoulder buttons, which trigger instant rewind, forcing players to unintentionally replay scenes.
The “Remastered” tag on the Arcadia Bay Collection is the only part of Life is Strange that seems out of place. Neither the first game nor the prequels appear to be remastered in any way on the Switch. In fact, the games look arguably worse than the first game released in 2015 on the seventh-generation console. Technically, the Switch versions are ports of remastered versions of games released on other platforms in early 2022, but even without taking advantage of the power of the PS5 or the Xbox family of consoles, the games look better than their original counterparts on the same platforms. version is much better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for the Switch version, where the sacrifices made to make the game run on the Switch’s hardware made textures look blurry, and the game was pretty much stuck at less than 720p throughout.
In fact, the term “Remastered” seems to be grossly misused in this context. Yes, the game does look better on other platforms. But what this re-release is really going to offer is technology developed for subsequent games in the series. Visually, it’s hard to notice the difference without a direct comparison, but new facial animations make them react more viscerally to each other and the world around them than ever before. This version of the game is more of a re-release on the Switch with new technology than a remaster.
Although the game faces challenges unique to the Switch version, the biggest benefit of this re-release is entirely the : portability unique to the Switch version. It can’t be emphasized enough that the entire Life is Strange experience comes alive just by making it portable. The ability to play in bed for 30 minutes or an hour before falling asleep is reminiscent of reading another chapter of a good book before smartphones and social media. The freedom of portability alone more than makes up for the visual shortcomings and makes the series feel more at home on the Switch than anywhere else.
The entire Arcadia Bay Collection provides the perfect storytelling experience for young adults in video game format. The game feels and plays like a perfect cross between a teen book and a movie, finding a niche between the passive act of watching a movie and the intimacy of reading a book. By harnessing the medium’s unique capabilities, Don’t Nod crafted something both familiar and new. While the dialogue can be awkward at times, Life is Strange proves that there should be more such games that are more interactive than visual novels, while still focusing entirely on their stories. After the Switch version of Life is Strange is arguably the pinnacle of the genre, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for the industry to see more YA games hitting the market.
Overall, the Arcadia Bay Collection is pretty much the same game it released nearly eight years ago, but that’s by no means a bad thing. When a great game focuses almost entirely on its story, a remake doesn’t have to do much. From a visual standpoint, the Switch version is arguably the worst version of the game, but the portability offered by the Nintendo console more than makes up for these hiccups. This portability makes for some of the worst yet funniest versions of these games to date, and elevates the entire concept of the genre.
Life Is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection is currently available on Nintendo Switch. Game Rant obtained the Nintendo Switch code for this review.