When I began the journey of Life Is Strange during its initial launch in 2015, I was utterly impressed by the unique portrayal of characters and supernatural elements. So, now that I’ve gotten the chance to check out the Arcadia Bay Collection on the Nintendo Switch, my perspective of the game has changed since I got to experience the narrative as a whole with Max Caulfield and Chloe Price’s storylines. Each character is different in their own way, yet playing these installments side-by-side shows many similarities I previously overlooked.
In Life Is Strange, you’ll take control of Max, a lonely photographer who recently moved back to Arcadia Bay (a small city in Oregon.) During this time, you can explore Blackwell Academy and talk with fellow students around the campus, which can alter your future based on the choices you make along the way.
However, the most exciting aspect of the gameplay is Max’s time-traveling powers that I consistently used to get out of intense situations or if I accidentally killed a character (it happens more often than you think). This mechanic of Life Is Strange does make things a bit easier for the player and allows you to experience other storylines simultaneously by simply rewinding time. But of course, there are limitations on how far you can go back in the timeline, and it will negatively affect the character with every chapter.
The story officially begins when you witness the death of your former best friend, Chloe Price, triggering your time-traveling powers that reverse the outcome of this occurrence. From there, the two characters reignite their friendship and go on a quest to find Price’s missing friend, Rachel Amber. That being said, I enjoyed the mystery of the series since this aspect is where the game thrives, and every character has a new secret to reveal.
While Max and Chloe embark on their adventure, some moments involve searching for objects around the area which can be frustrating. For example, when you go to a junkyard, you’ll have to obtain a certain amount of bottles to progress further in the narrative. However, because this place has a variety of items and tools, it almost felt like finding a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, Max will help you during these instances by giving you hints about where you need to go.
As the story unfolds, the decisions become more complex, primarily when someone’s life is at stake. In return, we dive deeper into the concept of the Butterfly Effect, also known as Chaos Theory. With this idea in mind, Max’s relatively minor choices start to have more significant impacts that can make you second guess everything you’ve done. This mechanic certainly encourages players to revisit the game to see what they could’ve done differently.
After I finished Life Is Strange, my outlook on the characters was altered with Before the Storm, which was included in the Arcadia Bay Collection. This prequel series allowed fans to see through the eyes of Chloe, who we only saw through Max’s perspective. Honestly, my first impressions of Chloe weren’t entirely positive because of how reckless she could be in pursuit of Amber.
Before the Storm completely flipped this aspect of the character on its head by featuring scenes from Chloe’s past and a portrayal of her relationship with Rachel Amber. Suddenly, her selfish tendencies in the first game transform into acts of love, along with her teenage rebellion that takes on a new meaning. It was also really touching to see how much Chloe missed Max when she left for Seattle. For instance, her journals showcase letters to Max that she never sends, and the character often mentions her when she sees a camera.
When comparing the two storylines, Life Is Strange expresses Chloe’s tough personality, while Before the Storm features her vulnerable side. As a result, I believe playing these games together is essential because it truly gives you an outlook into the entire narrative rather than just experiencing it through Max’s eyes.
Besides Chloe Price, the prequel helps us understand what Rachel was really like because the first game painted her as a mysterious, rebellious girl. However, I was surprised to see how wrong I was about this character and began to feel sympathy for Chloe’s drastic actions with Max. The reason for this change is mainly due to Price and Amber’s close relationship and the deep conversations that embody the raw emotions of teenagers.
Although there isn’t a time-traveling mechanic, the game still has the essence of the supernatural, such as dream-like scenes where Chloe doesn’t know what’s real or not. Other than this component, Before the Storm’s gameplay time is shorter than its predecessor, reducing the need to rewind time. Moreover, there are new features, like the persuasion conversation topics, where you must pay attention to each word to get characters on your side.
Before the Storm does clear up a few storylines of Life Is Strange that were briefly discussed, like how Chloe gets her famous truck. In addition, you’ll learn about how she meets Rachel, why she was expelled from school, and what led David Madsen to marry her mother. Players will also return to familiar places that foreshadow moments from Max’s narrative, causing you to look at every location differently.
If you miss Max, a bonus episode lets you play as her before she leaves for Seattle. Once again, you’ll be able to see the cast differently by going back even further in the past, when Chloe and Max were innocent children. Despite being an hour-long story, it’s still a heartfelt sentiment that may leave you in tears.
When I compared the Life Is Stange: Arcadia Bay Collection to the previous versions, I did notice a significant difference in graphics. For example, this latest game has a much brighter appearance, making characters and environments more realistic. Additionally, Before the Storm enhances gameplay by having a faster walking speed and adjusting facial characteristics.
The Nintendo Switch version’s overall performance does show improvement compared to past consoles. But, the one thing I will note is the loading screens that can last for an extended amount of time. To top it off, these instances begin to feel tedious as the game goes on because the collection often uses this mechanic to load the next scene. Furthermore, a few moments feature a glassy-eyed look on the characters, which does eventually go away in a few seconds.
There aren’t any noticeable issues with the frame rate and everything pretty much runs smoothly after the following scene starts to play. Nevertheless, this is a Switch version, so it’s understandable that the game has long loading screen times and temporary glitches.
Once I played both the games, I noticed how much Chloe and Max are alike, despite their opposite personalities. In particular, their willingness to save the ones they love is one of the most considerable similarities they share.
After all these years, the Life Is Strange series still stands the test of time, proving that video games can excel in the art of storytelling. With the release of the Arcadia Bay Collection, dedicated fans can revisit the world, and newcomers can develop their own theories about the saga.
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