If you could rewind time, what would you change? In the original Life Is Strange, Max, a high school student with a penchant for photography crosses paths with her ex best friend Chloe, and discovers she can do just that. When I first played Life Is Strange on PC, I was immediately captivated. This narrative game is beloved for its exciting time rewind mechanic, compelling story, the ability for players to make important choices and the strong relationship between Max and Chloe.
As a young queer person playing the original Life is Strange, I felt instantly pulled to Max and Chloe’s relationship. The game’s explicit moments of queerness are based on player choice, but they are definitely there. My main qualms are with the prominence of the bury your gays trope in the plot and some of the cringey teen dialogue. However, the enjoyment I feel from the rest of the game drowned that out.
After the success of the first Life is Strange, a prequel called Before the Storm was released. This time, the story is played from Chloe’s perspective, rather than Max’s, after their initial separation. The choices presented to the player feature more explicitly queer possibilities, likely to make up for their sins in the previous game.
Overall, this game is nowhere near as well executed as the original, the plot is convoluted and the absence of Ashly Burch, the original voice actress who played Chloe, was felt by fans. Additionally, the previous game featured a main character with a supernatural power, and Chloe’s is that she can yell at people in a mechanic defined as “backtalk”, in order to get what she wants. While this is entertaining, it ultimately felt inconsistent and goofy compared to Max’s time control mechanic. All of that said, as a queer woman who enjoys games with any sort of sapphic representation, it still holds a special place in my heart.
In 2018, a continuation of the series, Life is Strange 2, was released. This game featured a new cast of characters, but still focused on a young person with a supernatural power. For a few years after, there was little word on if a Life is Strange 3 would ever be released. That changed in 2021, when, during a Square Enix showcase livestream, it was finally announced. During this same presentation, it was also announced that Life is Strange and Before the Storm would both be remastered. This remaster would be a purely visual update, launching around the same time as the third title in the series.
This did not happen. Originally, the remastered collection had a planned release of “fall 2021”. While Life is Strange: True Colors, the third entry in the series, launched on September 9th, 2021, the remastered collection was pushed to “early 2022”, only to be finally released on February 1st. This decision to delay the games even further, while ultimately necessary, made these remasters feel neglected in comparison to the new release.
When February finally arrived, the Reddit page for Life Is Strange was a funny and disappointing place. Fans posted screenshots of discolored characters, complaints of lags, sound issues, missing subtitles, and bugs that made the games unplayable. While seeing the silly glitches was funny, I ultimately felt a little heartbroken that these games had not been given the care they deserve. These problems made me hesitant to give the remasters a try, so I waited a few months in hopes that these bugs would be remedied.
I eventually gave the remasters a go on PS4 about three months after launch. They were playable, but not without a fair share of issues. During the first game I experienced lags, incorrect subtitles, and an occasional glitchy image. In the prequel, however, visual bugs such as discoloration and lighting issues made it impossible to actually see certain cutscenes. The fact that one of the most important scenes in the game no longer had visuals, just subtitles at the bottom of the screen, really made me feel sad for the developers. This story that they clearly cared about was being disrupted by glitchy technology.
Outside of those painful moments, both games benefitted visually from the remaster. It was exciting to see character’s faces given more emotion, and details like lighting and texture finesse. It is unclear to me what exactly motivated the developer and publisher to remaster these games. Maybe it was a desire to make it the best experience possible, a cash grab, or an attempt to bundle it with their new game. Despite a rough launch and some glitches, I am glad these remasters happened, even if just to give the original games more publicity. This collection, regardless of its flaws, features compelling and immersive stories that deserved for their remasters to be more than an afterthought.
Now, on September 27th, finally we will see one more version: Life is Strange Remastered Switch. I am so happy these games will finally reach Nintendo players. I’m especially excited for cozy gamers, who love a good story, to get their hands on it. All I can hope for is that the developers and companies behind Life Is Strange Remastered are learning from past mistakes, and taking more time to work out the detrimental kinks before release. That said, I would wait a day or two after launch to purchase, just to make sure.