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Visual Novel / Love Is Strange

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A Lighter and Softer week for Arcadia Bay.

Love Is Strange is a fan-made Freeware Visual Novel made by Team Rumblebee and based on the Video Game Life Is Strange, but with the dark and supernatural elements excised and the Queer Romance brought to the fore. Compared to most such fan VNs, the production quality is extremely high, boasting 150,000 words of text and a complete original set of backgrounds and soundtrack, not to mention a whole host of other cool elements that are definitely not Ren'Py standard, such as in-game achievements and a continually-updating journal.

It's Max Caulfield's second year at Blackwell Academy. On this day, she does not discover that she has magical powers that allow her to turn back time, and nor does she learn about a popular girl who went missing six months ago — magic doesn't exist, and the girl is alive and well just down the hallway. Instead, she shows up to class as usual, to find that their teacher is running a photography competition.

The theme is "bonds" — and, fittingly, it must be completed in pairs. Thus Max gets a choice. Does she work with her rebellious, blunt childhood friend Chloe (with whom she recently reunited)? Her new friend Kate, a kind Christian student with a talent for art? Chloe's friend Rachel, a beautiful but mysterious girl who seems to be loved by everyone? Or Max's rival, the sharp-tongued and ambitious Victoria? Whoever she chooses, over the next few days, Max will have the opportunity to create a winning photo — and become much closer to one of her classmates than ever before.

Love Is Strange provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: A romantic relationship between Chloe and Rachel is hinted at in the original game and confirmed in Life Is Strange: Before the Storm and later canonical games; but there is no indication here that they are anything but best friends. This is so that both of them can be available as love interests for Max, without any Love Triangle complications.
  • Artistic License – History: As part of Kate's route, Max claims that Albert Einstein received the Nobel Peace Prize. While Albert Einstein did receive a Nobel Prize in 1921, it was for his work in Physics, not Peace. Justified, as it is mentioned in the original game that Max is not a particularly diligent student.

  • Bare Midriffs Are Feminine: Rachel wears a black crop top in the game.
  • Broken Ace: The main gist of Rachel's route.
  • Closet Geek: As the main game implies, Victoria here is a closet anime fan who likes Ghost in the Shell and Princess Mononoke.
  • Dialogue Tree: With the odd But Thou Must! choice played for laughs.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: The game works on a three strikes rule, where to get the bad end you have to choose three particular bad options over the days. There are so many choices, however, that it's pretty unlikely that you'd stumble on the exact ones accidentally.
  • Friend to All Children: Max gets to see this side of Kate if they choose the local hospital for their photoshoot.
  • Hidden Depths: Naturally, but especially for Rachel (whom Max didn't know too well before they started working together) and Victoria (whom Max outright disliked at the beginning).
  • Lighter and Softer: No time travel, scary visions or mysterious deaths here, folks.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Victoria looks out for Nathan - she tells Max that that's half the reason she's even in the Vortex Club - but she doesn't appear to have any romantic feelings for him at all.
  • Loving a Shadow: Rachel feels like almost everyone who claims to love her is really doing this - only loving the image of Rachel Amber, not the real her. Max can earn herself a bad end by buying into it, too.
  • Multiple Endings: Each girl has both a Normal End and a True End, plus there's a combined Bad End for if you really screw up with the girls. Interestingly, the Normal vs True ends don't decide whether or not you get the girl - the Normal ends are also romantic, they just don't portray quite as successful or strong a relationship as the True end.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • At one point, Max notes how it's pointless to worry about what she could have done. It's not like she can rewind time and try again...
    • In the original game, Max states at one point that she loved Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Given that the movie is not generally well regarded, many took that as a plug, given that Life Is Strange is published by Square Enix. In Love Is Strange, after Max tells Victoria she loved the movie, the latter is disgusted, and immediately decides to put on Princess Mononoke to show Max some real cinema. Also, in the main game Max says that she'd love to watch that movie on Victoria's big TV - in this game, she at least gets to watch a movie on it.
    • Rachel's route also includes many references to popular theories surrounding Rachel in Life Is Strange. For example, if you compliment the lighting at the underpass, she'll talk about a ghost story about the area and threaten to bring a Ouija board, which is a reference to the popular theory that Rachel had some connection to the supernatural or some powers of her own.
    • The outfit that Victoria chooses for Max is identical to the one that Max wore in the alternate timeline where she joined the Vortex Club.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Rachel, Kate, and Victoria for Max. (Of the four potential love interests in this visual novel, only Chloe is a canonical love interest for Max in the original game.)
    • Inverted with Chloe and Rachel, who no longer have a romantic history together in this interpretation of the story.
    • Also Inverted for Max's canonical Straight Option Warren, who isn't romanceable in this game.
  • Prone to Tears: Kate may be nice and inclined to trust people, but she hates being viewed as just a delicate, breakable Christian girl.
  • Queer Romance: The original game had elements of this, but Love is Strange removes all the mystery and supernatural horror elements and makes this the main genre.
  • Romance Game: Jettisons all the sci-fi/conspiracy elements in favour of this.
  • Shipper on Deck: Shockingly, Victoria admits to finding Max and Kate sort of pleasant to watch together and to rooting for their photograph, a courtesy she does not extend to Max/Rachel or Max/Chloe.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Rachel is initially a missing person and is eventually revealed to have been Dead All Along in the original Life Is Strange. Naturally, neither tragic circumstance is the case here.
  • Tsundere: Victoria in her route, natch, including Max depending on the player's choices.
  • Yuri Genre: All of the love interests are girls.