Today’s throwback is a calming alternative tune by the name of “Natalie” by Milk & Bone. While going through my music library today and reorganizing it, cleaning my house, generally bustling about, as soon as this song came on, I froze in place, sat down, and just began to feel.
“Natalie” was used as the ending theme in Square Enix’s choice-based adventure game Life is Strange 2. Without spoiling too much, it’s usage in the game comes right after one of its most chaotic scenes, save for the ending. The Life is Strange (LiS) series has always been well known for it’s soundtrack, often using songs that heavily correlate or allude to in game occurrences. Both games are coming of age tales of young teens just trying to survive in today’s modern world, both also featuring strange weird supernatural events that play into the story lines. The series has won several awards for it’s story telling, voice acting and music.
The first entry in the series, set at a hip art school in Oregon showcased a lot of soft alternative indie rock, perfect for the mood it was trying to set. The second game in the series was a little less pronounced with its musical choices but was still solid, mixing songs like this one with “On Melancholy Hill” by the Gorillaz.
If you like video games and are a fan of good stories, I highly suggest checking out the original Life is Strange or Life is Strange 2. Both are available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC and both let you play the first tale of their episodic journeys for free.
This post will have spoilers for the game, Life is Strange 2.
After a couple months, I have finally finished Life is Strange 2, a moving journey, tackling issues of race, nationalism, rites of passage, but most importantly family and brotherhood.
Life is Strange 2 is the episodic tale of the Diaz brothers as they make a break for Mexico in an attempt to flee from the law after a horrible accident results in the death of their father. The cause of their exodus may be slightly cliche and happens in a relative split second, but as in life, the journey can oft be more important than the destination.
Player choice is highlighted, just as was the case in the two previous games, but instead of having the power to turn back time, the consequences of your decisions not only may impact the storyline, but influence your little brother, Daniel Diaz, who you, Sean, must watch over during the journey.
I may not have felt the same sense of gravitas from LiS2 that was in the first game, but man if I was not pulling for the Diaz brothers, or treating each decision like I would’ve with my own little brother. I didn’t let Daniel cuss, and despite our Dad having raised us as mostly indifferent to religion, in an aside where you have the choice to pray with your grandparents, I told Daniel to do it, as opposed to telling our grandma essentially “Heaven nor God are real, so why bother?”
I felt the same sense of awkwardness coupled with protectiveness during the most “Life is Strange” -like segment to me, the third episode, where the brothers find themselves on a pot farm working with hippies, all young adults, to earn money. This is one of the few times you feel a sense of family among friends, and experience some of the teenage motifs characteristic of the series. On the farm, you meet the punk hippie Cassidy, who’s too cool for life, but ends up falling for you as a love interest. The sexually ambiguous dread-locked guy, Finn, who claims to be your brother and takes everything with the breeze. The religiously up-brought Jacob, who seems he would always choose going to bed early over partying all night with his coworkers. The cool European couple assimilating to our culture while being oh so chill and rad.
Episode 3 hit me the hardest, aside from the ending of the game. It was one of the few parts where you really got a feel for Sean’s personality, and didn’t have to see him constantly getting beat up by the world. Sean finally seemed to be happy and feeling a sense of self, without sacrificing his values. During a campfire, you have the choice of drinking and smoking weed with your newfound friends. Your little brother Daniel is present, as well. I breathed a sigh of relief as Sean took a drink and a toke, but when the pot got passed near Daniel and he reaches for it, Sean instinctively says “no” he’s not letting his 9-year-old brother indulge. I would’ve done the same with my brother and I was relieved, because as a teen I knew people who wouldn’t care if their barely age ten sibling smoked pot. It sort of brought be back to the protectiveness that comes with being a big brother.
The sex scene between Sean & Cassidy was one of the most realistic love scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game. Awkward, filled with self-doubt, and nervousness. I think anyone who played this game vicariously experienced “their first time” through Sean all over again. It was refreshingly real and not overly dramatic like many video game sex scenes.
By the end of the game, the tension has been ratcheted almost too quickly to levels almost unreal. Actions aren’t life or death for the brothers, but they are for many others. The brothers’ escape from custody for the second time in the last episode happens so quick it’s anticlimactic. A valid criticism for the whole of the game; everything happens so fast, it almost doesn’t make sense, however the emotions and feels throughout still hit hard and tug at your heart strings.
My ending of the game was “Wolf Brothers” after escaping at the US-Mexico border, the Diaz brothers (seemingly) spend the rest of their lives in Mexico. A scene occurs with the caption “Five years later” as we see a gruff, bad-ass looking Sean running a Mexican mechanic shop. We see him suddenly with his hands up, moving into frame showing a gang of three holding Sean at gunpoint. Daniel comes around the corner using his powers to blow away two thugs and twist the last assailant’s arm backwards. As they flee, the brothers stash large amounts of money in a safe then enjoy a beer on the beach behind their shop. It’s bittersweet knowing my journey ended with them as vigilantes seemingly forever in Mexico, possibly dealing drugs and living a life bending the rules, but in the end they were still together. After losing almost everything and everyone else, the brothers still had each other.