When it comes to games, there can sometimes be a mindset where people want it on certain platforms. Namely, ever since the Nintendo Switch has been released, there has been a tendency for folks to sometimes ask for a port. While things can work out well, the Dead or School Switch version is a situation that shows sometimes a game is just not a good fit.
First, people going into Dead or School should know right away that it is something of a special situation. While Marvelous is publishing it, this is for all intents and purposes an indie title. A three person team called Studio Nanafushi, led by doujinshi mangaka Ryouhei “Mokuseizaiju” Ono, made this beat’em up with RPG and Metroidvania elements. The translation and localization isn’t great, with many issues. While it can be enjoyable, especially once you get into properly dodging attacks and swapping between melee and ranged weapons for properly assaulting waves of enemies, it isn’t the most polished experience.
However, once you fire up the Dead or School Switch versions, its issues get amplified. Instead of being able to focus on the quest of Hisako, a teenager who has spent all of her life underground with other humans who lost a war against mutants, as she tries to fight her way back up to the surface to see the blue sky and reopen the paradise that is a public high school, you’re stick trying to scrounge around and make out how to even proceed. The environments in some areas can make actually seeing where platforms or pitfalls lie ahead, meaning it is very easy to almost have her leap to her doom. While a dark and dilapidated area is expected from underground subway tunnels, there’s a sense of sameness that can make exploration tedious.
Another one of Dead or School’s failings is how uninteresting it manages to be even though the ability to transition between different sorts of weapons and take advantage of both melee and ranged styles can have its moments. While the bosses can be really challenging, so much so that you might even find yourself needing to revisit areas to grind for experience against lesser opponents, the standard enemies aren’t anything special. They have generic appearances, lackluster names, and aren’t all that challenging or terrifying to face.
But the real problem with the Dead or School Switch version is that it just doesn’t always play well. There are frame rate dives the moment attendance spikes. It is constantly zoomed out to varying degrees, even when docked, making it difficult to see anything around you. (Not that this is an issue because, as I mentioned before, the enemies and Hisako’s underground surroundings are drab and uninspired.) This makes it difficult to play, because you aren’t able to get the view of the battlefield you need, properly judge distance between enemies, see projectiles heading toward you, or… well, just plain see anything properly.
Dead or School is a game people shouldn’t expect miracles from, as this is an indie game from a three-person team. It does have some fun elements to it! The concept is interesting, especially as you rescue refugees that increase Hisako’s possible actions, and the battle system has some good ideas. But while the Switch can often seem like a system where people might prefer to get certain games, due to its versatility, this is a situation where it is not a good fit.
Dead or School is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.