It might be hard to believe, but Deadly Premonition is nine years old now. The unassuming Xbox 360 game stealthily arrived on store shelves in North America in 2010 and cost only $20 — a budget release. Yet what it provided for those who picked it up was far beyond the typical bargain bin gaming experience. Sure, it might have had gameplay more akin to a PlayStation 2 era title, but it also provided an expansive, Twin Peaks-inspired rural town to explore. The mystery surrounding a strange murder — not to mention the offbeat townsfolk themselves — provided a world unlike any other in the gaming realm to date.
Since that original release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, we’ve seen Deadly Premonition ported to PC and now Switch. The Switch version, titled Deadly Premonition Origins, in fact appears to be based on the PC edition which itself was slightly enhanced. You might think that a game which felt a tad old in 2010 would seem antiquated today. Amazingly enough, the title’s charm still manages to shine through on a contemporary platform. This is great given that many gamers will be getting their first taste of director Hidetaka “Swery65” Suehiro’s unique style via the Switch port.
It’s honestly a little shocking to see how well this game really does hold up in 2019. The parts which hooked players years ago still have that same charm today. These include the aforementioned cast of characters. Just like the works of David Lynch, each townsperson is an immensely distinct character. Some of them are more unique than others. There’s no character more offbeat than the protagonist himself — FBI agent Francis York Morgan (but you can just call him York, that’s what everyone calls him). While in many ways he mirrors Twin Peaks’ Dale Cooper, he still offers up unique and endearing character traits. One particularly enjoyable trait is York’s willingness to ramble about movies while driving around the town of Greenvale.
Watching characters interact is fascinating for more reasons than one. Not only do you get to see the mystery evolve and learn more about each person’s sordid secrets, but you’ll also encounter lots of humorous, and sometimes downright strange, asides. Despite being 3D models, they also often appear to “over act” in hilarious ways. While Deadly Premonition Origins is focused on discovering the identity of a crazed murderer, it brings a lot of levity to the equation. All the funny scenes and dialogue allow players to let their guard down. This also, however, causes you to keep playing and become more engrossed in the interactions between characters. Through these interactions you’ll start to become incredibly familiar with each person, knowing who they’re married to, what drama they’re dealing with and more.
There’s just so much to do in this small town open world. Yes, there is the overarching storyline to follow, but there are also dozens of side missions. It seems most residents of Greenvale have a variety of oddball requests that only a busy FBI agent can fulfill. These range from block-pushing puzzles to fetch quests and so much more. At times the rewards are especially worth it (such as getting a souped-up car). Other times, you’re rewarded simply by learning a new facet about a character’s life. Before long, you’ll realize you’ve spent twenty hours or more playing the game without realizing it.
Well, for the most part. Some of the aspects of Deadly Premonition which were annoying at the time have become even more cumbersome now via Origins. Mainly, the combat still proves dull. The most glaring combat issue is probably that York can’t run and shoot a weapon at the same time. Even at the time, this had already been resolved in the gaming industry at large. There are also annoying enemy fights that drag on much longer than they should. As was the case back then, players should probably seek an online guide for tips on where to get great items like a high powered gun with infinite ammo.
The Switch iteration also brings with it a handful of unfortunate problems that were not present in the original release. The biggest as of right now is the frame rate dropping to unacceptable levels while traveling in the open world. It’s not always bad, but it can chug and dip below 30 for a noticeable period of time. There is also a clear amount of input lag in the open world as well at times. Trying to complete races with both these factors working against you makes for an unfairly more difficult experience. Even so, the Switch version is just so easy to pick up and start playing right now at home or portably. There’s something surprisingly enjoyable about trekking around town with York while on the go yourself. It’s easy to play through a quest on a lunch break and then put the Switch into sleep mode until you’re ready to dive back in again.
Despite these problems, the rest of the experience makes up for it tenfold. This speaks to the power of Deadly Premonition as a whole. Sure, it feels like a wonky PS2 game at times, but it has so much going for it. The mystery’s solution is not utterly obvious from the get go and characters each have their own stories to tell. Exploring the town and side quests is nowhere close to a chore like it might be in some other games. Here it’s an enhancement to an already engaging world that makes you want to know each and every thing about it. If you’ve never played this game before, Deadly Premonition Origins is very much worth diving into today. Those who’ve played it before should also jump back in. Greenvale is awaiting your return.