Steins;Gate is a critically acclaimed visual novel made by 5pb and Nitro+, and thanks to PQube we can finally experience it in Europe. It’s time to dive into the world of science, conspiracy, otaku culture and jellified bananas.
5bp and Nitro+ are no foreigners to socially awkward protagonists, with the paranoid hikikomori in Chaos;Head, however they really hit the nail on the head with this one. You follow Okabe Rintaro, a university student and a self-proclaimed mad scientist, who wants to plunge the world into chaos with his weird albeit harmless contraptions. He is accompanied by his otaku “super hacker” buddy Itaru and his naive yet kindhearted childhood friend Mayuri.
Together they work on various gadgets in their Future Gadget Laboratory, with their newest one being a phone controlled microwave. However they soon realize that it mysteriously jellfies the things put into it. Okabe meets Kurisu, a girl genius, who while skeptical at first decides to take up his offer and see where their mysterious microwave leads them. It’s not long before they find out that they have created the world’s first time machine, with the only thing they can successfully send to the past being e-mails, what they D-Mail (short for DeLorean Mail).
In order to test their D-Mails they start fulfilling various requests. But they soon learn that time travel is not as omnipotent as they had first thought. Not everything can be changed, and even if it can, there is a high price to pay. Every single action has a reaction. Even the smallest change can lead to drastic consequences. The story is very atmospheric and the suspense here is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The highlight of Steins;Gate is the interaction between characters. There is a real chemistry between them. Okabe and Kurisu are constantly bickering about the most random things, Itaru always butts in whenever he hears something remotely perverted and Mayuri keeps getting frustrated as everyone is using her bananas for the experiments.
Like Chaos;Head, Steins;Gate has a novel way of interacting with the world. At specific points in the game you will receive e-mails or phone calls and you can opt to answer them. If it’s an e-mail you can reply by choosing one of the selected words as the topic of your reply. Sometimes not answering will be a choice in itself. You can even play around and change your phone’s wallpaper, call and mail ringtone. Even just taking a peek at your phone can change the outcome as characters will protest since you are checking your phone in the middle of a conversation.
A lot of research went into Steins;Gate. From various theories about time travel and its paradoxes to the supposed time traveler John Titor, Steins;Gate tries its best to immerse you in its story. Thankfully you don’t have to be a quantum physicist to enjoy the plot. It does well explaining every single thing you encounter. If that is not enough the game has a useful Tips system which explains less known terms in physics, informatics and even otaku culture.
This is a huge visual novel. Depending on your choices you can reach one of the six different endings, one for each heroine. The whole game can take over 30 hours to beat, and even more if you are aiming for 100% completion.
The majority of people in the west know about Steins;Gate from its amazing anime adaptation. However it was a bit too good. If you watched the anime, you will know every important event and twist the visual novel has to offer. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play Steins;Gate. The visual novel covers the events a lot slower, it explores the relationships between characters more in-depth and the phone system gives you a clever way to interact with the world. It makes you feel like you are a part of this world and not just an onlooker, allowing you to feel the consequences of your actions.
The whole presentation is very unique. It’s unlike any other visual novel out there, making sure that it’s something you won’t forget anytime soon. The backgrounds are highly detailed, while the characters have a unique filter and glowing eyes which help them pop out.
The game is fully voiced, with even our loony protagonist having a voice, which is rare for a visual novel. And while there is no English voice option, the Japanese actors do such a remarkable job that it would be a shame hearing it any other way.
This edition of Steins;Gate is available on both the PlayStation 3 and Vita. The Vita version is perfect if you are on the go or if you just like reading your visual novels before bed. The text isn’t too small, and because of the high resolution of the system it retains all of the fine details from original.
Steins;Gate is among the best visual novels out there. It not only provides a look into the possibility of time travel but does so on a surprisingly down-to-earth level. The characters have chemistry and their dilemmas only serve to flesh them out even further. There is a huge number of twists and turns you won’t see coming. If there is one visual novel you should play this year, it is Steins;Gate.