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Genre: Adventure, Sci-fi, Slice-of-Life, Thriller
Developer: 5pb. Games, Nitroplus
Publisher: MAGES. Inc., Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Release Date: Sep 9, 2016
Edited by CrimsonMomongaSSS
What should I say about Steins;Gate? It was first released in Japan in 2009 as the second installment in 5pb’s Science Adventure series, preceded by Chaos;Head and followed by Robotics;Notes, all of which are loosely tied together by taking place in the same universe. As you can tell, they are delineated by the format of their names: a semicolon between two words. It is a classic that has spawned multiple adaptations, including manga, a very popular anime, and even live-action stage plays.
First off, as you can see from the screenshots, it looks amazing. I just love the aesthetic here and it’s definitely pretty unique for a visual novel. The points of slightly washed-out color on the character sprites and the backgrounds, the squiggly eyes, and the way the sprites and backgrounds fit together so well create an atmosphere I just can’t get enough of. I don’t want to throw shade, but I have to say that the visuals from the VN are definitely better than in the anime, at least in my opinion. That’s not to say the anime looks bad; it’s just that there’s a certain magic to the VN’s aesthetic that I definitely prefer.
Moving on from visuals, the soundtrack and voice acting are also great. Starting with the soundtrack, I like all of the different tracks, and some I even love. Personal favorites are the OP, the main menu theme, and the relaxed, yet jumpy, song that plays while in the Lab. Some are okay/meh, but those are the minority.
As for voice acting, it is nearly impeccable. There are a couple of hiccups here and there, but they are so few and far between that you probably won’t even notice. My personal favorite performance is the one for the character Okabe Rintaro; I enjoyed how completely the voice actor dove into the chuunibyou nature of the character he portrays. The other performances are also well done; they’re just not as exceptionally expressive as his.
Speaking of Okabe Rintaro, he’s the protagonist of Steins;Gate and a self-proclaimed mad scientist. The way his character is written is equal parts funny and tragic but incredible all the while. The other characters are all developed and well written as well, such that no character is wasted or exists as just a tool to progress the plot; every single character gets their time in the spotlight.
The plot largely revolves around Rintaro’s lab, the Future Gadget Laboratory, accidentally inventing a way to send e-mails back in time, an interesting spin on the time-travel genre. The story starts out rather slowly, more akin to a slice-of-life than anything else, but soon turns into an intriguing and exciting thriller. Many people seem to think that the fact it starts off slowly is a bad thing, but I disagree. Although the pace wasn’t quick, it didn’t really need to be in the first place; the slower pace was taken advantage of to introduce us to characters and give us time to grow attached to them, as well as set up plot threads, and, honestly, let us have some light-hearted fun while we could. The second half, on the other hand, is great at holding the attention of the reader, filled with constant twists and revelations that left me unable to stop playing.
The VN is divided into 10 main chapters, plus an extra one for the True Ending. All 10 chapters together form the common route but with some different events and dialogue based on your choices. There are character routes, but they’re rather short and pretty much tacked on to the endings of certain chapters as early alternate endings; if you choose not to send a crucial mail at certain points, then, instead of progressing the actual story and moving on to the next chapter, you’ll witness a quick portrayal of the bitter-sweet consequences of your choice, after which you’ll receive one of 5 Endings that are not the True Ending. To reach the True Ending, you’ll have to trigger all 6 True Ending Flags by replying to specific mails in a specific way.
Speaking of replying to mails, the way choices are made in this game is also unique when compared to other VNs. It boils down to checking e-mails on your phone and either replying to them or ignoring them, deciding which keyword to use when replying, and answering or ignoring calls you get. There are no typical dialogue options, but I feel that this way is better than most dialogue-based choices; since even an inaction (i.e. ignoring a call or a mail) is treated as a form of choice, it adds a deeper feeling of significance to your every decision and oversight. After the first ending is unlocked, all subsequent playthroughs will provide the player a clue when they can do something with their phone that they may have missed before. The VN doesn’t explicitly explain this mechanic, but it’s pretty hard to miss.
Managing to be both a great lighthearted slice-of-life and an intense techno thriller, Steins;Gate is an experience that I would suggest to almost everyone. If you can’t handle an eccentric protagonist or can’t be bothered with the complexities of time-travel physics and political intrigue, then you may want to steer clear of this, but for most others I would happily recommend it. It’s available on Steam for $30 USD and worth every penny if you can afford it, but I especially recommend snagging it during a sale.
- Great Story
- Developed, well-written characters
- Exciting techno thriller
- Somehow a fun slice-of-life as well
- Soundtrack is great, especially the song from the OP
- Voice acting is well done overall
- Amazing and unique visuals
- A unique spin on time travel
- Some rare and not very noticeable voice acting hiccups
Faris gives Steins;Gate a Drastik Measure 9.4 out of 10 (94).