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Genre: Adventure, Sci-fi, Thriller
Developer: 5pb. Games
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Edited by CrimsonMomongaSSS
Steins;Gate 0 is a 2015 sequel (well, midquel. Interquel? Whatever.) to the original Steins;Gate visual novel from 2009. It expands upon the True Ending of the original by delving into the unexplored events that led to the True Ending. Thankfully, it is in no way inferior to the original story, as many sequels are wont to be.
This story revolves around Okabe Rintaro, the protagonist of the first VN, in a branching timeline where he gives up on saving Kurisu. Devastated by his experiences with time travel, we follow this former mad scientist as he tries to move on but is ultimately drawn into the fray once more. Time travel is still a key part of the plot, but another sci-fi subgenre is brought into the mix as well: Artificial Intelligence.
The gameplay consists of, again, making choices by deciding whether or not to answer certain phone calls, but it’s somewhat simplified this time around. The most obvious difference is that now the player uses a smartphone with a touchscreen instead of the basic mobile phone from the original, and there’s a cool new app for direct messaging other characters. Sadly, these messages are rather pointless in terms of making choices; how you reply to them, or even whether you reply at all, doesn’t affect the story. The story only changes based on your interactions with a single app. That new app is Amadeus, an AI recreation of Kurisu developed using her memories and technology oddly similar to the original story’s Time Leap machine. Despite this seeming limitation, the choices you make are more impactful in this game than in the original. Whereas the original only had one real route that could cut off early in specific character-endings, here there are two main diverging narratives the player can enter very early in the game.
The game has great writing, just like the original. There are some typos that are slightly more noticeable this time around, but nothing too egregious. The dialogue is great, and the usage of NVL for narration during perspective shifts from Okabe to another character is a nice way of managing multiple POVs while retaining the sense that Okabe is the main character.
Speaking of characters, the main cast of the original game makes a solid comeback with some new additions. The most notable is Maho, the character who serves as a stand-in for the original’s Makise Kurisu. Despite being a stand-in, Maho is more than just a cookie-cutter copy of Kurusu; she’s a well-made and fleshed-out character in her own right. Aside from Maho, we are also introduced to some of Mayuri’s cosplay friends who turn out to be pretty important to the story in their own way. Impressively, they all have enjoyable and fun personalities of their own; nobody is there just as a tool to progress the story.
Since most of the characters are straight from the original, there isn’t really anything new to note about the voice acting; it’s on par with the original, which is to say that it’s pretty darn good. The newcomers do a great job as well. In a similar vein, the soundtrack is largely the same as the original but with some additions that are, again, on par with the original. Overall, the audio is of the same high quality; there’s just more of it.
The visuals are also stylized as in the original game, but while the backgrounds, old and new, are pretty great, the character designs feel a bit lacking. The game takes place during the colder months of the year, so it makes sense that the sprites wouldn’t still be in their summer wear, but the new designs just don’t seem to quite match the characters we’ve gotten to know and understand. That being said, this disconnect could just be the result of past experience with the characters clashing with the reality of the new timeline. Since the new characters don’t have any expectations tied to them, they look perfectly fine to me. One thing about the visuals I do like is the new UI: the basic dialogue window looks grimy and has an aesthetic of rusted metal, and the same theme is evident in all the other parts of the UI, including the screens. It looks really cool and gives an indication of the type of story to expect going in.
The version I played was the recently released Steam version. It retails for $34.99 USD, and I have no issue with that price given the quality of the Visual Novel, especially if you are a fan of the original. On the other hand, it might be worth waiting for it to go on sale if you’re not a fan of the focus shifting slightly to artificial intelligence or if you’re just not a fan of Visual Novels in general.
- Voice acting is as good as the original
- Soundtrack is also just as good
- Writing is high quality with a cool story
- The UI is great
- Some noticeable typos in the translation
- Character sprites of returning characters lack the original flair and energy
Mileage May Vary:
- The focus has shifted somewhat from time travel to AI
Faris gives Steins;Gate 0 a Drastik Measure of 9.5 out of 10 (95).