Review: Steins;Gate 0 (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): November 29, 2016
- Release Date (EU): November 25, 2016
- Release Date (JP): December 10, 2015
- Publisher: PQube
- Developer: 5pb.
- Genres: Visual Novel
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
- Also For: Computer, PlayStation Vita
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
As a precaution, those who have not played the original Steins;Gate visual novel should turn back now. Describing the events and contents of 0 requires divulging at least some minor spoilers for the first game. Those who have watched the anime or completed the true ending for Steins;Gate can continue on without worry as there will be no major spoilers for Steins;Gate 0.
Starting from Zero
Steins;Gate is a sci-fi time travel visual novel, which tells the story of a group of friends as they discover how to send messages through time, and later, uncover a massive conspiracy set to take place in the future, while also dealing with the mental turmoil of continually repeating the same events over and over again. In the “True Ending” of the game, main character Rintaro Okabe manages to keep the world from plunging into disaster and reaches the Steins Gate world-line, where everything turns out alright. Steins;Gate 0, however, takes place in the timeline where Okabe is too mentally scarred to continue time travelling, and gives up, causing the events of World War 3 to occur within less than a decade. Needless to say, the story is much darker here than before.
Zero’s plot is loosely based upon the Epigraph Trilogy of books, using its characters and initial story, though it quickly diverges from the novels. The game starts off immediately after Okabe’s failed trip to save Kurisu, as he ascertains that manipulating time something that cannot be done, and that he’s finished with being tormented by trying to achieve the impossible. The tone of absolute despair is emotional and gripping; returning fans know the outcome of the story already, as this is a midquel of sorts, but the journey and trials that all the characters have to endure will engross readers and make them want to see just what happens throughout the story.
Despite being complex, as is the nature of most time travel tales, Steins;Gate 0 manages to keep its narrative from contradicting itself, while also setting a good storytelling pace that ensures players will stay interested in what’s going on. The light-hearted segues between more dramatic moments are a nice way of relieving the tension, but it never lets you forget the overarching story and the looming threat of World War 3.
Okabe’s conflict between having knowledge of past timelines that haven’t occurred and don’t match up with reality, and trying to live with the guilt of his actions is heart-wrenching to read, and allows for some really great moments of character-building. A big part of the game is Okabe discarding his chuunibyou persona and dealing with legitimate depression, which is pretty heavy stuff.
The story also introduces plenty of new and interesting characters, who for the most part, play off of Okabe’s personality really well. They all have unique motivations and defining characteristics, which adds to an already lovable cast even further. It’s easy to get invested with all of the individuals involved, and you really want to root for them through the despair. The story doesn’t take place entirely through Okabe’s point of view this time, letting you see the world from the point of view of others, which really helps to explain certain elements, as well as giving well-needed insight to some of the other cast. Daru and Suzuha’s father-daughter bonding moments together are a prime example of this.
Much like the first game, your phone is paramount to determining how the story will turn out. Zero offers five different endings, not including the final “True Ending”, which can only be obtained if you finished the game previously with two of the other specific endings. Choosing who to talk to and who to ignore will affect which of the six paths you will end up on. With the introduction of the new RINE app, texting is now easier, and you no longer have to constantly monitor for new messages, as simply responding to someone will play out that entire discussion line. Additionally, there is the Amadeus System which lets Okabe talk to the Makise Kurisu A.I., which can influence the ending, too. Zero’s plot also delves a little into the morality of humans creating “life” that can think and feel on its own, which is quite an interesting subject. It’s never blatant as to which things you need to do in order to get a specific route, though, so using a spoiler-free guide is recommended.
Most of the lines of dialogue are spoken, and while there is no English dub option available, the Japanese voice cast does an outstanding job. Mamoru Miyano, Okabe’s voice actor, is wonderful at conveying strong emotion with his performance. The rest of the actors from Steins;Gate reprise their characters once more, and they all do well in their respective roles. Series illustrator Huke returns as well, bringing the visual novel to life with his artwork. The game looks fantastic from a visual standpoint, with smooth character animations and both vibrant, striking backgrounds and dark, foreboding scenery. The soundtrack has some impressive pieces, such as the title song “Amadeus” by familiar singer Itou Kanako, and I would be remiss in not mentioning the vocal remix of “Gate of Steiner”, the series’ main theme. The new ambient background pieces are nice and fit the mood well, especially “Believe me - zero-”.
PQube has done a good job in terms of localization. I was a bit wary of how it would turn out, but I never noticed any glaring errors with their writing.
There are plenty of plot twists and surprising moments to be had in Steins;Gate 0, and while I can’t say that I enjoyed this more than Steins;Gate, Steins;Gate 0 still does a fantastic job of bridging together what occurs between the years from the beta timeline up until World War 3’s events, while telling a strong narrative that is much darker in comparison to the first game.
+ Engaging story
+ Interesting characters
+ Solid pacing
- Reused art from Steins;Gate can look slightly awkward when onscreen next to 0's new artwork
Everything about Steins;Gate 0's presentation is top notch. It has beautiful character illustrations, a fantastic story, and a fitting soundtrack. The text is easy on the eyes and pleasant to read.
The slight changes to the gameplay, such as the new RINE cell phone system, are welcome improvements to the established formula. The 5 possible "routes" that you can get are all very interesting and help tell a more cohesive and intertwined story overall, compared to the previous game. It's a visual novel, so there's not much gameplay to be had, but the story and choices are what matter here, and the game implements that well.
With the game requiring you to play it enough times to get all six endings, you'll have a lot of text to go through. While players will go through the story at differing speeds, there is definitely enough content here to justify a purchase.
out of 10
(not an average)
While it doesn't outclass its predecessor, Steins;Gate 0 is an excellent game, and a is a worthy addition to one of the best visual novel series ever written.