Review: Steins;Gate (PlayStation Vita)
- Release Date (EU): June 5, 2015
- Release Date (JP): March 14, 2013
- Publisher: PQube
- Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus
- Genres: Visual Novel
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
- Also For: Computer
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Steins;Gate is a visual novel that deals with the principles of time, or more specifically, time travel. The game focuses a lot on the concept of cause and effect, as the protagonist alters numerous things in the past to alter the future.
The story of Steins;Gate
First, I'd like to note that the review does contain a few early spoilers, as it's quite impossible to review this game without them. That being said, I will not be spoiling anything beyond chapter 3, which is still very early in the game.
The story starts out with Okabe Rintaro heading towards a conference, where a certain scientist claims to have built a time machine. However something happens at this conference and he soon finds that a girl has been killed in the same building. As he leaves the building, he decides to mail a friend about what just happened and he suddenly witnesses something. Everyone around him had suddenly disappears before his eyes. When he gets home, he finds out that the message had arrived a week earlier, and the mail had disappeared from his outbox. Rintaro deduces shortly after that the Phonewave (name subject to change) he had been developing with his friend was actually a time machine capable of sending text messages to the past. Rintaro starts to experiment with these "D-mails" and the Phonewave (name subject to change), which begins to cause major alterations in the timeline that only he seems to remember.
Without heading further into spoiler territory, while the game features time travel, which is already a heavy subject by itself, it manages to establish it's own rules on the matter quite well and explains them in a timely manner, so that you are never kept in the dark for too long.
The mad scientist, Hououin Kyouma, and his assistants
Players take on the role of Okabe Rintaro, an 18 year old man who calls himself a "mad scientist". He seems to live in his own world a lot of the time, and is often seen as delusional, talking about "the organization" that's after him on a phone that's switched off. He also has a catchphrase, "El Psy Kongroo", which he notes as "Words that have no meaning. Words he uses because they sound cool." He prefers to be called by his alias, Hououin Kyouma, and often introduces himself with this name. His friends call him "Okarin", which annoys him. He is the founder of his "Future Gadget Laboratory". As he experiments with time travel, he learns that he possesses a power no one else seems to have.
Mayuri is Rintaro's childhood friend, and calls herself "Mayushii" and is a bit of an airhead. She seems to be the best at dealing with Rintaro, as she simply does not understand half the things that come out of his mouth.
Itaru, or Daru, is an experienced hacker. As the protagonist's best friend, he is also somewhat of a pervert and often asks Mayuri to repeat suggestive sentences.
Kurisu is known to be a genius girl. She was born in Japan, but has lived in America for several years. I'd say more but she delves into spoiler territory quite easily.
There are also several important characters who are less prominent, such as Moeka, Lukako and Faris. These characters all have their character-specific traits as well.
Everything is the choice of Steins;Gate, except when your phone is involved
Steins;Gate has little to no gameplay. You'll be reading text for 99% of the game, as is the case with most visual novels. A lot of the actual gameplay in this is done through a phone, where you'll be responding to mails. Most of these mails are not important, as you can actually skip reading most of them, although sometimes the game forces you to reply. Replying to them, however, may trigger unlockables and different ending paths. In each mail you can reply to, there will be one or more words underlined and highlighted in blue. Selecting one of these will trigger a reply from Rintaro. The selected word will be used as a basis for the reply, so you get some idea as to what Rintaro will reply. I did have some minor issues, though, specifically with replying to mails. Rintaro is still himself on the phone, so he's still wildly unpredictable. As a result, I've often sent reply mails that contained something completely different from what I was expecting, and you can't cancel out of the mail if you don't like the contents either. The game also doesn't tell you the significance of these mails, and I found out quite a while later, when some choices I had made using this system were already permanent. Thankfully, you can always load to an older save, so if you feel like you've messed up, you can always load an older save and skip back to where you were.
The world through the eyes of a mad scientist
The visuals in this game are quite appealing, though nearly always static. An exception to this is whenever the timeline changes, an animation plays showing a number that tells you just how much has changed. Everything else is static, as is standard fare with visual novels. I count this as a good thing, as you don't want the unnecessary distractions while you're reading. The visuals, if you do decide to look at them instead of the text, are all quite appealing and represent some real-life locations.
Music and maniacal laughter
In terms of sound, this game is quite barren. There is no English dub, which made it less interesting to listen to the voice acting, simply because I don't have an idea what they're saying. I do, however, have to mention that whenever Okabe Rintaro laughs, I turn up the music as it's very charming. The music in this game isn't very memorable either, as no tracks are particularly good or bad. In fact, I can't even remember how much the music plays, despite me playing the game this very morning. But at the very least, that means the game doesn't contain horrible music or atrocious sound effects, which is still a good thing. It's just not a game to remember for it's good music.
and yet the music ends up sounding really good outside of the actual game.
No one knows what the future holds. That's why its potential is infinite.
As is the case with other visual novels, and where visual novels truly differ from their non-visual counterparts, this game features multiple endings. The story is mostly static with a few different endings, so that your choices early in the game do not affect the story too much while your latter choices may instantly grant you a different ending. There is one specific "True" ending however, and your choices for this ending matter as early as chapter 4. This ending is very tough to get as a result. As the game features a cast with many female characters, the endings revolve around these characters. If you don't like these types of endings, consider yourself warned.
The choice of Stein's Gate: should you get this game?
Steins;Gate was certainly a fun read, and has opened my eyes to visual novels once more. Apart from the one gripe I have on the mail system, the game plays really well, and how can it not? The PSVita is a wonderful system for these types of games, and I hope to see more games like this on it. I can definitely recommend anyone interested in the game through this review to get it; you will not be disappointed. Then again, buying this game is not your choice.
Everything is the choice of Stein's Gate. El Psy Kongroo.
+ Good story, told really well
+ Establishes it's rules on time travel early on
+ Multiple endings
- Music isn't anything special
- Getting the true ending is quite a lot of effort, and you get very few hints
While music is normally a big factor when I decide the score for presentation, today I overlook this because everything else presented is simply superb. The visuals in this game are very nice, and the story is told really well. In the end, this is still a visual novel, and not an audio book.
As said before, there is very little gameplay involved in this game. The moments of gameplay you do have are vague, and it takes quite a bit of effort on the part of the player to understand what these choices do, often realising them when it's too late, when you can no longer revert this decision except by loading a savegame.
With 6 endings and plenty of achievements to get, I'd say the replay value on this is as good as it gets on a visual novel. It's already quite a long story, spanning 10 chapters that each take atleast 2 or 3 hours when rushing it, and having multiple endings encourages future replays.
out of 10
(not an average)
Steins;Gate is a good game. It's hard not to like a story that establishes itself so well. If you like visual novels, time travel stories or even just reading books, I highly encourage you to get this game. I found myself enjoying every last second of it.