Steins; Gate explores time travel in a new way. We have all heard of the butterfly theory where you alter one small detail in the past and it drastically alters the future. Many movies and TV shows have explored this theory. In Steins; Gate it all starts with a single text message. One single text message drastically alters the future. Now it is up to Rintarou Okabe to figure out the complex rules of time travel and set things right. It is no wonder that the visual novel inspired a 24-episode anime, a film and a few spin-offs.
As the player you assume the role of Rintarou Okabe. He is a college student and self-proclaimed mad scientist. His friends Daru and Mayuri call him Okarin. When you first start the game off Okabe is on his way to a press conference with Mayuri. He runs into a girl named Kurisu Makise who is a young genius. She had her research published at the age of 18. She claims that she met him and that he was trying to tell her something. He doesn’t remember this at all and thinks it is just a trick of the organization. A satellite crashes onto the rooftop of the building where the press conference is at. Okabe sees something he wish he hadn’t
He sends a text message to his friend to tell him what had happened. Okabe has no idea what had just happened or what is going on. Everyone he talks to about it thinks he is crazy or just delusional. The only proof he has is the text message he sent. Okabe figures out that the message he sent arrived a week before he sent it. Okabe and his friends figure out that the Mobile Microwave in the lab is a time machine. The twist is that the time machine they created by accident doesn’t send people back in time but texts. Okabe’s goal throughout the game is to keep all his friends alive and not drastically alter time for everyone. He soon finds out that this is pretty much impossible.
Right off the bat we see some action and things get interesting. Sadly that is all the action we get for the first quarter of the game. Okabe spends the majority of the first act of the game figuring out time travel. If you aren’t paying attention during the first half you will get confused about what is going on. Different forms of time travel are introduced later one. Each one has its own set of rules. Let’s just say that time travel in Steins; Gate gets really complicated real quick. You will also be introduced to various multiverse theories, and parallel universes. If patience isn’t your virtue you may want to skip to the anime. All the extensive time travel info fits better in the anime.
Okabe’s cell phone plays a large part in the game. As the player you get to interact with his cell phone a lot to read various incoming mails that are important to the story. In the top left corner of the screen you will get notified of incoming messages. This is refreshing when in most visual novels players don’t get a lot of interaction. In Steins; Gate you aren’t bored staring at the same background over and over. The backgrounds, and graphics are also a refreshing change from typical visual novels. I really loved how Steins; Gate tried to push the boundaries a bit by creating some depth in the scenes. Usually most players in a visual novel just get a flat boring background.
There were a few backgrounds that stood out to me that displayed depth. The first was where the satellite fell on the roof.When Okabe first gets to the roof to check things out you see these pretty floating red sparkles. They were done in such a way that you actually get the impression that they are floating in a 3D setting. The visuals in Steins; Gate have a unique style different from most in the genre. Instead of everything having a super sleek look the visuals have a water-colored real life look. For example Okabe’s phone looks like it was taken out of real life and put into the game.
Player choices are also different in Steins; Gate. The choices you make do not change the entire story of the game. Instead the choices you make on the phone trigger system affect the ending you get. There are about 6 different alternate endings. The sound is pretty good in the game. The voice acting is well done and match the character personas. There is quite a bit of music in the game and the opening theme song is pretty good. The controls are straightforward. You just click or hit enter to progress the story. To activate the phone press the C button on your keyboard. Fans will want to replay it over and over in order to see the different alternate endings. That is something you will not get from the anime or movie.
Steins; Gate is not exactly a light happy story. Okabe puts himself through a lot in order to save his friends. It’s either see his friends die over and over or steal their happiness for his. The story can be taxing because of this. All the science fiction technobabble can be rather confusing as well. It definitely takes patience to get through the first act of the game in order to get to the good stuff. If you are a time travel fan, have patience, and like a good deep story Steins; Gate is right up your alley. Steins; Gate isn’t for everyone and I think only appeals to certain people.
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