I’m sure that by now, everyone is aware of the Steins;Gate TV series; even myself who up until the last few months wasn’t an Anime fan as such. I have made my opinions well known in other reviews about scantily clad women or to be more clear, teenage girls but at the same time, I am growing to love these games for what they really are and that is as an art form. All that being said, it was nice to load up a game where the characters are fully clothed and I could sit back and enjoy what turned out to be a great storyline.
Steins;Gate Elite [SGE] is a visual novel remake of the original Steins;Gate game, but this time also involves artwork from the TV series. Now, if you want the streamlined version of the story, watch the TV series. Not only is it shorter than the game, it is also voiced in English on Netflix at the moment. That being said, there is something to watching a Japanese Anime in its native tongue and following the English subtitles that makes it feel much more authentic.
The original Steins;Gate was the second game in the series Science Adventure (yes, really, “Science Adventure”). The first was called Chaos;Head and dealt with people who can alter reality while SG focuses on time travel. In total there have been six main titles thus far which are all pretty serious visual novels (Steins;Gate 0 was the fifth). There have been a few spin-off titles which are decidedly more goofy however.
The series initialled launched on Windows in 2008 and the original SG was released in 2009 for Xbox 360, later being ported to Windows in 2010 and PSP in 2011. The following 2 years saw it hit the PS3 and Vita in that order. Though there have been various development teams over the years, 5pb.’s CEO Chiyomaru Shikura has cited Back to the Future II as a direct influence on Steins;Gate, saying it was “just believable enough to feel real.”
SG is very similar to the Zero Escape franchise which is a visual novel about time travel and the multiverse, however Zero Escape is a lot more focussed on puzzle-solving elements. Each game has multiple endings but they all come together to tie into the main story and that’s exactly how SGE plays out even if you don’t initially realise you’re doing it.
Okabe Rintaro is our hero who fancies himself as a kind of “mad scientist” and often talks about a sinister force that he refers to as The Organization and how he wants to stop them. He is a geek who pretends to have conversations on his phone with an empty dial tone. It does get a little annoying after a while, but it’s part of the story even when he’s talking about stupid conspiracy theories and giving them code names that don’t mean anything other than vague references to Norse Mythology.
With the help of his misfit group of lab members, he accidentally discovers a way to travel into the past by connecting his mobile phone to a microwave.
The gameplay within SGE is extremely minimal as its a visual novel, but does take place with the use of your phone. You will receive emails throughout the course of the story and it is down to you to select the replies given. It all seems very boring, but the more you play the game, the more these little decisions will shape the storyline and you don’t even realise that you’re doing it. SGE uses the same phone system as the original game, but this time round the phone will pop up rather than you having to answer it yourself. At first it is just basic replies to emails as I say but later in the game there are some major pivotal points where you need to choose whether or not to send a message to the past. In the same way that Zero Escape uses multiple endings based on decisions you make throughout, SGE is the same and is said that the only way you can truly finish the game is to unlock the true ending. There are various bad endings but it is worth going back over the story to try and find the other endings that you miss.
If you’ve never played a visual novel before the game may come across as rather boring, but once you do become immersed in the story, its great fun. Elite uses scenes from the TV series to pad it out. That’s not all though, the PlayStation 4 version includes: STEINS;GATE: Linear Bounded Phenogram which is a HD remake of STEINS;GATE: Linear Bounded Phenogram, a collection of 10 additional stories written by renowned writers, including the Zero Escape series scenario writer, Kotaro Uchikoshi and adds another 30 hours to gameplay via a separately installed game.
Fans of the series may not look at this game as the most definitive, but it is certainly the most accessible and so far (given my feelings on previous Anime titles i have reviewed) it is the best one I have sat through.
Even though its a story about time travel, this takes it to a whole new level over any other games that have used the same idea. Most media that tackle the topic SGE actual makes a legitimate attempt at explaining the science behind it. Using all sorts of theoretical physics as well as real world theories you don’t need to have any knowledge within the field. There is a great little in-game glossary that flags certain parts of text within the story that you can open up and even idiots like myself can understand what the sections of text actually mean. There are well over 100 different things explained from within the story.
Now, I fully admit that so far I haven’t really been a fan of other anime visual novels for my own personal reasons, but I do love SGE. Its on a whole new level from anything else I have ever experienced and thank goodness there is no over the top sexual innuendo like with most other titles that come to consoles. Yes, there is a few times the hero is called a pervert for comments he makes, but its not as ‘in your face’ as anything else I have played and as I have already said, the characters are all fully clothed!
This is a visual novel that you need to get, even if you maybe weren’t quite a fan beforehand. I have found myself wanting to see much more of this on my console from now on after experiencing this title and will be keeping my eyes out for more should they come.
8/10 for this title. Its great, but if you aren’t technically a fan it could feel a little drawn out and the first few hours will send you to sleep before the real action kicks in.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were supplied with a review copy of the game thanks to the PR team. This has in no way swayed my opinion of the game as per our review policy**
P.S. thanks to Jonny for the few tips on this article