Otaku USA Magazine
[Review] Steins;Gate

Hououin Kyouma is a self-described mad scientist who leads the Future Gadget Labora-tory in a conquest for world domination! But you can usually find the scientists either playing cards at the nearest maid café or trying not to piss off their landlord running the television shop below them. They discover that their newest invention—a microwave designed to operate remotely with a cell phone—has an unintended use: time travel.

The writing and story of Steins;Gate is among the best I’ve seen in a long time, especially when it comes to its characters. As the game progresses we see a growing group of friends tied together by Kyouma and his fantasies about legendary swords and secret agents. It’s a really interesting dynamic between the characters because, for whatever reason, most of the lab members are entranced with Kyouma’s personality and his imagination.

This is a localization and port of the original Steins;Gate visual novel. The story in the game and the story in the 2011 anime of the same name are very similar. It doesn’t matter too much whether you choose to play the game or watch the anime first or even just choose one. It is worth mentioning, though, that the game shows the inner thoughts of Kyouma much more frequently, so it gives us a slightly deeper understanding of his personality. There are also multiple endings that stem from the decisions you make during the game.

Steins;Gate is a pretty heavy read as far as visual novels go. There’s a lot of dialogue about scientific concepts and speculation, both real life and fictional. People who are really big fans of science fiction may find this appealing, but those who aren’t that fond of the genre might be put off by it. Fortunately, the game features a very detailed glossary where you can look up key terms with the push of one button as they come up in the text.

The localization was done very well, especially when considering that scientific and technical terms aren’t exactly the easiest thing to translate between languages. What really stands out is the writing for the parts where Kyouma browses @channel, the game universe’s version of 2channel (Japan’s predecessor to 4chan). It really felt like an authentic recreation of those sites.

Steins;Gate has an interesting mechanic that fits in very well with the story. The method of time travel (at least at first) is the ability to send emails back in time, which makes Kyouma’s cell phone a very important part of the story. Throughout the game you use the cell phone mainly to send and receive messages to and from other characters. I like the concept, but most of the time it feels incomplete. Often it just feels like conversations don’t really reach their conclusion. I’ve seen this type of messaging system done much, much better in the original .hack games for PS2.

There’s good news and bad news for the audio. The good news is that the game is fully voice-acted, even going as far as to animate the characters’ mouths to match the dialogue. The bad news is that the audio is only in Japanese. Overall, this isn’t a big deal. I only bring it up because there are some who may have been looking forward to playing the game while listening to the anime’s English voice cast. Also, the game has an option to remove the dialogue text from the screen and play by just listening to the voice cast. So unless you can speak Japanese, that’s a little feature that you’ll miss out on.

For heavy science fiction fans, Steins;Gate is something that must be experienced. If you’re already a big fan of the anime, it’s worth looking at for the alternative endings, deeper characterization and heavy scientific talk.

Publisher: PQube
Developer: IMAGES
System(s): PlayStation 3, PS Vita
Available: Now
Rating: M

This article appears in Otaku USA‘s February 2016 issue, available on newsstands till January 25th, or via our online store. It’s got features on Fullmetal Alchemist, Persona 4: The Golden Animation, and Sword Art Online II and more coverage of manga, TV games, and cosplay. Click here to buy it online!