Any anime fan worth his/her salt has come across Steins;Gate at some point. The theme of time travel consequences piques your curiosity immediately, whilst the events that unfold drag you through an emotional journey that you weren’t expecting. You show me someone who says they did not enjoy it, and I’ll show you a liar.
Mind you, if you thought the anime was good, you should absolutely check out the Visual Novel. Unless you’re a stubborn individual who refuses to admit the source material is better. That’s right tanteikid94, I’m looking at you…
Since there is no review yet, for which you can blame tanteikid94, who should be ashamed of himself (All in jest of course, no hate here), I’ll give you all the lowdown. Imagine if you discover a time machine. What would you do with it? would you want to know more, or would you leave it alone? Steins;Gate features the adventure of Okabe Rintaro (AKA Mad Scientist Hououin Kyouma) after he witnesses the murder of Makise Kurisu, an intelligent redhead at the top of her field. Helping him throughout his discoveries are best friends Shiina Mayuri ( AKA Mayushii∗. Yes, the star is actually how she spells it, TUTTURU!), a sweet yet ditzy young girl who has been friends with Okabe since childhood, and Hashida Itaru ( AKA Daru, AKA Super Hax0r), a harcore otaku and a classmate of Okabe’s, only having known him for a few years. The plot begins to thicken the moment he witnesses the murder, but he has no idea what he has gotten himself in to, and who might be watching…
First comes the obvious. With it not being constrained by a set number of 23 minute episodes, the content is much more immersive. In fact, if you’ve only watched the anime, you’ve barely seen anything. The scientific explanations are much clearer, including those that were not featured in the anime at all, offering a much wider understanding of the events which, for me at least, helps to enjoy it even more. Many of the other events that were not featured in the anime adaptation expand the story immensely and, in some cases, shed light on direction of events and some character backstories.
Keeping with the theme of what sets it apart from the anime is the multiple endings. This idea isn’t even approached in the anime at all, you just take his decisions as they are and watch what happens next. The visual novel puts you in control of those major plot moments. For instance not jumping through time reverse changes caused by a certain someone (trying to keep things spoiler free here) where he otherwise would have done in the anime results in a different path altogether. Although the anime does go through the “true ending,” you have to pay very close attention to actually reach it in the visual novel, and there are at least 5 other scenarios. That’s just the plot changers, there are many other minor opportunities to change the story, such as going back to watch things from another perspective, or not talking to certain characters when you should have, or even by doing nothing. You get complete control that the anime simply could not offer.
A clever feature is the full dictionary of jargon, scientific or otherwise, that are clearly defined for the player once unlocked. This really helps for scientific understanding as well as educating oneself on certain abbreviations, fictional adaptations (the obvious copyright backdoors, we all know the ones…) and aspects to Akiba culture that many players would be otherwise unfamiliar with. Anything you don’t understand is explained clearly at the press of one button. I know other visual novels often feature something like this, but never has it been more thorough or more necessary. Plus, like everything else, it stays unlocked when you start another play through. An excellent addition for something as scientific as Steins;Gate.
One of my favourite features is the use of Okabe’s phone. In addition to using it to trigger certain events, you also have the option to interact with the other characters when they email you. It gives you a glimpse of some of the character relationships that are otherwise glazed over as well as giving some control over the direction of the narrative. What made me laugh is how annoying being spammed by a certain someone actually is (If you’ve watched it, you’ll know. If you haven’t watched it, go watch it). To add a more personal touch, you are given a choice of ringtones and wallpapers to customise the device, with more being unlocked as you play, provided you trigger the right scenes.
I, personally, loved the soundtrack for this game. A lot of which you’ll recognise from the anime. They summed up the atmosphere of each event perfectly and beautifully. There is even a music gallery mode that lets you listen to your favourite pieces outside of the actual gameplay. Also accessible in this way is the dictionary, as mentioned before, and a picture gallery, showing all of the CGs that you unlocked during your play. good for reflecting on some of those more touching scenes, plus, it provides something for the completionists to complete.
All in all, a fantastic experience for all anime, visual novel and science fiction fans alike. I would very highly recommend this to everyone who watched and enjoyed the anime. Even for stubborn people, like tanteikid94 (no, I will not let this go! =P )
At the end of the day, your choice of whether or not to invest in this visual novel was never a choice at all. Your decisions are and forever will be the will of Steins Gate….
EL. PSY. KONGROO.