A visual novel, it’s hard to describe what you do in Steins;Gate as gameplay. There are moments where you get to reply to certain people through text messages, but other than that you’re along for the ride. And what a ride it is.
Playing as Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed mad scientist, Okabe accidentally develops a way of sending text messages back in time. Sending these messages in turn means being able to change the past. And while the world changes around him, Okabe is the only one who remembers sending the messages and remembers the world before it changed.
Time travel is a tricky thing to get right. As I’ve recently come off Life is Strange, as enjoyable as I’m finding that game, it plays very loose with its time travel laws. Steins;Gate is the opposite. So much thought appears to have gone into the way time travel works that it’s a little mind melting.
Okay, if you showed the story to an actual scientist then it may fall apart quite spectacularly, but to the average Joe it feels believable. Conversations are filled with talks of various time travel methods, worm holes, paradoxes and the like. The excellent dialogue plays a huge part in this also, the translation team definitely did a fantastic job. Even SERN and the Large Hadron Collider play an integral part in the story.
And what a story it is. As already said, the only interaction the player has is with text messages. When Okabe receives a message he’s able to pull up his phone and select specifically highlighted words, these words acting as a trigger to send a reply. More than a throwaway thing, what you say in each message does play a part in the story, as it alters the course with six different endings. However, from what I’ve discovered it seems impossible to find your way to the True Ending without looking it up in a guide. Or being incredibly, incredibly lucky.
If there’s one complaint I have with the story is that it can sometimes have a few pacing issues. There are moments during the tech heavy discussion that you just want the main story to progress, but instead there’s a lot of standing around and discussing everything from time paradoxes to cosplay.
But making this more forgivable is that the majority of characters are just so enjoyable to be around. Okabe’s sidekick Daru could be considered a loveable perv, then there’s fellow scientist Kurisu who refuses to put up with Okabe’s nonsense. This may seem blasphemous to people who’ve played the game, but the only character who started to grate was Mayuri. The rather dumb friend of Okabe, her incredible stupidity may seem like gleeful innocence to most, but it was a little too much for me to take. But maybe that’s just because I have a cold, dead heart.
As a game that is purely story it’s hard to go into too much detail, but oh boy, does it go some wonderful and, at times, dark places. It will have you hooked till its conclusion (and then you’ll play it again to get another ending!).
Steins;Gate then is yet another great game to arrive on the sadly unloved Vita. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you’re craving a deep story and interesting characters you won’t find much better.