The time has finally come. After being released nearly a year ago in Japan, Steins Gate 0 has finally been released in the West. Personally the wait has not been that big of a deal as I only finished Steins;Gate last month but I understand why people are glad the wait is over.
Do not be fooled by the “zero” in Steins Gate 0. This is not a prequel to the original Steins Gate. In fact it is a direct sequel to one of the many ending that you would have experienced whilst playing it. I assume that you are here because you have already played Steins Gate and if you have not, please go and play it (once you have finished here of course). It a fantastic science fiction visual novel and this continues into the sequel.
Visual novels are always difficult to review as you need to discuss enough for the reader to make their own opinion on the game but not too much that it will ruin the story. Let me give it a go.
Steins Gate 0 is set in an alternative ending of Steins Gate. It takes place in the Beta worldline where Rintaro fails in saving Kurisu. The story follows Rinataro struggling with this loss with him attempting to forget the events from the previous game. With all stories like this there is always something that will pull the main character back into what they are trying to escape. In this story that is Maho. A young assistant to Dr Leskinen who have been working on a program called Amadeus. This program will allow the user to copy a person’s brain to digital format then place it into an artificial intelligence avatar. Futuristic technology indeed but as I have mentioned, Rinataro is trying to escape his past so it comes as shock to him when he finds out that Maho had created a copy of Kurisu before she died. The worst part being that the “back up” of Kurisu was taken before she even knew Rinataro. This is not the best way to forget the past. As with any visual novel, expect multiple endings that will involve twists and turns that will shock even the most veteran player.
The visuals of Steins Gate 0 are what you would expect from any visual novel. The whole game is presented in an anime style with very minimal animation. The most you will get from the on screen characters in for them to change direction, changing in facial expressions and lip movement. Characters will “fly” in from selected sides to emulate movement where as aggressive scene movement (such as large physical forces) are displayed through the shaking of the scene. I have played through a few visual novels and it amazes me how much emotion can be portrayed through this visual style.
Aside from this, the character models are very well drawn with some very detailed backdrops in place. Even though it is displayed in a flat world, Steins Gate 0 manages to suck you in with some well-placed scenes and detail. I myself played the previous instalment on the Playstation Vita and thought it looked excellent there. I will admit I was worried to play it on the big screen but nothing has been lost visually.
The game is available with English subtitles with a full Japanese voice cast – the only English you hear is from an English scientist who is over spoken by a Japanese translator. This was a very surreal experience hearing you own language being translated in game.
Takeshi Abo returned to compose the music for Steins Gate 0 with the intention for it to flow with what is going on during the story. Each character has their own personal theme with certain scenes and events having their own too. Before you even start reading what is upon the screen, you will know whether it is happy, sad and dangerous by what music is being played. An excellent job was done of this as the only time you truly notice the music is when the game falls silence. This will only happen during a very important scene and this moment of silence really grabs your attention as you notice something missing. This is a sign of well composed music. Again, like the visuals, it has a huge impact on how the player should be feeling.
With this being a visual novel do not expect a lot from the game play however in reality this is not why you are here in the first place.
You will spend a lot of your time reading the in game text but just like the game before, Steins Gate 0 offers the players various choices along the way which will have a direct effect upon the outcome. Unlike the phone triggers from the previous game, these decisions happen through RINE triggers. This is where you can use the “RINE App” on your phone to send messages in real time with the characters of the game. As you are part of a test study for the Amadeus, you can communicate with Kurisu through another app on your phone.
Steins Gate 0 is made up of fourteen sections that twist together towards one of six endings with the final one being the “True Ending”. Just like before certain sections are actual endings to the game (credits will role) so if you are planning on seeing it all, expect a few play troughs (or some clever manual save points).
A worry for the team was that the localisation would remove the rich Japanese culture from the game but this is not apparent. Steins Gate 0 is overflowing with Japanese culture. At some points I was glad of the in game tips as I did not understand certain words or phrases that were being used.
Visual Novels are not forever one but do a great job at getting a story across. With the freedom of choice it also gives the sense of the reader being able to change a story whilst they are “reading” it. For many gamers, the points I have raised regarding gameplay and visuals will seem as negative but for this style of game they are a must and visual novels very rarely move away from them. The only mechanic added in some is the ability to solve puzzles thus adding more gameplay to what some would consider a game without any actual gameplay.
Steins Gate 0 can be played if you have not played the previous title as it is just an expansion upon one of the alternative endings. Key facts are explained to you at the start but I would highly recommend playing Steins Gate first before even looking at this one. It is not just for the story but rather the character development. You will become attached to the characters and when events happen to them you will feel for them, whether it is good or bad.
However though, if you have played the original, then you will instantly fall in love with this entry as it contains a rich story with very well developed characters.
Steins Gate 0 - 9/10
Who Should Buy This
- Steins; Gate Fans
- Anyone looking for a well written visual novel
- Readers who enjoy watching characters grow over time
Who Should Avoid
- Players who want actual gameplay over story
- Anyone who cannot stand a lot of reading
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