hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: Steins;Gate

12:00 PM on 04.16.2014 // Brittany Vincent

The life and times of Hououin Kyouma

Time travel is infinitely more interesting once you leave the trappings of the TARDIS or any one of those familiar (some would say hackneyed) science fiction mainstays behind. Steins;Gate, the visual novel that inspired a 24-episode anime series, film, and several other spinoffs, has woven a masterful tale that explores the trope in a manner not unlike the popular deconstruction of magical girl series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

We're all familiar with the philosophy that altering even the smallest detail from a past event could alter the future drastically, but how much damage could a text message do? Could it destroy the hopes and dreams of everyone you love? How far could you go to make things right again?

Steins;Gate (PC)
Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus 
Publisher: JAST USA
Released: March 31, 2014
MSRP: $29.99

Find out by stepping into the shoes of one Rintarou Okabe, self-proclaimed "mad scientist" and college student who prefers to go by the alias Hououin Kyouma. He's also "Okarin" to his friends, a motley crew of individuals you wouldn't expect to have befriended such a weirdo with the delusions of grandeur Okabe has. Mayuri, his childhood best friend, is so innocent and oblivious to the world around her you wonder what's really going on in her head, while Kurisu the genius girl is abrasive, but Okabe's intellectual equal. Then there's buffoonish hacker Daru, androgynous Luka, and the rest of the cast with their own sets of quirks. 

Rather than simply acting as supporting cast members, each and every one of these characters is fleshed out in a manner that gives them as much life as Okabe, impressing a weight upon your relationship with each and ensuring you feel the gravity of more pressing situations as you progress. When you're faced with difficult decisions regarding your friends' lives later on, it becomes startlingly obvious just how much Steins;Gate has forced you to care about them.

This may seem difficult to do, since interaction in-game is much different than that of other visual novels. In fact, you'll be staring at a cell phone screen most of the time, waiting for your next "D-mail" to arrive. Fittingly, that's short for "DeLorean mail." You'll also be engaged in face-to-face discussion, which could be interrupted by voice calls as well. These events are where you begin traveling down branching paths, hurtling toward one of the multiple endings.

The first half of the game is spent attempting to decipher how time travel actually works, which is admittedly confusing at first, but quite deftly explained via Okabe's hilarious tirades and at times harrowing inner dialogue. This is a man charged with the sole responsibility of noting differences between several diverging timelines. A mistake could mean watching his friends die again and again, and if you don't play your cards right, that's exactly what could happen. 

While you'll have plenty of time to acclimate yourself to the game's Phone Trigger system, you'll also be introduced to other methods of time traveling, as well as multiverse theories and parallel universes that twist and turn into deliciously convoluted territory. It can be tempting to skim through page after page of text (it's a visual novel, so obviously there's a lot) but you'll want to pay close attention, lest you gloss over subtle cues that really tie everything together.

Unfortunately, those same subtleties can be obfuscating for those unfamiliar with internet slang like that used on 4chan, the rules of time travel, or even the fact that the Phone Trigger system replaces branching dialogue options. There's an index to be used as reference if you need help researching specific terms, and there's a decent bit of expository text, but sometimes you're left to your own devices.

It can be understandably overwhelming to anyone having chosen Steins;Gate as their first visual novel experience. In addition, the first 30% percent of the game is a bit plodding compared to the high-octane drama that unfolds during later moments, a pacing issue that could frustrate players too impatient to stick around and see how intense things get.

And things will indeed get intense. Steins;Gate is a taxing game, but it's also quite beautiful, from the talented Japanese voice cast (no English dub, unfortunately) to artist huke's unorthodox visuals. It's an exemplary visual novel with a thrilling premise, memorable characters, and a fantastic "true" ending that may very well move you to tears.

If you've played Saya no Uta (a personal favorite) one time too many, branch out to Steins;Gate and then devour the anime series. Then immerse yourself in time travel literature, because you're definitely going to want to.



Steins;Gate - Reviewed by Brittany Vincent
Charming - Not perfect, but it's easy to ignore the rough spots when faced with so many engaging design decisions and entertaining moments. A memorable game that's hard not to like and recommend to others.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Brittany Vincent, Former Associate Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Tips
Can't play witcha, I been busy workin', baby. Brittany Vincent is an accomplished video game and freelance entertainment writer whose work has been featured in esteemed publications and o... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

ikiryou avatarikiryou
Went to play MGSV, got prompted to download the MGO data; it's not on the PS Store yet. Or maybe it's Kojima-san's way of telling me it's not the real MGO data, but is instead a janitor who once protected me from a puddle of pee and now wears my face.
CJ Andriessen avatarCJ Andriessen
Going grey >>>>>>>>>>> Going bald
Rudorlf avatarRudorlf
Recently watched the Cannon Films documentary, by the director of Not Quite Hollywood. Super entertaining, hilarious, and it almost made me want to watch some of the Cannon films. Almost.
CaimDark Reloaded avatarCaimDark Reloaded
PEOPLE! PEOPLE! PEOPLE! Tomorrow I'm meeting Shade of Light in RL!
able to think avatarable to think
Tip for those who have plasma TVs and are playing MGSV; go into settings and make the weapon icon only appears when you're aiming. I had to buy a new TV because the weapon icon got permanently burned into my plasma.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Any of you cute little butts gonna be at London Comic Con?
Jiraya avatarJiraya
You felt your sins crawling on your back... [youtube][/youtube]
Halflocke avatarHalflocke
what was the first game that used crowd motivated you to contribute ?
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
Mad Max, Critters and some The life and times of Tim to finish the night. T'was a good day.
techsupport avatartechsupport
I was excited to learn one of my favorite Philip K. Dick novels, The Man in the High Castle, would be receiving its own TV show. After watching the pilot, I'm cautiously optimistic. Looking forward to the rest in November.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
I'm going to be honest; this is my new favourite line in anything ever. GOTY 2015 and all that. Also cocks: [img][/img]
I thought Laura Kate's Destiny piece for Polygon was pretty neat.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
Bungie have decided Kojima isn't the only one who can do 4th wall breaking shenanigans. Congratulations Destiny players, you're all now The Taken King.
I have (jokingly) wanted a remake/sequel to Geist. And then I went to YouTube to watch a longplay to see it in action again and thought, "nevermind!"
The humblest person I know avatarThe humblest person I know
I'd been worried that Jim had been losing his sanity with all the Steam sludge he's always attacking. If you've been feeling the same way, good news. His new vid warmed that void and reminded me that I follow him because he had no sanity to start with. ;)
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
Reading the Star Citizen expose reminded me of the whole Firefall mess last year. [url=""]Found the gamefront article [/url]
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I went from listening to the soundtrack of SMT IV, to the soundtrack to Mario Kart 8, Smash 4, Fire Emblem, and now chilling with some Mother 3. All of it was pretty awesome by the way.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
After the 11th, I'm going into cryosleep until SMT IV Final is out. I'm sure Mike, Occams and Strider can manage without me. [img][/img]
TheLimoMaker avatarTheLimoMaker
In need of another writer for my monthly blog on the PS Plus games. Given how nobody really reviews all of them (and after spending time downloading bad ones), I thought it'd be a nice time to try and do it for the PS users out there. So... Need some help
Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom is a thing...TT_TT
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -