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.



THE VERDICT

8

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 *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Myles Cox avatarMyles Cox
My first word was "fart".
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Philosophical question: if the only way to get Batman: Arkham Knight to run decently on my laptop is to lower all the settings and have it run windowed, am I really playing it?
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
I'm farting right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
I farted in Gamestop today and wasn't blamed!
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
I have never farted. #TrueLies
From Must Git Gud avatarFrom Must Git Gud
Getting banned soon!
VIRGO avatarVIRGO
Here's to hoping Nintendo makes mobile games as compelling as Pac-Man 256...
ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
I hate when a new game comes out and D-toid gets flooded with stuff about a game I don't know anything about and I'm just stuck here, sitting with myself and my freeware games...
Dreggsao avatarDreggsao
It is the middle of the night and Yu-Gi-OH is on TV. Are children with insomnia so common these days?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
My hair's done did and my Teddie cosplay is officially ready for next weekend's Comic-Con! Do I impress you, Sensei? [img]http://i.imgur.com/ZNlOmMf.jpg[/img]
ShadeOfLight avatarShadeOfLight
Replaying Tales of Symphonia for the first time in years, I only just now realized how random the plot is. Our goals are decided at Lloyd's whimsy, while we get major revelations just 'whenever'. Still a good game, but I'm proud to be #TeamBatenKaitos.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
Question Time! What's YOUR MGSV Helicopter music?
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Today at work, I made a reference to the DK Rap in one of my news pieces. Any day that I get to do that is a good day.
gajknight avatargajknight
Everyone's playing MGSV...and I've just arrived in Skellige in The Witcher 3. At this rate, I'll get 'round to MGSV when the PS7 arrives.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Currently learning Little Trinketry from Valiant Hearts: The Great War on piano. [youtube]http://youtu.be/40fulS_olU8[/youtube]
Retrofraction avatarRetrofraction
MGSV is literally the Skyrim of stealth. 15 hours 3%... #Sneaker'sdelight
ThinMatrix avatarThinMatrix
The Kickstarter campaign is now live for Socuwan – the quirky indie MMORPG created by the community, for the community! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1465468930/socuwan-the-community-driven-indie-mmorpg
ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
Excellent video game OST's for the week (no particular order): 1) Super Stickman Golf 2 2) Lethal League 3) Crypt of the Necrodancer
DanteKinkade avatarDanteKinkade
Final season of Continuum is on tonight, featuring time traveling solders in power armor. I can't wait! https://carl9000.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/c15.jpg?w=842
Kallo avatarKallo
That moment when you look at your backlog of games...and it looks back and you and says "What the hell man? you have over 100 games on this list!". I feel guilty...
more quickposts


Contest!


destructoid's previous coverage:
Steins;Gate


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!



Seriously

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 -