I have personally never been a fan of visual novels. I want to do more than just left-click and read, left-click and read whilst gaming. However, when Steins;Gate came up for review here on TVGB, I surprised myself with how badly I wanted to play it. I claimed the game immediately. It did not disappoint. At only two hours in, I understood why many consider Steins;Gate to be one of the best visual novels of all time.
Rintaro Okabe is a young, self-proclaimed mad scientist and the main protagonist. He runs a small lab inside an already small apartment with his two friends: Mayuri and Daru. The Future Gadget Laboratory, as they call it, is on a mission to design futuristic gadgets and weaponry to aid in the fight against The Organization. This mysterious group is attempting to bring radical change to the world. They may also not exist.
Rintaro Okabe is the creeper looking at you through your screen
Rintaro Okabe is a very paranoid and semi-delusional, young man. He answers pretend phone calls and concerns himself with conspiracies of the highest order. The Organization is one such conspiracy and he takes it very seriously. It’s why the Future Gadget Lab exists at all. However, the weapons and gadgets they make aren’t the most practical. For example, “Future Gadget #1” is a tv remote installed into a toy ray gun. It allows you to change the channel by pulling the trigger of the gun. Or “Future Gadget #5,” a hair dryer connected to a vacuum. It simply blows hot hair out of the dryer using the heat from the vacuum’s exhaust.
Future Gadget Laboratory
It’s “Future Gadget #8,” otherwise known as “Phonewave (name subject to change)”, that really gets the story going though. The Phonewave (name subject to change) was originally designed to be a remote control microwave that can be operated using a cell phone. It sounds simple enough, but unfortunately it did not work as planned. It was eventually discovered that Future Gadget #8, under certain conditions, creates black holes within itself. Kerr black holes to be exact. It was with these black holes that the Future Gadget Lab team discovered they could send both objects AND data back in time.
While your typical time travel scenarios do exist – i.e. stopping someone from dying – the game never feels tired or predictable. The characters tell the story in such a way that you just want to keep reading and reading. Several times I thought I knew what was going to happen and was wrong. The storytelling in this game is impeccable and incredibly well written. No line of dialogue felt wasted or unneeded. There was plenty of humor and the game’s six different endings will keep you playing again and again.
The game is also beautiful. As you can tell from the screenshots, it carries it’s own unique art style. Simple at first glance but full of character and detail upon closer inspection. It’s the little details that affect what ending you get in Steins;Gate actually. In this case, the little details are text messages and emails from the future.
These messages from the future are dubbed DeLorean Mail, or D-Mail for short. Get the reference? Without giving too much away, how you interact and deal with the information you get from the D-Mail decides what path the game will take and ultimately what ending. The official name of this unique concept is the “Phone Trigger System.” The very modern approach of manipulating the timeline through text messages and emails is one I had not seen before in other time-traveling games. The originality is something I appreciated while playing.
All in all, Steins;Gate is a fantastic visual novel and has totally made me want to reconsider my stance on visual novels in the future. The Steins;Gate anime is also worth watching. I started it recently and have been impressed with it thus far. There is nothing that I didn’t enjoy about Steins;Gate. I only wish I had known about it sooner, as it originally came out on Xbox 360 back in 2009 and the PS3 in 2012. I apparently need to send myself a D-Mail.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.