Visual novels are always a great escape from the typical video games on the market such as shooters and racing titles due to the wealth of information that paints their world and the artful story-telling. I never had the pleasure of getting around to the first Steins;Gate visual novel (VN), however I did manage to watch the anime adaptation and absolutely loved it. Heart-felt, hilarious, weird, and fascinating are just some of the words I’d use for the story behind it and I didn’t think that there could be any kind of continuation to such a neatly-wrapped story. It turns out I was wrong as Steins;Gate 0 offers that continuation in the form of a parallel universe that connects with the original plot but in a Beta World Line and doesn’t just do it well, but also offers a learning experience in various forms.
New story/characters blend well with the original: With multiple endings that lead up to a “true” ending, the plot goes through many twists and turns whenever the player makes a decision that effects everyone. You might be thinking you’re doing the right thing by selecting something but it could be disastrous for someone else in the story. Without trying to give away any spoilers, Rintaro goes through a majorly different World Line from the last title that’s more depressing and very interesting concepts arise because of it. Artificial intelligence is introduced into the story along with the time-traveling aspect of it, making it feel like a completely fresh idea while still retaining the look and mood from the first game. The replay value is definitely there, as after completing the story once and getting a certain ending, you’re able to play through it again to get a different ending up until the true ending of the title. It never once feels tedious to go through again and again but actually offers a different take each time.
The new character additions in Maho, Kagari, and the Amadeus A.I. feel fresh to add even more variety to the cast of Steins;Gate to make relationships even more fantastic to dive into and increases the level of intricacy between them. Many new revelations spring up from the addition of these characters and exactly how the correlate with the main cast that the player won’t see it coming.
Menus and smart-phone are great interfaces: Rintaro upgrades from using a flip phone to the latest smart phone in order to use the latest RINE app, a mobile app that allows him to text and send pictures over the phone to his friends. The player is able to bring up the phone anytime during dialogue to look at messages that the other characters send him and choose whether or not to respond to them. It’s an interesting little addition that makes the immersion into the universe feel a little more complete. The TIPS menu option also teaches the player about intricate terminology used only in Japan for Western audiences to grasp easier, along with explaining the history behind certain real-life or fake organizations mentioned in-game. This is a very useful and welcomed list that helps to understand the dialogue better and also add a new wealth of information to your mind.
Fantastic artwork: Characters and scenery are well crafted and look very artistic, setting up the overall mood of the story and making it feel different from other visual novel games. The textures in the art look gritty and sometimes portray a darker feel in the more intense scenes. The coloring and shadowing of the figures makes it look more stylish than anime and other VN titles. The cast’s facial expressions are done perfectly according to the mood of the conversation, there are also many positions for them to go through during dialogue. It’s clear that the teams put in a lot of effort to make this sequel look good and flow. Even the backgrounds have been well-crafted and have serious thought put into them.
Superb voice-acting and music: Agony, pain, joy, and astonishment are just some of the emotions that the voice actors for Steins;Gate 0 convey so well that it actually effects the player on a deep level. You feel moved when they give inspiring speeches (although it’s only in Japanese with no English voice-overs) and are saddened by any of the heart-wrenching moments throughout the plot. Every voice actor has been cast so well and fit what the player would imagine the character to sound like. The soundtrack for the game was also done fantastically as it set the more intense moments and instantly told the player what kind of atmosphere was playing out before them.
Not good for newcomers: I came into this game having already watched Steins;Gate as an anime, which acquainted me with the plot twists, characters, and general setting of the world. Newcomers shouldn’t begin with this game as does it not only reveal some of the characters’ relations to one another but also references the alternate reality that the first game, or anime, is taking place in often. They will be lost and won’t feel as connected to the protagonists, only trying to keep up with what they’re saying by utilizing the useful TIPS menu. While 5pb. did their best at trying to explain more intricate Japanese terminologies sometimes the player will feel the need to look them up on the side instead as it doesn’t do a perfect job explaining them.
Some localization issues: While the team at PQube did an amazing job at localizing the game in general, there were quite a few errors and translations that nitpickers will notice. These issues include certain apps under Rintaro’s smartphone that haven’t been translated into English, spacing and spelling issues in the text from time to time, and also the fact that the English used in the audio for Alexis Leskinen sounded like it was made with Microsoft Sam. It sounded downright ridiculous to listen to in the background to the Japanese translator in-game, they could have at least brought in someone who spoke English to do those few lines.
Steins;Gate 0 is almost a perfect game to play for those who want a really good game that continues a complicated, but satisfying, tale. It’s highly recommended that the player either play the last title in the series or watch the anime first before getting into it otherwise many plot twists from the original will be ruined and also certain characters’ relationships with one another will be puzzling and confusing. Other than that the game has fantastic artwork, voice work, and story coupled with a sea of information to guide the player through the title. If you are familiar with the series then you should already be purchasing this title to complete an awesome sequel to an already perfect story.
- Graphics - 95%95%
- Gameplay - 90%90%
- Controls - 90%90%
- Sound - 95%95%
- Replay Value - 95%95%
Steins;Gate 0 was developed by 5pb. and Nitroplus and published by PQube. It was released for the PlayStation 4 [reviewed] and PlayStation Vita on November 25th, 2016 in Europe and November 29th in North America. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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