Steins Gate is the second entry to the Science Adventure series developed by 5PB and Nitro Plus and is the debut of one of the most notable games in the science adventure series. It is a sequel to Chaos Head but it is standalone and accessible to those who are new to the series. It takes place one year after the events of the generation madness murders.
This game was inspired by earlier visual novels “Eve Burst Error” and “Yu-No A Girl Who Chants Love At The Bound Of This World” both written by Hiroyuki Kanno. It focuses on a self proclaimed mad scientist Rintaro Okabe or Hououin Kyōma, his alias. He is assisted by Daru, an anime otaku who is an expert computer modder and hacker and Mayru who creates costumes for the research team. He and his group of friends live in an old run down building in Akihabara. Akihabara is a tech oriented city which means that they can easily get access to any form of technology they require for their inventions and experiment's.
Rintaro and his assistants spend their days creating and tinkering with various technology in the name of science and not for fame or fortune. Rintaro thinks that a group called SERN is after him due to his inventions and they want to kill him and his entire research team because his inventions could change the world. His latest invention is a microwave that can be controlled by a mobile phone.
Rintaro discovers the body of a murdered scientific prodigy Kursu who later becomes his lab assistant. He sends a text message to Daru but after a while, the dead scientist appears to be alive and well and nobody seems to know what is really happening except for Rintaro who concludes that the mobile microwave controlled by the cellphone is in fact a time machine.
A series of strange events start to occur with history being altered and it is up to Rintaro and his research team to figure out what is really happening while evading operatives from SERN, who are trying to kill them.
Each of the chapters in the game provide some very interesting scenarios that all focus on the effects of time traveling. The plot twists are very subtle and cannot be easily predicted. Its main focus is on time travel and how the butterfly effect can cause massive unpredicted chaos to those who are not careful when traveling in the past. The concept of time itself, past, present and the future is also explored. John Titor, an alleged time traveler who was said to come from the year 2036 and has written down “plans” on how to create advanced time machines is also involved in the story and in this game. Titor’s claims that a nuclear war will happen in 2004 obviously never came to pass, but in the game, some of his predictions become reality.
The small cast features complex and multifaceted characters who are all connected to the events in the story. SERN is controlled by the Commitee of 300, the main antagonists of the science adventure series. In this game, the Committee of 300’s main goal is to create a dystopian world where they rule and the rest of humanity are slaves. The Committee of 300 is more explored in this game compared to the behind the scenes approach of Chaos Child but their main goals and motives are still under wraps and you find out more of their goals and how they approach it bit by bit.
Rintaro’s microwave invention can be controlled through via an e mail or in the series, D-mail. The D-mail or its full name Delorian Mail is a reference to Back To The Future’s famous Delorian time machine used by Doc and Marty. D-mails are sent by the specialized phones the characters use to change the past. Whenever a time travel event occurs most of the characters are unaware that certain events has changed except Rintaro.
The controls were pretty straight foward and easy to learn. The most interactivity in the game is using the phone. Its referred to as the phone trigger system. You can enter in the numbers of the cellphone to set how far you want to set time go by, either in the past or future for the microwave time machine. You can also select highlighted texts to respond to and each of them has its own consequence that can alter the story. You can also choose whether to answer or reject certain calls and messages and they play an important part as well.
The scenarios are more grounded to reality instead of over the top whimsical scenarios as in all of the entries of the Science Adventure series. Nothing can easily be predicted especially with Rintaro’s own delusional worldview.
The themes are really dark with incidents of rape, suicide, murder and abuse. The art style, designed by the Black Rock Shooter artist Huke, is one of the best highlights of the story. It was so incredibly detailed with not one bland or boring scene. The character designs were all unique and fit in with the overall atmosphere of the game. The background designs of each screen were superb and visually appealing and totally believable. The subtle visual changes from bright for light hearted moment to darker tones for more grim moments were excellent.
Just like I mentioned in my Chaos Child review, the series overarching theme is its use of weather to convey the atmosphere of the game. The characters development were built up slowly as the game progressed and their motives were gradually revealed in the dramatic pacing. The backstories of the characters were tragic and you can also understand what drove them to embark on their various journeys and the reason for their choice of action. The complex scientific theories are broken down step by step and is very easy to understand if you don’t have a scientific background. There was plenty of fanservice in the game and it did made sense considering the main characters being involved in otaku culture.
There was a few shortcomings in the story.
Rintaro’s mad scientist act is way overboard to the point being annoying. He tried to convince the mother of a crossdresser to eat more meat and vegetables in order to ensure the correct gender of the child. His delusional, gullible and abusive nature reveals his vile character and you don’t have any sympathy for this unlikeable person. The story has a pretty slow start and after a few chapters, the pace finally start to pick up. Explanations were a bit too long.
You are going to have to figure things out for yourself in the game. You need to pay close attention to dialogue and how events unfold as you progress through the game. Because of the wordy dialogue, you can fast forward and it comes really handy when you are starting your other playthroughs so you can skip stuff you already know.
The audio design and musical score of the game is really high quality. There were also plenty of options to choose with the audio as well, selecting which characters voices you like to hear in a higher or lower pitch, or remove their voices altogether just like in Chaos Child.
There is a lot of replay value in the game and so much extra content to go through. You can look at the CG art you have found, cutscenes and listen to the music soundtrack. You can also collect new ringtones and wallpapers for your phone and change them anytime. Another thing you can collect is transcripts for a popular anime, Rai-net, in the game. Rai-net is so popular that it even spawned a board game you can actually play in real life. You can scroll up and down while reading online posts and click anytime you are finished. There is a lot of save slots so you can freely start new stories without having to overwrite the others just to get the other endings. You can keep track of your progress to know far you are from collecting trophies.
The user interface was very easy to use and it goes well with the art style of the game. You can easily read through the tips that gives various definitions of the game’s story, both science and fictional. The dialogue is well written and the voice acting even though its Japanese, is superb. There were no glitches or any technical issues in the game and it installed almost instantly.
There is a lot of comedy in the game; from dark and edgy black comedy to light hearted otaku comedy depending on the scenario. Just like in Chaos Child, it goes above and beyond with renaming real world brands and pop culture. Dr.P is an obvious parody of Dr. Pepper and its countless knockoff variations. It is easy to get full completion of the game because of the multiple save points and story endings. You can read through the transcript just to get clues to see how the story changes.
Mayrui was the weakest link. She made many silly mistakes that could have been avoided and her role as a costume maker didn’t have any purpose in the overall scheme of the story. There was the occasional plot holes and side stories that went nowhere and dropped midpoint. In addition, there was also typos and grammar errors in the English translation of the subtitles.
This game was a joy to play and I enjoyed it immensely.
It gets 5 stars out of 5.
Steins Gate is without a doubt one of the greatest visual novels ever to be created and the same can be said for its anime adaptation as well. 5PB and Nitroplus have pushed visual novels to greater heights and create worlds with rich histories and characters while telling compelling stories.
Anonymous Code, the next Science Adventure game is going to be the next in the Science Adventure series and it’s said to resolve many plot holes in the previous games. It will merge both animated cutscenes and create unique art portraits for each scenario of the game and I really am looking forward to it.
But knowing the abysmal waiting time for the localization, it remains to be seen if it will be really released before the 2020 Olympics. I’d certainly would love to try it sooner rather than later.