Steins;Gate was the first visual novel that I ever read. So hearing that Steins;Gate 0 would be making its way to the west was some of the best news I’ve heard all year. I mean, a sequel to what is arguably one of the best visual novels ever created? Count me in! Interestingly, the time traveling premise allowed the developers to deliver a story following one of the more heart wrenching endings of the first title. What this means is anyone picking up Steins;Gate 0 must play through the first game to understand exactly what’s going on.
With that said, if you intend to play Steins;Gate 0 and haven’t played the game’s predecessor, spoilers to the first game lie ahead.
Steins;Gate 0 picks up six months after the “true ending” of the original Steins;Gate. This was a moment where Rintaro Okabe had to make the hard decision and kill Kurisu Makise in order to fix the future; ultimately, we find ourselves in what Okabe describes as the “Beta World Line”.
With the guilt and sorrow weighing hard on Okabe, we find out that he’s ditched the lab and tries his hardest to become an adult. The writing does well with showing the inner battle of him wanting to react to situations the way he used to, but he constantly holds himself back. Sometimes these scenes are tough to get through because Okabe is forced to witness flashbacks of his actions and relive the scene over and over.
Furthermore, we are introduced to Mayo Hiyajo, a scientist who has the looks of a middle schooler, but is actually 21 years old. Despite her looks, Mayo once worked with Kurisu developing A.I. technology called Amadeus in America. This is where the story takes off and Okabe is once again faced with some tough decisions.
The Amadeus is a computer the can download a person’s mind and recreate them on a screen. Okabe gets the opportunity to test out the machine, but discovers that the A.I. he’d be interacting with is Kurisu. The app is loaded onto his cell phone and the reader is forced to witness Okabe communicating with the woman he killed just a few months prior.
Many characters return in Steins;Gate 0 and it feels like a welcomed reunion. However, some of the interactions are awkward and tense because of the distance that Okabe has put between him and the people that care about him. Best friend and lab assistant, Itaru Hashida, also makes a return and is dedicated on creating the time machine in order to prevent World War III and also satisfy his daughter from the future, Mayuri Shiina. There are a few forgettable new characters introduced throughout the story, but serve as a means to further the plot along.
Although, the story takes a great deal of time to explain most of the new character’s back stories by exchanging perspective after every chapter. This allows a different narrative and also a better understanding of each character’s personality. Also, I feel like when the whole cast gets together they all work extremely well with one another and come off as believable friends.
There are five to six endings that the player can get in Steins;Gate 0. These are accessed by choices that Okabe makes using his cell phone. As the player answer the phone or interacts with Amadeus, the story will alter upon the choices the player makes. This is similar to the mechanics in the first Steins Gate, but with the addition of Amadeus there’s a new layer of decisions left up to the players where Kurisu’s A.I. avatar will question Okabe throughout the story.
Perhaps nitpicking, but the choice system occasionally caught me off guard and after every choice I wished that I could go back and change the path that I took. Thankfully, there’s a forgiving save system that allows players to save whenever they want. However, you will need to manually save the game often and jump between saves to get the outcome that you prefer. For some this isn’t a problem and I know there are gamers out there that enjoy being stuck with the hand dealt, but I just can’t seem to deal with thinking, “What if…?”
One of the more beloved features in the Steins;Gate series also made a return, that being the “Tips” accessed in the start menu. Steins Gate’s writing has a way of portraying otakus in an accurate spotlight. Using terms like “waifu” and “@channel” might be too much for someone new jumping into the series, but Stein;Gate 0 has it covered. The term list is full of definitions of all the otaku and story related words that the characters use, all written in easy to read and often satirical paragraphs.
The CG scenes in Steins;Gate 0 are the definition of beauty as Huke makes a return to the series and gives life to the words on the screen. In addition, we are greeted by the same voice cast from the previous game so fans of Mayuri Shiina will feel at ease every time they are greeted with “Tuturu”.
Steins;Gate 0 will not disappoint those close to the franchise. However, that being said, this will require a certain understanding of the previous game and the various endings that the game had. One would truly be lost jumping into this game without at least watching the anime series. Other than a few localization errors that I saw, Steins;Gate 0 holds up as a great sequel and a required play through for any visual novel fan.