What They Say:
Steins;Gate 0 is the sequel to the award-winning time-travel science fiction interactive Visual Novel developed by 5pb. and Nitroplus – ‘STEINS;GATE’ – widely considered to be one of the greatest visual novels ever made and one of the best-selling Visual Novels ever released in the West! Branching off from the ending of the original STEINS;GATE to an alternate worldline, STEINS;GATE 0 sees Okabe and the Future Gadget Lab members return once again in a story centered around Artificial Intelligence and the creation of ‘Amadeus’ – a means of interacting with the stored memories of a fellow human being. STEINS;GATE 0 continues the series trademark of delivering incredible science fiction storytelling with rich characterisation that most games can only dream of and will delight both newcomers to the series and existing STEINS;GATE fans.
Steins;Gate 0 features a fairly new soundtrack, but with familiar sounds to anyone that played the first game or watched the anime. The theme song is performed by Kanoko Itou, the same singer who did previous Steins;Gate themes. The developers use the music accurately to convey the feeling that is occurring at the time, be it the happy-go-lucky moments (hilariously, few and far between) or the more eerie, even horrific, scenes. 5pb. and Nitroplus do an incredible job of really emphasizing the audio component of a visual novel with realistic sound effects. Fans will be pleased to know that the phenomenal cast return and lend their voices once again to make Steins;Gate 0 have some of the best voice-acting in all of video games.
Both the anime and game boast some of the most unique graphics in their respective genres, with almost watercolor-esque characters and backgrounds. Steins;Gate 0 continues and expands upon with even more enhanced graphics. The initial difference comes from the user interface, both in-game and in the title screen. The presentation’s color, as well as the backgrounds, have a darker palette, strangely steampunkish at times even. Returning cast members all feature a redesign with new looks and outfits. Though the game takes place only a few months after the original, everyone looks mature and weary compared to their alpha line counterparts. However, new characters are more mixed. Standouts like Maho have unique and detailed designs, but the majority of the new cast is rather generic.
Content: (warning as parts of this section will spoil the first game/anime)
If you have not played/watched the original Steins;Gate, this is your final warning to go and do that now. While I will try to avoid spoilers, the very premise of Steins;Gate 0 itself spoils a huge portion of the original. Also, this is written with the assumption that you know the previous entry. Now, without further ado, let’s do this.
Steins;Gate 0 picks up right after Okabe Rintaro’s first attempt to save a companion at the end of the original Steins;Gate. Instead of trying again and succeeding, he refuses to go back and from thereon, suffers from severe trauma. Thus begins a harrowing look at a broken man; one that trumps the original in every single way. Gameplay is similar to the first, minus the “Phonewave” (sadly, they never decided on an official name) aspect that’s replaced by the AI, Amadeus. Created with the help of Okabe’s dead friend and new characters from America, Maho and Dr. Leskinen, Amadeus is the first true AI that is a direct rendition of the deceased prior to meeting Okabe. Other than reading the story, you have the option to read and reply to text messages, calls, and Amadeus itself on your phone. Your decision to answer, or not, all contribute to which of the 6 endings you will get. The phone has been improved and streamlined, but unfortunately, the effects your decisions will have are mostly unknown, resulting in sudden shifts in the story. It’d be nice to better understand how to reach an ending, but the story makes it well worth playing through all of them.
Anyone that thought Steins;Gate was depressing will be astonished by 0. A pseudo-sequel, Steins;Gate 0 cranks the despair, twists, and psychological insight to the max. Watching a man that not only lost a loved one, but is at fault for it, makes this one of the most intelligent and mature stories I’ve ever experienced. It is completely jarring going from the mad scientist “Hououin Kyouma”, to a truly mad, unable to be helped by therapists, mess. He isn’t the only one affected, though, with other characters like Suzuha shaken by the reality that she failed her mission.
Surprisingly, you don’t only play as Okabe. Instead, you jump between a small handful of characters during key moments. The most prominent of the new protagonists is easily Maho Hiyajo. Best friend and colleague of Okabe’s deceased friend, she stole the show from just about everyone in the group, including Okabe himself. Steins;Gate is known for its well-written characters, but Steins;Gate 0 takes it to a whole new level. The look into the extremely complex and nuanced mind of her and everyone else in the game resonated with someone like myself that has dealt with depression in the past.
Completionists will be happy, too, as I recommend everyone that plays it to see all of the endings. Each one is so vastly different, but makes total sense in the grand schemes of things. Twists and turns shocked me constantly, but never became too much. Certain developments in the story not only expand upon what we know from the first Steins;Gate, but have changed the way I will look at it forever. Steins;Gate 0 hits the perfect balance while never holding back anything. As a major fan of the original anime adaptation, I can barely contain my excitement to see it animated.
Steins;Gate 0 is better than the original in every single way. The realistic and broader approach to storytelling, varied and complex cast, and darker tone make it one of the greatest visual novels ever made. It is simply a must-play; the sequel you never knew you needed for the series.
Released By: PQube
Developer: 5pb. and Nitroplus
MSRP: $59.99 (PS4), $39.99 (Vita)
Release Date: 11/29/2016
Platforms: PS4, Vita
This review was done with a review copy of the game provided by PQube. We are grateful for their support.