Steins;Gate is such an compelling adventure and easily one of my favorite games, the ending was also wrapped up nicely thus I was surprised when they announced Steins;Gate0 (a sequel of a sort). Due to the success of the original game, this time we didn’t have to wait for a long time before the follow up game was translated, however, I had no intention of picking it up. I loved the ending of the original game and felt like this is probably another case of endless sequels being made for easy money because us, the fans, will likely get it either way. Sometimes they’re fun for the sheer gameplay or for the possible further development of favorite characters (or said characters being ruined) but then I end up thinking, was it worth it? Was it really worth wasting so many hours on a game that didn’t satisfy my needs for interesting story and appealing characters when I could’ve played so many titles from my backlog? Answers differ but was Steins;Gate0 one of these games? Let’s take a look.
(Warning: The review contains some spoilers from the previous game, as for 0, no mayor spoilers that you don’t learn in first 2-4 hours of gameplay).
Steins;Gate0… is a surprising sequel, if I do say so myself, given how negative I was about it. While still kind of an unnecessary sequel to the original game, as it doesn’t relate much to the true ending of Steins;Gate, it adds a lot of depth to the original story and the characters in comparison to what we got before. It’s like an expansion of the world we engaged ourselves in last time, seeing the possibilities of what could have happened if Okabe, our Hououin Kyouma, gave up from saving Kurisu. This brings me to one of the concepts I really like, which is the butterfly effect, and the branching of the world. World beta, which is already a branch, splits even more with each action Okabe or other parties take. The infinite possibilities and the idea that small change might cause something bigger in the long run and the possibility of you taking an action to change things but in the end fate won’t allow it? We already had these themes in the first game, of course, the only difference was that Steins;Gate0 dealt more with what was going to happen in the future, after all, it was the Beta time line where World War III was going to happen. WWIII is a theme we hear in the previous game a lot, this is one of the things motivating our hero, Okabe, to take the actions he took, to fight for a better tomorrow for everyone but this is all we got, the game didn’t go in-depth about it. In S;G0 we get to see, we get to read and experience how the world and the war itself was actually like, we get to see the suffering the war brought onto people, we even get to see some of the characters suffering as a result of certain decision and the player can understand why Suzuha was so determined to change things even if she had to sacrifice her own happiness. Steins;Gate0 is really showing the series and the main protagonist from a different and equally interesting perspective.
Another thing that I absolutely loved about Steins;Gate is the way they explain and present science. The way the game goes about it is really engaging, making you feel curious, and forcing you to use your brain instead of just clicking the X button. That’s said, that could be considered a double-edged sword, chances are you might be tired, sick, distracted and all of the information thrown at you might feel overwhelming but nevertheless, it always amazed me how the game made me research physics, the subjects I hate the most of all. 0 is no exception, however now, instead of physics and black holes, it concentrates more on the how the human brain functions.
As far as characters go, I was also pleasantly surprised… for the most part. The recurring characters really got some pretty unexpected development, especially considering how before half of them had a few traits attached to them and nothing more. They were still more or less likable but in comparison to some characters, such as Okabe, Kurisu or even Suzuha, they felt bland — till 0, that is.
The game really handles human emotions well, such as depression, loneliness, dealing with the pain of losing someone close to you — all of these things are portrayed in such realistic manner you can’t help but either feel for the characters or even relate to them at times. Let’s talk about Okarin, the protagonist who was already a rather fleshed out character in the previous game. He went through a lot, we got to see plenty of his emotions, read his thoughts, you would think we got all that we could get out of him, right? Well, not necessarily. We start the game with Okabe making the choice, does he want to save Kurisu (Alpha) or gives up on her (Beta). Given all that Okarin has been through, it’s hard to blame him for choosing world Beta, after all, he is written as a very human character. Most of the characters understand that as well, even Suzuha to an extend. However, his loss pains him greatly and we see the blame taking over. We see a different side of Okabe, he suffers from depression, he became more cynical, serious, dependent on meds, and so on. I really enjoyed his character growth in this game almost as much as in the previous one and it’s hard not to understand his behavior, all things considered. One of the things I also found appealing, one that I don’t remember seeing in media much recently, is the part where he decided he had to “grow-up” and as a result he abandoned his personality, avoided certain people and went out with “normals” and so on. He thought that if he changes who he is, he can become a “grown-up” and it screamed escapism to me. Escaping reality, escaping the past, escaping yourself. At one point he also mentioned he finally found a goal and it made it a bit easier to deal with things, which is a sign of progress but that’s not necessarily a cure — it’s distracting your brain so you don’t concentrate on negatives, rather than overcoming them. “I thought I got over it but the memory is as fresh as ever” sums it all up. What I also loved is that despite all of that, he still found the kindness for others. However, keep in mind, that’s only my own interpretation, maybe I did read a little too much into it.
The only other character I would like to write a little about is Suzuha, who is quite different in this game. Now she is much more serious, cold, introverted, no-nonsense attitude kind of character but I loved it. Why? As I think it shows how life and memories shape you, which also plays a big part in the game. Suzuha is an example of what the game is trying to prove; she embodies the results the war had on people. You can see she went through a lot, you can see she has been trained for military for years, that she grew up fighting people and had to kill, despite her young age and it’s all portrayed wonderfully in the game. One of my favorite scenes in the game is where she and Kyouma talk on the rooftop; she states she is Suzuha, but not the one Okabe knows. “Different pasts, different memories, we are completely different people”. While it’s obvious, it’s rare to see characters actually put things in such perspective, and it’s an occurring theme in the game. Sometimes I think even people forget that we are not flawed in certain ways because we wish to be so, but it is because our past shapes us into who we are, and it’s stronger than us. Would having different memories make someone a different person? or would they be the same? This is the answer the game gives us. While I liked Suzuha before, I am not sure whether it was because I could somewhat relate to her or whether it was the kind of character S;G was missing, but this Suzu made a big impression on me and I adore her.
As for the rest of the characters, as stated above, most of the old cast from Steins;Gate felt more important and developed this time around, which I was really happy about. We get to see Mayuri be more than just a kind, air-headed girl Okabe cares for, Daru being so much more than just a pervert and the list goes on. Nothing spectacular, but still an improvement over the last game. Even Moeka, who is my favorite character but doesn’t seem to be very popular, got such an amazing and unexpected development in one of the endings that I kind of wish it was implemented in the true ending as well, but alas. I want to fangirl but I am afraid this review will never end, if you can still call it that.
However, as our old characters got a bit more depth, all of the new characters aside from Maho and, arguably, Kagari, felt very bland, unnecessary, forced and underwhelming. You can easily forget about their existence in the game and wonder what was exactly the point of making them appear more than once. Kagari was the only one of the new characters who earned my interest but there is so many plot holes related to her, it’s kind of hard to have much of an opinion in the end. Maho was developed quite well and I suppose she is a likable character overall, I can’t say I really cared for her much. She reminded me of a bit calmer, more composed Makise but she her motivation, her obsession with Kurisu and insecurities felt very repetitive. I don’t have to read the same thing 25 times, I understand after you say it once. She might not be my kind of character but Steins;Gate has strong female characters and she is one of them. There isn’t much to say about the remaining characters, I’m afraid.
There was also the problem with overall pacing in the game; the game starts extremely slowly, it later picks up, gets far more interesting and exciting where you finally feel this is the game you wanted only to later feel like it’s dragging during some of the endings that felt way too long for what they were supposed to tell. I felt like reading through so much pointless text that wasn’t used for character development or to keep the suspense, to me it simply felt like they needed to make the game longer, which also killed my interest in the conclusion at one point. That is to say, this was the biggest issue in ending chapters, not throughout the whole game. Amusingly enough, and I am being sarcastic here, the game decides to cut the path of the true ending shorter for some reason, making it such a let down. I couldn’t believe when I finished the game, the next thing I did was searching whether I screwed something up along the way and did not trigger the true end. Some of you may be thinking, could this game be so good if the true ending is so bad? Well, it’s not necessarily bad, it’s just… awfully paced and rushed. I would say that some of the other endings are worth it, despite the flaws I mentioned, I really like 2 of the endings — one of them was too long, one too short — but I liked the conclusions and character development in them. There were plot points that weren’t given enough attention, which is laughable, considering how I just mentioned that I got tired of reading pointless walls of text at one point. This is probably my biggest issue here, the time put into dragging the story could’ve been used on the plot points that were actually interesting and needed exploring.
The slightly disappointing thing are the bugs and translation. At first I played the game before patching and the translation was… surprising…ly bad. After the patching my save file was corrupted and I had to start from the beginning so make sure you patch before you start the game! However, even after the patch I kept getting some grammar mistakes in the game, as well as some weird bugs. A weird small, white square appearing in the corner of the screen at times, sudden bugs with audio and dialogue not appearing at all. When it was Okrain’s thoughts the text appeared just fine. If that happens to you just save and reload that save file. These are not really a big deal but it’s been a few months and it was patched once, the game should be working better than this.
The absolute ultimate disappointment for me, and let me emphasize that, was the art. I will not call this game ugly because by normal standards, it’s far from that. However, compared to the previous game, it’s just… extremely lazy. The beginning of the game had no issues but the more I played the more I started noticing some things are off. The original game had some CGs looking a little silly but it was not necessarily noticeable.
Here are some examples from this game, I will mark spoilers. I also cropped most of the images so they shouldn’t show anything significant.
- Using the gorgeous old sprites together with new ones makes everything look really out of place. The colors are different, shading on the faces and hair is different, the body proportions look really weird in comparison. While I understand that using the old sprites was cheaper and faster, I wish they at least bothered to edit them a little to match in color, even if the shading is different. I am guessing they did not expect to use the old sprites and thus the new sprites look so different but how knows. Here are some examples: One, Two, Three, Four, Five
- Amazingly expressive facial expressions. Someone kill me please: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six (cropped but a bit of a spoiler).
- This is something I thought did not appear in the previous game but I checked and it had the same problem. Mayuri and her weird proportions: 2 different hands, long arms, short arms (spoiler)
Steins;Gate 0 is this sequel that isn’t necessary but one that explores the possibilities and makes for a good read. I would recommend it to whoever enjoyed the first game, is on verge when it comes to Zero, and has some time and money to spare. However, keep in mind that as enjoyable as some aspects were, the game as a whole doesn’t quite stand up to the original game. If you found the previous game boring or you need to be sucked into the game early on, you are probably not going to find anything new here. If you never tried any of the games and somehow ended up reading this mess of a review and would consider getting into the series; go for it. Steins;Gate is an amazing game while Steins;Gate0 feels more like an extension of the original for us fans.
That concludes my lengthy review of Steins;Gate0, I am pretty bad being brief to begin with so I apologize for the length if anyone actually managed to read from the start to bottom, and I hope you found it helpful! I am up for discussions, if you would like.
Props to whoever got the reference from the title.