Earlier this year I watched an anime series called Steins; Gate. At the time I was unaware that it was actually based on a little known game and was still awaiting its release on Vita. I blitzed through the series in a couple of weeks (quickly placing itself along Death Note and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in my favourite anime’s list) and instantly pre-ordered the game following. And despite the plots being identical with little in the way of shocks and surprises, I still adored the game.
A visual novel, meaning there’s very little what you would call gameplay here, Steins;Gate is a bizarre time travel story that is just as engaging as a good book. Borrowing elements from real life time travel mysteries (most notably the John Titor internet legend – look it up) and actual scientific discoveries (the Large Hadron Collider playing an integral part in the plot) it is an unbelievably smart game.
The protagonist Okabe accidentally invents a way to send text messages back in time. It’s with this discovery that soon catapults Okabe and friends into an adventure where the fate of the future hangs in the balance. As you’d expect from a game where story is really the only thing here, there’s very few specifics I can get into without heading into spoiler territory. Let’s just say it’s one of the best and inventive stories you will find in any game. And with multiple endings there’s a definite replay value here.
Although for, well, pretty much all the game you’re just pressing X to go through dialogue, mobile phones play a major part in the story. The only other interactivity you have is with your mobile phone. Replying to text messages, usually with more than one way of replying (in turn leading to different replies and potential trophy unlocks), is the only way you really have of changing the story.
If there’s one slight issue I have with the game and that’s the lack of English voice acting. It’s all in Japanese, and as someone who came from the anime with its great English voice cast it was a bit jarring. But then I never really expected it in such a niche game, with what I imagine is a rather small localisation budget.
Like reading a good novel, it will have you hooked till you reach its conclusion, and then you’ll play again to reach one of the other multiple endings. A mastery in writing and localisation, if you have a Vita then you should buy it and be sucked into Okabe’s madcap world.