Steins;Gate on PC
As someone who rarely immerses himself in visual novels, let alone anime titles, Steins;Gate drew me in with its promise of an engaging story and rich characters. The game already has quite a following since it has been available on mobile devices, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 3 for quite a few years now as well as having its own anime series. Having received positive critical feedback when releasing on other platforms, it seems as though now could be the ideal time to try Steins;Gate out following its release on Steam if you haven’t already. A much larger chunk of the gaming community is now able to sink their teeth into it for themselves, and while there are plenty of things to love here, some of the more questionable design choices may distract you from an otherwise phenomenal story.
One of Steins;Gate’s strongest points is its characters, and right from the get-go, it becomes clear that it’s either hit or miss for some audiences. You play as Rintarou Okabe, often unwillingly called Okarin, who is fascinated by science and the premise of time travel. Along the way, you get to meet some of Okarin’s long-time friends who you interact with in natural, albeit often stereotypical and possibly even predictable ways. There’s the girl that gets her cuteness from innocence and an overweight hacker that always wears his cap and thin-framed glasses, and while their responses or comments towards you are presented in a believable way that reflects the relationship you have with that specific character, they will rarely react unpredictably. The unknowing girl will respond childishly and playful whereas the hacker will react with smart and quirky comments. These don’t feel unfitting, mind you, but they don’t exactly feel all too unique either.
Personally, I didn’t mind these stereotypical characters because they had enough personality to make up for their otherwise uninspiring characteristics. I could understand that some would take issue with this, however, seeing how Steins;Gate is supposed to stand apart from other anime titles. If you can look past the characters themselves and focus on the relationship they have with Okarin instead, there is definitely a lot of heart to be found here.
Steins;Gate tells an interesting tale of time travel that effortlessly blends science fiction with anime through its aforementioned characters, namely because Okarin often explains scientific processes by looking at modern pop culture. I wouldn’t say this breaks the fourth wall, but it does make this tale feel a lot more modern and personal. Some explanations are logical whereas others are more complex, yet the reason you give for a certain phenomenon depends on the person you’re explaining it to. The smart can understand something without much context, whereas the less intelligent will require some very concrete real-life euphemisms in order to fully comprehend what’s going on. This not only makes the story easier to understand, but it also makes you relate to the characters you’re interacting with in a way few other games manage to do.
Interacting with these characters and the world around you is done by clicking through conversations or scrolling through your phone, replying to an e-mail when given the opportunity to do so. Steins;Gate plays more like a visual novel you click through with the occasional, yet poignant decision for you to make, rather than having you taking control of a character that walks through a three-dimensional world with items of interest all around you. This more linear approach is a good fit for Steins;Gate, as it manages to remain interesting through well-written narration and the intriguing general story.