Up till now, no Visual Novel has impressed me more than Steins;Gate. If you read my review of the first game you’d know that I acted like it was the best thing since sliced bread. This meant that I was simultaneously excited and wary when Steins;Gate 0 was slated to come to the vita (and ps4) in 2016.It’s no secret that video game sequels are notorious for leaning toward the more disappointing side, and it was this fact that forced me to rein in my expectations for this game.
But after playing it, I can conclude with a sigh of relief that Steins;Gate 0 is indeed a worthy sequel.
This game is a branching path from the true ending in the original game, a ‘what if?’ type of sequel. If you haven’t played finished the first game then I highly recommend you watch/play it before reading the rest of my review as you’ll encounter spoilers.
Continuing on, this is the darker, alternate story that we would have seen if Okabe had failed to save Kurisu. He ends up killing her when she jumps in front of her father and dies in his arms. It’s an unfortunate accident that traumatizes Okabe to the point where he can’t even think or talk about anything related to time-machines or the girl in question. This fear cripples him, making him afraid to change anything. It’s an alarming situation for Daru’s daughter, Suzuha, as she’d time travelled back to get Okabe to try and stop the next world war.
The entire game was a rough ride from start to finish. While the story still had its hilarious moments and interactions, most of it was somber to the point where I had to take regular breaks because of how depressing it got. I think this can be attributed to the fact that it’s emotionally draining to see a once cheerful Okabe trying to claw his way out of the deep, dark place he is stuck in. His voice actor is also really something, to be able to imbue his character’s voice with a combination of sadness, self-loathing, and anger that really tugged at my heart.
But don’t let the fact that the game is horribly sad, stop you. The story is still superbly well written and remains engaging and interesting, though one of my complaints is that it’s true ending is lacking the satisfying punch of the original.
True to Visual Novel form the game has five different endings you can unlock with each playthrough. Personally, I only liked 2 of those 5 endings. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the rest. I just consider those 2 to be my favorites.
Overall I think the story will satisfy fans of the previous game despite some confusing plot twists sprinkled throughout.
Depending on which route you end up on, the story will occasionally switch between the perspectives of different characters. While slightly annoyed at first, I soon came to like it. Without the D-Mail mechanic from the previous game, the narrative is slightly easier to convey because it is not tied down just to Okabe’s point of view. Rather, the game can now shift between characters when the need arises.
Speaking of characters, Steins;Gate 0 also adds several new characters to the roster. One of the new major characters I really liked was Maho Hiyajo, Kurisu Makise’s colleague slash scientist partner. During her route, I was really impressed with how they went about fleshing out their friendship/rivalry. As the game goes on, it becomes obvious that these characters aren’t just added in to pad the cast roster – the character development for Maho and Suzuha in particular, makes me want to cry tears of joy because of how well written it was.
One thing I disliked, but can be easily overlooked due to the nature of the story, is how self-deprecating Okabe acts throughout. I think this is due to my personal preference for his ‘fake’ personality who goes by the name of HOUOUIN KYOMA, and the hilarious misunderstandings that can be caused by acting like an insane mad scientist.
But this is just a minor nitpick because overall, we get to see Okabe’s more fragile side and how he tries to overcome his mental trauma. Mayuri Shiina, his childhood friend, was also a huge help in this regard. It’s fairly obvious that both she and Okabe’s character growth stem from them wanting to help each other.
Almost all characters had their time in their spotlight and while some characters ended up with some needlessly complicated backstories, they didn’t detract from the overall experience of the visual novel.
Steins;Gate 0 is amazing in its own right. The darker tone of the story doesn’t diminish its wonderful sense of humor and the dialogue, fun and snappy, is still one of the more awe-inducing parts of this Visual Novel. And of course, the relationship/rivalry between Kurisu and Maho is to put simply – fan-fucking-tastic.
However, one of the things I found disappointing other than the unsatisfying ‘true ending’ of the game is its PS Vita version of the game. It had several bugs that caused me some grief throughout my playthrough.
To make matters worse, downloading the patch to fix these issues will corrupt your save data and render them unusable (your trophies will not be affected) so if you’re thinking about picking up the PS Vita version I highly recommend that you download the patch before you start playing.