Stein’s Gate is an amazing journey that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to play a visual novel. Although it is a little slow to start, it soon transforms into a rollercoaster of an experience. Each of the character routes feel purposeful, although they do not always have the happiest of ends. The only route I think is unnecessary is the regular Kurisu route, given that the true end route is almost identical, with additional content. I understand that it is meant to build atmosphere, but it doesn’t seem that crucial to me. Although as a bit of a completionist I still played through it.
This is the story of Okabe and his secret lab, accidently stumbling upon the secret to time travel, and getting themselves into a serious pickle. Until Okabe is forced to make a decision that could tear him apart. A combination of sci-fi, comedy and drama.
It consistently has well written and fleshed out characters and the plot, despite being a time travel story, has very little incongruence or confusion. Despite the fantastic array of characters shown throughout, for me the main character Okabe is the most stand out. Visual Novel protagonists rarely have much of a personality, it is too often the nature of the beast. Okabe is a quirky and likeable protagonist. He is relatable, flawed and all too human. To see this reflected so well in a format where the decisions are made by the player, is incredibly refreshing.
However, there are a number of moments where the story tries to be too gritty, and in those moments Okabe comes off as annoying and unlikable. This isn’t done too often, and was removed in the anime. There are also a number of moments where I questioned the choices Okabe made that weren’t optional, however these choices fit his character well and keep the story on the right path.
The reveal of new information is always exciting, revealed information is usually set up well in advance, so that even the most surprising of reveals fits neatly into the world of the game.
The use of otaku culture as a staple throughout the VN, is a fun and eccentric way to create quirky characters, which many of the players will be able to relate to. The language and themes are used to engage the audience and make the situation feel realistic.
Interaction was a simple and elegant system. Stein’s Gate doesn’t use the classic dialogue choice system, but instead employs interactions only through use of the Protagonist’s phone.
The art style is quite different from the anime’s, being quite unique compared to any visual novel. It’s difficult to say which I prefer, given that I enjoyed the crispness of the anime’s art style, but the VN had a more raw and emotional feel to it that I haven’t seen reproduced. The CG’s were gorgeous, and I wish that there were more in the story.
The music was emotional and compelling, serving a purpose and helping to drive the story home.
I think that even those who’ve seen the anime, should play the visual novel as well. It displays heightened characterization and offers extra information about the world.
As a whole I thought that Stein’s Gate was a well written and well thought out Visual Novel adventure. A unique experience amongst many VNs.
Stein’s Gate is available on a number of different formats including PS3 and PS Vita. I played it on PS Vita and would recommend this format as the portability of the system makes it great for Visual Novels. Stein’s Gate was so absorbing that I didn’t want to put it down, and I didn’t have to.
Stein’s Gate Elite is being released soon, a remake of the original that makes use of assets from the anime. I’m looking forward to playing it, however I would continue to recommend the original.