Steins;Gate 0 (PC) Review – A dark Vision
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS Vita, PS4
Developer: MAGES Inc.
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft Inc. (PC)
Release: 8th May 2018 (PC)
One of my first animes was Steins;Gate and damn, did I love this series in my first run. Everything from the characters to the plot was amazingly well written, complex and simply enchanting to watch. After having read the original Steins;Gate visual novel as well, I always ended up missing the sequel 0 … until now. With Spike Chunsoft´s push into west, their first title is the PC port of Steins;Gate 0 and I just had to check it out when even an anime is airing too now.
Beginning where Steins;Gate (nearly) ended, we´re presented with an Okabe who failed to save Makise during his first-time jump, who decided not to jump a second time. Crying in pain, he abandons the possibility to save the love of his life, too scared to lose her yet again. So he begins to live a life without her, ready to never return to the lab or his former life … until a computer program called Amadeus is presented, able to create a personality from past memories. When he finds out the inventor´s assistant Maho was a close friend of Makise and recreated her in a virtual form through this AI, Okabe is once again tasked with confronting his past memories while regaining his confidence.
As you might see from Steins;Gate 0´s premise, it´s a much darker tale than the original was in the beginning. Instead of a funny, silly hero, we get a traumatized professor, just trying to run away from life. He never visited the lab again and even goes to a psychiatrist, simply to forget and walk forward. Only if you spent so much time with this loveable cast in the previous story, you´ll be able to truly grasp the graveness of this situation, where almost no character is left unscarred. Compared tot he light-hearted “true” timeline, the one presented here turns everything upside down, starting out with a broken hero, who´s confronted with reality and a virtual Makise. Especially the first half does an outstanding job at illustrating exactly this situation, with concepts or actions we´ve never seen in any previous plot of this universe. The symbolism of Okabe´s black suit combined with his broken look should be enough, to show how much love to detail was poured into this concept.
However, besides the quite amazing characterization of a completely different Okabe, Steins;Gate 0 successfully keeps his captivating story as well. In particular, characters who were brought into the main cast at a later point take the stage here. On the one hand, it puts Suzuha in the prime spot as the second main protagonist, we´re experiencing her path and all the obstacles she had to overcome before she arrived in this timeline. Who thought we never learned enough about her during the main game, like me, will be overjoyed to see how much screentime she gets this time. How the time machine was created, the WW3 changed the world and what happened to her only friend during the eternal travels, all of her scars are revealed, discussed and as a result, we get one of the best characterizations of the series. While I never fell in love with Suzuha during the main game, at the end of Steins;Gate 0, she became one of my all-time favourites.
On the one hand, we´re presented with Makise´s and Maho´s past friendship, which is explored through flashbacks or interior monologues of the latter where she questions Amadeus’ existence. Along with other character routes, they build another side of this tale, which primarily focuses on exploring how characters would act with a totally different, darker set-up. They too do once again an outstanding job at creating believable darker versions of them. It´s not so much a tale about saving the world, how some descriptions tend it to present, but rather an insight into a totally different path. If Hashida can manage to still become married to his “future” wife when he knows who it will be or Mayuri´s sad fate of loving someone who´s both broken and escaping from reality are the true reasons why Steins;Gate 0 is such a powerful experience for seasoned fans.
At the same time, the game even offers a huge range of endings and paths, smartly tied into the narrative. Instead of making dialogue choices, different people, Amadeus in particular, will call or text Okabe on his smartphone every now and then. Depending on if we pick up or ignore them, the game will alter its course. Essentially, every new scene is determined by this action and has at least one totally different opposite side. While one may not see the result during the first playthrough, the essential replay run will show just how many different scenes there are, how character interaction changes their paths and how much stuff is hidden in Steins;Gate 0, locked away by a simple thing like picking up your phone. It´s really the best way to show the so often rumored consequences from almost non-existing actions. Yet, the 6-8 hours long routes often tend to repeat themselves in the third playthrough, since only the last parts or ending changes each time, while the main potion stays the same after two times.
Artistically though, the PC port delivers in every regard, offering a well-ported 1080p experience. Steins;Gate 0 keeps the super unique art style of the predecessor, infusing it with more dirty, rotten colour palettes, most fitting for the mood. Everything feels like a rusted, old world, reincarnated to perform one final act, so this universe can finally be put to rest. It´s a mix of amazingly well-drawn characters and backgrounds, combined with a pessimistic atmosphere created solely through its interface or design. To top it all of, Spike Chunsoft did a great job at finally bringing over the PC version in English, without adding any new crashes or bugs to the mix.
I, for my part, absolutely adored Steins;Gate, thinking there never would come out something quite like it. Yet, Steins;Gate 0 managed to surprise medespite my high expectations, delivering a captivating, dark alternative tale about our favourite characters. Definitely not something fans would want to miss, especially if you found the main game a bit too light-hearted at some points.
[A Review Code was provided by Spike Chunsoft Inc.]