The Visual Novel genre seems to have found its home on the PlayStation Vita in recent years, with titles such as Danganronpa, XBlaze and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward enjoying success on the handheld.

For the uninitiated, Visual Novels are interactive stories that tend to sacrifice gameplay in favour of anime-style art and brilliant narratives. Some of the titles mentioned above do add puzzles or other gameplay elements, but you will find that Steins;Gate avoids these to deliver one of the best stories I have seen in a video game.

A tale of teenagers and time travel, you are the self-proclaimed mad-scientist Okabe Rintarōthe founder of the Future Gadget Laboratory. The Headquarters for this operation is in a spare room above a TV repair shop in Akihabara. Okabe has enlisted his friends, the ditzy Mayuri Shiina (Mayushii) and ‘Super Hacka’ Itaru “Daru” Hashida, as Lab Members to aide him as he attempts to make ‘Future Gadgets’ – which often turn out to be pretty lacklustre.

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The story begins when, after a conference at Radi-Kan, Okabe finds famous teen scientist Kurisu Makise face-down in a pool of blood. Shocked at what he has seen, Okabe flees the building and sends an e-mail to Daru telling him of the events that have unfolded. This e-mail causes a major change in the world, with Daru receiving the mail seven days before Okabe sent it.

The latest of Okabe’s Future Gadgets, the PhoneWave (name subject to change), is the cause of this time-travelling e-mail. A microwave with a phone attached, the PhoneWave was built to allow the Lab Members to set the microwave remotely, so that when they return to the lab their food would be ready and waiting. This machine unintentionally happens to allow users to send e-mails to the past, thus being able to change the future.

This is the start of what becomes a gripping story of these teenagers racing to be the first people to successfully build a machine capable of time-travel. Each of the characters that you meet along the way are brilliant additions to the story, and at times, outshine the insecure, oft-arrogant, Okabe.

Steins;Gate does start off a little slow, but as you make your way through the game’s chapters and realise there is a lot more to the story than the time travel theme that features heavily you will find yourself become addicted to finding out what is to become of the game’s multi-layered characters.

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In true visual novel style, the story in Steins;Gate is text-based – so prepare to read through thousands of lines as you make your way to the game’s thrilling climax. Accompanying the text is a brilliant soundtrack that changes depending on which character you are conversing with and fits the mood of the game perfectly. The characters are brought to life via an amazing Japanese language voiceover – with each role played to perfection by the respective voice actors.

The lengths that developer 5pb have gone to to make Steins;Gate accessible to all those that play it is quite commendable. With all of the science behind the story and the constant nods to popular culture (both Eastern and Western), a glossary has been included to help with some of the words that you may be not so familiar with. I thought this was a great addition to the game, and found myself learning quite a bit whilst playing through the story.

Steins;Gate, like other games in the genre, has multiple endings for you to work towards. The ending that you get is dependent on the choices that you make as you progress through each of the game’s chapters. These choices are presented to you are known as ‘Phone Triggers’, where your decision on how to respond to an e-mail, whether to answer or reject a phone call or whether to send a D-Mail (the time travelling e-mails are named these, with the D standing for DeLorean in a nod to Back to the Future). All of your choices will affect the future, with the Butterfly Effect being one of the many scientific theories that are prevalent in the game.

Making these choices is pretty simple, your phone can be accessed almost all the time during the story. You will see a display in the top left of the screen that acts as the front screen of Okabe’s mobile phone and this will alert you to any incoming calls or new e-mails that you receive. A quick press of the triangle button will display the phone on the screen, and here you can read your e-mails and choose how you would like to reply to them. When you receive an e-mail that you can reply to, you will notice that two to three keywords in a mail are highlighted blue. These words serve as the choices you can make in the game and selecting one of them will alter the response you send, ultimately altering future events.

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It is testament to the brilliance of Steins;Gate when a game with minimal interaction and a lack of ‘gameplay’ had me hooked to my Vita for over a week. Your first playthrough of Steins;Gate will last in the region of 20-25 hours, and if you want to go for all the endings you can look at about 40 hours in total. I found myself looking forward to getting home every night so I could get back into the wonderful wit and humour that features in the strong narrative – often playing until the battery died on my Vita.

Steins;Gate is arguably one of the best games in the Visual Novel genre, and definitely up there as one of the best games on the PlayStation Vita. Days after completing the game I still have bits of the story running through my head, from little catchphrases like Mayushii’s chirpy, song-like ‘tutturū’ that she says when greeting people to Okabe’s megalomaniac monologues that often end up with him talking into his phone like he is on some secret mission.  The lack of gameplay and the amount of reading that is involved will mean that some people will not be fans of this game, but Steins;Gate definitely has left me wanting more and I feel that any person that enjoys a good story will find this game extremely enjoyable.

For a game about time-travel, it sure has taken a while for Steins;Gate to reach Western shores. All is now forgiven though, as the thrilling twists, fantastic characters and the eccentric humour make the wait worthwhile. Steins;Gate now has me wishing that I could time leap back to the day I started the game, just so that I can experience it over and over again!

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Presentation
Gameplay
Lasting Appeal
Execution
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Charlie Large is the Deputy Editor of The Vita Lounge and has been a part of the site for over 2 years! A fan of all things PlayStation, he spends most of his time playing, writing, talking or thinking about games! You will find him currently splitting his time between his PS4 and Vita trying to work through an ever-rising backlog of brilliant titles!
  • Great review Charlie, can’t wait to pick this one up when it (eventually) hits the North American PSN.

  • Buckybuckster

    I still have yet to play any VN but your enthusiasm for this game Charlie has piqued my interest. I may have to pick this up. Thanx as always for the review!

    BTW, Dr. People needs to be a real thing…… SERIOUSLY!!

  • Nonscpo

    Great review Charlie, so much better than pocketgamers review. Out of curiosity how many endings have you hit so far and which is your favorite character? Also how do you feel about recommending this title to people who havent played a visual novel before?

    • Looks like he hit them all to me (there’s a platinum trophy in the top right of the last full-size screenshot). 😉

      • Nonscpo

        Oh ho, how did I miss that? Go Charlie!

        • Charlie Large

          Thanks Nonscpo 🙂 as you’ve noticed, I’ve seen all the endings 🙂 as for my favourite character, that’s a toughie!

          Mayushii is funny, but can be annoying at times

          Okabe is a bit of a psycho, but when you see him for who he is he’s a lot more likeable.

          I reckon Suzuha and Makise are probably the two best characters for me, though they’re all awesome! So hard to choose!

  • Cousin Jeffrey

    My physical copy arrived today from Europe. A bargain for $41 posted, while the digital version is $65 on psn. What a joke

  • Thulsa

    Looks like we have the next magazines cover game 🙂

    • Go Steins;Gate! Kyle and I were laughing about it, otherwise it would have been a Tetris themed one! Unless of course Double Fine sneak out a title and it also gets full marks…

  • Stef Lemmens

    A small question: Does the game also have English voices? Or only English subtitles?

    • Cloud_IX

      English Subtitles with Japanese voice

  • It’s a wonderful story, but as somebody that got the platinum last night, I don’t agree with giving it a 5 for lasting appeal. The emotional impacts will only really work the first time you experience it, unless your playthroughs are many years apart, when you’ve forgotten the majority of the details.

    • Charlie Large

      I think for me, I could play through this game again and again as the years go by. In some ways, it can be compared to a good book. I’ve read several books many of times and enjoyed them as much each time, can see this game having a similar effect 🙂

  • Lester Paredes

    Sounds interesting. I generally avoid visual novels, as I’d just rather read a book, but I might jump in on this one. I hear that the main character can be kind of an ass, and that may be off-putting to some, but I suppose I’ll have to see for myself. Hopefully, he’s likable enough and doesn’t ruin the story. All it takes is being stuck with the viewpoint if the jerk to ruin a story, as this isn’t the first time I’ve read that the other characters are very interesting.

    • Charlie Large

      The main character does come across as a bit of an ass, but when you realise why he is the way he is you will find that you will like him a lot more!

      • Lester Paredes

        Hopefully the twist is good. I can’t always abide irredeemable characters.

  • William Jin

    I finally run out of patience and imported a copy from UK, counting the days until it arrives!

  • Tom van Aken

    I got the EU limited edition! Still waiting for a time to really get into this though, still have a Vita backlog to work through (what, no games?) currently consisting of the first three personas, finishing Neptunia Re;Birth 1, starting Re;Birth 2, Arcana Heart 3 and Operation Abyss

    • Nonscpo

      Yeah same here, it’s becoming depresing having to pass on day one purchases just cause of the backlog 🙁

      • Tom van Aken

        Yup! I’m working my way through Re;Birth 1 though, and now that vacation is coming, I’m hoping to get this backlog GONE!

        • Nonscpo

          Best of luck to you!

  • Yoyitsu

    I’m really tempted to import the UK version. The game looks too good.

  • chizwoz

    So is it as good as Bible Black?

    • Nonscpo

      Nothing comes close to Bible Black, except maybe Starless…uncensored, Bwahahaha!

      • Bane Soulreaver

        I know neither of these, but if you claim them better than steins;gate then they are a definite must look up.

        • Nonscpo

          Hmm don’t know if I’d go that far, I definitely believe in beign open minded to new gaming experiences. Why not play all three of em?

          • Bane Soulreaver

            I’m watching a let’s play for one now. So far im absorbed in the story. I’m really looking forward to Steins;Gate as well. Looked into the others and discovered they are eroge. (not really my thing) so I’ll likely look into others primarily. Still, my interest has been peaked.

  • JuVu

    This question is directed to Charlie, but if any others seeing this have platinumed this game and know the answer, feel free to reply.

    I’m two endings short of finishing every route in the game. Since I saw the platinum trophy icon in a screenshot in this review, I thought it would be kind of neat for myself, too, to try to achieve the platinum trophy cue with the final CG. Gives a nice closure, you know?

    Is the final CG the last possible thing in the game to obtain, this triggering the platinum trophy, or is there still some things that must be done after it’s possible to unlock the final CG? I still have a good chunk of those phone trigger things unobtained.

    • Charlie Large

      Hey Juvu, the final CG isn’t the last possible thing to obtain, but you can decide when you activate it. I would suggest clearing up all of the phone-related trophies first, once you have seen all of the endings the final CG will appear as an email attachment in your phone the next time you start a New Game.

      If you get all the other trophies out of the way first, and then start a new game and check Okabe’s e-mails at the first possible chance the final CG will be there, and then the CG trophy and the Plat will pop 🙂

      Hope that clears things up a little for you!

      • JuVu

        Gah, even with the help I managed to screw up. Since the 100% CG trophy popped up first, I didn’t realize it and took a screenshot only for the platinum trophy cue to pass through my fingers due to the cooldown between taking screenshots. Aaaargh, I was so close and yet I managed to mess up!

        Now I would have some use for a time machine, haha. Maybe even this was the choice of Steins;Gate.

  • Matthew Brannock

    What the hell?

    is this physical only?

  • Yosh, this game will be my next-to-buy-list!!!

  • Bane Soulreaver

    The show was amazing, I can’t wait to try this and see how the world will be based off of my decisions.

    P.s. Mayushii’s greeting is my text tone 😜