Sunday, January 24, 2016

Gameday Sunday: Steins;Gate (Playstation 3 / 2015)


Time travel can be a captivating plot device in storytelling. However, it can also be a tired cliche that's dwells on the same repetitive conventions we've seen time and again. Lately, many modern films, television shows, and novels that tackle the subject seem to falter when it comes to their respective time travel aspects--whether it's unanswered paradoxes, liberal usages of deus ex machina tropes or, worst of all, flat-out lazy writing.

Steins;Gate is a sci-fi time travel story remarkably different from any other. For those unfamiliar with Steins;Gate, the central premise follows our main character and unlikely hero (or 'mad scientist' as he heralds himself), Rintaro Okabe. Okabe's once seemingly carefree existence is turned upside down and now he must deal with the frantic, ever-changing world around him after discovering that his microwave has been converted into a working time machine capable of sending text messages to the past. On one hand, this plot may sound unbelievably quirky but, rest assured, it's one of the freshest, most gripping time travel stories to come out in years.

First and foremost, this game is a visual novel. So certainly don't expect any Batman: Arkham Asylum gameplay, or anything like Akiba's Trip. Many who are looking into the prospect of purchasing this game don't need to hear that, but it's worth nothing for anyone not privy to what a visual novel is. Just as the name suggests, a 'visual novel' is very similar to a novel, except with pictures joining the text. It's basically a 'read along' game with the player able to make some vital 'choose your own adventure' choices to affect the outcome.

As for the game, the Playstation 3 version has an excellent English translation. The text appears accurate and PQube handled this release well. I didn't encounter any glitches or serious game-altering errors during my playthrough. The game itself plays fine, but I hesitate to go into any story-based details or give away any spoilers, but let's just say that this is--in my opinion, one of the best visual novel's I've ever seen. The artwork is unique and a delight for the eyes, and the player is sure to get invested in the characters. So much so that the game will warrant multiple playthroughs, especially for those who want the 'true ending' or to see other endings.

My only gripe is that a collector's edition for the PS3 wasn't released. However, if interested, please purchase this title and show the developer and PQube that we want more visual novels and Japanese games to be released in the United States. It's amazing this game even received a physical release on the PS3, especially when so many niche JP titles are released digital-only in the US (like Godzilla on the PS3, and Senran Kagura for the 3DS).

Every aspect of this game's story was phenomenal. And check out the outstanding anime too. Though if you've seen the anime already and believe the game will offer nothing new, think again! The game fleshes out so many more subplots and elements that could never be fit into the 25 episode series.

Open the Steins;Gate and pick up this visual novel masterpiece. If anyone out there is new to visual novels and wants to give one a try, let Steins;Gate be the one!

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