Among the many visual novels that have been released in English, Steins;Gate is often said to be one of the most recognizable games in the genre. After an initial release in 2009 Japan fans were quick to pick up on the series once an anime adaptation aired a couple of years later. Years later Steins;Gate finally made an official appearance in English and has since arrived on a number of platforms but now the game has been given a re-release that makes it incredibly unique in the genre as it now features fully animated scenes with a more modernized feel. With Steins;Gate Elite offering something a bit different than the norm, is it worth revisiting or perhaps diving in for those unfamiliar with the genre?
Steins;Gate Elite follows the story of Rintaro Okabe, who happens to be called Okarin by those who are closest to him and choose to ignore his pseudonym. Okarin believes himself to be something of a mad scientist and has created a lab dubbed the Future Gadget Laboratory that simply ends up being an apartment built above an old television shop in Akihabara. Despite suffering from a serious case of delusion, Okarin has a number of friends close to him that are willing to go along with his ideas but things start to get a bit out of hand when one of their experiments ends up working in a way that no one could have imagined.
When attending a science conference Rintaro manages to stumble across a number of oddities including a dead body. After attempting to let one of his friends know about what happened a strange phenomenon occurs around him, altering the reality of the situation. It isn’t long before the group end up realizing that they have invented a form of time travel. With the focus of the story being around the ethics of changing the past to alter the present and the various ripple effects that each change manages to create, this story eventually turns into an incredibly interesting one that will keep players engrossed for many hours at a time.
Despite the new visual style of Steins;Gate Elite it is worth noting that the game still features a rather plodding beginning sequence once the prologue is over with. This is alleviated eventually thanks to a number of factors such as the revealing of numerous plot points and major stakes but perhaps the most by how great the characters are in this game. While they may be a bit cut and dry archetype wise at the start of the game every character is eventually given plenty of time to grow and it is hard not to become attached to some of them. With such a great cast of characters and a storyline that only gets more gripping as you make your way to the finale, it is easy to see why this visual novel remains one of the most recommended in the genre.
This makes it more than worthwhile to play the game through multiple times in an attempt to see all of the different endings as there are some rather big differences depending on if you set down a character route or simply aim for the true ending. That being said it is nice to note that even with the anime style presentation it is still possible to skip through scenes if you are simply trying to push towards a new ending after finishing the game once before.
Players will still find that Steins;Gate Elite features a number of choices that must be made throughout the game. These choices generally come in the form of text messages and players must choose what they will say or if they will even say anything at all. The choices made during these cellphone scenes play a key role in determining just how the story of the game will unfold. Though it is often difficult to tell just how some choices will end up affecting the route the player ends up on, so be wary in that regard.
There are multiple endings that range from the “True” good ending to an incredibly bad ending with a number of others that focus more on sending the player down a specific character path. These alternate endings provide unique “what-if” scenarios that those unfamiliar with the source material or who have only seen the anime will have never seen before.
As you progress through the visual novel various terms will be unlocked in the Tips menu where various scientific terms, otaku style terms, game-specific organizations and wordplay, and more are featured in a way that allows players to look them up should they either be completely unaware of what the term may be or need a bit of a refresher course on some of the terminology used throughout the game.
Visuals & Audio
The biggest change in Steins;Gate Elite, and what makes it the “Elite” version, is that this visual novel has undergone a major rework. Rather than use the original artwork and sprites from the classic entry the game now features fully animated artwork and stills taken from the anime as well as scenes that weren’t in the anime. These new scenes are even created by the original studio that worked on the anime to make sure that everything retains the same visual flair. In a number of ways this creates a unique feeling game that can even be watched like an anime if left in auto mode. That being said, it also means that the unique style that the original game featured, including the color palette, have been left behind so be prepared for that if you happen to be a returning fan.
The voice work is handled just as well as fans may remember from the original game with the Japanese voice actors and actresses putting on a splendid performance. The background music also features a nice mix of tracks that work well for their given scenes.
Steins;Gate Elite remains an impressive visual novel with a new flair that has rarely been seen in visual novels in general, let alone translated into English. Fans and newcomers will both be able to appreciate the new anime presentation of the visual novel and while it may take a bit to get going the amazing storyline remains as gripping as ever in what ends up being a lengthy but incredibly enjoyable visual novel.
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