Master class in storytelling.
Ever since I’ve started reviewing games, I have noticed a trend in how I touch upon the story of a game.
The words that come up most often are “typical”, “uninspired”, “serviceable” and the like, which would be used to describe something that exists only because of necessity and nothing more.
It’s a depressing thought because I’ve enjoyed a handful of truly exceptional stories in the medium, but they have been despairingly few and far between.
The bar for storytelling in gaming has lowered so much to the point where it has nearly become a non factor when I begin tallying up the final score.
However, in the case of Steins;Gate, the story is everything and everything is absolutely marvelous.
Price I’d pay: $64.19
Voice Acting: Japanese Only
Length: 30-40 hours
Before I start, I should mention that I have actually seen the Steins;Gate anime series/OVA years ago and loved it.
It’s the reason I’ve been wanting to play the game for a long time, and when I heard of the English release on consoles, I thought this would be my best chance to do so.
Steins;Gate is a visual novel game like the popular Ace Attorney, 999 and Danganronpa series, but unlike those three it’s mostly lacking in gameplay, concentrating solely on the delivery of the story.
The only real interactivity the game offers is in the use of the phone, which can be pulled out at almost any time.
Answering calls, replying to messages via selecting a topic/keyword and small other things like changing the wallpaper/ringtone is possible.
It doesn’t seem like much, and it really isn’t all things considered, but it ends up being a key component where most of the big route changing decisions are made.
The effect is subtle, like choosing to send a message or not, but the consequences are often unexpected and quite drastic.
As for the story itself, I can’t say much other than it’s one of the best I’ve ever experienced, not just in gaming, but the entirety of the entertainment medium.
I often smiled and laughed watching the silly antics of the loveable characters, but my heart was also drenched in unbearable sorrow and despair, so much to the point I even shed tears.
I can’t remember the last time I cried playing or watching anything, and it’s a testament, not just in the writing of the story but also in the delivery of the lines, which portrayed the type of emotion that grabbed hold of me and refused to let go.
This is thanks in part to the expert world building technique that makes this decidedly impossible tale seem plausible.
It’s a simple yet deceptively difficult technique to use where the writer works to blur the line between a fictional world and our own reality by referencing real life events/theories/objects.
A good example of this is a figure known in history as, “John Titor” (just Google John Titor if you’re interested). This self-proclaimed time traveler from 2036 is referenced many times within the game and through clever twists and superimposition of new ideas, it becomes one bridge of many to connect the real world to that of the one presented in Steins;Gate.
There’s plenty of sci-fi stories out there that would be better labeled as “fantasy”, given how little they regard our actual understanding of the world, but Steins;Gate firmly plants itself in reality and deftly makes its move to the unknown, losing nothing in the process.
The only complaint I have for Steins;Gate is that I feel more could have been done with the cell phone to amplify the feeling that the player was connected to the world.
A way for this to have been achieved would have been to expand the functionality of the phone to allow the player to message/call any character at any time. Even if the calls/messages were left unanswered, it would’ve made me feel that I was more in control of what was happening on screen.
With that said, Steins;Gate is an absolute master class in storytelling and world building in a game. It deserves to be experienced by anyone who claims to enjoy a good sci-fi adventure, and those who don’t and take a chance with Steins;Gate might just find that they just haven’t experienced the right one until this very moment.
Fun Tidbit – I would say that I enjoyed the game slightly more than the anime but the game is a significantly longer investment of time compared to the anime series which is still fantastic in its own right.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.