Considering the original's beloved art style, Steins;Gate Elite has proven itself to be quite the divisive game even before its release. The main feature of the updated visual novel is that it uses animation from its anime adaptation in order to ensure that players get a full view of its world. Rather than imagining sequences playing out, players can just watch them unfold. It removes some of the imagination that comes with reading, but it's also a really ambitious undertaking that winds up being cool to experience.
Beyond its art, this is still very much Steins;Gate. There are no noticeable changes to the writing, and players still get to experience 5pb.'s time travel story as intended. While many of its plot elements are well-worn tropes at this point, some entertaining writing and plot twists keep it from being a total retread. Rather than leaning on classic ideas, the writing team has used them as a launching point for their own story.
Since the plot revolves heavily around time travel, specifically being able to send data (such as emails) to the past in order to alter events, there's plenty of discussion about traditional scientific principles and ridiculous theories. In fact, these explanations of core principles can sometimes feel like a lecture of a beginner's science class. While there are attempts to make sure these scenes still entertain (such as comparing multiple worlds to the branches of a dating game), Steins;Gate has an issue of being overly wordy in spots. It's never a great thing to read ten minutes worth of text that could have been summed up in a sentence or two, but that happens quite a few times throughout.
A few qualms aside, the writing is a definite highlight in Steins;Gate. In particular, the character dialogue is entertaining throughout and everyone winds up being quite likable. Similar to other games in the Science Adventure series like Chaos;Child, many of the characters are "extremely online" in nature. From browsing a 4chan equivalent for information to constantly referencing anime, the characters are reflective of modern society. They are very much attached to the internet and their phones at all times, which winds up serving an important purpose later on.
Steins;Gate isn't the most action-packed visual novel. Much of the exposition revolves around testing experiments and searching for information. However, the few action moments really shine thanks to the full animation on display. If one sets the text to automatically advance, it can genuinely feel like you're watching an anime with captions. While the quality won't rival something like No Game No Life, the impressive production value adds a lot to the experience.
While I wound up enjoying the murder-mystery tale of 5pb.'s Chaos;Child more than Steins;Gate, things really start to click after a slow start. No character walks into the plot without reason, and it's extremely enjoyable to experience all these plot threads coming together in its final stretch. Seeing the multiple endings makes all of the pseudo-science lecturing more than worth it.
Helping matters is that the story is easier to experience than before. The original visual novel used a rather convoluted "phone trigger" system that had the player messing around with their phone. Text messages had a time limit before they became inaccessible. There were email attachments to download as well, and this all made things more complicated than they should be. Thankfully, Steins;Gate Elite streamlines everything. The emails you receive automatically open and players just make a choice before automatically continuing on. There's less fiddling around in menus, and that's a major positive.
With how it impressively merges visual novels and anime, Steins;Gate Elite is quite the accomplishment. While some of the fun is lost when a reader doesn't have to imagine what is happening on-screen, it's still extremely fun to just sit back and enjoy an excellent story filled with entertaining twist and turns. It proves to be a quality time investment no matter if it's your first time experiencing the time travel adventure or you're revisiting it.
TechRaptor reviewed Steins;Gate Elite on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the developers.
Steins;Gate Elite is a fantastic version of 5pb.'s beloved visual novel. Not only do the animated sequences help bring its story to life while players read, but the phone trigger gameplay system has been intelligently streamlined as well.
- Smartly Streamlined
- Great Endings
- Memorable Characters
- Scientific Explanations Can Drag
- Overly Wordy In Spots