Steins;Gate is possibly my favourite visual novel. A gripping, smart sci-fi thriller about a bunch of students who inadvertently build a time machine and end up in a whole mess of predestined trouble for it. It even got an impressive anime adaptation, though it did miss out on a lot of the finer points and branching story-lines. Enter Steins;Gate Elite, out now, a remake of the original VN by Mages, built around the animation, art and voice-acting from the TV version. It also comes with Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram, a collection of ten side stories. See the trailer below.
While there’s some debate as to whether the visual novel’s distinctive illustrations are better or worse than the art used, I just think that it’s different. Still, the biggest perks here are voice acting and animation, with the original anime production crew coming back to produce some extra scenes to fill out the branches a bit more. If you liked the TV version but wanted the larger, more detailed script of the original, this is the best of both worlds. Still or partially animated art is used when there’s only text available, but the consistency between the animation and stills is nice.
Still, the main appeal for many (myself included) is Linear Bounded Phenogram – I’ve been told it’s another couple dozen hours of side-stories and what-if scenarios in the original art style. Officially released in English for the first time in this pack, I’m hoping to make time to binge on it sometime soon. Of course, there’s also sequel Steins;Gate Zero, which is a crushingly depressing read a lot of the time (time travel can really mess a guy up), also out in English on PC now. It’s just a pity that the Switch version is the only place with the NES-styled 8-Bit Adventure spinoff.
It would be remiss of me to not mention that – well-handled as most things are in Steins;Gate, it isn’t a perfect work. Its handling of a character with a fuzzy gender identity is a bit clumsy and tone-deaf, but considering it came out a full decade ago, I think it’s forgivable, if a little disappointing. Your mileage may vary, of course, so if this is a deal-breaker to you, fair enough. Still, that aside, I’d highly recommend it – the whole series, even. Just know that you’ll be putting on a lot of time and effort before you see anything resembling a happy ending.
Steins;Gate Elite is out now on Steam for £45/€54/$54. Personally, I’m waiting on a good deal on the complete series package, which is a a daunting £87.09/€99.87/$107.07 at the moment. It’s published by Spike Chunsoft.