The long awaited sequel to Steins;Gate is here – is it a worthy follow-up to our first (and favorite) visual novel for the Playstation Vita?
Before Steins;Gate, we had never played a visual novel. It was a genre that largely passed us by, but Steins;Gate’s reputation and its subsequent Vita release was too much of a temptation. Since then, we’re seeing visual novels pop up everywhere, and the Vita has had its fair share of localized titles as well. We’ve reviewed a large number of them thanks to a few publishers who actively support the genre, including Aksys, NIS and PQube. The latter is now bringing Steins;Gate 0 to the west, and it’s available for the PS4 as well as the Vita.
Steins;Gate 0, strictly speaking, isn’t a direct follow-up kind of sequel – rather, it takes place in the same timeline as the original game but with an alternate story. Both stories interweave though, so it helps if you’ve played the first game – even if it’s just to help flesh out the returning characters. One of those is Rintaro Okabe, who is suffering from extreme stress after failing to save Kurisu Makise. Quite early on in the game, Rintaro meets a scientist who was able to ‘clone’ Kurisu’s brain into an AI avatar of herself.
Being a visual novel, traditional gameplay is almost nonexistent – instead, you make choices that determine which plot branch you end up taking. Most of these decisions are taken using your in-game phone by either turning it on/off or interacting with it to reply to people. There’s an overview included in the game that shows you which story branch you’re currently taking, but of course it’s more fun to first experience the story without such a guide to shape your actions. My choice would be to save that for a second playthrough, although I’ll need a bit of a break before I start that – Steins;Gate 0 is over 40 hours long.
How well the game translates to the Vita is partly a technical matter – the first game suffered a little bit from text being cut off in a weird way because lines ended earlier on the Vita’s smaller screen. This has clearly been taken to heart, as none of that plagues the Vita version of Steins;Gate 0. If we had to criticize the game’s conversion to the Vita, we would probably point at the game’s download size. It’s 1.5 gb, so about half of what’s allowed in a Vita downloadable title. The reason we bring that up is that some of the game’s graphics could have been in higher resolution, especially for the sections where you zoom in. Again, this is just a small point and it doesn’t affect the gameplay – it’s just a way in which an excellent game could have been even better.
If you enjoyed Steins;Gate, you owe it to yourself to play Steins;Gate 0 as well. It offers very similar gameplay (with subtle twists in how your phone is used) but makes the experience richer by adding alternate plotlines and extra characters. Playing the game has even re-ignited the spark to play the original game, which I can now view through different eyes. A must-have for Steins;Gate players – and another reason for newcomers to pick that game up prior to playing this one.