Steins;Gate Elite Review – El Psy Kongroo

This is the will of Steins Gate.

Posted By | On 05th, Mar. 2019 Under Article, Reviews


Steins;Gate is often referred to as one of the greatest visual novels of all time, while its anime adaptation is similarly listed among the greatest anime of all time. The story of the embattled Okabe Rintaro and his band of plucky high school and college student companions stumbling upon a world altering secret, and the sudden conspiracies they find themselves thrust into, is absolutely fantastic. As a science fiction fanatic, I would confidently state that I have never yet experienced a time travel story that is better than Steins;Gate in any format. The manner in which it maintains causality and still manages to subvert expectations and upend its own narrative trajectory is truly breathtaking and exhilarating.

The great news is that Steins;Gate Elite, which is a remake of the original interspersed with anime cutscenes in order to create a more dynamic experience than the static images and cutouts one usually sees in visual novels, maintain almost everything that is good about the original, while adding a layer of immersion that until now has been impossible to experience with any degree of interactivity. Put simply, by taking scenes from the anime, and making them part of the visual novel, Steins;Gate Elite essentially feels like you are playing the anime at all times.

Steins;Gate Elite

"Put simply, by taking scenes from the anime, and making them part of the visual novel, Steins;Gate Elite essentially feels like you are playing the anime at all times."

This can feel like a gimmick (and at first, it barely feels like that), but the kineticism it imbues the story with can have a great effect. The issue with the original Steins;Gate, as with all visual novels, was that the actual storytelling comes from static images with loads of text boxes superimposed over it. It’s kind of like reading a comic book with fewer panels and more text; but you gain a full degree of control over the story in exchange. On the other hand, the anime truly depicts every event in the story—but it comes at the cost of any control over the story.

Steins;Gate Elite removes that choice, and you now get the immersion of the anime with the control you get in the visual novel. There are changes that have had to be made—remember, the anime lacks a lot of scenes and content from the visual novel. In a lot of cases, new ones were made to account for that. In a lot of other cases, the anime scenes have been reframed, refilmed, or reshot to better account for the pacing of the visual novel. It ends up working surprisingly well, and the virtues of the anime (from its strong art to its fantastic framing of the action) plays unexpectedly well with Okabe’s inner monologue, which, if you remember, was entirely absent from the anime and only in the original visual novel.

"For all these changes to how the story is told, there are very few ones made to the story itself, and with good reason."

For all these changes to how the story is told, there are very few ones made to the story itself, and with good reason. As I already pointed out, Steins;Gate is an incredibly strong narrative. It starts off extremely slow (frustratingly slow; it’s very easy to fall off the wagon early on with how little seems to be happening for the first half dozen or so hours), but the pace soon picks up as things come to a head. Steins;Gate’s story goes to some incredibly dark and unexpected places. One particular ending is extremely messed up (and also the easiest ending to activate), while the true ending is an emotionally exhausting, harrowing experience that has you question your commitment to multiple characters in the game, and forces you to come to terms with your own limitations and defeat before finally allowing you a win.

It’s a classic, and it’s elevated even further thanks to Okabe, the main character. Okabe is your textbook otaku, pretending he lives a grander life than he does, involved and embroiled in conspiracies and secret agents, constantly talking to himself about the so-called shadowy “Organization”. He can be incredibly annoying at first, but as his insecurities and vulnerabilities come to the fore, and his love for the people in his life, and as it becomes clear just how much he is willing to do to keep those people safe, secure, and happy, you realize there’s more to him than just the tropes he appears to embody at first.

"It’s a classic, and it’s elevated even further thanks to Okabe, the main character. Okabe is your textbook otaku, pretending he lives a grander life than he does, involved and embroiled in conspiracies and secret agents, constantly talking to himself about the so-called shadowy “Organization”."

Honestly, that’s true of Steins;Gate as a whole. It has a lot of anime tropes, sometimes uncomfortably so, and there are parts that are extremely out of place with non-Japanese sensibilities that I imagine will give a lot of people pause. Cultural relativism is not an excuse for any of that, and there’s little doubt that there are ways that the game handles topics which can be uncomfortable.

But in spite of the sometimes unfortunate presence of its tropes, the core story is absolutely incredible, and unmatched. It’s harrowing, thrilling, unpredictable, and keeps you at the edge of your seat as you try to understand just how Okabe will manage to get through the tribulations he faces that no human can possibly hope to prevail against. The payoff is worth it.

While some will be disappointed at the lack of an English dub—you get English text, but the voices are Japanese only—in the end, the Japanese voice acting is absolutely incredible, and for most viewers of anime, this is not likely to be much of an issue. For others, if you find the voices grating, you at least have the option to turn them off (though doing so misses a lot of the emotional nuance of later scenes, particularly in Okabe, Kurisu, and Suzuha’s deliveries).

There are shortcomings to Steins;Gate Elite, a lot of which come from its laudable ambition of reinventing visual novels by melding anime with VN. It succeeds to a surprising degree, and succeeds enough that such shortcomings can be overlooked. If you have not already, Steins;Gate Elite is the way to experience the classic story. This, too, is the will of Steins Gate.

This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

THE GOOD

An incredible story brought to life as practically a playable anime; the blend of anime and VN works very well; Okabe is an amazing character, with a great supporting cast; the payoff in the story is worth it; the Japanese voice acting is stellar and adds amazing nuance to most scenes

THE BAD

The pacing in early hours can be very slow; a lot of anime tropes can feel out of place; no English dub

Final Verdict

Steins;Gate Elite succeeds to a surprising degree, and succeeds enough that some shortcomings can be overlooked. If you have not already, Steins;Gate Elite is the way to experience the classic story. This, too, is the will of Steins Gate.

A copy of this game was provided by developer/publisher for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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