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Steins;Gate 0 (Vita) artwork

Steins;Gate 0 (Vita) review

"The work of memory collapses time."


Steins;Gate 0 (Vita) image

When a friend described the premise of this game to me, I asked ďIs this a story that really needed to be told?Ē

Steins;Gateís true ending required some pretty specific conditions to be met. I know I needed a flowchart. After experiencing world-lines where Mayuri kept dying, Okabe and Kurisu finally realised they needed to go back to the beta timeline Ė the one where Okabe found Kurisu dead in a pool of blood. Once the deed is done, Suzuha arrives from a new future to give Okabe a chance to rescue Kurisu. He travels back in time and discovers the truth behind her death Ė inadvertently causing it himself.

Suzuha says that he needed to fail once, because that failure led to him discovering a way to save her. Okabe receives a message from himself in the future, that tells him how to go about this mission, and they all live happily ever after. In terms of the first game, itís a bit of a deus ex machina. In terms of Steins;Gate 0, it is definitely earned.

Steins;Gate 0 (Vita) image

We follow Okabe after that first failure, and see how he learned what he needed to know to send that message to himself. Is this a story that needed to be told? Probably not, but that doesnít mean it isnít worth the ride.

Okabe has distanced himself from the lab and most of his friends. He is haunted by his failure and consumed with guilt. The cocky mad scientist is gone, replaced with a young man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He fears time travel. He just wants a normal life. Of course, that is not going to happen.

He attends a lecture held by a Professor and his young assistant, Maho. They are at the forefront of AI technology and turning human memories into a digital format, something Kurisu had been researching (and incorporated into Okabeís time travelling). After befriending Maho, he gets the chance to beta test Amadeus Ė a computer program AI that has Kurisuís memories.

What follows is a story that examines the nature of memories. Is a person defined by their memories and experiences, or is personality something different? This is a natural follow up to a story about different timelines where memories and experiences are altered constantly.

Steins;Gate had one fairly consistent narrative that would often loop back on itself (with alternate endings being triggered by various choices). The structure here is very different. Okabeís phone is still the only way to influence the direction of the story, but itís far subtler this time. I reached the first ending without even knowing Iíd made a choice (when I had in fact made a couple). Instead of one narrative, the story branches quite significantly at certain points, so your next playthrough could turn out quite differently.

Steins;Gate 0 (Vita) image

Characters will develop differently depending on which path you take. Different truths will be revealed. What you learn in one world-line doesnít necessarily mean the same thing on another world-line. Itís an ingenious structure to storytelling, which allows us to see multiple sides to a character, to see how different circumstances and memories change them.

Okabe is still the main character, but he is not the only one we follow. The viewpoint will switch from time to time, so we can see parts of the story from other characterís perspectives. Kurisuís presence looms large over the story, her death is what led to the events that unfold. Her afterlife as the Amadeus can change the world.

All the original characters return in some form or another, although some of them donít get a huge amount of screen time. All the characters have a remarkable level of depth and personality; with real issues that they must overcome. Friendships are tested, and arguments occur. They will hide important truths from each other, in the name of protecting them. Because we arenít limited to Okabeís POV, we can see a lot more of this unfolding throughout the story.

Unfortunately, due to the structure and multiple world-lines, the pacing can be a little frustrating at times. One of the most brilliant things about the first game is that we didnít always know where it was going to end up. But because this whole story takes place in a timeline that is going to be erased, itís easy to get a bit impatient with the story. Some of the genre shifts can be a little jarring, too. In one scene, we have characters fighting for their lives, to science fiction, to romantic comedy.

But I think the story needs these light-hearted moments, because the next scene might go heavy on the pathos. Watching these characters finally break down and come to terms with their issues (be it guilt, or insecurity, or feelings of uselessness) does make the whole thing worthwhile. There were times when I would only put my Vita down when it needed charging, or I couldnít keep my eyes open any longer.

This isnít a story that needed to be told, but Iím glad it was.

jerec's avatar
Community review by jerec (February 05, 2017)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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