Steins;Gate 0 exists on a curious premise. I’d hesitate to call it a sequel, even though it technically takes place after the chronological ending of the first game. Yet it also isn’t a prequel or even a sidequel. A side story might be most accurate for a term but even that would bring about the wrong assumptions of its legitimacy in the Steins;Gate canon. Such is the twisted world of time travel and alternate world lines. In that regard S;G0 is almost metaphorical in its premise to us the viewer as the events are to the main character, Okabe Rintaro.
Before I speak any more of this game I strongly urge the reader to look away and either play or at least watch the original Steins;Gate anime. It is impossible for me to review this without spoiling S;G completely. The first game is also pretty much a masterpiece so please, please go and play/watch that if you haven’t already. I will tell you that S;G0 is completely worth your time and is not just a cash in or pointless sequel.
SPOILERS FOR STEINS;GATE 1 FOLLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Steins;Gate 0 starts off and exists after Okabe Rintaro’s failed attempt at saving Makise Kurisu but before he tries it again. In this worldline the video from his future self never arrived convincing him to give one final shot at saving the woman he loves. He becomes a dark, moody man who is practically the opposite of his much crazier persona, Hououin Kyouma. Gone are the days of his carefree attitude and ability to inspire others into his little fantasy land. He no longer toils away in the Future Gadget Lab making silly fun inventions. Instead he buckles down in college, attends lectures, and tries to become a “normie”.
It is a stark contrast to how he was in the previous game and a change I love honestly. So rarely do you see such a large yet appropriate paradigm shift in a character’s personality and even rarer is it explained well or sticks around. Okabe’s clothing has even changed to again, a very different look but a fitting one that does not feel out of place.
I will not provide a full synopsis of the story but as part of the review (and let’s be real its a visual novel there’s not a whole lot of gameplay to go over) it is important to get a frame of reference of the story and why it matters. This game is largely about the events that allow Okabe to save Kurisu in the first game and travel to Steins;Gate. So basically it follows the events of the future Okabe Rintaro of another timeline who influences the past to save Makise Kurisu. That’s about as simple as I can explain it while keeping the story relatively unknown.
New characters are added into S;G0 and a good few are really fleshed out while others just kind of fizzle. Virtually all characters from the first game return in some capacity as well. The story follows a patch somewhat unlike the first game in that a key decision changes the second half, and basically each half has 3 different endings with only one in total being the “True” ending. In S;G you get different endings based off a particular decision at the end of each chapter with the true ending only being obtainable by getting the right text message response several times. Which is pretty much impossible without a guide.
Fortunately, S;G0 does away with this with the endings being chosen based off of ignoring or answering key phone calls. I prefer this as the choices feel more organic and less obtuse. The real interesting thing here is how the endings are done. I actually prefer all the alternate endings in this game more than even in the first game because despite not being fully “canon” they still explore themes and ideas of the world and further develop the characters in interesting way. If we consider each ending as its own timeline it is another meta way in which we can simulate what it is like to have Okabe’s “Reading Steiner” ability which is to say we can observe and retain the memories of things that happened on different worldlines. So with that said I find it very rewarding and encourage future players of S;G0 to go after all the endings too.
There are a couple of gripes I have with S;G0 so not everything is rosy. These are relatively minor. Starting with the worst is that as it goes with time travel stories in media, the longer they go on the more complex and convoluted it gets. S;G1 for example, strikes a really good balance of time travel and how it affects the world without getting too crazy and deep in it. But S;G0 has to go deeper and so you are gonna be sitting scratching your head a bit more thinking “what, how is that possible?” And if you’re like me you’re gonna be too dumb to fully grok it but also don’t want to spoil anything for yourself so you’re gonna finish the game before looking anything up to help make sense to yourself. Of course in its own way that’s part of the fun. Going around and reading explanations and theories is actually neat to see ideas you never thought about the first time. In my efforts to get a clear view of the story line I read a comment that suggested an idea for the evil Kurisu the Suzuha from Steins;Gate 1 mentioned. Although that’s not mentioned even once directly in 0, head canoning certain lore can put what she said into a whole new perspective.
Another smaller but equally important gripe are how a couple of the new characters and small plot threads just fizzle out. Its not a big deal, and one ultimately serves their purpose but I’m more upset about that character just because they literally have no resolution. Another character is so useless I don’t know why they were included at all. There also a couple seemingly important story threads that are mentioned early on in the game that never get a mention again. Such as a violent protest about AI. Its possible its a red herring but I feel strongly that it was something dropped partway through and they couldn’t undo. Of course my hope is that maybe that plot point was left in to use as potential material for future entries into the Steins;Gate lore. That would be the most pleasant outcome.
And finally the only other real complaint I have, the only one that actually affects gameplay, is the fast forward feature. Having played precisely 0 other pure visual novels besides these 2 I don’t know how common this is but both games allow you to press a button and all content you’ve already read will be fast forwarded automatically stopping at new content. This carries over across game saves and is imperative to repeating the story you have to see to unlock more endings. Without this it would be a very very boring slog. However, in a couple of endings there is a large overlap in story you have seen before but because there are new lines littered throughout the game’s auto fast forward doesn’t work. You can alternatively use another button which forces the fast forward, but does not stop at new content. While not the biggest deal in the world it did affect my enjoyment getting the last couple of endings as I had to carefully start and stop to make sure I missed no new story bits.
Speaking of new story, there is a particular scene in S;G0 that is my favorite scene from both games. It made me cry simply at the start of it and I was awestruck reading through its entire section. Easily the highlight of the series to me.
The voice acting is top-notch and coming from only a part-time weeb who normally doesn’t care between Japanese and English voice acting I believe that Steins;Gate thrives off of being done with Japanese voices since the series is just so Japanesy in general. Visually the game is stunning. The updated UI accurately reflects the look and feel of the game and the CG and character art is just terrific. Half the time I played I just admired the art and really let it soak in.
Closing Thoughts: A few typos scattered throughout and I noticed some lines that weren’t translated 100% accurately but not enough to affect the story in anyway, just mild curiosities. I cannot recommend Steins;Gate 0 enough. Not just to fans of the first but also I hope that people who have not yet experienced the first game might be more inclined to do so knowing that there is an equally good sequel full of content to go into afterwards.
Extra: I played this on the PS Vita and it is also 100% playable on the PSTV. Download the patch before playing or risk getting your save corrupted. Identical to the PS4 version (I did not play that one) but the final lines in the true ending are bizarrely not translated only in the PS4 version.
Not even Dr. P is this good.
I obtained this game Paid for a copy myself I played 35 hours according to the in-game counter. Every ending and the platinum trophy unlocked.