The original Steins;Gate is one of the best visual novels I’ve played so far, and overall an amazing story to experience.
Steins;Gate 0, available for the PlayStation 4 and Vita, fills in an important gap in the original’s story. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to discuss even its premise without Steins;Gate spoilers.
In other words, if you haven’t gone through the original Steins;Gate yet, do that before you even read about Steins;Gate 0. Steins;Gate 0 is a sequel/midquel set partway through the original game’s true ending.
If you recall, during the true ending of Steins;Gate, Suzuha tells Okabe that he had to fail once in order to set the events into motion that would allow him to reach Steins;Gate. He then gets a message from his future self, who tells him what to do.
This follows that first Okabe in the beta worldline, from the point of Kurisu’s death up through him creating that message.
As you might guess, this means Steins;Gate 0 has a dramatically different tone. While the original started out light and funny, with elements of mystery, until it reached the key point in the story where everything changed, Steins;Gate 0 starts out dark and bleak.
The events of Steins;Gate left Okabe with PTSD. The mere mention of Kurisu is enough to trigger flashbacks. Seeing Moeka causes panic attacks. He carries anxiety medication in his pocket, visits a therapist with mixed results, and doesn’t even want to think about his old “Hououin Kyouma” personality.
It does have lighter moments, and Okabe gradually gets better, but there’s no denying that the events of the first game had a serious impact.
Another notable change is that he isn’t the sole viewpoint character here. Other characters, especially Suzuha and the newly-introduced Maho, tell parts of the story from a third-person perspective. At first, I had trouble adjusting to this, but it actually works quite well. It’s especially important to show us additional perspectives because Steins;Gate 0’s story is complex.
Despite dealing with time travel, the original Steins;Gate generally kept things clear and easy to understand. When the worldline changed, you knew why.
In Steins;Gate 0, however, you don’t have the power to change time. Different countries fighting over time travel is what eventually leads to World War III in the beta worldline, so the worldline (and the route you’re on) change based on who gets that technology first.
Most of the changes depend on how much you interact with Amadeus Kurisu, an AI at the center of the struggle.
On one hand, this makes the story much more unpredictable, because you never know what might happen. On the other hand, I ended the game still not knowing why some of my decisions led to different endings. It’s much more difficult to untangle the cause and effect in Steins;Gate 0.
Steins;Gate felt like one linear story that branched into what-if scenarios, but Steins;Gate 0 feels more like many different possibilities that show you disjointed pieces of the whole.
This complexity makes the true ending feel a bit confusing, and the true ending also suffers because it’s only a step toward the original game’s ending. Steins;Gate 0 is meant to fill in a gap, and that means the conclusion feels a bit lackluster on its own.
Now, all of this might make you think I disliked Steins;Gate 0. Nothing could be further from the truth. Steins;Gate 0 is fantastic and definitely worth reading. Maho is a great addition to the cast, the story delves into interesting questions about AI research and how much an AI can be like a person, and there are many wonderful scenes in every route.
While Steins;Gate is an amazing story, Steins;Gate 0 is merely a great story. It’s a little hard to follow and it might raise more questions than it answers… but it’s still definitely worth a read for fans of the original.
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