I’ve long been a fan of science fiction and, even more specifically, time travel. It’s surprising then that my first experience with Steins;Gate (despite the visual novel’s 2009 release) came just a few short weeks ago. It quickly became one of my anime of the decade, and after finishing it, I was itching for more. Luckily, Steins;Gate 0 just released on Switch in celebration of the franchise’s 10th anniversary, and I knew I had to check it out.
Steins;Gate 0 takes place in an alternate version of the original Steins;Gate‘s ending. As such, it wastes absolutely no time diving into its own story. If you’ve not played or seen its predecessor (a task you should do regardless), you’ll be left behind since the game assumes you already understand its version of time travel. Consider this your warning.
Even so, the series can be a little dense at times, and Steins;Gate 0 is no exception. Whereas the original series focused on the development of time travel and how main character Okabe Rintarou and his friends attempted to use it to change the world, Steins;Gate 0 focuses more on Okabe as he tries to put the events of Steins;Gate behind him and live life as a typical university student. In the process, he gets caught up in research into an artificial intelligence called Amadeus and a worldwide shadow war to control time travel research and technology.
Steins;Gate 0 can be rather dark, but necessarily so. In the most intense moments, I found myself glued to the screen, my heart pounding, anxious to see how events resolved themselves. The story wouldn’t work without these moments. However, these scenes are often broken up by more light-hearted scenarios, such as a group Christmas party or Okabe’s multiple teasing conversations with Amadeus. One of Steins;Gate 0‘s significant strengths is its ability to flip between these extremes (often at a moment’s notice) while maintaining a careful balance.
As a visual novel, most of the game consists of merely reading the story, which is divided into short episodes, each taking a few hours at most. Steins;Gate 0 does feature voice acting during dialogue; however, it’s only in Japanese. You’ll be reading anyway, so the lack of a dubbed version isn’t a huge loss, though consequently, I found myself not waiting for the audio to catch up. At limited points throughout the story, you can use your phone to interact with some of the other characters. Primarily, this takes the form of responding to texts, though occasionally you’ll be able to call Amadeus and converse with her. These opportunities allow you to shape the story based on your responses (or whether you respond at all) and will ultimately determine which of the game’s six endings you achieve.
Steins;Gate 0 is nothing short of an excellent addition to the Steins;Gate franchise. While it can be a little dense at times, the story had me hooked from the beginning and never let go. Despite its original release in 2015, Steins;Gate 0 feels like it was made to be played on the go due to its episodic design and is a natural fit for the Switch. I would’ve liked to have a dubbed version of the audio added in for this port, though I can’t complain about the quality of the Japanese voice cast, even if I wound up reading too fast for it. Steins;Gate 0 provides an experience no science fiction fan should miss, but only if you’ve gone through the original.
A review code was provided by the publisher.