So, a few years ago, I wrote a review for the Steins;Gate anime, and then later I did a compare and contrast post between the anime and the video game Life is Strange (because time travel!). Then, thanks to a helpful comment, I was informed that the original Steins;Gate visual novel was a far different experience and why wasn’t I playing it already?
Which brings us to today. At the time of this writing, I’ve imported, installed, played, and completed the visual novel. Now I want to see how it holds up after all the hype.
Honestly, for the first few segments, both the game and the anime adaptation are in perfect sync. Sure, the VN has one or two additional pieces of dialogue or character interaction in its opening, but otherwise, it feels a lot like the anime, except slower.
I’ll also admit (and this is a nitpick on my part) that I was a bit thrown with some of the translation choices. Having watched the anime first, I know the shrine maiden character by their Romanized name Urushibara Ruka, but in the game and other sources, the name reads as “Luka.” I get that the Japanese language has a thing about switching L’s and R’s in English (it’s actually based on this phonetic issue based on how the letters sound in actual Japanese), but it was weird for me because I’m so used to thinking of this character as Ruka and not Luka because I watched the anime first.
I also have to admit that I like the expansion of several scenes and character traits that we only got part of with the anime. In the visual novel, for example, we see just how in-depth Kurisu’s knowledge of time travel theory is and how big of a chuunibyou (a.k.a. adolescent dreamer) Okabe is. Like, you might think he does the “fake conversation on his phone” bit a lot in the anime, but that’s nothing compared to the breadth of those conversations in the game.
Finally, there’s a great element of suspense and horror that seeps through the game as I played it. At one point, Okabe has this long, eerie nightmare where the disembodied voice of Kurisu narrates him falling through the event horizon of a black hole. It’s an out-of-nowhere moment that’s like nothing else in the anime, and it does highlight the mortal terror of what their world’s version of time travel can do to the human body. There are lots of little additions and surprises to this visual novel that I know the anime couldn’t have made time for in any other way.
So, did I enjoy the visual novel more or less than the show? Well, it’s hard to say. I enjoyed the overall experience of the game, and I can see why so many people prefer it to the anime. But having said that, I do enjoy the clean runthrough of a story that the anime offers. Not to mention the fact that I can never stop thinking of J. Michael Tatum’s voice as Okabe’s voice, regardless of how Japanese he’s supposed to be.
But then, that’s only my opinion. I encourage the rest of you to track down a copy and play it for yourselves.
Bibliography: Steins;Gate (visual novel). Developed by 5pb. and Nitroplus. Published by 5pb and JAST USA (PC). Designed by Chiyomaru Shikura. Art by Huke. Xbox 360; Microsoft Windows; PlayStation Portable; iOS; PlayStation 3; PlayStation Vita; Android; PlayStation 4 (platform). Original release date: October 15, 2009.