Steins;Gate Elite is out today – here are some first impressions

I received a review copy of Steins;Gate Elite a few days back, and although I haven’t played enough to really do a proper review, I thought I’d write up a few first impressions seeing as the game is out today. The game is a complete remake of the 2009 visual novel Steins;Gate, which released to a rapturous reception, being favourably compared with the excellent 428: Shibuya Scramble (and you can read a review of that game here).

It takes place in the geek haven of Akihabara in Tokyo, where a group of nerdy friends accidentally invent a phone/microwave that can send messages back in time. The game was turned into an anime in 2011, and Steins;Gate Elite is basically a video-game version of that anime. All of the anime’s scenes are included – with full voice acting – and the developers also commissioned new scenes to account for alternative paths that the player can take in the game. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually seen any of these new sections yet, as much like its anime inspiration, Steins;Gate Elite is incredibly slow to get going.

I almost gave up on the anime when I first started watching it. After three episodes, barely anything had happened. But I’d heard it gets better, so I persevered – and I’m very glad I did. What starts off as a light-hearted love letter to otaku culture eventually goes to some unexpected and extremely dark places as protagonist Okabe Rintaro accidentally changes history and struggles to repair his mistakes.

I’m over three hours in to Steins;Gate Elite, and barely anything of note has happened yet. But I also know from the anime series that the craziness is going to kick off very soon, so it will be worth sticking with it. That said, this game basically IS the anime series, so really I’m just re-watching something I’ve already seen. There are a few extra bits, mind: it’s nice to hear some of Okabe’s private thoughts, which fill in a bit of background, and you also get Okabe’s phone popping up from time to time with new messages from various characters. You get to choose how to reply to these messages, but otherwise that’s the only real interaction on display – besides that, you’re just watching the anime and pressing ‘X’ to advance scenes.

I know from watching the series that the phone will become much more important later on – but Steins;Gate Elite‘s slow start is the very essence of the old JRPG joke “it gets better after the first 117 hours“. There’s a great story here, but it requires a lot of patience – and if you’ve already watched the anime, bear in mind that you’re being served up the same thing.

And it makes for uncomfortable viewing in places, too, with a few ‘jokey’ scenes about sexual harassment. The hacker character Daru has an all-consuming obsession with a ‘cat maid’ called Faris, and there are a couple of scenes with Okabe that are borderline bullying and sexual discrimination. It’s one of those things that you could easily just brush off as being lost in translation – but be warned that it might make you squirm a little in your seat, depending on your sensitivity to this kind of depiction.

If you’re planning to pick up Steins;Gate Elite, also bear in mind that you get a free digital copy of the spinoff game Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram if you buy it on PS4, and if you buy it on Switch, you get the retro-style 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate (check out the cute trailer for that below).

I’ll post a full review of Steins;Gate Elite when I eventually get around to finishing it!

Steins;Gate Elite was developed by Spike Chunsoft and is available on PC, Switch and PS4. We reviewed the PS4 version.

Disclosure statement: Review code for Steins;Gate Elite was provided by Koch Media. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.