Game adaptations of films and TV shows rarely follow the source material so closely that they even emulate the way it’s consumed.
But STEINS;GATE ELITE breaks convention in more ways than one. This is essentially an interactive visual novel, made up of several very long cutscenes. It’s basically like watching the anime, only you’re in control of some of the decision-making.
Put it this way, if you skip through the dialogue when you play an RPG just to get to the ‘action’, this most definitely won’t be for you. STEINS GATE; ELITE’s action is its dialogue, occasionally expressed through beautiful animations playing out on the screen. Sometimes that might be as simple as a grimace, or it could be more complex like a camera shift. It all adds to the immersion.
Which is interesting because this is actually an update of the original 2009 Steins;Gate game, only now it’s using all of the animation from the Steins;Gate anime series. So basically, ELITE is a remaster of an older game while also being a like for like recreation of your favourite TV show. Rather than using static backgrounds and character pop-ups, you’re controlling a living, breathing world on your TV and, honestly, it feels amazing.
No doubt about it, this is the future of the Interactive Fiction genre. It’s not a new concept – some would argue FMVs have been doing this since the 80s – but in terms of how STEINS;GATE ELITE is presented and delivered, something feels very fresh and different about it.
You’re not just tapping your way through dialogue branches as you’ll often find the game dropping clues about something you’ve just heard or seen, giving you a bit more context if you’re a bit unsure what’s happening.
And then there’s multi-choice options, recorded specifically for this game, which actually lead you towards several unique endings. Most of the choices stem from choosing an appropriate response to a text message, with some definitely more important than others.
That in itself is quite special, considering the main track takes around thirty hours of playtime. With other possibilities open to you, you might find yourself running through the story again sooner than you think. And that’s not just because you want to keep oggling the incredible artwork.
The most impressive thing that STEINS;GATE ELITE achieves, though, is that you never feel lost or overwhelmed. You’ll actually find yourself quite wrapped up and enthralled in its storytelling, eager to find out what happens next while also connecting with the characters in ways you may not have back in 2009.
Honestly, I was blown away by just how engaging STEINS GATE; ELITE actually is. Sure, I love a bit of platforming, battling, and shooting as much as the next gamer, but I never felt Steins Gate was lacking because it didn’t offer that. It’s just a different kind of rush, the equivalent of ‘turning a page’ as opposed to setting off a thousand explosions in a minute.
Of course it helps when the story is tight and it dabbles in cool subject matter like time travel, hacking, and mad science experiments centered around crazed corporations. STEINS;GATE ELITE offers a bit of everything but it takes the time to lay out the foundations for the story without being patronizing or, alternatively, overly complex.
STEINS;GATE ELITE even has an Auto Mode where you don’t even need to press the buttons yourself, allowing the game to go at its own pace. All combined, and we have a refreshing, wholly different approach to a genre that will certainly welcome a change.
Personally, this is the best interactive fiction / visual novel I’ve had the pleasure of dabbling in since the Phoenix Wright days. And it’s got my brain whirring how this could work for that franchise and many other franchises if the opportunity presents itself.
STEINS GATE; ELITE is as important to the genre as it is the intellectual property and is one of the most surprisingly entertaining interactive experiences I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying for some time.
Review code kindly provided by Koch Media. Played on PS4