Obviously, the moment I found a translation to the novel format of Steins;Gate, the best anime to air in 2011 and currently my #1 favourite, it was downloaded and played faster than you could blink. I was expecting a tale of epic proportions, with mad scientists, tsunderes, moe lolitas and a supah h4x0r…and I wasn’t actually disappointed with it.
For those who aren’t aware of the story, Steins;Gate is about a group of people in Akihabara who manage to transform their microwave into a time machine through tinkering and hacking and attaching their mobile phones to it. Even though at first the premise seems slightly dubious, it wins you over with all the science. It tells you very accurately how it all works and how it could all work, and it even manages to tie a super conspiracy theory including John Titor and CERN. In doing so, they accidently change the world in ways that they never even imaged were possible, and this results in them getting stuck in a dead end loop of destiny, and the meat of the story is them struggling to escape.
It may not actually sound like very much, but the whole dead end loop thing is done really well, showing how everyone involved struggles to fight destiny in their own unique ways; even those who aren’t aware that they’re fighting destiny. The story is actually really dynamic, filled with a constantly revolving plot, and featuring those little tweaks for everyone. All the members of the cast have been given a proper story, and they all reach their respective conclusions. In reading through the story, you come across several times when you can use your mobile phone, the device responsible for activating and charging the Phone Microwave(Name Subject to Change) and travelling through time itself, for reasons which may not tie directly into the story, but are those small touches which makes a story complete; like calling people to find out what they’re doing, replying to their texts and well..that’s all that a phone can do. But you get the picture.
The phone’s version of replying to texts and calling people replaces the choice system which has become a staple of Visual Novels in the game, so that the game will automatically chose the route for you to go down based on who you rang up and what you replied to their text messages. Sound confusing? It kind of is at first, and you often struggle to figure out just how and where to change routes. This…does result in a lot of skipping, and if you’re like me and want to get all 6 endings, it’s a huge hassle and a huge pain. Such a huge hassle that I’d actually recommend some form of a guide or a walkthrough if you’re going through it the first time, or looking for a particular route.
The visuals are really well done. They’re not crude, but they’re not over the top. They’ve got their own little flair to them which make them appear relatively sci-fi, but the little touches are discreet and well designed. The music? Well, it tends to stick to the background on almost all occasions, with only a few tracks being noteworthy or epic enough to stand out when compared to other visual novels, but the tracks which do stand out are done really well. Gate of Steiner; the main theme, and Sky Clad Observer, the opening tune, are the ones which instantly leap to mind.
No, the voice acting is where the presentation aspect of Steins;Gate shines. Every piece of spoken dialogue is spoken, and they manage to fit in the little things, like the distortion you’d get from phoning someone, to the echo a microphone gives your voice. The voice actors behind this really manage to vary their emotions in their voices, and this results in some very strong voice acting during the big moments.
Steins;Gate is fun. The characters are quirky, charming and have a great chemistry together. Steins;Gate is serious. The plot, the theme and the mood throughout all flow together, and it all bundles up to create a package that’s almost unrivalled in how well researched and thought out the plot is.
But. Steins;Gate isn’t better than it’s anime edition. Apart from one of the routes, by watching the anime, you don’t actually miss out on anything…none of the important moments, none of the spoken dialogue, and none of the quirks and charms of the character, and you get the same quality of visuals and graphics that reside in the novel. Hardcore fans of Steins;Gate should play the novel to get the extra endings and just to see how Okabe thinks, but if you’re a casual fan who’s reading this, to fully enjoy Steins;Gate, you’d be better off with the anime. The anime was just THAT good.
If only all novel adaptations could be that good. D: