It’s kind of a shame that people keep making video games about time travel when the best one has already been made. We’re talking about Chrono Trigger, of course. It’s a fantastic RPG. Thing is, it was made in the far future and sent back in time for us to play after the fact…yet it’s still on the Super Nintendo. Somehow. Look, Stein’s;Gate Elite is one of the many time travel-themed games that will eventually lead to the development and past-ifying of Chrono Trigger, so it’s worth a look. Will be worth a look. Has been worth a look? Time travel is confusing.
We follow Okabe Rintaro, or Okarin, student/mad scientist extraordinaire, as he deals with the consequences involved in accidentally having invented a time machine. It’s not quite a full-on time travelling spaceship or anything, it just sends SMS messages into the past. Naturally, this is still a Pretty Big Deal, and Stein’s;Gate is all about the insanity that can occur thanks to predestination, tampering with the past and other such nonsense. It’s one of the more serious and dark visual novels around, so while you might expect some anime nonsense (and you’ll get it) you should probably know that this one gets pretty intense at times. It’s also not necessarily just a time-travel story…
This is a surprisingly high-concept game, reminiscent of the cult time travel film Primer. Turns out time travel is just a bit more complicated than becoming your own grandpa. There’s plenty of theory and conjecture going on and I felt like the game might go a little over my head, but if you’re patient then Stein’s;Gate does a great job of explaining how everything could work. Elite also looks a lot better than the text-heavy original release of Stein’s;Gate, offering something closer to the anime experience with animations and a more streamlined progression.
That’s enough to give this one a shot, really, especially if you’ve never played Stein’s;Gate before. What if you have, though? In that case, you still might want to check Elite out. It offers an additional set of gaiden stories called Linear Bounded Phantogram; these are “What If” tales that offer you a little more goodness in the same vein as the main title. They add an additional 30 hours or so of timey-wimey nonsense on top of the rest of the game.
Stein’s;Gate Elite is one of the classic visual novel experiences, so if you’re a fan of the genre there’s a fair chance you’ve seen it before. If you haven’t, though, or if you’re willing to check it out again, you can’t do any better than Stein’s;Gate Elite. The addition of the Linear Bounded Phantogram side-stories helps add a little more meat to the package, which is good since this is retailing at full price. This isn’t exactly an action-packed bombastic romp of the sort that many gamers are used to, but it’s still a fascinating and captivating sci-fi experience.