Steins;Gate has consumed my life for the past two weeks or so. I can’t remember the last time that a videogame (or visual novel) has had such a powerful impact on me. There are so many thoughts swirling in my head after completing the game, and I hope that by writing them down I’ll be able to reach some sort of mental closure.
Spoiler warning: Please stop reading now if you haven’t played the visual novel or watched the anime.
When I played Fate/stay night long ago, one of the most important motifs in the Heavens Feel route is the concept of balance and sacrifice. If you want to save someone no matter the cost, an equal price must be paid in order to achieve it.
Steins;Gate adheres to this theme very closely. To save Mayuri’s life, Rintaro has to sacrifice the hopes and dreams of Faris and Luka, and erase everyone’s memories of the fun times they spent with Suzuha. In the Paradox Meltdown chapter (what a very poetic name), Rintaro finally realises that he has to sacrifice not just the memories of his intimate moments with Kurisu, but also her life. And finally, during the eureka moment of the True End, Rintaro has to sacrifice his blood, sacrifice a bit of himself in order to create the deception in the beta worldline.
I lost count of how many times the visual novel brought tears to my eyes. It’s not like I was bawling out loud with streaks flowing down my cheeks, but it was so emotional and melancholic that I just couldn’t help it. Not even FSN, which I declared long ago to be “one of the best videogame stories ever told”, was able to move me like Steins;Gate.
In other words, Steins;Gate is a very convoluted but powerful love story about how a couple’s relationship has managed to transcend time, space, and across multiple worldlines. It sounds very cliche, but it was executed brilliantly by the visual novel. It was also something that Interstellar attempted — Christopher Nolan was trying to show us that Matthew McConaughey’s love for his daughter allowed him to reach out to her through time, thus helping her to save the human race. Unfortunately, it was horribly misinterpreted by many viewers.
I finished the Steins;Gate anime in one sitting, and while it is a faithful adaptation that also brought a tear to my eye in the final scene, it felt quite rushed. Faris was horribly underdeveloped, and Moeka’s murderer was changed. I guess the TV censors could not allow a 12-year-old, knife-wielding Nae to be shown splattering blood. I did like how the anime left some very subtle clues for the viewer to spot — you can tell that Luka had already switched sex in one episode, and if you were paying attention, you already knew who was the person that stabbed Kurisu right at the start. Also, Mayuri’s watch stopping every time before she dies was something added in by the anime, to very dramatic effect.
What’s next for Steins;Gate? There are two spin off games, Linear Bounded Phenogram and Darling of Loving Vows. They have not been officially translated, so I guess this is finally an excuse for me to put my Japanese skills to good use. Also, the sequel, Steins;Gate 0 is already out in Japan and a localised English translation will be released in 2016. There are also many manga adaptations and light novel series.
Sigh. Looks like I’ve been sucked back into the black hole of visual novel fandom.