Many fans of the visual novel genre likely got into it through games that aren’t true visual novels but more adventure experiences that happen to have a big visual novel component. When it comes to pure visual novels, Steins;Gate is the most popular entry point to the genre and just like most popular games, it has seen various ports across different generations of consoles in Japan before seeing a release for English speaking regions.
While English speaking fans only got to officially play it with a PC release that was followed by PlayStation (3 and Vita) and iOS ports, a lot of people had only watched the anime. Visual novels often get anime releases and Steins;Gate has an amazing anime by White Fox and it has been used for Steins;Gate Elite. Steins;Gate Elite is a remake of the original visual novel using anime cutscenes from the White Fox anime instead of the static portraits and art the original visual novel release had. White Fox also got back and did some new scenes for some of the content that was in the visual novel that wasn’t adapted for the anime release. In a lot of ways, Steins;Gate Elite is a great compromise between playing a super long visual novel and watching an anime series.
Steins;Gate Elite is a story about time travel, betrayal, anime tropes, and a healthy dose of thrilling moments. You play as Okabe Rintaro who is a “mad scientist”. While Elite starts off very slowly just like the anime and original visual novel, it hooks you in deep and never lets go until the credits roll. The supporting cast is fantastic and unforgettable. Despite having played dozens of visual novels since, nothing has come close to the story in Steins;Gate.
If you’ve never played Steins;Gate or even watched the anime, you make decisions as Okabe that will decide what ending will get. There are multiple endings with some being a lot better than others but overall, the story and pacing after the opening that is slow, is pretty damn great. The game does a quicksave pretty often and you can save anytime across the multiple save slots. While many people just use a guide to get every ending in the least amount of time, you should play it once on your own without any guide to see what you end up with.
When Steins;Gate Elite was announced, I was pretty skeptical of the animation being used to replace the gorgeous art the original had and thankfully my fears on that front were unfounded because Elite looks and plays great. This doesn’t hold true all the way on Switch. The opening is noticeably lower quality than the PS4 version and there are some cutscene transitions that show signs of compression. The other issue with the Switch port is the lack of any touchscreen use. Visual Novels on the Vita were a joy to read since you could just tap the screen to progress dialogue. The Switch version has no touchscreen use at all. The text and visuals look great in handheld though. The updated interface is a welcome change and it is good to see the text wrap issues from the original visual novel’s release not present here. When it comes to the audio and music, the new opening and the ending song are great. Voice acting is as good as it has always been. While it probably wasn’t financially feasible, having the English dub as an option would’ve been a nice inclusion for fans of the show who watched the English dub.
Steins;Gate Elite includes a bonus game on each platform. The PS4 and PC releases include the massive Linear Bounded Phenogram which is definitely worth playing and quite a generous bonus. The Switch version includes 8-Bit Adventure Steins;Gate that is very short in comparison but great for fans of the show. In fact, you can’t even save while playing it implying it is a single sitting experience. While this is a nice touch given Elite being the franchise’s debut on a Nintendo platform, it is considerably less than the PS4 and PC bonus inclusion.
Overall, Steins;Gate Elite is a fantastic way to experience the story and a great entry point into pure visual novels. This is easily the best visual novel available on the Switch. Hopefully this does well so Spike Chunsoft can localise the upcoming Steins;Gate collection for switch so Switch owners can play Linear Bounded Phenogram, Zero, and more. I’m glad I was wrong about Steins;Gate Elite and I hope more visual novels attempt to do this and take the medium to a whole new audience.