I compulsively played about four hours of this game last night. Chapter Five is composed of about 4/10 sci-fi exposition, 5/10 cute people being friends, and 1/10 story upheavals. I was not emotionally prepared for what happened at the end of the chapter, and the shock propelled me all the way through Chapter Six.
At the end of Chapter Six, I got the game’s first possible ending, the Suzuha Amane ending. If triggering one of the endings counts as “beating the game,” then I guess it took me a little less than fourteen hours to beat the game. It almost goes without saying that this is not a “good” ending. It wasn’t explicitly “bad,” but it was still strange and upsetting.
Steins;Gate is incredibly well written. I usually hate stories about time travel, but this one is really good. The idea that multiple parallel or alternate timelines will come together at certain points is called “convergence.” This is not determination, as the point of convergence can be manipulated by various factors, creating “divergence” in the mathematical “attractor field” that ties related timelines together. The math (which really isn’t that different from high school level Calculus wave functions) behind this makes a lot of sense.
What bothers me most about time travel stories is the way they tend to dwell on paradoxes, which mathematically do not exist. Steins;Gate is the first time travel story I’ve encountered that makes a compelling argument concerning how convergence works and how it might be experienced.
Spoiler alert: The experience is accompanied by tears.
Speaking of spoilers, I’m going to be posting them in subsequent entries.
A small spoiler I’ll go ahead and include in this post is that I didn’t write about the character Moeka Kiryū in the previous entry because she annoyed the crap out of me. It turns out that this was intentional; the game wants the player to dislike her. Interestingly, when written in Western order, the name “Moeka Kiryū” can be read as a pun on “is she moé, or will she kill you?”
In any case, it is not a spoiler to say that the plotting and character development in this game is beyond amazing. I’m not entirely sold on visual novels as a genre, but Steins;Gate is brilliant.
( Header image by juozaspo on Tumblr )