This post contains major spoilers.
I now know a little more about how endings work in Steins;Gate. Beginning with Chapter 6, the player has the option to end the game with that chapter or to continue. The objective of the game is to save Mayuri from dying. In order to do so, however, Okabe must undo the changes to the timeline he has made so far. All but the first of these changes were made by one of the women in his life, and so the process of undoing each change necessitates an extended period of interaction with that particular character. If Okabe chooses to preserve this woman’s happiness over Mayuri’s life, it’s game over. Okabe gets a temporarily happy ending with the secondary character, but Mayuri will die, and the fate of the world itself will still be uncertain.
As far as I understand it, this is the main plot of the game…
Okabe and Daru go to the Radio Kaikan (an iconic building right outside the Denkigai exit of the JR Akihabara station) to attend a lecture on time travel by Kurisu Makise. After the lecture, Okabe witnesses Kurisu’s death. He receives a text message, and suddenly he is standing alone on Chūōdōri (a busy thoroughfare running through Akihabara). The next thing he knows, Kurisu is alive, and what looks like a giant satellite has crashed into the top floor of Radio Kaikan. Meanwhile, the 2channel message board (@channel in the game) is buzzing with activity surrounding the posts of a user called John Titor, who claims to have traveled back in time to 2010 from 2036. Titor says that the future has become a dystopia controlled by a European research organization called SERN, and that s/he has come to Akihabara to locate a certain rare computer that can crack SERN’s proprietary programming language.
Back at the Future Gadget Lab, a walk-up apartment that Okabe has rented above a vintage television store, Okabe and Daru are experiencing a strange complication with their newest invention, a cell phone controlled microwave. If a certain set of conditions are met, the microwave will transport the food inside back to its original location, albeit in a jellified state. Okabe thinks they have created some sort of teleporter, but it turns out that they have instead stumbled upon a genuine time machine. After Okabe drags Kurisu to the lab, she hypothesizes that, although they cannot send physical objects to the past (as they become jellified), they should be able to send text messages, which they call “D-Mail.” Kurisu’s theory turns out to be correct; but, for some reason, Okabe is the only one who can remember the past before the D-Mail was sent and the present was thereby changed.
He decides to experiment with D-Mail, and he ends up changing the past for a part-timer working in the downstairs store named Suzuha, a maid café catgirl named Faris, a transgender shrine priest/ess named Luka, and a shy journalist named Moeka. Moeka turns out to be an assassin sent by SERN, which wants to exercise sole control over time travel technology. In her attempt to capture Okabe, Kurisu, and Daru, Moeka shoots and kills Okabe’s childhood friend Mayuri. The player’s goal is therefore to manipulate the past in order to change the future to one in which Mayuri lives and SERN does not take over the world.
This is accomplished by means of what is essentially a softcore dating sim.
Chapter 6 is the Suzuha chapter. It turns out that Suzuha is the person who was posting on 2channel as John Titor. She really did come from the future, and the device that crashed into Radio Kaikan is her time machine. Earlier in the game, Okabe had prevented Suzuka from going even farther into the past by sending her a D-Mail, and a rainstorm that happened after she was supposed to have left damaged the device. Daru can fix it, but imperfectly. If Okabe cancels out the D-Mail he sent, Suzuha will continue on to 1975 as she had initially planned. If he doesn’t, the damage to the machine will cause it to malfunction, stranding Suzuha in the past with no memories of her former life or her objective. It’s therefore in everyone’s best interests for the timeline Okabe changed by sending his initial D-Mail to be returned to its former course; but, if he does, then Suzuha will lose the memories of her four days of fun and friendship with the members of the Future Gadget Lab, as well as her memory of meeting the person who will become her father.
In the Suzuha ending, Okabe refuses to sacrifice these memories, and he creates a time loop in which everyone will be perfectly happy during the two days before Mayuri is killed by SERN agents, a moment that Okabe will never allow to arrive.
Likewise, in the Faris and Luka endings, Okabe refuses to sacrifice the memories he creates with the two girls and accepts Mayuri’s death and SERN’s eventual takeover. Faris, who had used a D-Mail to prevent the murder of her father, lives happily with her family, and Okabe gets to sleep with her. Luka, who had used a D-Mail to change her physical sex from male to female (don’t ask), lives her life as her preferred gender, and Okabe gets to sleep with her.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the Chapter 9 ending. Does Okabe end up sleeping with Moeka? Depending on how many “true ending” flags the player has triggered, I assume Okabe sleeps with Mayuri (which is the default) or Kurisu (which takes a bit of special effort) at the end of the game in Chapter 10. If all six of the “true ending” flags are triggered… does he sleep with Daru??
In any case, the male gaze elements of the game make a lot more sense now that I understand it’s supposed to be a dating sim. Earlier, Okabe had groped Kurisu and Luka, walked in on Kurisu and Mayuri in the shower, and been aggressively flirted with by Faris and Moeka. I had been reading scenes like this as bonus fanservice in a story that was essentially about friendship, but it turns out the game is preparing the player to feel sexual attraction toward the characters Okabe has the option of courting. I suppose “visual novels” are created for an intended audience of male otaku (with “otome games” being the BL fangirl equivalent), so I suppose this is in keeping with the genre.
Still, I’m kind of grossed out. In the second half of the game, Okabe becomes increasingly deranged as he witnesses more and more terrible things, and it doesn’t sit well with me that he enters into romantic relationships with the women in his life out of a sense of misplaced guilt. The ending for Chapter 8 felt especially weird and dubiously consensual. Perhaps this weirdness is supposed to hurt and confuse a heterosexual male player as much as it hurt me, but then why would there have been so much fan service in the first half of the game?
( Header image by Arios on Pixiv )