Steins;Gate: Why Playing the Game is Better Than Watching the Anime

So, Steins;Gate is great. Since it was recently announced for PS3 and PSVita, it probably has some people questioning “Is it really worth all this hype?” The short answer would be, “Yes, absolutely.” Others might be wondering if it would be better to watch the anime or play the game first, and my answer is “play the game!”  Explaining this answer allows me to gush even more about one of the best gaming experiences of 2014.

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#1 It’s All About Perspective

The main character of Steins;Gate, Rintarou Okabe, is among the best and most well-developed game protagonists out there. He can easily rub people the wrong way at first with his extreme immaturity, but his character arc is so good you have to see it to believe it.

In the game, the player’s experience is viewed through Okabe’s eyes. This allows the player to connect more with him as he details his thoughts internally, where they cannot be found in the anime. The added commentary to everything in the game goes a long way in establishing place and the further developing the characters even if it is warped through the mad scientist’s worldview.

The internal dialogue is delightfully entertaining.

Playing through the perspective of Rintarou Okabe and his delusional alter ego, mad-scientist, Hououin Kyouma is the number one reason to play the game first before watching the anime; which nicely lead us to #2…

#2. It’s a Game

Think back to Metal Gear Solid 3… remember how powerful one of the final scenes of that game is due to the player having to quite literally “pull the trigger” on a loved one. Yeah, that is the power of the medium of video games. Interactivity adds so much to a narrative by the simple request of asking the player to do what has to be done to continue the story.

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In Steins;Gate, the player is faced with crushing choices that lead to some of the game’s multiple endings. The game forwardly asks its players if they possess the emotional fortitude and strength of resolve to completely wipe a character’s happy memories. It goes as far to even requesting that a character essentially sacrifice their father for the greater good. The game and anime get incredibly heavy, but the weight of the actions on screen is felt tremendously more when the player has to personally seal a character’s fate instead of watching another execute an unthinkable act.

#3. Time is of the Essence

Time breeds intimacy and connection. Playing through Steins;Gate’s multiple endings efficiently is going to take over twenty hours while watching the anime is going to last between 10-11. The time investment of the game may push people towards the anime, but the experience is richer after spending about a day of real time with the amazing cast.

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#4. There’s More to This Story

As previously mentioned, Okabe’s internal dialogue adds a lot to the game that those watching the anime will miss, but this does not even make up for half of the excellent content and writing that is not in the anime. The most interesting sections of Steins;Gate come from the false endings centered on specific characters.

Steins;Gate is actually structured exactly like a dating sim game, with there being endings for all the major female leads (sorry Daru, no Cloud/Barrett date for you). The endings provide yet another reason to why the game should be played before watching the anime that is to be discussed next.

Some of the false endings are absolutely brutal.

#5. The Game is Darker, Deeper

While playing Steins;Gate can often feel like a mental exercise in questioning the validity of differing theories in quantum physics, the false, character-specific endings explore the negative consequences that go along with this brand of time travel.

The alternate endings in Steins;Gate are obviously not found in the anime, and it really is a shame. The endings offer a deeper look at time travel and the effects it might have on a human being, such as becoming completely detached from everything around you; questioning what is right and wrong when you can just redo anything. In one of the alternative world-lines that Okabe explores, he finds that he does not know any of his friends and falls into an expected depression.  The game also allows itself to get much, much darker than the anime in its false endings. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I certainly will not soon be forgetting how twisted the human mind can become under the right circumstances.

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#6. It Just Looks Better

With what is my most “subjective” reason for playing the game before watching the anime, I think the game is more distinct in its appearance and the character drawings are more aesthetically pleasing. The biggest example of this can be found in the character of Kurisu Makise.

In Defense of the Anime

Although I would whole-heartedly recommend playing the game before watching the anime, the anime is not without merits of its own.

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There are several smart changes in the anime like trying to explain Okabe’s “Reading Steiner” ability. There are also some great shortcuts the anime makes to help speed things along. Early on in the story Kurisu delivers a lecture on all the time-travel theories that is heavily rushed through, unfortunately.

The OVA, which of course is absent from the game, is quite good. It fills in a couple of the blanks left open by the game like meeting Daru’s future wife, and what happens to the characters after the events of the main story.

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No Way to Lose

The game is the best way to experience Steins;Gate, but it’s a story you need to experience no matter what. Make it happen however you can. Just know that the game presents the story in an impactful and visually unique way that the anime cannot match.

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