8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate Review – Going Back to the Past

    Title: 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate
    Developer: Mages
    Release Date: February 19, 2019
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
    Genre: Retro Adventure

The first time I joined the self-proclaimed mad scientist, Rintaro Okabe (aka “Kyouma Hououin” or “Okarin”), and his fellow lab members was when I watched the Steins;Gate anime series — which was just about a year ago. The anime series completely drew me in right from the beginning with episode 1 due to Steins;Gate’s charming and loveable cast of characters that are just so unique and interesting, to say the least. As I went deeper into the series and ended up finishing it (all in one day, mind you), I ended up drawing the conclusion that Steins; Gate is an unprecedented work of art, especially since it has a masterfully crafted time loop story that’s not filled with random plot holes that several other time traveling stories suffer from.

Given that the anime series was so magnificent, playing through Steins;Gate Elite (S;GE for short), the fully remastered title of the original Steins;Gate game originally released back in October 2009, was an absolutely remarkable adventure as it essentially made me feel like I stepped right back into the anime series. This is predominately due to how S;GE has various animated scenes from the anime, but it’s also because of how the game is like a loyal love letter to both the Steins;Gate anime series and visual novel game. With all this in mind, I was excited to explore S;GE’s Nintendo Switch exclusive content, which is the retro Famicon/NES style adventure game, 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate. While it does have all the characters and time travel shenanigans that Steins;Gate fans know and love, unfortunately, it’s a quick, time-traveling adventure that doesn’t quite capture the spirit of Steins;Gate.

Quick disclaimer note for this review: This review is spoiler-free. However, since 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate does spoil some of the events that occur in Steins; Gate Elite, we highly recommend playing S;GE and/or reading our review of the game before you play 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate.

8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate is centered around Steins;Gate‘s main character, Okabe, and has players explore an 8-bit version of Akihabara. Throughout the game, players control Okabe and discover the truth behind multiple mysteries that come up. In true old-school adventure game fashion, you progress in 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate by simply talking to various characters and investigating your surroundings.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this slow-and-steady, investigative style of storytelling, in general, but the main issue with 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate is the lack of deep storytelling that Steins;Gate fans, like myself, really crave. All of the mysteries that happen start and finish way too quickly, which did add a level of suspense and mystery that had me interested at first, but ultimately, they ended up not being engaging enough for me to be truly invested in what was going on and how things ended. What also hurts 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate is how it has multiple, quick storylines.

8 bit adv steins gate 3

Due to how rapidly the game progresses, it’s difficult to significantly connect with any of the characters and their scenes that are presented to you. What made Steins;Gate‘s storytelling so engaging is how it had such a tight, focused, and emotional plot, which I’m sad to say, isn’t the case for 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate as it features more of a series of mysteries that aren’t full of memorable thrills. While going through the game, you’ll feel like you’re completing a series of fetch quests rather than an exploring sprawling, suspenseful adventure.

This is due to how characters in 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate will often make multiple requests that need to be completed in order for you to make progress in solving Akihabara’s mysteries. These requests usually consist of either “talk to this person”, “get me this thing”, or “go back in time to fix this thing” fetch quests that get very repetitive after a while as you have to constantly backtrack to various places throughout the game. I was happy to find that the developer implemented series staples like D-Mail and Phonewave (name subject to change) as gameplay features, but having to use them over and over again made me dread them after a while.

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As I mentioned before, 8-Bit Adv Steins; Gate is a true old-school adventure game and this is especially the case with its gameplay. As Okabe, players move from place to place in the reimagined, 8-bit city of Akihabara — entering buildings, looking around, and chatting with characters along the way. In the grand scheme of things, it’s kind of similar to that of a point-and-click adventure game, but instead of clicking, you’re more giving out commands and selecting targets to learn about what’s around you. This gameplay system is simple, but it’s also effective as it lets you focus more on scenes happening in Akihabara and with Okabe’s conversations with other characters.

Just like many other retro adventure games, 8-Bit Adv Steins; Gate has you talking to several characters in order to clear the game. The dialogue in the game is, for the most part, great as it truly captures the different personalities and quirks from all of Steins;Gate’s characters, like Mayuri Shiina’s happy-go-lucky and infectious personality that I love so much. Other characters are also interesting enough — for instance, the bad-to-the-bone, self-proclaimed “Black Emperor”, 4C, a character who makes a brief appearance in one of the mysteries that occur in the game. However, since the dialogue is one of the game’s highlights, I would’ve liked for conversations that occurred to be more in-depth, and sadly, making these conversations happen feels like a chore.

On the topic of chores, 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate doesn’t have a save option, which I understand is supposed to be because of it being an NES/Famicom style game — but in the end, it actually makes the game more difficult to play and more repetitive. Getting a “Game Over” is rare, however, it did happen to me, and so I had to go back to the very beginning of the game and go through everything I already played through again. To help with navigating through Akihabara, there is a city map. The catch with this though is that the only way to access it is by going into the game’s in-game user manual — there isn’t a mini-map to look at, which makes exploring a little more irritating than it should be. 

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However, the retro style of the game isn’t all that bad since it does add a few interesting elements. The 8-bit graphics and music are excellent and take you back in time to when games were simple yet fun. Also, there’s the option to give 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate an even more retro look by pressing the “L” button to toggle on an old-school-tube-TV-like filter.

It’s important to remember that 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate is simply an added bonus to the great remaster that is Steins;Gate Elite. With this in mind, I can understand what the developer wanted to accomplish with 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate — they wanted to make a throwback adventure game for Switch players to enjoy. That’s completely fine and I’m sure the final product of 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate is exactly what the developer intended to create. If you’re a die-hard Steins;Gate fan and want to explore a quick Steins;Gate adventure with great dialogue, then 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate is worth a playthrough. However, if you’re looking for an engaging and deep adventure, it’s best to only playthrough Steins;Gate Elite.

Score:
6.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brad Crespo

Editor-in-Chief - On a quest to play as many new games as possible while trying to finish an endless backlog.