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Review: Steins;Gate Elite (Nintendo Switch)By Azuardo At 26.02.2019 14:06

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Steins;Gate's anime adaptation is equally as popular as its video game counterpart, yet there are many who have only engaged with one over the other. Rather than porting the visual novel right on over to Nintendo Switch, however, Steins;Gate Elite has merged its two media types into what some might call the best of both worlds. Whilst retaining the text and means of progressing the dialogue of the visual novel title, as well as the mobile phone interaction at select points in the story, every single scene uses clips from the anime to deliver an even more intense and vivid interpretation of this beloved narrative.

This technique is delivered exceptionally well, with short clips playing out in time with the text and voiced dialogue that occurs in tandem, with either an animation stopping or repeating its action until the player advances the text. It is such a smooth process that it almost feels like watching an actual anime, only having the power to move things forward when you desire. You are able to take in the world around the characters at your own pace, instead of being only forced to witness something for a brief moment in time before it's gone again.

The original visual novel version used still images and its character artwork to set the tone and present its locations. The animated clips in Steins;Gate Elite, though, offer a deeper glimpse into the world of Akihabara, where you might now be able to get a better look at the inside of the cat maid café than you could in the original title, for example, thanks to the additional segments that show off new perspectives. In some ways, also, the player is able to attain a better grasp of where in the city the characters are; rather than jumping from one location to the next, the animation takes a little more time to reveal and present its key areas from multiple directions.

Does the change from strictly still images to animated scenes deliver a superior and definitive version of the Steins;Gate novel, though? It may have benefits, and the new style is certainly incredibly good at how it tells its narrative through effectively an interactive anime format, but the quality of the animation itself leaves something to be desired. The animated versions of the characters just cannot capture the same fantastic detail that the original artwork did, with Elite's scenes making people look so plain and almost boring in comparison - even for key characters like Makise Kurisu. It does mean protagonist Okabe Rintaro is actually seen far more often on screen, and is a chance to highlight some of his eccentrics and all-around hilarity greater than before, but the problem remains that the detail just cannot match up to the gorgeous artwork stills from the PS Vita.

Since the anime didn't feature all additional endings that were possible in the actual game version, completely new animated scenes have been created specifically for Steins;Gate Elite's endings, such as those with Suzuha, Luka and Faris. Whilst some like the Suzuha path really are done to perfection, others are a bit more throwaway, with some scenes from the original title being skipped over entirely due to not actually having had slots in the anime before. In that sense, missing dialogue means it is difficult to call this the definitive edition of the classic novel, despite being still such an unmissable entry in the genre.

What hasn't changed is the unsurpassed ability to draw players into its narrative, tagging along for the wild timeline-jumping ride that Okabe and his fellow laboratory members end up on, as they accidentally create a way to alter the past and future. As they get wrapped up in an unforgettable trip that, yes, has its slow parts in the beginning and through some of the alternate paths, the majority of this tale is gripping, with a bit more engagement than the average visual novel usually features. The cast does hit various tropes along the way, but for the sci-fi or otaku fans among us, the characters, lore and incredibly detailed and engaging plot will have players hooked until the true ending is completed. It can get a bit fiddly to reach that ending without a guide, but the effort is worth it, and it is one visual novel that genre aficionados must play at least once, whether in this new Switch form, or through the PS Vita original.

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Still one of the most captivating visual novels of all time, but [i]Steins;Gate Elite[/i] might not be the absolute best way to experience this wonderful classic. The animated segments add a whole new dimension to the way the story is presented, and it is seamlessly pulled off to create a quite brilliant interactive anime of sorts, but the lower quality of the character designs compared to the gorgeous original artwork from the standard version takes a bit away from it all. Not enough to lose the impact and engagement this new interpretation delivers, and it is still a sure-as-heck must-buy for Switch owners that have no other means to play this title, but some players wishing to see the fuller endings and with superior art may want to opt for the PS Vita version if they can.



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