Years after its original launch in Japan, an English version of sci-fi visual novel Steins;Gate finally got a UK release on PS3 and PS Vita, giving many people their first chance to experience the game. But is it worth the wait?

Unlike genre-mates such as Danganronpa and the Zero Escape series that have puzzle elements, Steins;Gate is a pure visual novel.

It relies on story branches which depend on how the player responds to calls and text messages sent to their phone. In some cases there are several responses or the player can simply choose to ignore the message or call.

The lack of gameplay may lead to issues for the unprepared, but going into the game knowing this there is little problem as the story is the star.

Avoiding spoilers, Steins;Gate puts the player in the shoes of Okabe Rintaro, a self-proclaimed evil genius and scientist, who has a tendency to talk to himself and refer to himself in the third-person.

Complex information is handled in such a way that people will be able to grasp and understand concepts brought up early in the game, such as time travel, and enjoy the story for what it is.

The same can be said about the references to Japanese culture, as the game even includes an encyclopaedia to give players the ability to read more on terms they are unfamiliar with.

A small issue is some points of the game that show day-to-day activities of Rintaro may seem repetitive at times, but this is usually done for good reason and feels more frustrating because the player will just be waiting for when the next key plot point is going to be uncovered.

The story can be skipped at speed when replaying sections, and appears to stop whenever a new branch is hit or a message is received on the phone. This makes obtaining the other endings a breeze in combination with the game’s save system, which allows the player to save anywhere, while the game retains its own save slots at the beginning of each chapter.

The visual novel style works excellently with the game describing the thoughts and feelings of Rintaro as the player progresses. Steins;Gate provides a level of immersion and insight into the story that could never be experienced by watching an anime or reading a book, as the player's choices have a huge impact at times.

Players will find that they think and feel similar things to Rintaro and when they make poor decisions in the game will feel the need to take the necessary actions to fix everything. Certain parts of the game will lead the character to make tough decisions which will reflect the player’s choices elsewhere. Players who push forward to see each ending and even the more minor story branches will certainly reap satisfying rewards in the form of more information on the in-game universe and a better understanding of individual characters.

The art style and soundtrack work well and the more shocking scenes will have huge impact due to the use of both. All spoken dialogue has voice acting although this is in Japanese only. This may annoy some, but due to the nature of the game and the fact it is so heavily influenced by Japanese culture it seems like the best choice and likely is part of the reason the game came to western shores at a budget price.

Overall Steins;Gate is a must-buy for fans of the anime and visual novels. For anyone even slightly curious about visual novels Steins;Gate is a great representation for the genre and definitely a very sensible first purchase, and only those who are not keen on text-heavy games need to be wary.

9 out of 10

PS3 version reviewed, also available on PS Vita