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“Absolute Zero” – Steins;Gate Zero Review

(This review will contain light spoilers for Steins;Gate Zero, and massively heavy spoilers for the original title. You can consider this a spoiler warning. This may also be called God’s final warning to those who rebel.)

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I was probably not as shocked as many of you when I initially saw Steins;Gate Zero announced. It had come at a time when my cynicism towards the series was at its highest, and I began wondering just how much they intended to milk the franchise with low-quality, low-effort stories of little consequence. The fact that Steins;Gate Zero was to be based on an existing trilogy of light novels felt like the final nail in the coffin! My apprehension was through the roof. I was fully expecting more of the same; a low effort story and the typical franchise milking fare that so many pieces of fiction suffer through.

If I could go back in time and slap myself in the face for my doubts, I would.

Steins;Gate Zero is without a doubt my favourite piece of Steins;Gate-related supplementary material. Not only does it seamlessly weave itself into the original plot, it also manages to add so much more meaning to what was presented in the first title.

Story

“This is the story of the future that could not be saved.”

A much darker story than the original, Steins;Gate Zero explores the future of the Beta Attractor Field, and the foundation behind the Video D-Mail. It’s a long, twisting story with numerous surprises and revelations.

Steins;Gate Zero’s story diverges from the original during the endgame sequence of the Visual Novel, or Episode 23 for you anime-viewers out there. I won’t get into the details, but the basic gist is that two key things are missing from the scenario; when Okabe is at his lowest, he does not receive a D-Mail telling him to watch the news, and Mayuri does not smack him in the face. The latter seems of little consequence, but you should know from the original Steins;Gate that even the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can have unintended and far-reaching consequences.

The absence of these two small, seemingly minor, details creates the foundation for Steins;Gate Zero’s Beta World Line a World Line in which Okabe is not only crippled by the fact that he has lost the woman he loved, but also riddled with the guilt of knowing that he was the one to drive the knife through her.

This Okabe has given up entirely on saving Kurisu’s life. He has given up entirely on reaching the Steins Gate. This is an Okabe that has resigned himself to his fate, an Okabe who has fully seen the scope of his own grand unimportance and has completely accepted it. It doesn’t matter to him that World War Three is guaranteed. It doesn’t matter to him that he’s crushing the wishes of a girl that travelled through time itself to save the future. He’s simply tired, a man in mourning.

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To cope with his grief, he has abandoned the Future Gadget Lab entirely and is focusing on his university life. He indulges in normal activities like tennis and assisting his teacher. But even that is a shallow facade in truth he can barely keep himself together, relying on various therapists and pills to keep himself stable. He’s a traumatized mess of a man, and the darker theme of the story is clear from the get-go.

Things go as standard for Okabe until he attends a seminar and is introduced to three key characters.
The first is Hiyajo Maho, a plucky woman who, despite her short stature, is a few years Okabe’s senior. She was Kurisu’s lab partner at the Viktor Chondria University in America, where they were working on a very special project.

The second is Alexis Leskinen, a Finnish-American university professor, and a man who was supervisor to both Maho and Kurisu in their laboratory back in the USA.

The third is their project: “Amadeus”, an AI system that they claim houses the ‘soul’ of humanity. It uses the memories of a human as a base and, for the most part, is just like that person. Who is that person, you might ask?
Makise Kurisu.

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As a person that knew Kurisu (though Maho and Leskinen don’t know the truth of it), Okabe is asked to field-test Amadeus, to talk to her regularly through his phone and gauge her responses.

It is here that the intrigue truly begins. As Okabe’s interactions with “Kurisu” pile up, so does the mystery, and soon enough our broken protagonist once again finds himself in a grand conspiracy as he struggles against the shift of worlds and the flow of time.

Characters
Steins;Gate Zero introduces several new characters to its story, and something that it does far better than the original is the development of its cast. Okabe is not the only protagonist whose eyes we see through in this story. The game has multiple narrators and often shifts between them to show us what they’re doing at any given time. I feel that this was an excellent choice on the part of the creators as it gives us a glimpse into the minds of various other characters without keeping the plot centered on Okabe. Daru and Suzuha are especially well-developed, and their family dynamic is one of the most heartwarming aspects of the game. It is through Suzuha’s eyes that we learn more about the blackened skies of 2036, and about the mysterious young girl named Kagari as well.

Technical
As with all Science Adventure games, the TIPS section remains a handy glossary to help along those unfamiliar with particular terms. The translation of these terms was done quite well in the PQube release, and I doubt anyone will find anything to complain about.
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Much like in the first game, Okabe’s phone is vital to how you progress in the plot. Choosing whether or not to use your phone at pivotal moments in the plot will alter the direction of the narrative, resulting in one of five wildly different endings. These endings are also a major improvement over the endings in the original game, which were all disconnected from the final result. All of the endings in Zero feel like they mean something, and they all have bearing on Okabe as a character. Also the True End is much easier to reach, so the game gets bonus points for that alone.
The texting system from the first game has been replaced by RINE , an instant messaging application designed by Daru. RINE is a major improvement over the system in the first game; you can see the full message before you send it, you have the option of sending funny little character stickers, and the entire conversation plays out immediately so you don’t need to constantly monitor your phone for updates. One thing I will note as a slight disappointment was that the RINE stickers and phone menu buttons were left untranslated in the PQube release. This will cause minor confusion at worst for English speakers, however, so it isn’t a massive problem.

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In Summary
Ultimately, Steins;Gate Zero is a tale of redemption. A tale of transformation from broken and battered man to selfless hero. A… Zero to Hero story, if you will (I’m sorry). It is a much darker tale, and it has a lot to tell. I personally found it much more enjoyable than the original, and I loved the original.
If you are a fan of the first game then I strongly recommend that you play through Zero.
I feel it’d be more appropriate to say that “Steins;Gate” as a story is incomplete without this vital entry. It is not a title to be missed.

Overall I rate Steins;Gate Zero a Ø/Ø. Idds bretty gud.

I played Steins;Gate Zero in Japanese at launch and in English before western launch.
Thank you to PQube games for providing me with a review copy of their English release.

Anonymous;Code Update #7 – Vatican Hacker Agent, The Third Secret of Fátima & The Gaudi Code

A little late of an update this time, I was rather busy the last week. But, better late than never, translations below:

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David Jesue & Rosario Rossallini – Vatican Hacker Agents

Rosario and David are hacker agents dispatched by the Vatican; the Catholic Church HQ. They’re in Japan searching for the whereabouts of the Lead Programmer who had gone missing from the Vatican. Calm, collected, and religiously zealous to a fault; they aren’t just capable hackers, they’re professional assassins as well.

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The Third Secret of Fátima & The Gaudi Code

The story goes that in 1917, a small village in Portugal was blessed by an Oracle who imparted Three Secrets upon the people. But the “Third Prophecy” was censored by the Vatican and is believed by some to have never truly been made public due to the shocking revelations contained within.
Not only that, but there is also the mystery behind the Magic Square found at Gaudi’s Sagrada Família, which was set for completion by the year 2026.
Much like the Arecibo Message, these urban legends will find themselves integral to the secrets behind Anonymous;Code.

That’s all for now, I’ll try to be faster with the next update when it releases.

– Steiner

 

Anonymous;Code Update #5 – GAI Computer Corporation and The Supercomputer “GAIA”

 

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GAI Computer Corporation

An organization with influence spanning the globe,  GAI Computer Corporation is a company with a solid foundation of scientific and technological development.
The group is working on the development of the GAI Computer “GAIA”, with the prodigal boy genius hacker ASUMA (Soga Asuma) at the heart of the project.
Asuma’s two subordinates; Ewan Okuda and Graham Kingley, are currently in Nakano City with the intention to find and capture a “certain someone”.

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“GAIA”

The GAI Computer Corporation developed their Earth Simulator “GAIA” to track things such as fluctuation in weather patterns and activity of the Earth’s crust, ultimately it was a tool designed to predict the future of the Earth itself.
The digitized Earth within this simulator is said to be completely accurate down to the smallest detail. However, as our story begins, progress on the simulator has been put on hold due to the events of the Sad Morning.

That’s all for now, but there’ll undoubtedly be another update soon.

– Steiner

Anonymous;Code Update #4 – Kurashina Bambi & Cyber Force Doll

Another update to the Anonymous;Code site.
Translations below:

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Kurashina Bambi

She plays the lead role among the members of the widely known unit of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Anti-Cybercrime Division, Anti-Cybercrime Branch “Cyber Force Doll”. She loves to sing, but is very clumsy despite her best efforts. An upbeat girl, she always tries to work hard and live life to her fullest.

 

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Cyber Force Doll

A trio operating as the Metropolitan Police’s Idol Unit in charge of tackling cybercrime. When they’re not doing their police work, they’re conducting numerous public events in various places, branching out from the New Sun Plaza in Nakano City. As could be expected of a Government-founded idol unit, superficial public appeal is about the only thing they have going for them, thus they’re not quite as popular as they’re made out to be.

That’s all for now. Though I did notice even though even though the unit is written as “Cyber Force Doll”, their shoulder badges all say “SFD”. Chiyomaru Engrish strikes again, I suppose.

– Steiner

Anonymous;Code Update #3 – Graper & Team Azoth

Once again, the Anonymous;Code website has updated with new details.
Translations below:

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Graper

A portmanteau of “Gravity” and “Permission”, the Graper is a near-futuristic motorcycle.
Not only can it run on wheels, it can also float in the air thanks to an anti-gravity feature built into the frame. It automatically detects the surface of the road and changes its style dynamically in real-time depending on its situation. Pollon is among the most talented of all those that participate in Graper Racing in Nakano City.

 

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Team Azoth

A digital detective agency operated by Oz (Ozutani Tengen) and Nonn (Hosho Nonoka.)
Oz specializes in the diplomatic and investigative side of the operation, while the cheeky-yet-talented Nonn operates the hacking. Sometimes the two mediate the hacking of Pollon and Cross’ team, “Crow”.

That’s all for now, though there’ll likely be more soon.

– Steiner

Anonymous;Code Update #2 – BMI & The Ghost

The Anonymous;Code Website has once again updated with some new details.
Translations below:

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Brain-Machine Interface

Digital Information Technology that connects directly to the user’s neural network.
It is used by piercing an electrode known as the “Carrier Node” around the top of one’s ear. Doing this allows the user to directly interface with digital technology in their vicinity. As of the year 2037, such technology is commonplace. Pollon and his gang make use of this technology for gathering real-time information and hacking.

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Saionji Juno

Known as “The Ghost”.
Master of elusion, she’s among the highest ranked hackers on Earth. She’s undetectable.

That’s all for now, there’ll likely be more soon.
– Steiner

Anonymous;Code Update

The Anonymous;Code Website updated with a little more new information today, I’ll post and translate below.

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The Arecibo Message

In 1974, the Arecibo Message was sent into space via radio-waves from the Arecibo Observatory. It is a basic message denoting the lives and actions of mankind, and it is said to be easily decipherable by any sufficiently advanced life-form. Though it was sent in the hopes of discovering alien life, the Arecibo Message is an instrumental piece of the puzzle behind uncovering the secrets of Anonymous;Code’s world.

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Momo Early Design

A;C2

Pollon Early Design

A;C3

Cross Early Design

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Yumikawa Cross

Yumikawa Cross –
Pollon’s best friend and a member of the “Crow” biker gang.
Headstrong, masculine and dependable. His assertive nature makes him the perfect partner for the luck-pushing Pollon. He likes to call himself a “Hacker Gentleman Thief”.

 

That’s all for now, but I’ll update again when some new stuff comes through.

– Steiner