Steins;Gate 0 is a visual novel and sequel to 2009's Steins;Gate. Visual novels aren't as common over here as they are in Japan, so it is worth elaborating on what this means. Unlike most games there is very little actual interaction from the player, mostly you will just be pressing a button to make the text progress. Hence the term ‘visual novel’. Even that is optional (if you press another button the text will move itself along for you).
This is not intended as a sleight against the game. The appeal of visual novels is they use gaming technology to present a story in a way that could not be done simply with an annotated book or graphic novel. At any point in the game when a new concept or idea is mentioned, readers will be able to go to a menu that will explain that concept and its context. This is particularly helpful in Steins;Gate 0's case, due to both its nature as a sequel and the heavy science fiction themes on display (such as time travel, and artificial intelligence). Because of this it is easy enough for new readers to catch up on what is going on, and questions they might have can easily be answered as they read. They can also be ignored by more experienced players who don't feel the need to get bogged down in backstory.
So the presentation of the story is as such that makes use of the platform, but what about the story itself? It is a little exposition heavy at first, but to be fair that is at a point when it is trying to juggle the dual responsibilities of catching new readers up and appealing to established fans. As mentioned earlier in the review, there are pretty heavy science fiction concepts at the heart of the game but Steins;Gate 0 keeps the focus on the characters and their relationships. A scene in which a character is introduced to the AI of a character from the original game is equal parts explaining how the artificial intelligence works, and reminiscing on what she meant to him. Steins;Gate 0 doesn't have just one point of view character and the characters benefit by being seen from multiple viewpoints.
As a visual novel Steins;Gate 0 is almost uniquely Japanese (in that the closest we have to an equivalent here in the west is the type of game popularised by Telltale games) but it’s as if the developer was unaware that this would be played by an international audience too. If there are any moments which feel like something got lost in translation (no that wasn't a pun) they are few and far between. Beneath all of the plot points and terminology, the characters all have easy to understand motives, and easy to understand ways of pursuing those motives. If you find yourself curious about the visual novel genre Steins;Gate 0 is as good a place to start as any. You can progress through it at your own pace and it does everything it can to make sure you never feel lost in its plot.
STEINS;GATE 0 / DEVELOPERS: 5GB, NITROPLUS / PUBLISHERS: 5GB (JAPAN), PQUBE (Worldwide) / PLATFORMS: PLAYSTATION 3, PLAYSTATION 4, PLAYSTATION VITA, MICROSOFT WINDOWS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW