Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release: Dec 10, 2019 (for Western markets)
Price: $40 USD
Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace is a spin-off of the popular Steins;Gate series of visual novels. This spin-off in particular, focuses on pure dating sim / romantic comedy elements and takes the Steins;Gate universe in a very light-hearted direction, so be warned that if you are looking for the same sort of tension that you usually found in Steins;Gate then this spin-off is not for you. Also, it is highly advised that you play either Steins;Gate or Steins;Gate 0 before going into this spinoff, just to get a better introduction and background to most of the characters. There’s no true bad endings or game overs in this game.
Plot: The main protagonist, Okabe Rintaro, has found himself in a new Delta attractor field, which seemingly does not have any world shattering consequences like the Alpha or Beta attractor fields do. This is a relatively peaceful attractor field, and several new gadgets have been made by the Lab members. There’s notably a gadget that cuffs two lovers together, zaps them if they argue or try to get away and will only let them break free if they have the same thoughts together. Another gadget displays the thoughts of a person and transmits it to a video display, and yet another gadget broadcasts video publicly for the whole world to see. Clearly, all these gadgets work together to much embarrassing effect for the Lab members. In particular Rintaro finds himself with one of 6 possible Lab members to be in romantic subplot with.
Gameplay: Like other Steins;Gate games, it uses the D-Mail system. So the different routes are affected by when (or if) you open your phone at certain times, which people you contact, and which emails you send (or don’t send). The rest is standard visual novel reading as this series is not point and click or investigative in nature.
Characters: Steins;Gate has fairly memorable characters, and all of them are represented here with no new additions.
-Okabe Rintaro: the protagonist of Steins;Gate who is a self described mad genius, who comes across as both eccentric and self-loathing at times.
-Daru: Okabe’s closest male friend, a pervert and a prodigal programmer and hacker who can bypass almost any security system.
-Kurisu Makise: the heroine of the original series, a tsundere, a scientific prodigy, and canonically Okabe’s main lover. Of course, she is presented as a romantic option here.
-Mayuri Shiina: Okabe’s closest female friend, cute, innocent, a bit ditzy but always there in need for her friends. Another romantic option here.
-Suzuha Amane: A time traveler from the future, usually a very serious personality from the other series, she’s a bit more light hearted here, and thus appears as another romantic option here.
-Faris NyanNyan: A cosplaying catgirl who comes from a well to do background and owner of a popular maid cafe. Available as another romantic option here.
-Luka Urushiba: Biologically a male, but always appears and acts very feminine, leading many to mistake his gender. He’s one of Mayuri’s close friends, and – despite his gender – also available as a romantic option in this game 😉
-Moeka Kiryu: Nicknamed ‘Shining Finger’ for her preference for and speed at texting, a very introverted girl who – unlike the original series – does not pose any kind of threat in this game, and thus is available as another romantic option.
Graphics: Steins;Gate has always had a signature graphical style with pastel-looking backgrounds and characters and if you enjoyed that style, then nothing changes here. I personally do like this style as well.
Music: Again, I’ve always enjoyed Steins;Gate’s background music which I think have always matched the mood of the scene. In this game since it’s so lighthearted it’s mostly that kind of music as well, which is fine by me.
Conclusion: 7/10. It’s definitely not as engrossing as the original Steins;Gate (10/10) or Steins;Gate 0 (9/10) for me, since it focuses mostly on romantic comedy here, which is a tried and true genre for visual novels. Since I reference Muv-Luv a lot (a great visual novel series for those of you who haven’t played it), I’ll continue with the analogy that if Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 0 were the Muv-Luv Unlimited/Alternative then this spin off must be the Muv-Luv Extra of Steins;Gate. I.e it’s really light-hearted, relatively short, and if you are just looking for a visual novel to lighten up your mood then this will do it. If you’ve always wondered what the Steins;Gate universe could be like if the characters didn’t have to deal with the impending doom or SERN/WWIII/Mayuri/Kurisu’s death and wanted a more light hearted ‘fun’ take on the universe, or maybe wanted to ship Rintaro with one of the main cast, then this one is it. Otherwise I consider this one a fairly average visual novel; it’s not a must get or anything, but it will help you unwind after a long day at work.