Steins;Gate is one of the most well-known visual novels out there, and its success led to a multitude of adaptations and spin off games. However, most of these spin offs were only released in Japan, and it seemed unlikely that they’d ever make their way to the west. Because of this, it was certainly a surprise to see Steins;Gate: My Darling's Embrace receive a sudden English release almost nine years after its original debut. This isn’t a game that will appeal to all Steins;Gate fans, but those who are looking for a more light-hearted adventure will definitely find something to love.
The events of Steins;Gate: My Darling's Embrace take place in an alternate world line to the main game. Here Rintaro Okabe, series protagonist and self-proclaimed mad scientist, finds himself in a more peaceful timeline after conducting experiments with the iconic PhoneWave, a machine that can send text messages to the past. There are no government conspiracies, no hitmen attempting to steal the PhoneWave, and this world line’s Rintaro opted not to keep experimenting with time travel.
My Darling's Embrace assumes that you’re familiar with the story and character of Steins;Gate already, though it does explain the basics if you’re completely new to the series. As for fans, you should go into this with the right expectations. There’s next to no focus on time travel, and most of the game is spent on goofy antics with a familiar cast of characters. Its tone overall is closer to the first half of Steins;Gate, which could be jarring if you’ve just finished the original VN or its sequel.
All routes in My Darling's Embrace branch off from a single point, each one focusing on a different main character. Said branching point is obvious, and it’s easy to leave a save before making a different choice. Once on a route, there are no more important branching decisions and you can just focus on the story instead. It’s a simple system that makes it easy to discover new routes, even if one of them still requires some guesswork to unlock.
With each route having a different character as its focus, you’ll be able to spend some time with the less important characters of the original Steins;Gate. The main character that benefits the most from this is Moeka, who didn’t receive her own ending in the main game. She finally gets her time to shine here, albeit with a slightly less grim backstory to match the rest of the game. The ever-present "super hacker” Daru also has some memorable moments across each route, and he’s often a source of comic relief through the game.
As is the case with most VNs with different endings, there are some routes that are weaker than others. Personal preference will have at least a little impact on your enjoyment of each one of the six routes, especially if you like a certain character the most. Despite being the main heroine of Steins;Gate, a lot of Kurisu’s route isn’t particularly interesting, and Faris’ ends up falling flat after a decent start. It doesn’t help that many of the endings feel anticlimactic, stopping before anything overly romantic happens.
Even with these shortcomings, most of My Darling's Embrace is enjoyable to play through. While the first half of Steins;Gate was specifically designed to give more impact to later events, basing a full game around mainly comedic storylines and goofy moments with the cast still manages to work. The phone trigger system, where you can reply to different text messages from the cast, add some extra charm to the game. There are a lot of optional messages to read through, many of which branching off into further conversations depending on your response.
When it comes to the localisation, fans will be happy to know that this is a solid release all round. English releases for this series have certainly been inconsistent, with typos and weird translation choices abound. There are still a few mistakes here and there, but they’re far fewer than previous releases. The only real issue with My Darling's Embrace is the text. Words are often split between multiple lines in text messages, while dialogue will sometimes have the same issue with contractions like "wouldn’t". This doesn’t ruin the high quality localisation, but it can take a few hours to get used to.
Visually, My Darling's Embrace borrows most of its sprites and UI elements from the main game. It’s certainly a unique style compared to many other visual novels, though it may not be to everyone’s tastes. At least there’s a decent amount of new artwork used for special scenes in each route, even if it is inconsistent at times. The art may also be off-putting to people that have only watched the anime adaption or played Steins;Gate ELITE, as the art style used in those is relatively plain in comparison.
STEINS;GATE: My Darling's Embrace (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
How much you’ll get out of Steins;Gate: My Darling's Embrace really depends on what you enjoyed in the original game. If you’re looking for some humorous antics with a dash of romance, then this is the right place for you. Those that are more into time travel and the serious side of Steins;Gate should really look elsewhere.