Steins;Gate is one of the more unlikely success stories in the Japanese history of Xbox 360. Released in October 2009, the "science adventure game" starring Rintaro Okabe and his friend Kurisu Makise as they explore strange time anomalies around the Akihabara neighborhood of Tokyo became a major success in Japan, spawning a manga, novel, 24-episode anime series, two spin-off games and even a strategic board game.
"When I was first working out the plan for Steins;Gate, there's of course no way I thought it'd turn out like it is now," creator Chiyomaru Shikura said in an interview with Famitsu magazine. "I just worked on the story and the game up to the point where I figured if I put any more into it, it'd get too long-winded and wordy. I really had no way of imagining how people outside of the staff would react to it, or how many points it'd get in reviews. I suppose that's true for my current project as well; it's always hard to impartially picture how people will see your work."
Hype for the game began when 5pb., Shikura's company, released a demo on Xbox Live. However, "I think the really big response came after release," he said. "There was this feeling across the Xbox 360 world of 'You've got to know about Steins;Gate'. You'd see fans fighting with people who were saying things like 'It's just an adventure game, right? That's not a real game.' Eventually, though, you'd see FPS fans and so on go 'I tried it out, and it was fun,' and I was really happy to see that play out. It was incredibly exciting to see people talk about the game and build a community like they did."
Now the series is on the move again, with a Steins;Gate sequel coming to the PS3 and 360 next month and an anime film due out in theaters not long before. According to Shikura, the new game will cover some of the events of the previous one, but with different viewpoints. "I've mentioned this before," he said, "but I really love Back to the Future 1 and 2. I think there's something really neat about how some scenes in 1 show up again in 2 from a different viewpoint. I'm hoping I can generate the same kind of excitement among gamers in Steins;Gate as well."
Unlike with the original, there's also a group of writers working on the sequel, not just Shikura himself. "That was decided pretty early on," he explained. "I realized this while working on the anime, but the world of Steins;Gate is pretty much already concepted out, so if I can leave it to writers who truly understand it, that'll help put some more edgy and neat ideas into it. That was the philosophy behind the novelization and the comedy spin-off, too. It's something I learned while deploying all those different takes on the project; that each writer can put their own color into the world."
The movie, meanwhile, places its focus squarely on picking up where the TV anime left off. "It definitely explores what happens afterwards," Shikura said. "Like Kurisu said, 'I had no idea things would turn out like that...' I think it might be safe to say that Kurisu is the main character this time around. Rintaro kept jumping through time, after all; there's no way he could get away with all of that scot-free. The story explores some of the difficulties he's now involved with."
The game is due out April 25 in Japan, with the anime film debuting April 20.