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Untangling Steins;Gate Before Steins;Gate 0

by Karen Ressler,
Note: This article contains spoilers for the original Steins;Gate visual novel and anime.

Before we get started in earnest, let me just say this: yes, I recommend watching or playing the original Steins;Gate visual novel before diving into Steins;Gate 0, which is really more of a companion piece than a sequel or prequel.

Steins;Gate 0 will expect you know the characters and major reveals from the original. It's way more fun to guess at the story's twists and turns when you have all the information. So, if it's been awhile since you've seen Steins;Gate – it has been seven years since the anime came out – this refresher course should help.

Steins;Gate follows Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed "mad scientist." When he and his friends accidentally build a time machine that allows them to send text messages to the past, they can't resist using it to mess with history. All sorts of alternate timelines unfold, but fortunately for recap purposes, there are only three major ones, and they all stem from the same incident: the death of Kurisu Makise.

Alpha World Line

Most of Steins;Gate takes place in the Alpha world line. Okabe, on seeing famous girl genius Kurisu murdered at the beginning of the story, unknowingly sends his first text to the past and prevents her death from happening.

As a result, Kurisu is alive to join Okabe and his friends in their experiments on their newly discovered time machine. They send multiple text messages to the past (they call these "D-Mail" for "DeLorean mail"). Kurisu uses her neuroscience background to build a machine that can send someone's memories to their past self. Everything seems fine at first.

No matter what they do to history, though, two things always happen: Okabe's childhood friend Mayuri dies, and SERN takes over the world. SERN (like the real world CERN, but evil) catches wind of Okabe's first text to the past, tracks him down, and press gangs the key lab members into working on SERN's time machine. The future in this world line is a dystopia ruled by SERN.

Beta World Line

To escape the Alpha world line, Okabe has to cancel all his texts to the past. By doing so he changes the timeline enough to avoid Mayuri's death, but it means returning to a timeline where he never saved Kurisu.

This world line goes to hell, too. To understand why, it's important to know that Kurisu is murdered in a confrontation with Dr. Nakabachi, her father. Bitter that his daughter is the better scientist, Nakabachi rejects her offer of coauthorship on her time travel paper and decides to straight-up steal it instead. He leaves her for dead and flees to Russia, where his careless rewrite of her paper kicks off an international time machine arms race that starts World War III.

Steins Gate

To reach a happy ending, Okabe has to save Kurisu's life without sending a D-Mail that will tip off SERN. Time traveler Suzuha offers Okabe the physical time machine he needs to go back to the scene of Kurisu's death and make it happen. Crucially, this takes him two tries. On the first try, he gets involved in the confrontation between Kurisu and her father and… accidentally kills her himself. But he resolves to try one more time. With the help of a message from his future self, he goes back and saves her life.

The aftermath of Okabe's success is that Mayuri and Kurisu both live. Kurisu's stolen paper is lost in a fire before Nakabachi can get to Russia, and SERN doesn't take over the world. Of course, Kurisu has no memories of getting to know Okabe in the Alpha world line. Or does she? It seems Okabe may not be the only one who remembers alternate timelines.

Okabe calls this outcome "Steins Gate." It doesn't mean anything – he only chose the name because he's a giant nerd and it sounds cool.

So What's Steins;Gate 0?

Steins;Gate 0 takes place in the Beta world line where Okabe does not try a second time to use Suzuha's time machine to save Kurisu.

A 2015 Japanese rebroadcast of the Steins;Gate anime took a different route towards this world line. In the original scene, Okabe receives a message from his future self. Mayuri slaps Okabe when he looks ready to give up, motivating him to try again. In the new version, he receives no video and she comforts him instead. He never gets back in the time machine.

Steins;Gate 0 will pick up six months later.

Characters: Returning Cast

Not only are there plenty of characters to keep track of for Steins;Gate 0, some of them are different depending on which world line you're in. Here's the breakdown.

Rintaro Okabe, or Hououin Kyouma as he liked to call himself when claiming to be a mad scientist, is a college student who got in way over his head when he accidentally built a time machine. He has an ability he calls "Reading Steiner," which allows him to remember all other world lines he's been to even when other people don't. He's in love with Kurisu Makise.

Kurisu Makise was a young but respected scientist who studied in America. Her secret hobby was posting on the @channel message boards.

Mayuri Shiina is Okabe's childhood friend who loves making cosplay. While he claimed to be a mad scientist, she pretended to be his hostage — it was an act he started to comfort her after the loss of her grandmother.

Itaru "Daru" Hashida is Okabe's hacker friend who "likes both 2D and 3D girls" (is a pervert).

Suzuha Amane is a time traveler from the future, and Daru's daughter. In the Alpha world line, she is on a quest for the "IBN5100," an old computer that is needed to hack SERN. In the Beta world line, she comes to the past to deliver a time machine to Okabe. Her life is different in the two world lines, but she is always a skilled fighter.

Ruka Urushibara is Mayuri's friend who lives at a shrine and admires Okabe. In most timelines, Ruka is born male.

Moeka Kiryuu is a shy woman whom Okabe counted as a friend, until she killed Mayuri and revealed she worked for SERN. That was the Alpha world line anyway. In the Beta world line…

Faris Nyan Nyan (real name Rumiho Akiha), is Mayuri's friend and coworker at a maid café. She comes from a family that has a lot of power in Akihabara.

Nae Tennouji, is the daughter of Yuugo Tennouji (AKA Mr. Braun, not pictured), the keeper of the store beneath Okabe's lab. In the Alpha world line, it is revealed that Mr. Braun is Moeka's boss at SERN.

Characters: New Faces

To avoid spoilers, the new characters are pictured below without comment. If you see any of the characters below and think, "Oh no, I don't remember that one," then don't worry! You're not supposed to.

It's been a long time coming, but the wait for more Steins;Gate is finally over this Spring!

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