The sheer volume of text in the game demonstrates why it’s taken so long to reach Englishspeaking audiences. It’s still significantly overwritten, but a terrific localisation mines every nugget of insight from the script. There’s an extensive glossary, too, ranging from detail about the 11 theories of time travel to thorough explanations of otaku terminology. It’s hard not to admire a game that covers both Dirac antiparticle theory and fujoshi. question not only his reliability as a narrator, but whether his seemingly non-sequitur utterances are delusion or acuity. By turns lucid and manic, and realised with a dauntless, committed performance by Japanese voice actor Mamoru Miyano, he’s the most fascinatingly unhinged protagonist since Francis York Morgan, and a narrative fulcrum to latch onto even as the plot threatens to spin off its axis.
Still, it’s a story with genuine smarts, even if they’re rationed somewhat, interspersed with lengthy, patience-testing exchanges of questionable narrative value, lightly comedic interludes, and the convolutions of a rococo plot.
As such, it aims both high and low, splicing talk of wormholes and worldlines with examinations of contemporary otaku culture – and if that means its temporal tapestry occasionally unravels, it also results in plenty of loose threads upon which to tug. Not that you’ll always know which ones you’re pulling: your interactions are limited to responding to, or ignoring, Okabe’s emails and text messages, choosing subjects in hyperlinks with no way of knowing the tone of the missive before hitting send. You’ll likely need the aid of a walkthrough to see the game’s true ending, but with fresh narrative splinters to uncover, and the most charismatic of guides to follow, it’s a journey that bears repeating.