As people who play games largely for the stories they tell - and who secretly suck at the vast majority of other games - visual novels are kind of a big deal. Laying back in bed with a console balanced in our lap, tapping the screen to move along page after page of text as we read may not sound like the most enthralling of games, but the stories they paint can take you from sinister school murders to light-hearted avian romance to oddball courtroom dramas, and everything in between. A genre that's been long-established in Japan, but always remained a bit of a niche in the West, the games have been slowly gaining a following in recent years, with a raft of new titles hitting the PS Vita in particular - and the latest one to join their ranks is Steins;Gate Zero.
Released last year to critical acclaim, the original Steins;Gate followed a group of teenage scientists, who discover a way to send messages to the past, inadvertently triggering a chain of events that alter their very own futures. With its heart-wrenching sci-fi story, memorable characters and multiple endings, what it lacked in gameplay - given that the only real user input is picking a conversation option between the reams of reading - it more than made up for in substance. And now, the game's direct sequel, Steins; Gate 0, has been officially confirmed to be heading our way.
Set in the same world, the story follows on from one of the previous game's bad endings - a timeline in which the main female character, Kurisu Makise, is doomed to die, much to the chagrin of protagonist Rintaro Okabe. Discovering a way to give himself a second chance at saving her life, via an artificial intelligence program known as Amadeus, which gives the user a means of interacting with the stored memories of a fellow human being, a new epic tale unfolds once more.
Once again, it seems your in-game mobile phone will play a big part in the progression of the story, although things have moved on a bit from simply choosing to answer or ignore another character's phone calls and texts. In Steins;Gate 0 it seems your interactions with the other characters, and the way you make decisions and hop down different branches of the story, is via the new 'RINE trigger' events. Essentially a messaging app installed on your phone, RINE lets you send and receive messages from the various characters in the game at any point, and depending on what you send, you'll get different responses from the character in question. Not wanting to be too serious, you'll also have the option of sending a number of different Facebook-style stickers too. Precisely how the whole RINE system will work into the game still remains to be seen however.
Details are still a little scant though, and all we know so far is that Steins; Gate 0 will be hitting the Playstation 4 and PS Vita sometime later this year - although precisely when is still up in the air.