Finally! After years of waiting, we’ve finally been graced with an English translation of Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace. Originally released in 2011, this Steins;Gate spinoff visual novel has remained relatively inaccessible to Western audiences due to a lack of an English translation. There have been some fan-made translations, but as is with any ameteur creation, they weren’t as reliable as anything professionally made. However, now you don’t need to worry because an officially released translation is now available on Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. So step back into the shoes of Rintaro Okabe as he journeys on what might be his most frightful endeavor: love.
Note: Prior knowledge of Steins;Gate is highly recommended before playing to understand what is happening
My Darling’s Embrace takes place during the period of time in which the lab was experimenting with the PhoneWave (think right after meeting Moeka Kiryu). While testing, Okabe sends a series of D-Mails that lands him in a Delta worldline in which he had already added Ruka, Faris, Suzuha, and Moeka as lab members. When he looks around, he notices the lab members preparing for a party to celebrate the creation of three new future gadgets, which were to be sold to help raise funds for the lab. All in all, he proceeds as normal while trying to gather new information about the worldline. In doing so, an incident occurs with a fourth new future gadget that acts as the catalyst for the six possible routes in the game, each one focusing on one of the other lab members (Daru being the exception). And thus the stage is set for a series of entertaining humor and heartwarming love.
If you haven’t noticed from my previous two reviews of the series, I’m a huge fan of Steins;Gate. As such, I expect a good bit from things like this. I have to say, though, this did not disappoint. So far, I’ve completed three routes and each one has kept me hooked and thoroughly entertained. I haven’t yet felt any sort of negativity when it comes to the writing or story in this series and My Darling’s Embrace keeps that holding true. The peaceful reality of the Delta Attractor Field gives an opportunity to focus on the lighthearted and happy aspects of the series. This allows some light to be shed on the other lab members and how they interact with Okabe, somewhat similar to a previous spinoff, Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram. Each route goes more in-depth to their individual feelings and personalities, drawing you in more than they already have.
As I said before, the characters are all amazingly written and designed. I can’t think of many other anime or VNs that had the same level of dedication to its characters, especially for a spinoff. The unique watercolor design brings out the defining traits of the characters, giving them a simultaneous feeling of both vibrant and mellow. Each one stands out from the others in both personality and design. Even the voice acting shines just as bright as the other entries of the series. I will say, though, it seemed that Daru’s voice seemed a bit off in the first scene of the VN, but that may have just been me. Other than that, I have no complaints.
One of Steins;Gate’s shining features has been it’s music. This once again applies to My Darling’s Embrace, as it brings along the original sound track with some new entries as well. The blend of natural and synthetic in its tracks is quite befitting of the antics of the Future Gadget Laboratory, making it feel completely in place during any situation. Hell, I’m listening to some of the tracks while writing this. They all just work so well to solidify the emotion of the current scenario, making for a much more impactful scene. All around, music makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
During my experience with the VN so far, there have been a couple things that have caught my eye. The first is a simple error of the characters’ mouths continuing to move even after they’re done speaking. It’s not much of an issue, as it doesn’t always occur and it stops when the next text/dialogue block comes up. The next problem is a bit more of an issue. The auto-read function doesn’t work. You press the F3 key and an icon comes up signalling that it’s on, but it never progresses to the next text block without manual input. This becomes a hassle when you just want to sit back and read without having to constantly be clicking or pressing the spacebar. It’s nothing completely game-breaking, but I’d rather have it progress on it’s own. (Please note that this is from the PC version and I can’t say whether or not it occurs on other platforms.)
Overall, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy My Darling’s Embrace. It brings the same amount of entertainment and joy as the canon series, but without its grim and dramatic tensions. We just get the raw antics of the Future Gadget Laboratory and its members with the addition of touching romance through six different routes. The characters are just as lovable (now in more than one way) as they’ve been and the overall quality holds up to any of the main products. I was honestly surprised with the amount of effort put into the writing, voice acting, and art. It really does meet the high bar set by the original VNs. So if you’re wondering if you should buy it, I must say wholeheartedly that you should. Despite it’s technical flaws, it holds up to be an amazing time.