Have you played 5pb. / Nitroplus' visual novel STEINS;GATE yet? If not, you should. Why? One: because it's a high-quality visual novel (we awarded it an Editor's Choice Award with a score of 91%). Two: because this box set will probably mean precious little to you and then you'll have no reason to read my review, and my ego will suffer.
STEINS;GATE is available in English on PC through JAST, and on PS3/PSVita thanks to PQube. An iOS version is also planned to be localized. Japan had the game released on all of these platforms, as well as Xbox 360, PS4, PSP, and Android-based smart phones.
If you have played it, you may want to check out other spin-offs and incarnations, as this box set covers them as well (though it does not cover the newly-released STEINS;GATE 0, save for some vocal themes). We'll be talking about these games, anime, and more throughout the box set review.
But first, a super-quick overview. The first three discs are all vocal tracks, with the first two discs covering opening/ending themes used in various versions of the game, and disc three covering character themes on character-specific drama CDs and some other remixes.
Disc four, the "meat" of the box set, is the game's full OST, by 5pb veteran Takeshi Abo (see our many, many reviews for the Memories Off series as well as the "infinity" series: Never7, Ever17, etc). Disc five is symphonic (combined real+synthesized) arrangements of the OST. Disc six is a symphonic album that pairs six key vocal tracks with new orchestral background music. Instrumental versions are also included so one can better appreciate the orchestral arrangements, or freely wield their karaoke powers.
Disc seven is a new, exclusive drama CD...which means nothing if you can't speak Japanese. As for its new/exclusive status...well, we'll get to why that might matter for some collectors real soon. I will note that this new drama album opens with an original vocal track, the name of which I don't know. You'll hear that in the audio sample.
And then there's the magical disc eight. It's not an audio CD. Rather, it's a DVD data disc with no .exe or special navigation or any artwork or other exclusives. It's barebones, but it's also 20 hours of "barebones." It consists of folders "A" through "M," some of them broken further into subfolders, housing a collection of "everything else," encoded as 256kbps constant bitrate mp3s (no 320k? really??). This collection comprises 18 hours' worth of drama CDs, and then 2 hours' worth of interesting chiptunes music created for the 8-bit Japan-only sequel STEINS;GATE Variant Space Octet.
With that overview out of the way, it's time to dive deep into this music collection. I will be including reference information for previous prints of all the music, and noting what releases are unique to the box set or an amalgam of other past releases. This will allow you, the reader, to gauge the "completeness" level of a box that advertises itself as "Complete."
To aid you in your search for details, please make use of this handy-dandy table of contents.
Discs 1 and 2: Theme Collections
Disc 3: Character Songs & Remix
Disc 4: Game Sound Tracks
Disc 5: Another Version's (Orchestral)
Disc 6: Symphonic Version's (Vocal with Orchestral)
Disc 7: Original Drama
Disc 8, Folders A-L: lots of drama
Disc 8, Folder M: chiptunes!
(Discs 1 and 2)
Source material: varying (will note publications each song is featured on below), many are also found on the two-disc STEINS;GATE VOCAL BEST, catalog number FVCG-1246
The first two discs feature opening, ending, insert, and image songs for many STEINS;GATE-related products. Ports of the original game to different consoles would get unique music; and then there are multiple side-story games, one "game within a game," the TV anime, the anime movie, and some music from the big new sequel STEINS;GATE 0.
I hold strong opinions about nearly every song on these two discs. It's a grab bag, for sure. If we call it "hit-or-miss," though, it is mostly hit. The songs performed by "Afilia Saga East" are terrible, but the rest are all pretty good. Most of these songs are performed by Kanako Ito, though there are also some great tracks from Yui Sakakibara, Ayane, Zwei, and others. Over half of the songs are composed by 5pb's director, Chiyomaru Shikura. Many arrangers worked on these songs as well, and the production value for every song is very high.
"Sky-Clad Observer" is one of the most memorable and catchy songs I've ever heard from 5pb. It was first published in "short version" format on the STEINS;GATE OST+Radio CD (FVCG-1106), with the full version first published on its own op/ed single for 360, FVCG-1100.
"A.R." is a song exclusive to the PC version of the game and is used as an "image song" (either for a special music video or bonus audio track). It was first featured on its own single, catalog number FVCG-1119.
The PSP-exclusive opener, "Universe Engineer," has a lot of the same beats and synths that make up the soundscape of "A.R.," though the melody is different and the tempo faster. The song was released as its own single, catalog number FVCG-1158. Paired on this same single is "Eternal Vector," which we'll discuss as we reach the second disc.
Next up is another of my personal favorites; "Non-Linear Geniac" is the opening theme song for the PS3 version of STEINS;GATE, and it would also go on to serve as the PSVita opening version, so if you played the PQube-localized version, this is what you heard. It was originally released as its own single, catalog number FVCG-1197.
The next two tracks are for the STEINS;GATE spin-off / fan-disc compendium Hiyoku Renri no Darling (which we've translated as "Forbidden Invincible Darling"). The game's Xbox 360 opening theme is entitled "La*La*La Labolution" (the emphasis being on "Lab," since the "Lab Mem" or Laboratory Member thing is important to the plot and world of STEINS;GATE). The performers are a group of ultra-cute girl singers called "Afilia Saga East," noted above as the performers that single-handedly ruin my listening experience of these discs. I cannot adequately express my personal distaste for the super-cute, super-nasal unison choir thing happening here. This wretched piece was originally released on a single that was published in three separate release versions, the standard version being FVCG-1164.
The title track "Forbidden Invincible Darling" serves as the opening theme for the Sony side of this spin-off: PSP, PS3, and PSVita all utilize this opener. The standard release catalog number for this single is YZPB-5007. The photo alone for all these Afilia Saga girls is...nauseating...
"IF" is the "opening" theme song of a PachiSlot game. Yeah...PachiSlot arcades are still doing pretty well in Japan, so there's a STEINS;GATE pachislot game subtitled Kaiten Sekai no Inductance (which we've translated as "World Rotation Inductance"). When 5pb. decided to make a STEINS;GATE PachiSlot game, they went all-out on making a solid vocal theme, and this one is performed by Ayane. This track is relatively new, and was not featured in the two-disc Vocal Best set. The only other place you'll find it is on the "IF" single, FVCG-1362.
Tracks 8 and 9 are two opening themes for the Japan-only STEINS;GATE side-story game Senkei Kousoku no Phenogram (which we've translated as "Linear Bounded Phenogram"). The track 8 theme, "Phenogram," is shared across the two console versions released, Xbox 360 and PS3. When it was ported to PSVita, it got a new theme song, "Phetaritette Encounter." The game itself consists of a series of 11 short stories that take place in different world lines. Though there was a full soundtrack published for the game (FVCG-1247-2), it was not included in the box set. Fortunately, the vocals were.
The short version of "Phenogram" appears on the aforementioned OST; its full form only appears in the "Phenogram" single (FVCG-1239) and in this box set. The superior track of the two, in my opinion, is "Phetaritette Encounter." Though I've been unable to determine what in the world "Phetaritette" means (it seems like some silly Romance-language rendering of "fatality"), the song is Ayane's most musically interesting track in the entire box set. If you want to find it, its only other release is on its title single (FVCG-1281).
Here we jump from games to animation. The TV anime opening theme "Hacking to the Gate" is almost as iconic as Sky-Clad Observer. The epicness is strong with this track. Alongside being featured in the two disc Vocal Best album, "Hacking to the Gate" has its own single, catalog number MFCZ-1006.
The OVA STEINS;GATE movie, Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu (which we've translated "Loading Area Déjà vu"), also has an opening vocal theme. Said theme song's title has many English translations floating around the net: the romaji title is "Anata no Eranda Kono Toki wo," and we've translated it as "Now It's Your Choice." The film was released after the Vocal Best set. The short "movie size" version appears on the full movie OST, which was included with the limited edition release of the film (KAXA-6801CD-1~4). For those who wanted the full version of the song, the single was printed as catalog number FVCG-1236.
This next one is a real treat. The mere fact that it exists blows my mind. If you've played STEINS;GATE, you know that there's a card/deck-based battle game that the character Faris excels at, called "Rainet Battlers" (Rainet Kakeru). The character Shiina, and other characters, can send you plot synopses to a 13-episode anime series about this fictional game within a fictional game. Well guess what? 5pb. went and made an anime for "Rainet Battlers." I'm not kidding. Well, they didn't produce the full 13-episode series. But they had to make an opening theme to work into different STEINS;GATE products (they also released a physical version of the game for people to play, because that's how dedicated 5pb. is to the STEINS;GATE universe).
So yeah, this "Masquerade" track can be found on STEINS;GATE VOCAL BEST and this box set, and a shortened version appears on the first STEINS;GATE OST. It's also the B-Side on the "Farfalla of Fate" single (FVCG-1101). It's one that hides under the radar, to be sure, and it's a great one. It's performed by Yui Sakikabara, who knocks this song and many others for STEINS;GATE right out of the park. This is her debut in terms of this tracklist's ordering, and it's a fantastic first showing. It's amazing that a game-within-a-game could have such a fantastic song.
A note about Masquerade's lengthy subtitle: it is a giant mess. In romaji, it comes out as "NOAH Daisanshou Retsuou Shinseikihen Yori." Few fans across the internet have even attempted a translation, so I gave it my best with the help of a more knowledgeable friend. We can just avoid the headache though and refer to it as "Masquerade." The extra-long name does add to the pretentious nature of Rainet, though, and I like that from a thematic-form perspective.
We round out disc one with two songs from STEINS;GATE 0. Track 13, "GATE OF STEINER," serves as one of two different ending themes for STEINS;GATE 0 (presently available in Japan only on PS3/PS4/PSVita). The lyrics are a fun and playful mix of English and Japanese, though the timbre of the song is more somber than playful. This is an absolutely stunning, if dark, piece of music. There are two places you can find this song: an enclosed / LE version of the STEINS;GATE 0 OST (FPBD-0346), though that version is short/game-sized; and the retail release of STEINS;GATE 0 SOUND TRACKS -Complete Edition- (FVCG-1382). No single has been released for GATE OF STEINER, so other than those OSTs, this box set is where you'll find this song.
"Amadeus," on the other hand, can be found on the aforementioned OST prints as well as its own single, catalog number FVCG-1354. This opening theme song title has a very specific meaning to the series, but I won't spoil that. This is a very cool song, and it gets me excited about the playing the game.
While the first disc consisted primarily of opening themes, disc two switches over to ending themes.
We begin with "Another Heaven," the Xbox 360 ending theme for STEINS;GATE. This piece is a milquetoast pop/rock ballad. It is fitting for the game, but there are better ending themes to come. Alongside finding this track on the Vocal Best collection, its "Short version" appears on the game's OST and on a full album of Kanako Ito tracks entitled Chaos Attractor (FVCG-1105).
Next up is one of my personal favorites: an "insert song" (song used midway through the game) for the original Xbox 360 version of STEINS;GATE. The song is called "technovision," and features Kanako Ito's voice layered and effect-laden to sound like some kind of pop star robot. Other places to find this song include track 6 of the Kanako Ito album STARGATE (GRE-009), a short version on the game's OST, the Vocal Best album, and probably other collections as well.
Somehow, there's yet another ending theme for the Xbox 360 STEINS;GATE. It makes sense, given just how many endings the game has, that there'd be a special track for the true ending. That true ending song? "Farfalla of Fate." I know what you're thinking: "what the heck is a Farfalla, and are you sure you don't mean Valhalla?" No, no, my friends. Farfalla is an Italian word: in its current spelling it means "butterfly," though in the plural farfalle it generally refers to bow-tie pasta. If you've played STEINS;GATE and you get into the science (and science fiction) behind it, you'll recognize both the pasta reference as a visual for understanding attractors to stable world lines and the "Butterfly Effect." Those are some big questions, and you'll only get the answers with the true ending. But it is my suspicion that "Farfalla of Fate" is meant to be a pun referencing two different concepts discussed by the Lab Mem team. Like the other ending theme, this one is a pretentious pop-rock ballad...but it's not quite as bland. If you're looking to find this song elsewhere, Vocal Best has it, as does the game's OST (though, once again, in short form). "Farfalla of Fate" also has its own single, catalog number FVCG-1101 (the same one where "Masquerade" is found).
Next up is a sonic wall of power: "In the Moonlit Night of Preghiera." It serves as the ending theme for the PSP port of STEINS;GATE. You can find this one on the Vocal Best album, track 8 on PHANTASM THE BEST (FVCG-1328), and as its own single (FVCG-1159). Also, little factoid, if you're wondering what "Preghiera" is, it's an Italian word that means "prayer" or more generally, "request."
The next two songs are the two different ending themes for STEINS;GATE Forbidden Invincible Darling, that fan-disc compilation title for Xbox 360. Praise be to all that is good and right in this world: it does not feature Afilia Saga East. First up is "EUPHORIA ~Requiem of Atonement~." The full version of this song is found as the B-Side of the above single (FVCG-1159). It can also be found on the Vocal Best compilation. The song itself is a slow-tempo ballad, in a sort of trance/neo-Enka style.
The other ending theme for Forbidden Invincible Darling is called "Eternal Vector." It can be found on the Vocal Best compilation, and it's also on Kanako Ito's full album VECTOR (FVCG-1180).
Another pair of ending themes for a spin-off are found ahead on tracks 7 and 8 of disc two. This time, it's for the 11-chapter side-story visual novel Linear Bounded Phenogram. We begin with "Hologram of Paradise," performed by Kanako Ito. This song is found on its own single (FVCG-1241) and in "short version" form on the game's OST (FVCG-1247-2). The next ending song, "Memories of that Summer Day," can also be found in short form on the aforementioned OST. It can also be found on the performers' full album Re:Set (FVCG-1232). Those performers? A duet called "Zwei," made up of members running under the monikers "Ayumu" and "Megu," and whose work is almost exclusively for 5pb.'s intellectual property.
What do we have left on disc two? We have some anime songs, and then more of that lovely STEINS;GATE 0 music to tease us. Let's start with the anime. The ending music for the STEINS;GATE TV Anime has a pretty convoluted name; in romaji, it's "Toki Tsukasadoru Juuni no Meiyaku," and we've chosen to translate it as "The Twelve Laws that Govern Time." This is a very lengthy song in its full form: a full five minutes in total. It can be found on the Vocal Best collection, as well as on its self-titled single (MFCZ-1008). The next song, "Beautiful Seduce," can be found on the same single, but strangely it is absent from the Vocal Best album. Serving as an "image song" for the TV Anime, this is a very lively piece. The piano improv and the super-speedy sequenced synths are all epic, as are the guitar riffs. Sakakibara's voice is versatile and thus capable of performing for this song as well as the techno-pop and ballads before this. It is one of my personal favorites.
Now we reach the end credits music for the STEINS;GATE movie, Loading Area Déjà vu. The song is "Always in this Place," and it can be found in shortened form on the movie's OST (KAXA-6801CD-1~4) and in full form on its self-titled single (FVCG-1237).
Rounding out disc two, we have an insert song and the ending theme for STEINS;GATE 0. The insert song, "A Song Played by the Stars," was written by one of my personal favorites in the business: MANYO. Some people get tired of his style, but I've been in love with his work ever since he and vocalist "Riya" recorded that beautiful opening theme for the PSP ports of The Legend of Heroes Gagharv trilogy. You know, this one? Yeah. So I really like MANYO's work. The vocalist for this song is Eri Sasaki, a regular performer and lyricist for the IDOLM@STER series. Her layered descant harmonies, no doubt suggested by MANYO (it is one of his trademarks), creates a lovely lullaby kind of sound. At the time of this box set release, this is the only place to get it. On August 24, 2016, STEINS;GATE 0 SOUND TRACKS -Complete Edition-will be released, and that's the only other place (so far) to find this song.
The ending song, "Lyra," is easier to find. The single from our new favorite duo Zwei, published back in November 2015, features this song (FVCG-1355). Other than that, this box and the full STEINS;GATE 0 OST have this song.
Character Songs & Remix
Source material: varying (the eight Audio Series Laboratory Member singles, some of the Future Gadget Character Song series, and the STEINS;GATE portion of Science Adventure Dance Remix (FVCG-1173). Alternately, the eight Lab-Mem songs are also found on Vocal Best (FVCG-1246))
Generally, these vocals are inferior to the theme collection. There are no guarantees that a voice actor (seiyuu) is going to be a good singer; as a result, composers for character vocals will often write songs that are intentionally easier to perform. This isn't the case for all of the seiyuu, but it certainly is for some of them. So, if the prior discs were more hit than miss, I can confidently say that the character collection is more miss than hit...especially because of the male singers. Itaru and Okabe may talk just fine, but they resort to a sort of languished humor to sell their voice. It doesn't work. It's just awful. Other characters, like Shiina, Moeka, and Amane, are the highlights of the Lab Mem songs.
Note that among the 16 songs on this disc, only the first 8 are specifically from the Audio Series Laboratory Member discs. We'll get to the second half later.
These first 8 songs are all found on Vocal Best, but they first appeared on their own Lab Mem singles (FVCG-1121 through FVCG-1128). These discs contained the vocal tracks found here, a karaoke version of that vocal, a drama track (found on disc 8 of this set), and a short cast comment track not found anywhere else.
Now we come to a small section on disc 3 labeled "Anime Blu-ray Bonus." This isn't for the anime movie Blu-ray, but for the anime series Blu-rays, of which there were nine separate releases. These nine Future Gadget Compact Disc album releases include the following: two soundtrack discs, two radio drama discs, two "DJCD" (fourth wall-breaking "talk" discs, not drama) discs, and three "Character Song" discs. The "bonus" tracks in question originate from those character song discs.
First is "3pm May Queen," which appeared on MFXT-0003EX. This song is a duet piece performed by the characters Mayuri Shiina (Kana Hanazawa) and Faris Nyannyan (Haruko Momoi). Based on its name, I can only surmise the two are singing about their place of work, the cafe "May Queen Nyannyan." Yes, that is its name. Why sing about it at 3pm? What happens at 3pm? Those are great questions. And if I was super-duper fluent in Japanese, I would translate the lyrics for you. As it stands, what I can tell you is that the song is surprisingly enjoyable. It runs at a mid-tempo with a simple jazz swing, and you'd better believe brush sticks are being used on the drums. It's a great jazzy number, even if the two seiyuu are not the best of singers (I still think Hanazawa sounds great, but I could do without Momoi's voice being so prominent in the song).
The second song is "Labyrinth of Idea," which appeared on MFXT-0006EX. Performed by Asami Imai (the seiyuu for character Kurisu Makise), "Labyrinth of Idea" is an expressive ballad and worthwhile counterbalance to her peppy character theme, "A Promising Paradigm." I'm glad the STEINS;GATE team had the good sense to give another solo track to Asami Imai.
Last in the series of the Blu-ray anime bonus songs is "Lab Mem Spirits," which is the aural equivalent of watching a car accident in slow motion. This duet is performed by Mamoru Miyano and Tomokazu Seki: the seiyuu for Rintaro Okabe and Itaru Hashida, respectively. I won't say anymore. Just...ugh.
Finally, we reach the last section of the third disc. These five remixes of op/ed themes we heard from the first two discs vary in quality, but generally they are a worthwhile listen. They were originally released on a compilation arranged album for CHAOS;HEAD and STEINS;GATE called Science Adventure Dance Remix (FVCG-1173). Sadly, the individuals who compiled this box set seemed to miss track 13 from that disc, a remix of "GATE OF STEINER." There should be six songs in this section, but we only got five. Nonetheless, what we did get is some pretty interesting stuff. If you listen to the sampled "Universe Engineer," you'll hear that arranger Yuuyu spruced up the original by adding chiptunes all over the place and throwing a heavy auto-tune on the vocalist's voice. It's not a lazy remix...it's something legitimately different and refreshing. Not every remix had this much work put into it, but if I were to identify another that I really enjoyed, it's another Yuuyu arrangement, "Sky-Clad Observer" — it is just a more driven, techno-heavy version of the original, and the little choices made measure after measure to surprise the listener are all fun, worth hearing, and worth noticing.
Game Sound Tracks
Source material: STEINS;GATE Original Soundtrack + Radio CD (FVCG-1106), disc 1 tracks 02-21 and disc 2 tracks 01-09, 17
Okay, now we finally reach some instrumental goodness. All of the BGM used in the original STEINS;GATE game is here. As noted above, this disc chops up the two-disc OST portion of FVCG-1106, removing the "short ver." vocal themes and the "Ringing" tracks (they'll be back later), as well as the drama portion (that will also make its triumphant return later in the box set).
The 29-track OST, as it is presented here, then isolates in its entirety the contributions of 5pb. veteran Takeshi Abo. For me, this is the meat of the box set. You don't have a box set without this part, and I'm somewhat surprised the CD staff didn't choose to make the game OST disc one of the set.
As to the quality of the music? Well, I've always thought it was good. It is not Abo's best, in my opinion. His work on the "infinity" series has always impressed me most, especially Ever17. But some of the BGM here is a wonder to behold as well. Take, for example, "Suspicious eyes" (track 4). That "bubble" synth is something I've never heard outside of STEINS;GATE. It's creating a soundscape I don't know how to comprehend. I'm immediately overcome by it. But that's just the setup: the melody is carried out by a combination of glass chime-like synth, ethereal choirs, and string ensembles. Later in the song, a familiar refrain (essentially the motif for STEINS;GATE) makes a brief appearance. It's brilliant.
Then there's that unforgettable theme music for SERN (track 12). If you're unfamiliar with the game, I'll give you a tiny spoiler: "SERN" is a stand-in for the very real entity "CERN," where the world's largest particle accelerator has been built. Pseudonyms for organizations, computer hardware, and more are common throughout STEINS;GATE. But that song...wow. Again, the mix of very intentionally artificial sounds with beautiful, haunting voice samples and life-like instrumentation disorients the listener: what is real, what's not real? Is anything real? This piece is perfect for the game, and it's a great listen on its own.
Before moving on to the fifth disc, let's consider one of the more beat-and-rhythm-driven tunes from the OST. "OPERATION SKULD" (track 27) is the power-packed music to get the Lab Mem crew ready for the trickiest exercise to date. Can they find a timeline, a "world line," where they are all happy, at peace, and...at the very least...alive? In "OPERATION SKULD," we hear the BGM that plays while Okabe and crew move forward with a bold plan. It's an intense, catchy piece of electronic music, on par with some of the best upbeat tunes in Ever17.
There is a lot of variety across this OST in general: quirky songs like "Walking on sleeping" and "Noisy times," happy songs like "Cycle" and "Quiet air," and intensely emotional songs like "Self affirmation" and "Solitude." I don't consider anything in this OST to be filler music, and I appreciate the many variations on the "GATE OF STEINER" main theme. This is a solid soundtrack, but its existence reminds me of certain absences. Wherefore art thou, soundtracks for the TV anime, anime movie, Forbidden Invincible Darling, Linear Bounded Phenogram, and more? Though many of these other products simply re-use the original game's OST, there are printed soundtracks with new music (see FVCG-1247-2 and KAXA-6801CD-1~4). Much of the BGM for these products aren't found anywhere in this box set, despite being published years in advance. Between this and what I must imagine are some unreleased tracks for Forbidden Invincible Darling and the TV anime, I should have liked to see this appear in a "Complete" set. This OST is great, but I want more! Don't you?
Source material: STEINS;GATE SYMPHONIC REUNION disc 1 tracks 01-14, catalog number FVCG-1265; STEINS;GATE Original Soundtrack + Radio CD disc 2 tracks 10-16, catalog number FVCG-1106
There's some history behind this disc and disc six. Originally, a pack-in enclosure disc for the Japanese limited edition of the PS3 version of STEINS;GATE was released in 2012 called STEINS;GATE Symphonic Material (FPBD-0222). It included a total of 10 tracks, with symphonic versions of both instrumental and vocal pieces. In September 2013, a retail 2-disc album entitled STEINS;GATE Symphonic Reunion (FVCG-1265) was released. It wholly subsumed the previous enclosure disc, using all of its recordings and adding another 16 tracks, for a total of 26 tracks. Discs 1 and 2 of that release make up discs 5 (only the first 14 tracks) and 6 of this box set. The two discs are separated by the instrumental-BGM orchestrations and the vocal track orchestrations.
Because it apparently didn't fit elsewhere, the folks who packaged this box set also took seven short tracks used as ringtones in STEINS;GATE, which originally appeared on the STEINS;GATE OST, and pushed them onto disc 5 as tracks 15-21. Now that you know how disc 5 of this box set is constructed, let's delve into the content.
Because there were two separate recording sessions, sometimes it's easy to tell which tracks came from which recording session. The first recording session utilized a 38-person symphony orchestra (including piano, but excluding percussionists who were apparently not credited). The second recording session utilized a 22-piece symphonic orchestra (both piano and percussion excluded from the credits, despite clearly existing in the recordings). The recording studio and engineers on the second session made up for the smaller ensemble by normalizing the volume, possibly by instrumental section before creating the master file, so as to match the same volume and strength as the first recording set.
For a detailed consideration as to the quality of the tracks here on disc five, please see my review of STEINS;GATE Symphonic Reunion.
Before moving on to disc six, let's quickly address the seven ringtone tracks. Basically, they're chiptune-style tracks that were on the STEINS;GATE OST but somehow ended up on this disc, even though there was space on the previous disc to fit all of these tracks. Six of these seven ringtones are included in "Ringing Medley" (track 7), but "GATE OF STEINER" was probably left out since that song already got its own orchestral track. However, the ringtone for "GATE OF STEINER" is probably the most memorable, if only because it is the default one used in the game, and it sounds so good in that soundfont. These seven tracks are short, but they are absolute must-haves for this box set. I just think this was a weird place to put them.
Source material: STEINS;GATE SYMPHONIC REUNION disc 2, catalog number FVCG-1265
For these six vocal tracks, the vocalists had to record new vocal parts due to tempo changes, and...well...so their vocal style, inflection, decoration, matched with the new orchestral backing. This isn't just an orchestral backing of an old recording (for an example of such a technique, check out SMALL TWO OF PIECES on the Xenogears orchestral album, Myth). So we have new orchestral recordings for six memorable vocal tracks from the STEINS;GATE franchise, and if you want to hear the orchestra-only version, those instrumentals are included as tracks 7-12. Or you could go orchestra-karaoke on it, I guess.
Which track is best? All of them. Honestly, this is the disc I tend to listen to most often among all eight of them. I love the OST, I love the instrumental arranges, and I have hit-or-miss experiences with those three vocal discs. But these six vocal tracks, with orchestral backing, are truly something special. I'm going to let the audio samples tell the rest of the story. You've read my praise for the other orchestral albums and my detailed, individual thoughts on each of the op/ed songs from the first two discs. Let them meld together, know that the melding went really, really well, and you'll get the idea.
Source material: n/a (it is "original," meaning it's totally new)
I don't have much to say. I can't speak to the quality of drama albums (which is why I have so little to say about most of the folders in disc 8 below). I will say, though, that this special drama CD is definitely the first in what is set to be a series of drama CDs for STEINS;GATE 0. At the end of the vocal track (sampled here), one of the characters announces that this is the STEINS;GATE 0 Drama Album 001: Adaptive Radiation Paradise Lost. It will likely be released separately at some point, but it hasn't happened yet, meaning that this is a "timed-exclusive" disc, perhaps to incentivize fans to buy the box set. It's no incentive for me, but it's an interesting item to have. Based on one listen, it sounds like most of the interactions are between female characters. I very much long to experience the story of STEINS;GATE 0.
Source material: Various (each will be noted according to their folders and subfolders)
I don't quite understand why 5pb.Records decided to do things the way they did. Seven discs as audio CDs, and then disc 8 is a DVD crammed with MP3 files that apparently aren't worth printing on CD, even though the vast majority of them do exist in CD format elsewhere? Hmm...I guess this was their attempt at completion. I'd have preferred a bluray disc with .wav or other lossless audio instead of 256k mp3s on a DVD, but I suppose I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Yet again, the OST music unique to the anime movie, the TV anime, and to the Phenogram side-story, which were published, didn't make it into this boxed set, and unreleased music, such as the soundtrack to the side-story Forbidden Invincible Darling, is also nowhere to be found. More music, please? Well, we'll get there once we reach Variant Space Octet...
Before going any further, I should note that for both subfolders (beyond the A-M main folders) and for tracks themselves, the publisher failed to number anything. So everything else falls to alphabetical order in our numbering, even when it doesn't make sense, and even when there were existing track orders on previous releases. We have presented the tracks by number as they appear alphabetized within each folder. The MP3s are not tagged with track numbers, nor do their filenames always begin with numbers (some do, some don't: it's inconsistent). We did our best trying to make sense of all the material on this DVD.
A Folder: "STEINS;GATE" Audio Series
Source material: the eight Audio Series Laboratory Member CDs (FVCG-1121~8)
Each of the Audio Series discs had four tracks: a drama track, the character vocal theme, a karaoke version of the character vocal theme, and then a short cast comment track. Those character vocal themes make up the first 8 tracks of disc 3. The drama tracks from those same albums make up Folder A. Together, these eight tracks come to 145 minutes' worth of audio. Takeshi Abo's BGM is effectively used throughout these drama tracks, as it tends to be throughout all of the drama tracks on this disc. And, hoo boy, do we have a lot of drama to talk about going forward...
B Folder: "STEINS;GATE" Drama CD
Source material: the three Divergence drama CDs; alpha (FVCG-1108), beta (FVCG-1112), and gamma (FVCG-1113).
These three drama CDs are widely considered the most interesting and unique stories among all the drama CDs. The three stories together tell an epic tale involving the Lab Mem crew that is not told, in any way, in any other game or anime. Together, the three albums are about 3 hours in length. This is an impressive amount of writing and acting, with a range of emotions covered, though it is mostly dramatic and sorrowful in nature. I could hear a lot of tragedy in the voices and in the BGM used.
C Folder: Novel Version "STEINS;GATE" Included
Source material: Limited edition include CDs
Do you like books? Do you like light novels? If you like them a whole lot, there's a special STEINS;GATE story series that was made into a light novel trilogy popularly referred to as the "Epigraph" trilogy. Each of the three light novels, if purchased individually in their limited edition format, came with a drama CD. This STEINS;GATE wiki page offers great plot synopses for each novel and information on each of the three accompanying drama CDs, which generally manage to capture (nearly) the entirety of the light novel material. I do not personally know if the CDs were given catalog numbers, but even if they were, they are pack-in items with the light novels, making them fairly rare. For ultra-huge STEINS;GATE fans, having this trilogy of drama albums here is a boon. Together, the three albums are 1 hour and 50 minutes in length.
D Folder: STEINS;GATE The Movie: Loading Area Déjà vu Deluxe Edition Blu-ray Included
Source material: STEINS;GATE The Movie: Loading Area Déjà vu Original Soundtrack disc 1 (KAXA-6801CD-1), Drama CD (KAXA-6803CD-5)
Three separate albums are included in this folder. I can only identify the source for one of them. The folder suggests that all three came with the Blu-ray. From what I can tell, "Symphonia" was indeed a bonus with the Blu-ray movie itself, but I found "A Posteriori Existence" as its own disc on the movie's OST release (as six separate tracks, strangely enough), and I cannot find any information on the "Fractal" disc. Together, the three albums are 1 hour and 45 minutes in length. All three, of course, are related to the plot of the anime movie, and they do not all feature all Lab Mems. For example, "Symphonia" only has Rintaro Okabe, Mayuri Shiina, and Kurisu Makise.
E Folder: Anthology Drama CD II "Ephemeral Fantasy Vacation"
Source material: MFCZ-1016
This is a simple folder, an exact release of one of the two "anthology" drama CDs. It's actually the second of the two albums; the first is in Folder F. This album was released in September 2012 at Comiket 82. Of special note is that there's an entire 28 minute drama bit on body pillows, which I'm sure has something to do with Itaru's perverted otaku ways. The full album is 61 minutes in length.
F Folder: Anthology Drama CD "Illusory Space Reunion"
Source material: MFCZ-1015
This album was released at Comiket 81, in January 2012. The second track asks the question, "Kurisu, Will You Cosplay?" This cute subplot between Mayuri Shiina and Kurisu Makise now gets its own spotlight track, alongside two other tracks. This standalone album is 55 minutes in length. Note, however, that this folder and its predecessor cut out the short "cast comment" track from the end of their original releases.
G Folder: Epigraph of the Closed Curve EXTRACT SCENES
Source material: MAGES-C87
This was released at Comiket 87 in December 2014 as an additional album to expand the "Epigraph" trilogy and, perhaps, to begin to tie the scenario to the upcoming STEINS;GATE 0. These six tracks feature gunfire, as though a battle is taking place, and characters I don't entirely recognize are talking. So that's...ominous. And possibly awesome. This six-track drama CD is 34 minutes long.
H Folder: Science Adventure Series Special Drama CD "Triptych of a Sudden Connection"
Source material: FVCG-1279
5pb and Nitroplus set forth to create a "trilogy" of Science-Adventure-themed visual novels. STEINS;GATE seems to have caught fire more than the other two. But there are three games: first is CHAOS;HEAD, second is STEINS;GATE, and third is ROBOTICS;NOTE. They are not in the same universe, at least not as far as I can tell. They do not revolve around the same characters, in any case. But on this special CD, there was one drama track for each of the three games. The second track was the STEINS;GATE track, and that track alone appears in Folder H. It sounds like Okabe and Daru are planning to turn one of their lady Lab Mems into an idol for the in-game equivalent of Comiket...and it seems that Luka might be that choice. This single-track drama folder is 24 minutes in length.
I Folder: Comiket 78 Special Edition + Lab Mem Roundtable
Source material: FPBD-0159
This folder contains three tracks released as a special drama/talk album for Comiket 78. The first track is 32 minutes long and includes a short drama episode followed by a long chat between the cast members, with lots and lots of laughter. The 102nd and 103rd "Lab Mem Roundtables" are full drama episodes designed as individual scenarios where the full lab meets and talks about silly and grandiose plans. For the Japanese-impaired listener, it's good to know that Takeshi Abo's music is used about 80% of the time in the background. The full album time is just under one hour.
J Folder: Comic "STEINS;GATE" First Volume Special Appendix Lab Mem Roundtable
Source material: FPBD-0155
This folder contains four tracks, each 8 to 9 minutes in length, released back in 2010 and totaling 35 minutes in length. This album was released as Vol. 1 Special Limited Edition Drama CD, but I do not think subsequent volumes in this particular series were ever released. It was an enclosure album that came with volume one of the manga adaptation of the STEINS;GATE game.
K Folder: Magazine Appendix
Source material: this album, this album, this album, and this album (no catalog numbers!)
These CDs were included with the various issues of Compace and Comptiq magazine, which are magazines published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. The first three are strange CDs in that they come with no title other than Compace/Comptiq Original Drama CD and, per the box set tracklist, the month and year.
The last track, however, has an actual title! "Blushing Inevitable Gossip" — basically, the girls are gossiping about their secrets, the things they know about each other, especially about Okabe and Daru. My Japanese, especially in verbal (over written), is pretty poor, but even I could get the gist of it.
The total time of these four separate albums, combined in Folder K, is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
L Folder: STEINS;GATE Original Soundtrack+Radio CD from STEINS;GATE Radio Future Gadget Radio Station
Source material: Steins;Gate Original Soundtrack+Radio CD (FVCG-1106) disc 3
Remember in disc 4 when I said that we'd be revisiting the old OST release from 2010 because there were drama tracks? Yeah, here we are. And there is a lot of drama here: so much so that disc 3 of the OST was a data disc loaded with MP3 files. This single folder has 4 hours and 30 minutes of audio on it. Here we find eight episodes of "Radio Future Gadget Station," each ranging in length from 20 to 30 minutes. And then there are also the special episodes for Comiket and one exclusive for the soundtrack.
All told, that's a whole lot of drama. Not just in Folder L, but overall, you can see that we're looking at about 19 hours in total for drama in this box set, if you include the 30-minute episode from disc 7. It's absolutely overwhelming. I can imagine binge-listening to this like someone binge-watches a season of their favorite TV show on Netflix.
But we're not done yet. There are another two hours of audio left, and it's not drama, aaaand it's really cool!
M Folder: STEINS;GATE Variant Space Octet
Source material: FPBD-0203, FPBD-0204, FPBD-0205
Earlier in the review, I mentioned that one of the hallmarks of STEINS;GATE is renaming real organizations, companies, and computer hardware with names very close to their originals (such as SERN = CERN). When the 8-bit spin-off game STEINS;GATE Variant Space Octet was released, it came with five soundtrack types, three on one soundtrack, and then one each on two very rare discs. Savvy import gamers will know about the NEC PC Engine. Well, how about the MEC PC Engine? Originally, the Variant Space Octet soundtrack was released in a single-disc OST, catalog number FPBD-0203. This release included the sound versions for the "MEC PC-6010mk2," the "MEC PC-8081mk2MH," and the "MEC PC-8081mk2SR." For these synth/chiptune variations of the STEINS;GATE OST (about 18 tracks per sound version), the emulated hardware being used is most definitely that of their real-life equivalents: just change the "M" to "N" and we're talking about actual old-school PC hardware in Japan.
Later, there were the "Sharbo Z1" and "Sharbo Z1 turbo" soundtracks. Change that "bo" to "po" in katakana, and it's clear that 5pb is referencing the Sharp X1, first released in 1982. The Sharp X1 is the predecessor to the (once) extremely popular X68000 series. So, the last two sound fonts are the Sharp X1 and the Sharp X1 turbo, the latter having been released in 1986. If you want to compare the different sounds, listen to the audio samples. We've intentionally sampled "Sky-Clad Observer" twice so you can listen to one song in two distinct sound formats. Together, these five different versions of the same soundtrack come to 2 hours in length.
A Note On Packaging
This box set comes with an outer slipcase, followed by an oversized "digipak"-style book that opens, with four discs on each side, held in transparent plastic trays that can be flipped open and outward like a book within a book. Speaking of books, there is also a separate 50 page booklet offering lyrics to all vocal tracks (except for that vocal at the beginning of disc 7), detailed tracklists, detailed credits for each song or song collection where appropriate, and loads of commentary, artist profiles, and beautiful artwork from illustrator "huke."
In terms of mere quantification, it's clear that this box set is packed with music. Its retail price of about 20,000 yen (approximately $200, depending on where the yen/USD conversion rate stands), is a mere pittance compared to the $1000 or more you'd have to spend to purchase each of the albums, listed by catalog number, above: especially given the rarity of some of those albums. Sadly, though, we can say for sure that "complete" is not an accurate description. I've noted multiple times the missing music — not just OST music, but arrange albums such as DJ SADOI's Micro Wave Master Mix (FPBD-0180). And for the drama nuts out there, I can assure you there are many more Comiket-specific drama CDs that did not find their way into the DVD, even though there was plenty of disc space to put them there (one simple example: the Comiket 77 release, FPBD-0142).
So is it huge? Sure. Is it exhaustive? No. It's not quite complete, and I find that frustrating. Nonetheless, it's still a huge money-saver for collectors, and it's a wonderful set packed with great music. STEINS;GATE fans might want to consider it for all the great music it has. Ignore all of the drama CDs, and what you're left with are three discs of vocal tracks conveniently combined in a way that even STEINS;GATE VOCAL BEST couldn't do, the game's OST on disc 4, and the SYMPHONIC REUNION in discs 5 and 6. And then there are all those chiptunes at the end of the DVD. It's a fantastic collection, certainly worth keeping in your personal wishlist. Maybe you'll see it for a lower price, used, on Y!J or Book-Off or other online shops. Given a good deal, it might be worth biting. Chiyomaru Shikura, Takeshi Abo, and so many others came together to create so much interesting and worthwhile music; I'm one satisfied customer with this collection of their fine work.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann