There are three characters in the Steins;Gate series who carry more weight than others. These individuals are Rintaro Okabe, our hero, Mayuri Shiina, his childhood friend, and Kurisu Makise, a genius who came to Japan and got caught up in Okabe’s escapades. By the time the original Steins;Gate was over, we knew exactly who these people were. We were comfortable with them. Some might even have loved them. With Steins;Gate 0, a sequel set in the Beta worldline where World War III is going to happen, Kurisu is dead, D-Mails are gone, and Okabe has become an ordinary man dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, we’re left to start over. While Mayuri is mostly the same and glimmers of Okabe remain, we have a whole new Kurisu to adjust to. That’s where Steins;Gate 0 really shines, because it successfully reintroduces and helps us fall in love with this version of Kurisu again.
In this Beta worldline, Okabe and Kurisu never met. He knows her, thanks to all his time traveling, and has all the memories of the time they spent together. But only Suzuha, a fellow time traveler, can really understand what he’s experiencing. Not that she can help him through it, as seeing her triggers him and they’re not on the best terms. Okabe is attempting to life for Kurisu here, hoping to get to Victor Chondria University to carry on her work. It’s after a conference where Kurisu’s former mentor, Alexis Leskinen, is speaking that we have the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with a variant of one of Steins;Gate’s most iconic characters. After speaking up during a presentation Leskinen and Maho Hiyajo, Kurisu’s former colleague, he has the opportunity to meet Amadeus Kurisu, an AI with Kurisu’s memories.
Fortunately for both Okabe and us, he’s able to pretend he knew Kurisu, even though he didn’t in this worldline. The memories in Amadeus Kurisu are based on hers before she left for Japan, providing the perfect excuse for her not remembering him. However, the gap between Kurisu’s death and Amadeus Kurisu’s “birth” has given her time to grow as an individual. As Okabe puts it, when Maho introduces him to Amadeus Kurisu, it’s like identical twins. “You can’t tell them apart at birth, but as they grow, differences start to form?”
Certainly, Amadeus Kurisu seems different, at the start. In Steins;Gate, we grew accustomed to a stubborn, bright tsundere who had a secret love for @channel and rather geeky affairs. This version is polite and friendly. Okabe even tests her with a question he posed to the original Kurisu. He asks about the possibility and plausibility of a time machine. The original Kurisu said, very aggressively, “…the very idea of a time machine is idiotic.” Amadeus Kurisu says, “Let me see… My conclusion is that it’s not possible – But we don’t know for sure that it’s impossible, I guess.” She is her own individual.
But, these initial impressions and discrepancies belay a greater truth. While Amadeus Kurisu isn’t the Kurisu we knew, she is absolutely Kurisu. This is proven as we connect with her throughout Steins;Gate 0. Her mannerisms are the same. After that initial meeting, Okabe is hesitant to commit to any sort of relationship with Amadeus Kurisu. When they finally talk next, she’s abrupt and harsh. It’s more like the original Kurisu’s reactions to Okabe in Steins;Gate. When he mentions the lab, she insists he take her. She’s as intelligent as the original. When trying to work out why Okabe is behaving the way he does, especially with his inadvertently referring to her as Christina, she quickly deduces explanations for things.
In a way, seeing Amadeus Kurisu act like this helps us see new sides to the actual Kurisu. In her banter with Maho, we see how she behaved with close friends. The two bicker like sisters in an amusing way. There’s clear affection there, with her have a tendency to gently tease her associate. When she comes to the Lab for the first time and sees the set up, she notes how nice it would be to have so many people there. She says she wishes she could have worked in such a place. There are even references to her @channeler identity, when Okabe acquires a mascot at an arcade and Amadeus Kurisu seems to recognize it. We even learn a bit about her home life.
Kurisu isn’t here in Steins;Gate 0. She didn’t survive in this worldline. But, she still exists. We still get to interact with her through Amadeus Kurisu. We’re able to learn new things about the original. There’s still an opportunity to connect with a one of Steins;Gate’s most important characters. While it is an AI, she still feels real. Not only to Okabe, but she’s real to us too.
Steins;Gate 0 is available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.