|Platforms||Nintendo Switch, PC (reviewed)|
|Release Date||October 7, 2022|
Chäos;Head is the first visual novel in the Science Adventure franchise, a series of science fiction games set in a shared universe which includes the acclaimed Steins;Gate. After years of waiting, an English translation of Chäos;Head has finally been released with alternate endings and extra content. After all this time, is it still worth the hype? Let’s find out as we jump into the review for Chäos;Head NOAH.
Violence/Scary Images: This game revolves around a serial killer and does not shy away from depictions of cruelty. Visuals include character sprites covered in blood, a green man whose skin was flayed from his body, a stomach ripped open and stitched up, a man staked to a wall, messages written in blood, and human bodies tied to a power pole. Some characters are shown hung on cross-like objects while being tortured. Within the text, vivid descriptions of torture, maiming, and murder are spread throughout the story. Toward the end, these descriptions become more gruesome, though details are left out of visuals.
Language: Frequent language including a**, b*****d, h***, d***, s***, and more. Slang for various body parts and sexual ideas (“jerking off,” etc.) is constant. Some homophobic comments are made.
Alcohol/Substance Abuse: None
Sexual Content/Nudity: Constant innuendo and discussions of a sexual nature: hentai (erotic) games, fantasies, fetishes, panty shots, breast size, incest, rape, and so on. Many, if not most, of the delusion options—the only gameplay—are sexual fantasies. While nothing explicit is ever detailed in text or visuals (that this reviewer has seen), the player must navigate an abundance of fantasies to find the real plot of the game. At one point, an underage female character is sexually assaulted. The assault stops before her clothing is completely removed, but an image shows the girl in a bloody bra and underwear. Other female characters are seen in swimsuits, shirts without pants, and unbuttoned shirts exposing their bras. Often, they are depicted in sexualized positions while in these states of undress; sometimes they are described, though not seen, as being completely nude. A recurring character is the main character’s delusion of an anime figurine described as “cast-off,” meaning her clothes are removable from an anatomical correct body. The cast-off outfit shows a lot of skin with obvious protruding nipples and “underboob” underneath a tight top, plus underwear that leaves little to the imagination. Said figurine is always asking the protagonist to “have his way with her” or “jerk off” to her, and he describes her as his wife. DLC adds the “lingerie pack” of bra and underwear outfits for every female character.
Other Negative Content: One character attempts suicide, and another goes an entire chapter begging everyone to end their life. At one point, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID or multiple personalities) is blamed for murder. The protagonist is selfish and hostile to his loved ones and undergoes very little character development by the end of the narrative. Because of his “chronically online otaku” personality, the game’s other characters blame video games and anime for his behavior, which may leave a bad taste in the mouth of well-rounded geeks.
Spiritual Content: A character believes in a legend of dark hearts defeating the ultimate evil. The antagonists see themselves as gods who can bend reality to their will. Someone believes a suspected serial killer is a demon and calls her that throughout the game. Some characters are essentially crucified while being tortured. They are seen as the saviors of this infamous Project Noah, and the parallels to Christ are obvious. Several characters pray to an unknown god for the well-being of someone else. *slight spoilers* One of the primary antagonists is the director of a cult known as the Cosmic Church of the Divine Light. Several of its members are willing to do horrible things for the Church’s approval. The protagonist muses on his own potential godhood after the final climax.
Positive Content: The protagonist’s sister and few friends are loyal to him despite his hatred. Strangers come together in the midst of tragedy to help others.
This reviewer was given a copy of the game by the publisher.
As a visual novel (VN) superfan, I had been waiting for news of an American release for Chäos;Head. I spent almost two years finishing its sequel Chäos;Child, and I was overjoyed to jump into the original. While this game is not as long as its companion, I will admit I have not achieved the “true ending.” For VN newbies, this means I did not finish the game as the creators intended, despite three full playthroughs.
Some gamers may have heard of the Steam controversy where Chaos;Head NOAH was banned from the platform, despite its sequel Chäos;Child remaining playable. When it first released in Japan, the X-Box version of the game garnered the equivalent of an Adult Only (AO) rating, probably for violence and gore. After some tweaks, it was moved down to a Mature rating. Chäos;Head NOAH is a release of the M-rated version of the game, though its contents remain more mature than other stories in the Science Adventure franchise.
An Unrepentant Pervert
Despite a narrative including ESP (explained through science!), grisly serial murders, and a slew of interesting characters, Chäos;Head NOAH is mostly a look into the mind of a horny boy who cares about nothing but himself. Takumi Nishijou lives alone in a storage unit playing video games and watching anime all day. (I myself like playing video games and watching anime all day, but those days are few and far between.) Takumi locks himself in his “house” for days, leaving a few times a week for school and gaming at a net café. He never sleeps, sees the sunlight, or cooks meals. He hates his sister to the point of telling her to die, and he mentally undresses every woman he sees (yes, including the sister) to partake in his odd sexual fantasies.
Chäos;Head NOAH, like most VNs, is a first-person game. This means I spent dozens of hours reading Takumi’s fetishes and fantasies in hopes of seeing signs of character development. Unfortunately, in the endings I found, Takumi remained much the same at the end of the game as he was at the beginning. The protagonist gives me no reason to care about what happens to him, and that makes it hard to replay the whole thing for a better ending.
A wealth of characters interact with Takumi. Some even have their own third-person chapters where players can see backstory or present events of which the main character is unaware. Did I mention almost all of these people are girls? They have their own trauma and motivations, but game frames their present circumstances as seeming to exist solely for the purpose of Takumi’s pleasure.
New Generation Madness
Gameplay is achieved by choosing a Positive or Negative delusion at unannounced times. Players must pay attention to the cues — the background goes static and buttons appear on the far sides of the screen — or they will miss the opportunity to make any decisions. There is no tutorial; the only knowledge of the mechanics comes from the Help section of the menu. Despite playing the sequel and knowing how vague the Science Adventure decisions are, I accidentally played the entire story without making a single decision.
The plot of Chäos;Head NOAH is about a serial killer wandering Shibuya. These gruesome crimes, known as the New Generation Madness, connect to a rise of Gigalomaniacs — people who have the ability to alter reality — and a large-scale conspiracy for world domination. Once the game starts, some of the murders have already happened. The protagonist stumbles upon one crime scene in real life but learns of all the others via chat room and forums.
Because Takumi only goes out for school on select days, players spend their time cooped up in his room or in the net café, staring at the same screen and talking to anime figures. Though he experiences firsthand the storyline about Gigalomaniacs, his terror pushes him into further isolation. A huge plot about murder feels like an excuse to traumatize Takumi into increasingly disturbing delusions. I wanted to explore the crime scene or alter reality myself, but every exciting scene is balanced out by two more scenes of staring at his computer.
Chaos;Child — Chaos;Head with Refinement
It is nearly impossible to discuss Chäos;Head NOAH without talking about its sequel, Chäos;Child. Though the second game in the Chaos series, Chäos;Child was the only one available in the West until now. It is a direct sequel, but after playing the original, it feels more like a remake. (Think Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Star Trek: Into Darkness.) The main characters are both unlikeable NEETs nicknamed Taku, and serial murders are happening in their hometown. All the female characters share the same hair color and style between the games, and their personalities and abilities match up. Even the big twists at the end are similar.
After playing Chäos;Head NOAH, I can see why the sequel was released to Western audiences first. Both protagonists bemoan their fate and belittle their families, but the second game’s main character grows more empathetic as the story continues. The first game uses its female characters as plot points at best, sexual objects at worst. Meanwhile, the sequel’s girls have enough complexity for their own games. The sexual aspects of the original are constant and overwhelming; its sequel balances sexual fantasies with real life and other types of delusions. While Chäos;Head NOAH focuses solely on the broken mentality of the protagonist, the second game looks deeper into the murders and their effect on the main character and his inner circle.
If you are a Science Adventure superfan like me, Chäos;Head NOAH might be worth your time. Operative word being might. If you are strong in both faith and stomach, if you can tolerate a slew of overt sexual references and gore, this game is not the worst. On the other hand, if you want a fun adventure centering on psychics and serial killers, pick up the sequel Chäos;Child instead.
Review copy was generously provided.
The Bottom Line
If you are a Science Adventure superfan with strong faith, give Chaos;Head NOAH a try. If you're just curious, check out the sequel Chaos;Child instead.