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Review

Review: Chaos;Child

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Most peop­le with even a slight amount of know­ledge about visu­al novels will likely have heard about Steins;Gate. It was a high­ly influ­en­ti­al release that even mana­ged to have one of the rare good ani­me adap­ti­ons. But if you asked me which game in series tells the best sto­ry, wit­hout a doubt I would say Chaos;Child.

Befo­re tal­king about Chaos;Child, it’s worth tal­king about the visu­al novel that came befo­re it, Chaos;Head. While the­re have been many dif­fe­rent ver­si­ons of Chaos;Head, the most important being Chaos;Head Noah due its expan­ded sto­ry, none of them have been released offi­ci­al­ly in Eng­lish. Thanks to licen­cing issu­es the chan­ces of the­re being a wes­tern release are slim, and this alrea­dy makes Chaos;Child a har­der game to recom­mend regard­less of its own merits. Going into the game with no pri­or know­ledge of the pre­quel will defi­ni­te­ly be a dif­fe­rent expe­ri­ence com­pa­red to kno­wing what hap­pens befo­re­hand, and a lot of the sto­ry won’t have as much impact.

Events at the end of Chaos;Head cau­se the city of Shi­bu­ya to be hea­vi­ly dama­ged by an ear­th­qua­ke, affec­ting the lives of its citi­zens. Six years on, the child­ren who sur­vi­ved the­se events are enrol­led at Heki­ho Aca­de­my, inclu­ding the prot­ago­nist Take­ru. He’s a rather arro­gant per­son who deems anyo­ne he con­si­ders unin­for­med as “nor­mal” and not worthy of his atten­ti­on. Take­ru dis­co­vers that the recent stran­ge mur­ders that have been hap­pe­ning in Shi­bu­ya are rela­ted to the “New Genera­ti­on” kil­lings, which also took place in the game’s pre­quel. He and the mem­bers of the Academy’s news­pa­per club start to inves­ti­ga­te the­se new mur­ders and quick­ly find them­sel­ves caught up in some­thing that is far big­ger than they expec­ted.

If you’re fami­li­ar with Steins;Gate, a pre­vious ent­ry in the Sci­ence Adven­ture series, you’ll be fami­li­ar with how Chaos;Child sets out its sto­ry. Ear­ly on, the­re are hints that things are not qui­te what they seem, but the pacing of the sto­ry over­all is slow for the first few chap­ters. This gives you time to get to know each of the main cha­rac­ters, along with giving play­ers unfa­mi­li­ar with Chaos;Head to at least learn of some of that game’s impor­t­an­ce. The wri­ting throughout Chaos;Child is excel­lent, giving life to the cast and the kee­ping you enga­ged with the sto­ry. This is also a far lon­ger visu­al novel than Steins;Gate, clo­cking in at around 35 or so hours. Some parts of said game could feel a litt­le rus­hed – some­thing that is espe­ci­al­ly appa­rent in Steins;Gate 0 – so the increa­sed time spent buil­ding up the sto­ry is more than wel­co­me.

Like most visu­al novels the­re are mul­ti­ple dif­fe­rent rou­tes that, asi­de from the main and true endings, cor­re­spond to each of the heroi­nes in the game. Befo­re you can even choo­se rou­tes though, you have to go through the main ending regard­less of the decisi­ons you make during your first play­th­rough. This makes sen­se sin­ce the main rou­te sets up the sto­ry and gives equal screen time to most of the important cha­rac­ters. To actual­ly deci­de which rou­te you’ll get through, you must choo­se dif­fe­rent delu­si­on trig­gers at key seg­ments of the sto­ry. Ins­tead of acting like dia­lo­gue choices in regu­lar visu­al novels, delu­si­on trig­gers allow you to chan­ge the thoughts of Take­ru through eit­her a posi­ti­ve or nega­ti­ve delu­si­on, though the­se usual­ly rare­ly affect what is hap­pe­ning in rea­li­ty.

The delu­si­on trig­ger sys­tem does allow you to get a bet­ter feel for what Take­ru is like as a cha­rac­ter, and can lead to various fun­ny or down­right stran­ge sce­nes, but it makes figu­ring out how to unlock dif­fe­rent rou­tes a pain. In theo­ry you need to use posi­ti­ve delu­si­ons during sce­nes with the cha­rac­ter who­se rou­te you want to choo­se, but in prac­tice it ends up being more tri­al and error. Steins;Gate’s pho­ne trig­ger sys­tem was also vague when it came to con­vey­ing how your choices affec­ted the sto­ry, but at least that game only had a few choices that actual­ly affec­ted the over­all sto­ry. It’s a shame sin­ce many of the non-main rou­tes are actual­ly just as well writ­ten and give a lot of per­so­na­li­ty to the heroi­nes, but actual­ly unlo­cking them can be a cho­re. Igno­ring how awk­ward it is in regards to chan­ging the sto­ry, its actual­ly signi­fi­can­ce to the sto­ry is inge­nious. With how fre­quent the­se delu­si­on trig­gers are, it can make you ques­ti­on if some of the stran­ger events in the game are actual­ly real or just ano­t­her fig­ment of his ima­gi­na­ti­on.

As with last year’s port of Steins;Gate 0, Chaos;Child on PC is near­ly exac­t­ly the same as the PS4 and Vita ver­si­ons. Asi­de from a few reso­lu­ti­on opti­ons, this is the same game that you may have alrea­dy play­ed on con­so­les, inclu­ding the various issu­es that were never fixed. This inclu­des a lack of sub­tit­les for cer­tain sce­nes and the ope­ning movie, along with no trans­la­ti­ons for cer­tain images with Japa­ne­se text. This is still a major issue for one rou­te in the game whe­re you’re requi­red to mark parts of a map, and sin­ce none of the map is in Eng­lish this will likely result in a litt­le tri­al and error if you don’t want to use a gui­de.

Conclusion

Chaos;Child is a fan­tastic visu­al novel, but it’s not for ever­yo­ne. The slow pacing of the first few chap­ters – along with being a sequel to a game that wasn’t even released here – will take some get­ting used to, espe­ci­al­ly for tho­se that are new to visu­als novels. Tho­se that stick with it though will get to expe­ri­ence a memo­r­able sto­ry even with the few missteps along the way.

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