Review: Chaos;Child – A reflection of our society

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Every single one of us perceives the world in their own individual way, whether we like it or not. But with the advent of the information age, this is now happening to an almost unhealthy degree – be it on a political, social, or mental level. We lie to each other as if it were necessary, and close our eyes to our own actions. All this and more are themes which Chaos;Child explores.

What is Chaos;Child?

Chaos;Child was first released on September 2014 in Japan exclusively on the Xbox One followed by ports for PlayStation 3/4/Vita one year later. A western version was initially not planned, but the publisher PQube Ltd. decided to localize the novel for the aforementioned systems. The development team behind Chaos;Child is the publisher/developer MAGES, or to be more precise, their development studio 5pb., which has been consolidated into the company in 2019.

 

Chaos;Child is considered a thematic successor to the visual novel Chaos;Head NoAH (also stylized as ChäoS;HEAd NoAH) and together with NoAH it is part of the „ScienceAdventure-Universe“, in which Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes, Occultic;Nine and the upcoming Anonymous;Code also take place. Unfortunately, neither Chaos;Head NoAH nor its original version (which was still developed by the eroge company Nitroplus at the time) Chaos;Head were ever localized, and a fan translation exists only for C;H. This poses a big problem, because Chaos;Child builds heavily on Head and more or less requires the reader to have the necessary background knowledge. So before you start with Child, you better read the predecessor. Or better yet, muster up some patience and wait for the PC fan port of NoAH, which is being worked on by a group of skilled SciADV fans called Committee of Zero and is due for release next year.

Plot

An earthquake of unimaginable magnitude almost completely wrecked Tokyo’s Shibuya district, leaving many people dead. But the earthquake also took its toll on people’s mental health. Some nearly lost their minds amidst all the chaos, and younger people – in particular – developed PTSD-like symptoms. The phenomenon was given a name: „Chaos Child Syndrome“.

This earthquake at the heart of Shibuya was preceded by a series of unsolved murders, also referred to as the „New Generation Madness“, but the citizens seemingly forgot all about them after disaster struck. Now, in October 2015, just six years after the earthquake, Shibuya is yet again plagued by serial murder. The youth Miyashiro Takuru, who has been among the victims of the earthquake and is the leader of his school’s newspaper club, notices a connection between the recent murders and the New Generation Madness from six years ago. One of the few leads during his investigations are stickers that the culprit left behind. They seem to resemble… sumo wrestlers?

Characters

Onoe Serika

17 years old and in her second year at Hekiho Academy. A cheerful girl who is Takuru’s best friend. She calls Takuru by the nickname „Taku“ and has been friends with him since elementary school. Serika is also a member of Takuru’s newspaper club and is one of the people closest to him. Your run-of-the-mill girl who loves sweets and especially cream puffs

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Kurusu Nono

18 years old and in her final year at Hekiho Academy. She is vice-president of the newspaper club and head of the student council. She loves to take care of others and is the backbone of the club. During the earthquake, she and Takuru lost their parents, after which the two end up in the same orphanage. Because Kurusu is a month older than Takuru, she treats him like a little brother.

Arimura Hinae

16 years old and in her second year at Hekiho Academy. She likes to fool around and helps Takuru’s newspaper club to solve the crime. Hinae is usually social and fun-loving, but there is also a colder side to her.
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Kunosato Mio

17 years old and in her final year at Hekiho Academy. Officially an exchange student at Hekiho, but she never attends regular classes. She can get very temperamental and for some reason doesn’t like Takuru.

Yamazoe Uki

14 years old. Her calm behavior may bring up doubts about her age. She has great difficulty operating digital devices such as smartphones or PCs. Something she is definitely aware of.

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Kazuki Hana

16 years old and in her first year at Hekiho Academy. Although she is a member of the newspaper club, she never talks and only mumbles to herself. One of her few hobbies is playing an MMORPG. Because of her silent nature, you never have a clue what she may be thinking about.

 

My Expectations for Child

I initially thought that Chaos;Child would be a direct sequel involving new characters. I love Chaos;Head and despite its problems, I wanted more (a desire that is even addressed by the game as the plot unfolds). So, I started reading the VN and was a bit shocked: While true, I did want more of the same, I didn’t anticipate our main protagonist to be a remix of Nishijou Takumi from Chaos;Head.
Takuru’s luxurious residence
Both protagonists share the same nickname „Taku“, they live in very unusual places for high school students (Takumi from C;H lives in a container while Takuru calls a trailer his home) and finally the icing on the cake: both protagonists have a „best friend“ who is a pink-haired girl with similar unique characteristics. When I saw that Takuru and Takumi both have a caring sister I completely lost my mind and titled the VN „Chaos;Head 1.25“. But this was – thank God – only a phase that lasted for about three hours because Child builds up its own identity very quickly, and the story was not only entertaining, but also made me reflect more than any other SciADV installment.

The Return of the New Generation Madness

One of the main plot points of Chaos;Child is the new criminal case that plagues Shibuya, and unlike Chaos;Head, Child manages to make the series of murders depicted here really interesting. This has partly to do with the main protagonist Takuru (which I’ll get into in the next section) and the fact that the incidents seem more sophisticated. The NewGen murders from Chaos;Head were disturbing in their brutality, but did not provide depth to the reader. Neither Takumi nor the supporting characters ever came up with the breakthrough that could solve the murders, and even in the true ending, the mystery remains unsolved. Chaos;Child, again, gives the reader enough information and even tries to actively involve you in the investigation through certain decision-making moments. It also helps that our protagonist is even more than willing to genuinely investigate the murders.

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Skilled eyes can spot a small guest appearance in this picture.

For example, when Takuru learns that a new murder has taken place, he heads straight to the crime scene to investigate. He never deliberately wanders off from the murder case of his own accord. Meanwhile in Chaos;Head, Takumi is constantly suffering from paranoia due to the NewGen incidents and does his best to not get involved. This change in direction makes the whole mystery an entertaining thriller, even when viewed in isolation. Combined with the science fiction elements of the Chaos; series, Chaos;Child remains interesting to me even on a superficial level. While reading, I kept coming up with the wildest theories and constantly pondered about how these murders came to be. At the same time, I have to admit that there were still the typical „HOW COULD I HAVE KNOWN?!“ moments that were annoying but tolerable. Sure, Child isn’t exactly a VN where the crime plot sticks with you the most, but the whole story revolves around the murders because they serve as an essential part of the overall structure of Chaos;Child’s themes.

The Everyday Takuru, the Ultimate Right-Sider

Let me describe Takuru’s personality in one sentence: He wants to lord above others. His attitude as a „right-sider“, i.e. someone who is on the „right“ side of the information age, makes it easy to categorize him in the archetypes of the „elitist“ who plagues the internet – and to some extent the real world – with their „objectively“ correct opinions. Even, in his very first inner monologue, Takuru says that he labels others as „wrong-siders“ – people who are on the „wrong“ side of the information age – if, for example, they do not have detailed knowledge of Schrödinger’s cat, and in doing so criticizes people for their inability to „correctly“ obtain information.

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Critical social commentary like this runs through Child, from the first hour to the end.

For some, this side of his character may seem amusing. Simply because his behavior is highly exaggerated and he constantly refers to himself as a „normie“, although it becomes clear that his very nature as a „right-sider“ contradicts this. Aside from this, Takuru is unusually ordinary for a SciADV protagonist, and stands out a lot less. Neither does he have a Chuunibyou persona like Okabe Rintaro, nor does he suffer from paranoia like Takumi. Despite his right-sider lifestyle, he is a normal teenager. This made him appear more believable which allowed me to more easily identify with him. This is not to say that Takuru is meant to be a generic protagonist everyone can identify with, though. You can do so, but certainly not in the way that you’d want to.

The Duality of the Reader and Takuru

Takuru differentiates himself from all SciADV „heroes“ in one important aspect. He – just like the reader – demands a „story“. Compared to Okabe or Takumi, who tried everything to escape their problems, Takuru longs to confirm himself with something as a right-sider. This can be seen in an early scene in which Takuru learns that a new murder case had occurred in the midst of school hours. Instead of contemplating whether it is wise to visit a crime scene, he goes there on the spot. However, thinking about it a bit more, I got the impression that Takuru’s behaviour seemed extremely irrational.

 

What young student with a clear mind would risk their life over something like this? After all, it is quite possible that the murderer is still lurking around, and the police would not allow him such intrusions anyway. However, Takuru welcomes the conspiracy that unfolds before him and sees it as an opportunity to confirm his presence as a right-sider. Takumi, on the contrary, practically rebelled against the entire plot, where he tried to live in peace by all means possible, and only gathers the strength to face his duty at the very end. Takuru’s and, in this context Takumi’s behavior, are therefore „exceptions“ to the construct of the typical „hero“.

Let’s go on a Hero’s Journey

A short trip to Wikipedia lets us find out a lot about the hero’s journey, a well-known archetype in storytelling that is used in many works of fiction. Well-known examples that build 100 per cent on it are the Star Wars movies, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and so on. One of the very first stages of this archetype is refusal. In this section of the story, the protagonist refuses to answer the call to adventure because this implies having to leave ones own comfort zone. Takuru seems not to mind this in any way, he embarks on his „adventure“ without any complaints.

I did feel a little uncomfortable when I realized that Takuru might just be a reflection of the reader. After completing Chaos;Head, I wanted more, or rather, to fill that typical void inside me. I demanded a new story, along the lines of „It can’t be over yet“. In a way, Chaos;Child addresses this with Takuru, and at the same time criticizes the reader – hence me – for it. Takuru – unlike Takumi – is able to communicate with other people. He is educated, thinks as rationally as possible, and all on his own makes much more progress in solving the murder case than the entire Shibuya Police Force does.

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Takuru’s response on whether it is wise to get involved with the killings.

 

But here comes the twist: Just like us, the reader, Takuru is spectator to a bloody scene. He doesn’t necessarily investigate the murders to stop them, his investigations serve as a kind of self-gratification instead of being driven by an altruistic feeling of helping society, all the while I was just reading for my own entertainment. This duality between Takuru and the reader, led me to a little self-reflection, which I will explain in more detail by the end of this review.

Takuru’s Delusions

Like Chaos;Head before it, Child makes use of the so-called „Delusion Trigger system„, which allows you to decide how Takuru perceives his surroundings by, as the title implies, triggering delusions. I’ll reiterate on the gameplay implications of the decision-making system in a separate section later. Here, I’m only concerned with their content. Takuru’s delusions generally feel very overplayed, and often even more absurd than Takumi’s from Chaos;Head. When reading, it is always obvious that a delusion is in progress, as they are clearly separated from reality with a blue/red filter, no matter the direction of the delusion.

Somewhat of an interesting „downgrade“ to further distinguish Takuru from Takumi. While the latter’s delusions sometimes became one with reality because they were subtle in nature or you were simply allowed to choose his reaction to the situation he is currently in, the former’s delusions reflect his desire to have something unique happen to him. In one delusion he becomes a voice actor for erotic content, while in the next he is choked alive by a bunch of Gero-Froggies. Add to this how Takuru’s will to be a right-sider – in other words, his yearning for validation – is portrayed in a funny way in his positive delusions .

One of Takuru’s pastimes is to read a gossip magazine for relationship advice called Cool Cat Press and, although it is obvious to the reader that this „advice“ is absolute nonsense, Takuru reads them regularly and treats these as the „truth“. In some of his positive delusions, one can witness Takuru winning „girl XY“ over on a romantic or even erotic level through the „knowledge“ he picked up through the newspaper. Not a particularly high art of deepening a protagonist, but I liked it nonetheless.

To assume a new Perspective

Without really taking away what precisely happens in the true ending of Chaos;Head – it’s a typical happy ending. An ending that literally ends with our protagonist giving in to delusion in the last line, replacing the bleak reality of the Shibuya Earthquake with a blue sky. After Takumi plummeted from one low to the next; I was glad to see him attain happiness. But then Child came around the corner and punched me right in the face.

Takumi’s story ends here while Takuru’s begins.

Child showed me the reality from which Takumi – and in a sense the reader – detached himself at the very end. One learns during Child’s plot how much suffering and hopelessness this event brought about – completely destroying the protagonists‘ previous problematic circumstances in their magnitude. Child illustrated to me how much this „positive ending“ ultimately cost. The world was saved, but with a bad aftertaste. This is why Takuru as the protagonist complements this shift in perspective so much, because of all the people, he was the one affected the worst by the tragedy. This change in viewpoint, where I felt such opposite emotions in two different characters within the same point in time, is truly a stroke of genius.

Horror elements

Child’s horror elements are definitely not the main focus of the experience, but those that are there can probably be categorized in the genre of psychological horror – with a pinch of blunt brutality. I’m not really an enjoyer of horror works – my fear tolerance is too low for such works – but I don’t find Child’s grotesque scenes to be too disturbing or scary; rather unsettling. The typical school setting, coupled with the fundamentally easy-going and sometimes amusing supporting characters, elevate the intensity of the serious moments. I realized how bleak some situations looked, and as someone who read Steins;Gate first, everything felt twice as reversible. Even though the calm slice-of-life dialogues were few and far between, I enjoyed the silence to be able to rest mentally before the next low point hit. In the end, all the characters, excluding Takuru, are basically normal students who have other things to worry about in life and are not too keen on being involved in a conspiracy.

Sometimes Takuru is locked in his delusion, other times he is simply unable to move his body at all. In a perverse way, you already anticipate the next bloody spectacle and wonder what the Child team has in store for you this time. The excellent sound design supports the events and gives everything a certain depth so that I could imagine everything in great detail.

Of course, this whole horror aspect was already present in Chaos;Head, but here in Child it doesn’t seem as forced upon you. Instead of letting me come to grips with what I had experienced, I was constantly bombarded with something worrying in Chaos;Head, which kept the surprise factor low. That’s why this part is more of a positive development of the plot structure of Chaos;Head, but a welcome one.

The different Routes

Chaos;Child has a total of seven routes. One of them is the so-called „Common Route“. This is the route you take on your first playthrough of Child. In this route, you are entrusted with the general plot, or rather, you experience the entire story, which is rounded off with an ending that is not really canon.

After completing the common route, one must complete all of Child’s character routes. For one thing, the backgrounds of the secondary characters Arimura Hinae, Kazuki Hana, Yamazoe Uki and Kurusu Nono, which were only touched upon in the common route before, are more deeply examined and some unresolved questions finally receive an answer. The routes all happen at different points in the plot, and deviate completely from the Common Route. After successfully completing all the character routes, the game allows you to begin the true ending, which begins the conclusion of Child.

Chaos;Child’s route list

Each of the individual routes has its purpose and deals with different areas of Child’s main theme of disinformation. You get a greater understanding with each new route, not only about the different characters, but of its aforementioned main theme as well. While at first I thought the routes resembled filler content, they are just as entertaining, and in some aspects better – compared to the main route.

Because of the focus on only one particular character, and with Takuru as the „companion“, in each route, Child allowed me to really engage with the numerous characters in detail rather than just getting a rough idea of them. Characters who were previously only present on the sidelines, and gave an unpolished impression, were only here really delved into and fleshed out in their respective routes. Although Child, through the multitude of routes, is already so gigantic, perhaps another route to a character whose true motives were only ever vaguely shown would have been good. Namely, Kunosato Mio.

While this character plays an important part in the plot, she appears out of nowhere and you are never told why she has anything to do with the plot in the first place. The explanation was revealed only after Child’s release in one of the obligatory audio dramas, but this is not particularly helpful for the VN itself and disappointed me a little.

„They played us like a damn fiddle!“

Child’s true ending route is everything that makes this VN so great – in one last effective rush. To say that my expectations were more than exceeded is a very generic statement, but it’s simply true. Every component of the Child experience is stretched to the absolute maximum: be it the horror elements, the social commentary, or the various theories that are now logically tied together. I thought after about 70 hours of reading I was beginning to have an idea where the journey was leading to, but I have to quote the words of the wise Kazuhira Miller here: „They played us like a damn fiddle!„. This meme describes my view of Child very accurately, because from beginning to end we are constantly led around by the nose and never in a cheap way. The unpredictability of the plot made me question even the simplest information I was given and made me become somewhat paranoid because of it.

How I felt while reading the true ending

The route „Silent Sky“ even addresses my problem that I frequently wanted to experience the routes beyond the common route from the point of view of the characters in focus, in that we don’t assume Takuru’s limited perspective for almost the entire route. In addition, the all-familiar „Di-Swords“ – thank goodness – are only present in this route in a mild form and and actually have some threatening aura to them, unlike with their presence in Chaos;Head before. However, there is a small but big issue I have regarding a plothole:

Plothole

We learn that Serika, as a delusional existence, does not suffer from Chaos Child Syndrome, and on the outside looks like any other healthy person. The problem, however, is that it is not clarified in any form how Serika is allowed to attend the Hekiho Academy – a school that exists solely for people who suffer from the syndrome.

Sure, one could now speculate that as part of her agreement with Wakui, who controls the school, she was granted entry. However, none of this is addressed in any way, so it simply remains unexplained. While it is nice when a story assumes the reader to be smart enough to figure out some background plot on their own, such important twists need explicit explanations so that the reader’s immersion is not broken.

After all, the true ending otherwise ties up all the loose ends, which is why the omission of this detail seems more than curious, and if I can make up an explanation in five minutes, then Child’s team can definitely do it too.

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The perfect ending but different

The ending of Steins;Gate is one of the few conclusions that gave a story the „perfect ending“. This is not to say that I always need a positive ending, but in Steins;Gate it was simply appropriate. An ending that was deserving of the preceding plot and readership, while remaining true to its own themes and messages. It should be added that this finale, contrary to its „happy ending“ vibe, left room for discussion that gave the superficial a somewhat grim feel.

Being honest, I did tear up a little after finishing Child

Chaos;Child’s true ending route is also one of those perfect endings for me because it uses the same techniques as Steins;Gate, just in a different context. Child’s ending confronted Takuru and me with a reality that left no room for silly hope. A reality where the consequences are inevitable, we don’t get a sudden deus ex machina in the last lines, no allusions to a sequel – just the pure facts. While Steins;Gate superficially gives off a positive mood and takes on deeper, darker overtones, Child does the complete opposite. Many on the internet complain that Takuru needed a more worthy ending. But when I analyzed the ending more closely I realized that we are also dealing with a textbook happy ending here – and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word. Because Child is not a VN where the overarching plot is the focus but a VN where – similar to Chaos;Head – the protagonist’s internal development is at the center. Everything else: the murders, the Committee of 300, even the fate Takuru meets, is secondary. Unfortunately, after this high praise comes the biggest stain on the VN …

Deep Sky … we hit rock bottom

Kazuki Hana’s route, called Deep Sky, starts off interestingly enough. Kazuki is mute throughout the common route and is therefore the very definition of a passive observer. My hope, because of that, was that through her route we would really get to know her and learn what her silent nature is all about. But I certainly didn’t get the answers I wanted.

A small consolation: Kazuki is a gamer girl

Of all the routes, Deep Sky is the only „popcorn route“ that doesn’t try to make you think, and that has absolutely no place in Child.

First of all, Kazuki’s backstory is laughably short compared to the revelations I read in the other character routes. Only in passing do they touch on the reasons for her constant silence, and they are told in a very vague way. I was left with so many questions in my head, and with a lack of flashbacks, which are usually frequent in Child, I lacked that direct bond with Kazuki that I otherwise developed with the other characters. Secondly, it lacks not only a decent backstory, but real progression in her character in general. She does open up more and more to Takuru, but her internal worries and problems are simply ignored and eventually brushed aside, even though this is otherwise always the core point in Child’s other character routes and the immediate danger is just a means to an end to support said character development. Thirdly, much like my article on the Di-Sword problem, Chaos;Child destroys every bit of realism that SciADV normally stands for and literally degenerates into a story that I will affectionately describe as „Chaos;Godzilla“.

Why this route – compared to the rest of VN – had to be written so out of place and offer no added value is beyond me. I was definitely entertained, on my first read-through, but it was not exactly a particularly high art of entertainment. The route appeals more to the Camp lover in me, who celebrates action movies like Collateral Damage or video games like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for their obvious exaggeration. All my favorite bits of humor stem from this route, for a fact because the action is so blatantly silly. Looking at this route isolated from the rest of Chaos;Child, I think it is an enjoyable, silly adventure, just doesn’t function as part of it.

The Delusion Trigger system

As explained, I like the narrative side of the Delusion Trigger system. But the impact of the system on a gameplay level was, to put it kindly, a pain in the ass. You activate the various routes, as in Chaos;Head/NoAH, by responding to the various trigger moments with either positive, negative, or neutral delusions in order to move onto one of the six character routes. Sounds simple, at first glance. Unfortunately, however, the logic of which delusion one must now select in order to activate the routes is in no way tied to any comprehensible logic for the reader. If I hadn’t had a guide ready, my thought process behind a decision would have been the same as an „I’m feeling lucky“ search on Google.

The reason for this, is the lack of feedback after triggering a delusion as an indicator along which route one might be heading. This makes the Delusion Triggers feel frustrating from an interactive point of view and it literally drained my energy from starting the next route after having completed one. Because, as I said, the game has six character routes. Meaning, I have to skip through the common route each run and select the exact choice required at the appropriate triggers. A pity, because its popular cousin in the SciADV universe Steins;Gate solves this problem much better.

The Phone Triggers show how its done

Steins;Gate proved with its Phone Trigger system how to present decisions that seem unimportant at first glance in a better way, and how to illustrate their consequences within the routes with small story events. For the uninformed: Interaction in the plot of Steins;Gate happens through „Phone Trigger events“. In these sequences, the main character receives emails from the different characters on his mobile phone, and the player decides how to react to the emails. Either you send one of the various response options, or ignore the mail completely. Finally, the true ending is initiated when you react to certain e-mails in a predetermined way.

Sounds similar to Chaos;Child at first, like a system that forces the player into trial-and-error torture, which is often the norm in VNs of this nature, and well … it’s true. It’s just that the team behind Steins;Gate thought a little more about motivating the player a little bit in the process.

During the „Common Route“ of Steins;Gate, in the event that you complete certain Phone Trigger sequences correctly, minor additional story events that don’t normally happen are unlocked. These convey that you are currently deviating from the main route and headed on your way to the true ending. This feedback thus gives more weight to the correct choices, as opposed to the optional choices, and didn’t constantly leave me in the dark about whether I had done everything right until the crucial moment. So what if, in Child, by choosing a certain sequence of delusions, the player causes Takuru’s mental state to evolve more and more in a positive or negative direction, and depending on the moment, one of the different routes are already teased in advance. Child, however, already has another trigger system besides the Delusion Triggers, which should work much better in a VN with thriller elements, yet its implementation disappoints.

The Mapping Mode

The second trigger system in Child are the „Mapping Mode“ events. Completely seperate from the Delusion Trigger system, the player becomes involved with the investigation of the NewGen murders in the newspaper club. As you investigate the serial murders and uncover the connections of the incidents on a bulletin board with a map of the Shibuya district pinned to it. Navigating these sequences boils down to Takuru asking questions in an inner monologue, and you, the player, to answer accordingly by selecting the available images, or respective notes.

Basically, this trigger system is a great idea to organically connect Takuru’s actions with those of the player, while allowing the player a more transparent system for making decisions. Even beforehand, one has an idea of what the decisions will be, making the possible outcomes imaginable. However, this concept is not consistent with the implementation.

On one hand, I see a missed opportunity in the fact that the developers did not implement Map Triggers for activating routes, relying instead on the annoying Delusion Trigger system. Some Map Trigger decisions do have an impact on the plot, but the consequences amount to a few bad endings that last only a short time and add little to the plot.

Even worse is how choosing incorrect decisions is blocked in some Map Triggers. For whatever reason, in these moments, Takuru magically thinks he’s missing something when the wrong choice is made, and automatically resets the player’s choice. As an interactor, am I not allowed to make any missteps? Especially in Child, where we literally have a protagonist who loves to process information, I would have liked the player to be even more involved in Takuru’s „right-sider mindset“. VNs like those in the Ace Attorney series at least punish the player for wrong moves, which leads to every decision being made carefully because you don’t want to cause a Game Over.

Takuru seems to know it better.

Here, by contrast, this game design decision results in a boring point-and-click affair where rarely one’s actions do have any noticeable effect at all. This goes so far that in one of the last Map Trigger sequences, in the Common Route, I could simply choose anything and the game let me through with it.

Note on the console version + CoZ patch

If you have purchased Chaos;Child on any
system except the PSVita and PC (Steam), you will notice that the map used for the map triggers is NOT translated in the game! On the PSVita and the PC, this flaw can be fixed with the Committee of Zero’s patches, which can be found on their site here. In addition to translating the map, these patches generally improve the gameplay experience tremendously by eliminating mistranslations, adapting terminology to the rest of the franchise, and implementing minor changes and fixes in up to 1600 lines. These patches are the only way to guarantee the best possible gaming experience.

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Why do I complain so much, anyway?

Video games differentiate themselves from books and movies in their degree of interactivity, and when this aspect is implemented into story-focused media like visual novels without much thought, the result is like mixing oil and water. I absolutely love the plot of Child, but the gameplay behind it was a massive drag on my enjoyment. I’m not asking for a visual novel with gameplay that is on par with the Danganronpa series, just that the team at MAGES seriously revise their gameplay philosophy. This sounds extreme, but Child would be much more a game that I would recommend to anyone, without those mandatory trigger systems. Being able to access all the routes via a menu would have been much better.

The generic Consistency of an Art Style

Child’s art style may not impress at first glance, but it achieves what it wants. I see it as a natural evolution on Chaos;Head’s presentation. The deliberate, generic slice-of-life aesthetic, in combination with the disturbing imagery, was just perfect for making me feel uncomfortable while reading. Besides the art style itself, the quality of the drawings didn’t leave me disappointed either. Despite its simplicity, the VN’s art style looks completely polished compared to say Steins;Gate 0. While the style of Steins;Gate/0 illustrator huke looks much more interesting, the consistency of his drawings resembled, metaphorically, the heart rate on an ECG monitor.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a woman or a man, a boy or a girl, backgrounds, CGs, small objects, etc. Everything looks consistently good in Child. Yeah, the VN limits itself with its generic style, which means there are not many interesting compositions to be seen in the game. At the same time, I don’t feel bothered by this because for once I have a ScienceAdventure title with a visual presentation that didn’t leave me mixed. The VN also tries its hand at gimmicks like static lighting where different visual filters enhance the atmosphere and let the character sprites interact with the environments.

Conclusion: What Child made clear to me

Chaos;Child was a weird experience for me: I didn’t realize it initially when I read the common route, but I saw an exaggerated version of myself in Takuru. The way he looked down on others with his elitist behavior, his desire to always know more than his counterpart, that he felt he had to validate himself with something as a right-sider, and his wild delusions where he is always the center of attention, allowed me to maybe for the first time to get a glimpse of myself.

I began to think a lot about myself after I completed Child, like why I do the things I like in the first place. On the one hand, I love video games, anime, and I like to inform myself about political issues. At the same time, I noticed that I too often used these topics to set myself apart from others. I saw those around me as uncultured, ignoramuses, or immediately denounced their mental capabilities because they seemed to have fallen for misinformation in certain aspects. Because of this sometimes questionable behavior, my social circle outside of family was almost non-existent, and I built a wall around myself and let myself believe that I was never the one at fault all these years.

In truth, though, I mostly just desired attention and to be not just one of many, regardless of whether I was cast out in the process. This wasn’t to say that I did all my hobbies for that reason alone, but it was practically the main reason for a while and robbed me of any real fun I could have otherwise discovered in those hobbies. Child was a wake-up call to reality for me, because through Takuru’s deconstruction I saw how unhealthy this way of living can be and that I should really do things I am passionate about because they excite me and not to satiate a childish attention complex.

Child also made me realize how much of our society, which has constant access to the latest information, sees a lot of things as entertainment, and they are unwilling to consider the seriousness of the situation. Incidents like 9/11, the Afghanistan fiasco, or trivial issues like the latest YouTube beefs are decompiled into their smallest components by armchair analysts – without any consideration for the people affected – and this is not to get to the truth, but because it is „fun“ to play the wannabe journalist.

Of course, it is a noble thing to seek out truth, but only if the motivation behind it is not for one’s own good, but for the greater good, and in a way this does not always apply to me either. Child gave me the opportunity to rethink how I process information and that I need to share my findings more rather than using them to bask in a sense of accomplishment.

The fact is, Chaos;Child is not only my favorite ScienceAdventure instalment at the moment, it is also arguably the most important work of fiction I have had the pleasure of experiencing. This visual novel spoke to me on such a personal level like nothing else before it did. I’m not going through an 180 degree character development, but I see my life with a little more clarity now than I did before.

Autor: Caps

Hi, ich bin Caps. Ich bin eher durch Zufall auf Visual Novels gestoßen. Eigentlich wollte ich einen Roman bestellen, jedoch empfahl mir der Amazon Algorithmus Steins;Gate Elite und nach ein paar hundert Stunden, in mehreren verschiedenen SciADV-Ablegern, kann ich mich als Fan des Mediums betiteln. In naher Zukunft will ich auch andere Werke außerhalb des SciADV-Spektrums lesen. El Psy Con....Kongroo!!