Cover art, featuring Takuru Miyashiro
|Platform(s)||Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Android|
Chaos;Child[a] is a visual novel video game developed by 5pb. It is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series, and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head (2008). It was released in Japan in 2014 for Xbox One, and later for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Android. The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions were released by PQube in Europe and North America in 2017. Other media based on the game has been released, including an anime television series, two manga, an audio drama, and the spin-off game Chaos;Child Love Chu Chu!! (2017).
The player takes the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of the New Generation Madness" serial murder case. He experiences delusions, and at multiple points throughout the story, the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion, or neither: these choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes.
The game was created to have "psycho-suspense" elements similar to Chaos;Head, while also adding a larger amount of horror elements. For the game's aesthetic, the developers aimed for it to be "unmoving", in contrast to the previous game in the series, Robotics;Notes (2012). The music was composed by Takeshi Abo based on notes of his impressions of the story and emotional flow, to ensure a good relationship to the game's worldview. The localization was handled by Adam Lensenmayer, whose experience with translating the Science Adventure game Steins;Gate 0 (2015) ensured a smoother process, with a lot of communication with the developers.
Chaos;Child was well received by critics, but the Xbox One and PlayStation 3 releases failed to chart on the Japanese sales charts.
Chaos;Child is a visual novel, and is split into multiple different story routes. During a first playthrough of the game, the player can only play the main narrative; after finishing the game once, other routes that branch off of the main narrative at different points become available. Each route focuses on one of the game's characters, dealing with character motivations and secrets not revealed in the main narrative.
At multiple points, the player gets the option to choose whether the player character should experience a positive delusion or a negative one; they can also choose neither and stay rooted in reality. These choices change the player character's world view, as well as who he trusts, and are what causes the story to branch into different endings.
Setting and characters
Chaos;Child is set in Shibuya in 2015, six years after the events of Chaos;Head, where an earthquake nearly leveled the area. Shibuya has since been rebuilt, but a new series of odd killings begin to occur on the same days of the "New Generation" murders, dubbed the "Return of the New Generation Madness" murders and marked by stickers of a two-faced man called "Sumo Stickers" left at the crime scenes. Several characters have awakened to psychic abilities in the wake of the earthquake, such as pyrokinesis or being able to spot lies with absolute certainty; such individuals are referred to as Gigalomaniacs, and use their abilities by making delusions come true in the real world ("real-booting") through the manifestation of a Di-Sword, which connects them to the Dirac sea.
The story follows a group of high school students at Hekiho Academy who survived the earthquake: the player takes the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of Hekiho's newspaper club, whose family died in the earthquake. Other major characters include the newspaper club members – Takuru's childhood friend Serika Onoe, his foster sister Nono Kurusu, and Hana Kazuki and Shinji Itou – and Shuichi Wakui, the teacher overseeing the club, and the misanthrope Mio Kunosato who aids the police and works with detective Takeshi Shinjo. Takuru and Nono live with their foster siblings Yui and Yuto Tachibana and their foster father Wataru Sakuma at Aoba Dorm, a combined foster home and medical clinic, although Takuru also stays in a caravan trailer by Miyashita Park.
Takuru is investigating the murders with the newspaper club, despite Nono's protests. Mio and Shinjo also investigate on behalf of the police and for Mio's own reasons. Hinae, a Hekiho student with lie-detection Gigalomania, helps both investigations.
Following a tip, Takuru, Serika and Itou infiltrate the AH Tokyo General Hospital to search for the Sumo Stickers' creator, and, joined by Mio, find a secret research facility under the hospital. Accessing the facility's data, they learn that AH is a front for the Committee of 300, concealing their experiments on Gigalomaniacs and investigations of an eleventh, Sumo Sticker-like Rorschach pattern that renders Gigalomaniacs defenseless, and of Senri Minamisawa, the original test subject. They leave with a test subject held there, Uki, who moves into Aoba. Mio thinks Takuru is a psychokinetic Gigalomaniac based on his apparent ability to open locked doors, so he practices psychokinesis.
Takuru and Hinae are attacked by a pyrokinetic Gigalomaniac suspected to be Senri and the killer, later identified as Riko Haida. Nono says she was childhood friends with Senri and knew of the experiments performed on her, and joins their investigation. The newspaper club avoids danger until Haida is found dead: They believe the murders are over until Itou, mind-controlled, kills Yui. Later, Serika battles and kills Nono with Di-Swords because of Nono's suspicion that she is the killer. Takuru becomes implicated in Nono's death and the prime suspect for the murders, and Serika tells him that she is a delusion he created when his Gigalomania manifested, only existing to protect him. She also reveals that Sakuma is working for the Committee and responsible for the murders, having killed Gigalomaniacs to clean up the earthquake's aftermath.
Learning from Hinae that Serika was not entirely truthful about protecting him, Takuru goes to confront her, but instead meets Sakuma, who attacks using a delusion-generating device; Takuru kills Sakuma with his Di-Sword, then battles Serika and views her memories, learning that she exists to fulfill his desire to be a hero. To achieve this, she manipulated Sakuma into arranging murders for Takuru to solve. Realizing he caused everything, Takuru makes Serika a normal girl using his Gigalomania, and is taken into police custody. Serika goes missing, and later breaks him out from a prison hospital where he is examined for Chaos Child Syndrome (CCS).
After the main route, side routes are available: In Hinae's, it is revealed that she gained her ability after her brother told her she was adopted. Takuru dies protecting Hinae from her mother, who they learn is behind another murder case. Hinae disappears into a delusion where she lives happily with Takuru. In Hana's route, she manifests a portal to save Takuru from Haida using her Gigalomaniac ability – uncontrollably real-booting phrases she utter. More monster-spawning portals appear, and Hana's friend Takumi – Chaos;Head's protagonist – reveals that Wakui works for the Committee. Wakui intends to capture Hana as a Gigalomaniac sample, but she manifests a Sumo Sticker-faced giant that kills him.
In Uki's route, she accidentally renders Takuru unconscious while trying to attack Itou after Yui's death. When he awakes, the murders have stopped and Yui is alive, but he receives visions where Serika and Nono say he is inside a happy delusion created by Uki. He escapes, but Uki remains in a coma, her mind still trapped. In Nono's route, Takuru saves her from Serika, and Sakuma becomes the next victim. Nono is revealed to be Senri: Nono died in the earthquake, and Senri, wanting to be like Nono, gained a transformation ability and took on Nono's identity. Takuru is upset over being deceived and loses his will to live, and Serika arrives to fulfill that desire by killing him. Senri intervenes, and his desire changes to being with her, realizing that her love is real; Serika, having no purpose, kills herself, and Senri lives with Takuru as herself.
After all other routes, the true ending continues the main route: Serika awakes without memories of the events, but recognizes Hekiho Academy. Mio tells her that the students all have CCS, which developed when they became Gigalomaniacs, for which she seeks a cure. CCS patients age rapidly, and are trapped in a collective delusion separating them from the outside world; Takuru is the first CCS patient to escape the delusion. They infiltrate a secret laboratory within Hekiho, and scan Takuru's brain for a cure. Wakui allows the spread of it since he is interested in the data and will achieve his goal in eliminating the Gigalomaniacs. Serika parts ways with Mio and Takuru, and apparently begins regaining memories. The epilogue shows Takuru's friends cured, and the police taking him away for his role in the murders. While escorted, he comes across Serika, who denies knowing him. Takuru silently agrees that he no longer knows Serika either.
The game was developed by 5pb., based on an original plan by Chiyomaru Shikura, the head of the company. It was produced by Tatsuya Matsubara and directed by Kanji Wakabayashi, and was written by Eiji Umehara, Masashi Takimoto and Tōru Yasumoto under supervision by Naotaka Hayashi. Several artists worked on the game: Mutsumi Sasaki designed the main characters, Yukihiro Matsuo designed minor characters and uniforms, and Choco designed the characters' Di-Swords. The game made use of "psycho-suspense" elements similar to those in Chaos;Head, but with an increased amount of horror elements. For the game's look, the developers were aiming for an "unmoving aesthetic" as opposed to the "moving adventure" style of the previous Science Adventure game, Robotics;Notes. To create subtle differences in the game's atmosphere, four different graphics shaders were implemented. For the Xbox One version of the game, the developers made use of the console's controller to play the in-game phone calls; this and some other features had to be changed when the game was ported to other platforms.
The music was composed by Takeshi Abo, who used the same technique as for his previous works in the Science Adventure series: he started by reading the game's story, to understand the setting and characters as fully as possible, and wrote down his first impressions of the events in the plot, as well as of the plot's emotional flow. He considered these first impressions to be very important, and used them to create a musical worldview. According to Abo, this method takes longer than just designating songs to various areas in the game, but allows him to create higher quality music with a better relationship to the game's worldview. The "image" used for the composition was different than for previous games in the series: while he described Chaos;Head as rainy, Steins;Gate as cloudy, and Robotics;Notes as clear weather, he called Chaos;Child "stormy", and contrasted its "black-and-white" image with Robotics;Notes's "colorful and emotional hues". Because he found the game's story compelling, he enjoyed composing the music and wanted to create even more for it by the end of the project.
Chaos;Child was localized by Adam Lensenmayer, who previously worked on the localizations of Steins;Gate 0 and of the anime adaptation of Steins;Gate. He was the only translator working on the localization; this was done as he and the developers wanted to ensure consistency in the way each character speaks and in the feeling of the game, as having multiple translators work on a single project can lead to differing interpretations of the story and of characters' personalities. He had not played the game prior to the start of localization, so after finishing his first translation pass of the script, he went through it in full a second time to correct things he had originally misunderstood due to not knowing how the story plays out.
While Lensenmayer described the translation itself as straightforward, due to the Japanese dialogue being easily understandable, he found the game exhausting to work on, giving quality control of the game's opening sequence as an example: he had to keep watching the opening to check text that is only displayed briefly on-screen, and thus had to see a character choking to death many times. The localization was additionally a large project with a script 30–40% larger than Steins;Gate 0's, taking most of the remainder of 2016 to finish following the completion of the Steins;Gate 0 localization. Due to the experience of having worked together with the developers on the localization of Steins;Gate 0, the process was however smoother, with a lot of communication back and forth on how to localize various things. The localization took fan feedback into account: after Lensenmayer had submitted the localized script, he worked on the translation of the Chaos;Child anime adaptation, and read comments about how some translation choices in the anime were inconsistent with their use in Chaos;Head, such as the rendering of a phrase as "Those eyes! Whose eyes?" rather than "Whose eyes are those eyes?!". Contacting the developers, he was able to get most such instances changed in the game script.
Chaos;Child was originally planned to be released on November 27, 2014 in Japan for the Xbox One, but was delayed, and was released on December 18, 2014. It was later ported to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, and released on June 25, 2015; additionally, a Microsoft Windows version was released on April 28, 2016, an iOS version on January 31, 2017, and an Android version on May 28, 2017. The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions were published by PQube in Europe on October 13, 2017, and digitally in North America on October 17, with a physical North American release following on October 24.
A limited edition of the Japanese PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions was made available, which includes a drama CD and a "present box" paper craft. The Western release was also made available in a "Gigalomaniac Edition", which includes an artbook, a soundtrack and a set of pin badges.
A manga adaption drawn by Relucy is published by Kadokawa in Dengeki G's Magazine; there is also a spin-off manga, Chaos;Child: Children's Collapse, which is drawn by Futsū Onshin and written by the Chaos;Child game's writer Eiji Umehara. It was published in Kodansha's magazine Monthly Shōnen Sirius starting in August 2016, and moved to Kodansha and Niconico's web magazine Suiyōbi no Sirius on September 27, 2017. An anime television adaptation of the game was produced by Silver Link, and began airing in January 2017. A spin-off game, Chaos;Child Love Chu Chu!!, was released in 2017; to coincide with this and the anime, Chaos;Child receiveved a budget-priced re-release on March 2, 2017. Additionally, Shikura has said that he wants to make an erotic game based on Chaos;Child and Chaos;Head, targeted at adults.
Chaos;Child was generally well received by critics, according to the review aggregator Metacritic. Richard Eisenbeis at Kotaku called the game excellent, and a good addition to the series. He enjoyed the story, calling the mystery "thrilling", and saying that the "disturbing and intriguing" murders were one of the best aspects of it. He also enjoyed the game's characters, calling them deep and layered, and said that watching them try to outwit others' powers and using their own to the fullest was another highlight. He liked how the developers had gone "all in" when making the branch routes; the thing he liked the most about them was the consistency of the characters and their motivations between different routes. He found the game to be very long, however, taking him over 70 hours to play through, which he said could be a potential flaw.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 3 versions of the game were unable to reach the Japanese weekly sales charts upon launch; the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 versions did, however, selling 10,325 and 4,860 copies, respectively, with the PlayStation Vita version being the ninth best selling game of the week. On the following week, the PlayStation 4 version had dropped off the chart, while the PlayStation Vita version dropped to seventeenth place with 2,556 additional copies sold. In the United Kingdom, Chaos;Child was the best selling PlayStation Vita game during its European debut week in October 2017, and charted until the end of May 2018;[b] the PlayStation 4 version did however not appear at all in the weekly top-twenty PlayStation 4 game sales chart for the region.
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