Microsoft Windows cover art, featuring the character Rimi Sakihata
Chaos;Head (Japanese: カオスヘッド Hepburn: Kaosu Heddo?, stylized as ChäoS;HEAd) is a visual novel video game developed by 5pb. and Nitroplus. It is the first entry in the Science Adventure series, and was originally released for Microsoft Windows in 2008; an enhanced Xbox 360 version titled Chaos;Head Noah was released in 2009, and has since been ported to multiple platforms. The game follows Takumi Nishijou, who gets caught up in the "New Gen" serial murders. He frequently experiences delusions and hallucinations; the player can use the "delusional trigger" system to decide whether he should experience positive or negative delusions, which determines the story's ending.
The game was planned by Chiyomaru Shikura and written by Naotaka Hayashi, and features character designs by Mutsumi Sasaki and music by Takeshi Abo and Zizz Studio. Abo read through the game's story before composing the music, a process that took a longer time but made it possible to compose with a better relationship to the game's worldview. Gaming publications have complimented the game's story, and wished for an English release. The game was a success, helping 5pb. establish itself as a game developer. In addition to the game, three manga, an anime series and an internet radio based on Chaos;Head have been released, as well as the spin-off game Chaos;Head Love Chu Chu! and the thematic sequel Chaos;Child.
Chaos;Head is a visual novel in which the player takes the role of Takumi Nishijou, an otaku and borderline shut-in, who experiences delusions. The game is mostly linear, but frequently includes player choices: the player is able to choose whether Takumi should experience a positive delusion, a negative one, or if he should manage to stay grounded in reality. Positive delusions involve seeing comical or erotic scenes, while negative ones include graphic violence or other horror elements. The player chooses the delusions through the "delusional trigger" system: a green and a red light are displayed on the top of the screen, representing positive and negative delusions, respectively.
Once the player has played through the game once, the delusions they choose during further playthroughs determine which of the game's three endings they will reach. When the player replays the game, they are able to fast-forward past passages of text they have already read. In the updated version of the game, Chaos;Head Noah, further endings are possible to reach, also by choosing what delusions to experience. The player has access to an in-game glossary referred to as "TIPS", where they can read about internet slang and other key vocabulary used in the game; as the player encounters such words in the dialogue, the words appear blue and are registered in the glossary.
The game is set in 2009 in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, where Takumi lives in a cargo crate on top of an apartment building. He discusses the recent series of "New Generation Madness" ("New Gen") murders in Shibuya with his online friend Grim, when a person with the username "Shogun" sends Takumi image files depicting a man pinned to a wall with stakes. Later, Takumi witnesses a pink-haired girl committing the murder portrayed in Shogun's image files; he leaves the murder scene in fear. A few days later, the girl, whose name is Rimi Sakihata, sits next to Takumi in school; he thinks she will kill him, but learns that they supposedly have been friends for a year.
Convinced that Shogun is targeting him, he tries to distance himself from having witnessed the murder scene and avoid getting involved in New Gen, which draws the attention of the police. Between him being suspected, more New Gen murders occurring, and Shogun supposedly targeting him, Takumi finds himself experiencing hallucinations and paranoia, and is unsure of what is real and who he can trust. In one of his delusions, Shogun appears as an old man in a wheelchair and tells him that more people will die unless he wakes up.
Takumi sees a girl carrying a large sword in public, and notices that only he can see it. Ayase Kishimoto, who recently transferred to Takumi's school, tells him that he needs a "Di-Sword" to be saved. She pulls her Di-Sword out of thin air and tells him that Di-Swords are delusions projected onto people's minds by people with special powers. He learns that the girl carrying the sword - Sena Aoi - and her friend Kozue Orihara also can project delusions, and that such people are called "gigalomaniacs". He is told that he, too, is a gigalomaniac, and that gigalomaniacs can project delusions into reality, which is called "real-booting".
The Nozomi Group in Shibuya is revealed to be using their Noah II machine to synthetically use gigalomaniac power for their own gain; to do this, they have people carrying transmitters to increase Noah II's signal reach. When a Noah II-created delusion causes people to panic, Sena and Kozue destroy nearby transmitters, and Takumi, Sena and Kozue join forces to stop Nozomi. They infiltrate Nozomi's headquarters and reach an underground research facility where they find Noah II and Genichi Norose, the president of Nozomi, who tries to stop them; they defeat him and destroy the machine, but it is revealed that the machine was just a prototype and not the actual Noah II, and that the Norose they fought was a real-booted delusion projected by the machine.
Takumi learns that he is an artificial, delusional existence with fabricated memories, created by Shogun – the real Takumi. His sister Nanami is being held in the location of the real Noah II, where she is made to awaken as a gigalomaniac and obtain a Di-Sword. Rimi – also a gigalomaniac – tries to save her, but is attacked by Norose and is taken prisoner in Nanami's stead. Shogun again meets with Takumi to tell him that he had intended to stop Nozomi from taking over humanity with Noah II, but that his body – aged from disease and overuse of gigalomaniac powers – hindered him, prompting him to create Takumi to do it in his stead. Takumi obtains a Di-Sword, and destroys the transmitters, revealing the nurse Hazuki to be the New Gen killer in the process by reading her memories and projecting them onto the screens on the buildings. An earthquake occurs, destroying much of Shibuya; Takumi rescues the other gigalomaniacs from the destruction, and continues to the location of Noah II. He fights Norose, but Noah II activates its self-defense mode, overwhelming Takumi with delusions; he reaffirms his existence, and destroys Norose and Noah II with his Di-Sword. As he lies in the ruins of Shibuya, depending on what delusions the player has chosen, he either gives up his life along with the dying Shogun's, or stays alive with Rimi.
Development and release
Chaos;Head was developed in a collaboration between 5pb. and Nitroplus. It was planned by Chiyomaru Shikura, the founder and executive director of 5pb, and was written by Naotaka Hayashi, with character designs by Mutsumi Sasaki and original concept art by Yukihiro Matsuo. Shimura intended to make the story "within the confines of reality", to make it more relatable due to the events of the story feeling like they could happen in real life. He said that he personally finds it difficult to "buy into" fantasy, and that he was unconvinced that people get excited for "exaggerated fantasy stories". The game was originally announced under the title Gigalomaniacs (ギガロマニアックス Gigaromaniakkusu?). The developers describe the game as a "delusional science novel" (妄想科学NVL Mōsō Kagaku NVL?).
The game's music was composed by Takeshi Abo and Zizz Studio, with Abo composing 21 of the songs. While it was common for games in the genre to have music that is played in several scenes, Abo had to compose several songs that specifically matched certain individual scenes that were intended to be shocking and dark. He described the main image for the game's sound as "rainy", compared to the later Science Adventure games Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes and Chaos;Child, which he called "cloudy", "clear weather" and "stormy", respectively. In preparation for composing the music, Abo read the game's story to understand the setting and the character personalities as much as possible. He wrote down his first impressions of the game's emotional flow and of the events and situations throughout the story, and used them to create a musical worldview for the game. He said that this approach takes more time than it would to just designate songs to the different areas in the game, but that it made it possible to create better songs with a greater relationship to the game's worldview.
Chaos;Head was originally released for Microsoft Windows on April 25, 2008 by Nitroplus. Around June of the same year, it was decided to port the game to Xbox 360. This version was released on February 26, 2009 under the title Chaos;Head Noah, and includes new content. Chaos;Head Noah was ported to multiple platforms: it was released for the PlayStation Portable on June 24, 2010, for iOS on November 18, 2010, for Android on January 24, 2012, and for PlayStation 3 on November 22, 2012. While the Xbox 360 version was given a Z rating (18 years and up) by CERO, the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 versions were edited to be able to be released with a D rating (17 years and up). The PlayStation Vita version bundled the Z-rated version of Chaos;Head Noah with the follow-up Chaos;Head Love Chu Chu! under the title Chaos;Head Dual, and was released on August 21, 2014.
During the month of March 2008, one month before the game's original April release, Chaos;Head was the fourth most pre-ordered PC game in Japan. Chaos;Head was the third best selling PC game of April 2008 and the twenty-ninth best selling of May 2008. It was the sixteenth best selling PC visual novel on Getchu.com during the first half of 2008 and thirty-fifth overall for the year. Chaos;Head Noah was the eleventh best selling video game of the week during its debut week, with 17,952 copies sold. The game was successful, and, together with Steins;Gate, helped establish 5pb. as a game developer.
Richard Eisenbeis at Kotaku found Takumi very unlikable, to the point of being unsure whether the player is meant to sympathize with him. He also noted that the game was short compared to the later Science Adventure games, and that the main characters never come together as a group and are not a vital part of Takumi's life, with Takumi instead "wandering in and out of their stories". Despite this, he found the plot and world gripping, and said that the game was not bad, but that it "might as well be nothing" compared to Steins;Gate. Jenni Lada at TechnologyTell recommended the game, calling it an interesting and mature story, but noted its lack of an English release as unfortunate. Game Informer included Chaos;Head on a list of games they wanted to see localized; they considered a localized version likely due to Steins;Gate's English release in 2014.
An internet radio show, Chaos;Head Radio Delusional Radio Channel (Chaos;Head ラジオ 妄想電波局 Chaos;Head Rajio Mōsō Denpakyoku?), began airing on March 28, 2008 to help promote the game, and was hosted by Takumi and Rimi's voice actors, Hiroyuki Yoshino and Eri Kitamura. A manga series based on the game, illustrated by Sumihey, started serialization in ASCII Media Works' shōnen magazine Dengeki Daioh on May 21, 2008. A second manga, Chaos;Head: Blue Complex, which is illustrated by Nagako Sakaki, began serialization in Media Factory's seinen magazine Monthly Comic Alive on August 27, 2008. A third adaptation, Chaos;Head H (かおすへっどH Kaosu Heddo H?), which is illustrated by Takehito Mizuki, began serializing on September 26, 2008 in Jive's Comic Rush magazine. An anime adaptation was produced by Madhouse Studios, and aired in 2008. The anime is licensed by Funimation, and was released in North America in a combined DVD/Blu-ray box set on November 29, 2011. Two video games based on Chaos;Head have been made: the romantic comedy spin-off Chaos;Head Love Chu Chu! and the thematic sequel Chaos;Child. Additionally, Shikura has said that he wants to create an erotic video game based on Chaos;Head and Chaos;Child, targeting adults.
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