Chaos;Child is a sequel to Chaos;Head, an as of yet unlocalized Visual Novel in the Science Adventure world of stories. Chances are you've heard of Steins;Gate, and to spare anyone reading this review that already knew of the various titles in the "SciADV" world some pain - while Chaos;Child does share a connection to it, they are two very different VNs. Besides some small nods to characters in Steins;Gate and other SciADV characters, as well as the storyline of SciADV as a whole, they are very much separate stories. You can read one without having read the other, and it's even possible to read Chaos;Child without having read Chaos;Head. With all of that out of the way, Chaos;Child is a depressing and heartbreaking story that any fan of Visual Novels should absolutely make the time for.
Following on six years after the events of Chaos;Head, the aftermath of the Shibuya Earthquake has left an uneasy veil. While the city itself has been repaired to its former glory, those that were lost in the chaos and the scars that they left on the Shibuya youth remain. Chaos Child Syndrome - described as a peculiar form of PTSD - have manifested in many of Shibuya's teenage generation, and the peculiars of exactly how the disorder appeared or how to cure it remain murky at best. Meanwhile, the president of a local high school's Newspaper Club has begun to investigate a series of strange murders, which seem eerily similar to the "New Generation Madness" murders that appeared in Shibuya in the weeks leading up to the quake six years earlier. Miyashiro Takuru desperately desires to be on the right side of the information divide, but getting involved with the case will change his world forever.
That's the story's setup, and as it progresses the mysteries of the Shibuya Earthquake, Chaos Child Syndrome, the Return of the New Generation Madness and even Miyashiro Takuru himself unravel. I felt shocked and completely floored at the end of the common route (which all players are locked to on their first playthrough) but even the other routes specific to each character were an engaging ride at the very least. At their best, they were just as heartbreaking as the main narrative. The True Ending route (which is viewable after having viewed every other "good" ending) left me floored with the aftermath of the story, and the truth behind some of the circumstances surrounding it.
Exactly how you get these endings is through the use of Delusion Triggers. During certain scenes, players are prompted with a "positive" and "negative" choice for how to view a situation. Players can skip these triggers entirely, as well. The mostly outlandish scenes that spring forth from Takuru's delusions aren't always important to the plot (most of the time they act more as humorous or demented distractions from the main events). However, viewing all of a specific character's positive triggers transition a playthrough to that character's route. Within these routes, some of these triggers are plot relevant, and even have a direct impact on the outcome of many of the scenarios.
Chaos;Child's characters all have a certain degree of depth to them afforded by the length of the plot. Of course, special care seems to have been taken with Takuru and a few specific characters related to him, but unlike some other VNs that I've read, I can't honestly say that the narrative would've worked better without some of them. Even for ones that might not have seen much development on the common route, the side routes fill in the gaps left over. That being said, the many folds to our main character are definitely the star of the show here, and without spoiling much - Chaos;Child is just as much a personal story of his, as it is a story of the Return of the New Generation Madness.
Character art and backgrounds are all well drawn, even in gruesome detail when necessary. The art related to the murders are particularly shocking, not just because of the subject matter but how unabashedly it's shown. Obviously it never quite goes as far to showcase the scene in as much gruesome detail as the text does - but one part left me shaken so hard that I had to put the game down for at least an hour before continuing. Although I stand by my recommendation of the title from earlier - I can't deny that the story's gruesome matter might be too much for some. Similarly, the game's soundtrack helps set the tone for scenes beautifully. Cheerful, relaxed tunes accentuate scenes that call for it - while eerie, stressful songs offer a degree of tension for what horrors might be to come. The VNs vocal tracks are amazing - both openings are great, and of course the main ending is as well... but the game's True Ending theme knocks it out of the park entirely. If the True Ending alone isn't enough to make you cry (you monster!) then the credits as well as the scene leading up to it surely will.
If I had one complaint about Chaos;Child, it would probably have to be that while the meat of the translation is great, there are certain parts that stand out as odd, or outright bad. There's a flood of video comments going across the screen near the beginning of the VN, and they remain untranslated as of the time of this review - and another, more pressing matter is a certain map in Kazuki's route. The player is given some street and area names to mark on said map, but the map itself is still completely untranslated and in Japanese. I was able to proceed without any help, but that's only because I know Japanese myself. I was told that PQube is hoping to release a patch to fix some untranslated text "soon", but as for now, it remains a problem. Again, besides for that and some punctuation errors/typos, the translation is... mostly great. To compare it to another recent localization, it's certainly much less dry than, say, Ys VIII.
I'm not entirely sure if I'd call Chaos;Child perfect - but if you fancy yourself a fan of Visual Novels, this should absolutely be your next read.
Our Chaos;Child review was conducted on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita with a review code provided by the publisher.
Chaos;Child tells a heartbreaking tale of murder, delusions, and what drives a person. It's a painful tale, but one that very well may stick with you forever.
- A Heartbreaking, Engaging Tale
- Engaging, Pitiable Characters
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- On the Longer Side (50+ Hours)