Chaos;Head Review

Title: Chaos;Head
Release date: 2008-03-21 (2008-12-31 in English)
Developer: Nitroplus & 5pb.
English publisher: TLWiki (as a fan-patch)


Whose eyes are those eyes?

Nitroplus is a Japanese VN company that is best known for their quality titles mainly involving sci-fi, fantasy and horror themes. So I suppose, when this title was patched into English, my expectations were kind of high (especially as I previously played Saya no Uta). However, the thing is, C;H is much more of a 5pb. title than Nitroplus one (or at least I want to believe that other N+ titles do not fall so short).

So, the protagonist of the story is Nishijou Takumi, a nice and outgoing fellow, who was just minding his own business, when all his life went to hell (if you managed to read that sentence with a straight face, mad props for you).

Pinhead got a fashion makeover.
"Media refers to them as "New-Gen" incidents - horrible murders that have happened recently under bizarre circumstances. Chaos;Head follows a hardcore otaku Nishijou Takumi, who against his will gets pulled into the mystery surrounding "New-Gen". One evening, while walking in the city he hears a sound of a hammer and decides to find out what is happening there. Entering a dark alleyway he sees a man nailed to the wall with a hundred crosses and a girl with bloodstained clothes. The girl turns her head, looks at him and calls his name..." That is a more correct synopsis of the game and it reveals very little what is happening in the story.


In my review of Higurashi I mentioned, that Japanese just love their bogus science. And Chaos;Head is the king of bogusness (is that even a word?). I believe, that C;H was conceived as a sci-fi horror all-ages visual novel, but somewhere along the way that "sci-fi" for science fiction got replaced with "jpiootbt-fi", which stands for "just-pulled-it-out-of-the-brown-town fiction".

The main idea behind the whole plot of Chaos;Head is a notion, that what we perceive as real is real. That, honestly, was a brilliant idea. The concept itself is known as consensus reality and it could raise provocative philosophical questions in game ("What shall we make of those who do not agree with consensus realities of others, or of the society they live in?"). Then someone came in and drowned everything in a sea of hogwash. It looks like the only skills the writers of this game possessed were for Wiki-ing stuff. I can Wiki stuff too: "The origins of the Dirac sea lie in the energy spectrum of the Dirac equation, an extension of the Schrodinger equation that is consistent with special relativity, that Dirac had formulated in 1928." Almost exact quote appears in the game, but did any of us understood what that means? Scratch that... did the writers themselves knew what that means?

How will you pay for the GAS, lady? Cash or CC?
Seriously, at first I made an effort to make sense of the scientific mumbo-jumbo presented to us. However, by the time GASes (Giant Ass Swords) appeared in the game as the means to tap Dirac sea, I understood, that the game is not even trying to be serious. Sight... Where the times when sci-fi writers actually wrote SCIENCE fiction have gone? However, when you start seeing the game as a comedy, it's honestly not that bad.


As I mentioned, the protagonist of the story is Nishijou Takumi, a hardcore otaku and the bottom rung of the social ladder. He is the most vile, unpleasant and unlikable protagonist in any visual novel EVAH. Takumi is not an otaku you usually deal with, he is not even an otaku of 2chan standards. He is the kind of otaku you usually see on the news for slaughtering the whole neighbourhood because of losing an Internet connection for one minute. This pitiful bastard lives in a shipping container on the roof of the apartment building (O_o) and only comes to school to meat a minimum attendance for graduation. Not to mentioned, he can barely talk to anyone without pissing his pants from him sociophobia. His whole days are spent doing three things: playing MMORPGs, talking to his plastic waifus and masturbating to the panties of his anime figurines. As you can see, Takumi is a living waste of space, air and food. Someone, put him out of his misery.

Wai-fu. The ultimate martial art.
Playing as Takumi proved to be such an aggravating experience, that after completing five chapters I had to put the game on hold out of fear I will hurt someone or myself if I have to spend another five seconds in the shoes of this dipshit. That was in 2009. More that a year and a half later I picked the game again and finished it. Luckily the first half of the game is the worst and if you manage to play through it without killing yourself, the game really picks up and even Takumi himself becomes almost likable. The beginning of the game moves at snail-pace, but from chapter 6 onwards it becomes an almost nonstop action thriller.


It's ironic, that Takumi while unlikable is brilliantly characterized and actually feels like a real person. The things are not so good in the department of the other characters. Save for the tree of them, every single character appearing in the game is a cardboard cuttout and that is an insult to the cardboard. Among the male characters only the old detective on the trail of "New-Gen" incidents is somewhat likable (actually it would have been better if he was the protagonist). He reminded me a bit of Dale Cooper from "Twin Peaks" due to his unconventional thinking routines.

Lollipop Lollipop Oh Lolli Lolli Lolli...
The situation with females is somewhat more tragic. There is a shit-load of them and only two display glimpses of brightness with only one being alive! Rumi, Takumi's stalker, is crafted more of a person than any of them, but she doesn't do much and mainly serves as fan-service fuel and later as a damsel in distress. The un-live one is ironically Taku's plastic waifu whom he frequently hallucinates talking to him. The fact that she is the most fleshed out female being of the cast says a lot about this game. The rest of the cast might as well not be there - no one would miss them.

The main villain also suffers from the personality deficiency syndrome. Hack, he comes out of nowhere in the second part of the game without almost any foreshadowing. I will even "spoil" you his motive. Ready? He does everything for TEH EVULZ. You need a certain amount of skills to craft a villain, who does it for the hack of it - "Kushiel's Legacy" did it beautifully, C;H kind of flopped. However, I'll own that once we see him in all the glory, the villain is really frightening. That though  courtesy of him being a complete monster. We know, that if our "heroes" fall into his hands, they will face hell and that is explicitly demonstrated in the bad ending (B). 

The game totally fails as a science fiction VN or a character driven drama or a horror game, but it is a pretty good mindscrew and an action title. An uneasy atmosphere permeates the whole game and the mystery itself is intriguing and attractive. Once the game starts moving (damn late), it goes at a steady pace, keeping a nice balance between action, mystery and drama. Even Taku gets his shit together, but his conversion from a warm turd to Emiya wannabe is as believable as Anakin's conversion into Darth Vader, which is to say : "Are you shitting me?". However I happily suspended my disbelief if that meant seeing some truly badass scenes.

Reminds you of Kira Kira... No?
A few more things of note that I have to mention: the game has some epic soundtrack. The songs by a fictional band "Phantasm" are especially beautiful. Also the graphics are very impressive. Backgrounds are not of photo variety, but feel more real than in any other VN. Fluid animations of sprites also help to create the "alive" feel for this game.

In the end, it's a pretty looking and decent action, mystery game, that lacks any substance. There is nothing in the core. Bland characters and a failure to exploit meaningful themes are covered with a shiny and pretty shell. Surprisingly, that kind of works. I enjoyed myself reading the second part of the game after ploughing through the disastrous first five chapters. I suppose if you want a comparison, this is like a generic Hollywood blockbuster - leave your brains behind the threshold and you might enjoy it too.


Chaos;Head is not a dating game. It has only three endings and they are not any specific girl related, which I found very refreshing. When I'm playing a story oriented VN, I prefer not to have character specific endings as I think those mostly suit general moeges and slice-of-life shit. Here we also meet the biggest WTF in the whole game and I'm starting to think that this whole game was a troll project to mess with us.

Chaos;Head employs a unique system, where instead of usual choices presented in visual novels you get Delusion Triggers. In other words, our main character Nishijou Takumi at certain points in the game will start loosing mental health and a warning in a beeping sound and two lifelines - green and red - will appear. If you select the green trigger on the left Takumi will experience a positive hallucination, the red trigger on the right, however, will give him a "trippy" paranoid delusion. The third choice is not to select any of the triggers and just generally click on the screen. In that case Taku will rein in his delusions and won't experience a "trip". So far so good. The thing is, that on your first playthrough you will always get one of the two good endings (A or AA) based on the answers to ten questions at the end of the game. On your second playthrough you can strive for ending B. For that you have to press certain delusion triggers at various scenes with no indication whatsoever which of the triggers is the "correct" one. After long and grueling second play without using a skip function (as it skips delusion triggers too!), you will reach B ending... Which is a horribly bad ending! Everyone dies or much worse. Seriously, this is the WTF I was talking about. The game makes you fucking labour for a bad ending!

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official site in Japanese
English patch (due to a licencing deal between Nitroplus and Jast USA (though C;H was not specifically mentioned), the patch was taken down from TLWiki site)
By the boxed game at: Paletweb or Mandarake or Rakuten.
Walkthrough for the game made by me

Time played: About 20 hours to get endings A and AA, 6 more for ending B.

Final verdict: 68%

1 comment:

  1. Yeah.., I spent a lot of time and..., WTF WITH THE ENDING A AND AA???? There is no good ending in my opinion lol. And all the time I was only clicking and reading..., that made the game boring until the chapter 9 :S