Chaos;Head Noah by developer MAGES. and publisher Spike ChunsoftNintendo Switch review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes 

Chaos; Head Noah is a remastering of Chaos; Head, one of the installments in the "Science Adventure" series, which also includes titles Steins; Gate and Robotics; Notes. Essentially look for the semi-colon. Chaos; Head Noah is a visual novel that's a little grimier and darker than you may be used to, but is an incredibly gripping experience.

Chaos; Head Noah is the tale of Takumi Nishijou, a highschool boy who only goes to school 2 or 3 times a week, and is obsessed with anime and the MMORPG Empire Sweeper Online, where he is a very well-known player called Neidhardt. He has trouble dealing with other people, and will often feel as if someone is staring at him, although he never sees anyone when he looks. One day on his way home from a netcafe he visited after one of his mandatory school days, he encounters the scene of a murder and sees a blood-soaked girl. This is the start of a tale of attempting to figure out where the line between delusion and reality lies.

If you think I was pretty vague about the plot description, that's because I was. Chaos; Head Noah is a visual novel, which means that it's essentially a book you watch, with a few interactions available. Hence anything I say after the above would be spoilers and possibly detract from your experience. That being said, I can tell you that this isn't your average dating sim style visual novel. Hell, it's closer to a crime/thriller novel than a dating sim, despite the abundantly female cast.

The story follows Takumi as he attempts to navigate his life and find out who the murderer behind the "NewGen" killings is, before he himself gets murdered after witnessing the crime scene of one of the murders. Along the way he will interact with a cast of mentally unstable characters, much like himself. Yup, that's right, Takumi is an extremely flawed character. In fact, as a "person", I really don't like Takumi. He's a sketchy, geeky wimp who is constantly getting lost within his own delusions. That being said, as a character he is both well written and a good focal point, as he is fallible and full of contradictions and imperfections, much like mankind.

As a visual novel, Chaos; Head Noah follows a pretty straightforward "gameplay". You read text, you continue reading text, you read more text. Occasionally you'll be able to trigger one of Takumi's delusions. This is done by hitting the shoulder buttons on the Switch, or ZL and ZR if you prefer. You can trigger a delusion when a silhouette background gets overlayed with the scene and is slowly rotating. Once you reach the end of the text segments within the overlay, Takumi will have a delusion based on your input. If you have a green coloured background in effect, the delusion will be happy, funny, or perverted. If the background is red, the delusion will be negative or downright disturbing. One of the first negative delusions even involves a pretty graphic death sequence, so be aware of that going in.

If you don't choose a delusion type, or revert back to a normal background by "cancelling out" the colours, Takumi won't have a delusion and will remain grounded in reality. Some of these delusions are actually required for unlocking different endings, so feel free to watch them. That being said, if you don't know about them you may never even activate them. No, seriously, I only ended up accidentally activating the second last delusion trigger in the whole game on my first playthrough. It's a little annoying this isn't particularly well explained, especially considering it's basically an integral part of the visual novel.

Now, what would a visual novel be if we didn't talk about the art and sound direction? Good news, it's pretty good. The soundtrack especially has a number of wonderful tracks, including some done by an actual band named Phantasm, with the lead singer going by FES, mimicking the in-game band and lead singer by the same names. Best part is they're actually good, and the lead singer is also the voice actress for the in-game character as well. While I found the graphics and background art to be pretty good, especially considering this is technically one of the older titles in the science adventure series, I would suggest playing in handheld mode. TV mode isn't bad, it just feels more "at home" in the handheld mode.

For those curious about doing multiple playthroughs for all the endings, the good news is there is a skip function that pauses at the delusion trigger points. Also, after the first playthrough you get extra scenes from a different perspective on subsequent playthroughs. Handily, the game keeps track of what you've unlocked, such as music, CGs, and endings, through the "extras" segment of the main menu, so you can check which endings you're still missing.

Overall I have to rate Chaos; Head Noah quite favorably. The story is engaging, the characters are all flawed in a relatable way, the art direction and musical style match the tone and setting, and the delusion triggers keep you engaged even during multiple playthroughs. While actually using the delusion trigger is very poorly explained, there is still a lot to enjoy here. While it does get extremely dark at some points, it really does a good job of setting the tone.

If you're interested in a science/fantasy visual novel, Chaos; Head Noah is a good starting point, either on its own or as part of the Science Adventure series.

Score: 8 / 10


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