With the recent announcement of Chaos;Head Noah & Chaos;Child Double Pack receiving an English release this October, I felt inspired to create a beginner’s guide to the Science Adventure series as a whole. Now, since this is a beginner’s guide, a good chunk of supplementary material will be glossed over or simply not mentioned. The Science Adventure series constitutes a myriad of media, and detailing each inclusion here would be far too overbearing to prospective fans. In the near future, I intend to describe this more supplementary material.
At the end of this piece, I will provide several orders that will hopefully apply to any party yearning to dive into the franchise at their leisure.
So, with all that being said, let’s dive into these adventures full of science.
Chaos;Head is the first entry in the franchise, initially released for PC in Japan in 2008. This visual novel stars protagonist Takumi Nishijou, a borderline shut-in high school student living by himself. He’s addicted to a particular MMO and frequently has delusions spanning from wholesome and loving to cruel and depraved.
Eventually, he finds himself involved in a new set of serial murders occurring throughout Shibuya, known as New Generation Madness. Admittedly, the appeal of Chaos;Head is somewhat mixed in general reception primarily due to its main character being taken too far in ineptitude for particular crowds’ liking. Takumi receives immense growth, though, and the visual novel’s relatively brief playtime makes the compelling narrative digestible.
Further, while several Science Adventure entries are uniquely grim, Chaos;Head is arguably the darkest with disturbing imagery, standout textual descriptors, and horrifying implications. It’s simply not for everyone.
Chaos;Head would then receive a new iteration seen as a director’s cut edition, called Chaos;Head Noah. This version of the game was released on several consoles in Japan and added a plethora of content, most notably routes for each heroine. However, it is worth noting that no version of Chaos;Head has ever gotten localized, which makes the upcoming English release of Chaos;Head Noah & Chaos;Child Double Pack so vital. Still, despite being the first entry of the Science Adventure franchise, you do not have to experience Chaos;Head first.
Elements of this game are firmly tethered to some entries such as Chaos;Child and Robotics;Notes, but experiencing this title first isn’t necessary to understand the self-contained narratives of these other games.
The primary mechanic for this entry is the Delusional Trigger, allowing players to choose whether they desire Positive or Negative delusions in select scenarios. While this mechanic only led to an alternative ending in the original visual novel, it is a crucial component to accessing the heroines’ routes in Chaos;Head Noah. These delusions aid in granting diversification upon repeat playthroughs and provide intricate dives into Takumi’s frayed mental state.
Above all else, I strongly advise avoiding the Chaos;Head anime adaption as it fails on practically all possible fronts. The storyline is not accurately portrayed since significant scenes from the source material are outright excluded and replaced. Other issues permeate this adaption, such as horrendous pacing, but the lack of a faithful re-telling is enough reason to avoid it.
Chaos;Head Noah is debuting in the West in Chaos;Head Noah & Chaos;Child Double Pack, releasing for Nintendo Switch on October 7, 2022.
UPDATE (7/3/2022): Spike Chunsoft has announced that Chaos;Head Noah will also be releasing for PC via Steam on October 7, 2022!
To be completely honest, I doubt Steins;Gate needs an introduction, but I’ll commit to making one for the sake of completion.
Steins;Gate is the second mainline entry of the Science Adventure series and is undeniably the most popular one, initially released for PC in Japan in 2009. This title focuses on protagonist Okabe Rintaro as he gains the ability to time travel, initiating numerous conundrums drastically affecting his haphazard lab members’ lives and everyone’s futures. Detailing more facets of the premise enters dangerous spoiler territory, so I’ll refrain. Needless to say, Steins;Gate utilizes the familiar trope of time travel in genuinely inventive ways that highlight the protagonist’s mental state above all else.
I believe another part of what has made Steins;Gate so beloved, other than its excellent anime adaption, is that the ‘Science’ part of its identity isn’t a barrier like how it can be in the Chaos and Robotics entries. Of course, none of these games ever demand players to be knowledgeable of specific scientific terms before playing, but Steins;Gate is undoubtedly the most easily digestible and elegant with its usage of the subject matter to not turn off watchers/readers. Additionally, it is starkly dark in tone at notable points, effectively contrasting with its more peacetime qualities and slice-of-life elements.
Steins;Gate would then receive multiple console releases and localizations. Further, a remake of the original visual novel, titled Steins;Gate Elite, was developed due to the anime’s popularity. This game quite literally remade the original visual novel with the anime’s presentation, though at the sacrifice of minor elements. For this reason, it’s not viewed as an ideal avenue for newcomers to play first and is instead better utilized as a way for fans to re-experience the story in a new light. Still, due to how distinct the original visual novel’s aesthetic is, Elite can be seen as a more attractive way for anime-watchers to dive into the visual novel medium.
The primary mechanic for Steins;Gate comprises time-traveling at specific story segments. This gameplay tool is quite simple since the divergence points for the heroines’ routes are abundantly evident with several warning signs. Another minor gameplay mechanic is replying to texts from other characters, though it is mostly side-content for achievements and neat dialogue, as well as accessing the True Ending.
I’ve mentioned this offhand before, but the anime adaption for Steins;Gate is beloved for a reason. It received enough cours to regale the source material’s narrative adequately, and the pacing is comparable to the visual novel. However, the anime adaption does not display the optional heroine routes, instead solely sticking to the main story. It is similar to Steins;Gate Elite in the sense that neither fully offer what the original visual provided but are more appealing to a less niche audience.
Prospective fans can choose to experience Steins;Gate first if they desire, and, in fact, numerous fans already have. Its popularity overshadowing the other Science Adventure entries has only made such an occurrence natural. At most, players will miss out on references to Chaos;Head which aren’t necessary for story comprehension. Still, I believe the original visual novel is the best way to first experience it. However, Elite and the anime adaption are also suitable if their presentation is far more appealing.
The original Steins;Gate visual novel is available on PC, PSP, and PS3, while Elite is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Robotics;Notes Elite is a director’s cut of the original Robotics;Notes which was initially released in 2012 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Japan. Throughout this visual novel, players assume the role of Kaito Yashio, one of the last of two members of Central Tanegashima High’s Robot Research Club. He has a laid-back personality, while his colleague, Akiho Senomiya, is more reckless. The two are working towards completing a robot in order to keep the club from being disbanded. However, one day, Kaito’s relaxation has ended after discovering the Kimijima Report, which leads them to uncover a conspiracy targeting the entire world.
Regarding tone, Robotics;Notes is undoubtedly the laxest of the mainline entries, providing necessary narrative and character drama, but definitely nowhere near the levels of grim darkness displayed by Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. Further, its appeal is more discernible than the prior two games, focusing on mechs. However, that isn’t the sole aspect of its identity. Augmented reality, conspiracies spanning the globe, and more are also focused on, making this entry’s scale larger in several ways.
Robotics;Notes Elite is comparable to Chaos;Head Noah and not Steins;Gate Elite since, despite sporting the name naming convention as the latter, Robotics;Notes Elite enhanced the original experience without being a remake. Its scripts were revised, and various quality-of-life upgrades were provided alongside remodeled characters. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone discuss the original visual novel, so you don’t have to think about it. Elite is the way to go.
Now, even though Robotics;Notes does tell a relatively self-contained story, it highly benefits from the context of Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. Particular plot points benefit from contextual knowledge regarding the former, and a character from Steins;Gate is straight up in Robotics;Notes. Once again, just to reiterate, you don’t need this knowledge, but it helps in painting a bigger picture. As a first entry, Robotics;Notes might be more approachable to certain crowds who may find Steins;Gate and especially Chaos;Head too dark for their tastes. At its best, Robotics;Notes can be a welcoming entry for prospective fans yearning for a less intense introduction.
The primary mechanic for Robotics;Notes utilizes an AR device that doubles as an analysis tool and a map. This makes the experience more investigative, providing a calmer degree of environmental and contextual input. Further, the device is used to access character routes in the middle of the story.
The anime adaption for Robotics;Notes is not a substitute for the visual novel, but it is an adequate standalone experience. It received two cours so it gets time to flesh out several characters and concepts compared to the erroneously handled adaption for Chaos;Head. However, countless details and the like are understandably not provided throughout this medium. Nevertheless, for those not necessarily seeking to become highly affixed to the intricacies of Science Adventure, the anime is an enjoyable alternative.
Robotics;Notes Elite was initially released for PlayStation Vita in Japan. Still, it has now been localized for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. Check out our review.
Chaos;Child is a sequel to Chaos;Head Noah, taking place six years after that title’s true ending. This visual novel was initially released for Xbox One in Japan before being ported to multiple platforms. Throughout this title, players witness the efforts of protagonist Takuru Miyashiro as he attempts to solve a bizarre string of ongoing murders that are eerily close in execution as a certain killing spree from long ago.
Further, a devastating earthquake in Shibuya that occurred during the same time frame as those initial murders caused Takuru to become homeless. After spending some of his youth in an orphanage, he now lives on his own in a camper. Eventually, supernatural elements sprout up and connect a myriad of traits connecting himself, his club members, and the tragedies from all those years ago.
It is essential to note that Chaos;Child is still enjoyable on a stand-alone basis, but it highly, highly benefits from Chaos;Head Noah knowledge. Having Chaos;Child be the only localized Chaos entry for so long makes this declaration somewhat awkward. Still, I highly advise avoiding this title until you play Chaos;Head Noah since it is heavily referenced to an almost humorous degree.
Tone-wise, Chaos;Child is frightful. While not as lonely and void of hope as Chaos;Head frequently is, Chaos;Child is uniquely dreary in execution. It effectively communicates an omnipresent sense of desperation that is only capitalized by possessing the context of Chaos;Head Noah. Additionally, several disturbing scenes occur, making this entry not for the faint of heart.
Just like Chaos;Head, the primary mechanic for this entry is the Delusional Trigger, allowing players to choose whether they desire Positive or Negative delusions in select scenarios. The utilization of this mechanic is more akin in its application to Chaos;Head Noah, though, as choosing certain arrays of delusions grants passageway to the heroines’ routes. These delusions aid in granting diversification upon repeat playthroughs and provide intricate dives into Takuru’s frayed mental state.
Unfortunately, the anime adaption of Chaos;Child is not recommendable. It attempts to tell the main story faithfully, unlike the Chaos;Head anime adaption, but it only has 1 cour, making it impossible to be qualitative. For a 50-60 hour visual novel, that choice is simply not acceptable. The visual novel is one of the lengthiest in the franchise, making it more evident why you should play it rather than watch its questionable adaption.
Chaos;Child is currently available in the West for PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam. On the other hand, it’s also arriving on Nintendo Switch in the West later this year via the Chaos;Head Noah & Chaos;Child Double Pack. Check out our review.
So, uh, discussing the sheer premise of Steins;Gate 0 is too much of a spoiler that I’m going to refrain from doing. To be blunt, it absolutely requires knowledge of Steins;Gate to appreciate, let alone understand. It utilizes the same gameplay mechanics as the original Steins;Gate, though its tone is noticeably darker, being one of the more omnipresent grim titles.
Now, here is where bias will come into play because the Steins;Gate 0 visual novel isn’t exactly well-liked. It suffers from questionable pacing and other issues that deserve their own extensive focus. I believe it’s worth playing if you’ve read the original visual novel, but this is one of the few cases where I recommend the anime as a viable alternative no matter the crowd. It helps alleviate some of the faults present in the source material, making it a more enjoyable venture.
To avoid potentially spoiling this title, I’ll end here. Steins;Gate 0 is currently available in the West for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC.
For similar reasons as Steins;Gate 0, I will refrain from detailing the premise of Robotics;Notes DaSH. Before playing this title, one needs to know that it is a direct sequel to Robotics;Notes Elite. However, it also highly, highly benefits from having played Chaos;Head Noah, and Steins;Gate 0, as several plot elements and characters from those titles are utilized in full force.
This entry is somewhat divisive amongst fans for many reasons, all of which are better left discussing after one plays it. The visual novel currently has no anime adaption, though that will likely change in the future.
Robotics;Notes DaSH is currently available in the West for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Check out our review.
UPDATE (7/3/2022): Spike Chunsoft has officially announced that they are publishing Anonymous;Code for the West in 2023 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam! This title is set to be the latest entry in the franchise, releasing in Japan on July 28, 2022.
The following official story synopsis has been provided after the game’s English announcement:
2037. Nakano, Tokyo. Pollon Takaoka and his best friend Cross Yumikawa make a living as a pro hackers wherever they can; wherever hasn’t been affected by the “Sad Morning” disaster that occurred February 6th, 2036.
One day, Pollon declares he is going to “elope,” despite the fact that he is single. However, he meets a mysterious girl called Momo in a place no one is supposed to be…
Suddenly, mysterious assailants appear and chase after Momo.
During the escape, Pollon receives the “Save & Load” app which allows him to save data and start over just like a video game. Little does he realize this is only the beginning…
The mysterious, genius hacker “Cicada 3301” who organizes a series of “Quests” that seem impossible to solve. The “Gaia Institute” that reactivated the earth simulation which was supposed to be frozen. The thugs from Vatican’s “513 Holy Office,” working behind the scenes…
Pollon is thrown into numerous plots as a result of his encounter with Momo, and faces a major event that shakes the world.
What truth awaits you when you use hacking, saving, and loading?
Hack the myriad branches of reality and “load” the ending that saves the world!
This is the story of the hackers who will rewrite the future.
- You can view our dedicated coverage for more release details, such as character profiles, trailers, and screenshots.
- We have also been providing extensive coverage for the title’s incoming Japanese release.
Considering how Anonymous;Code isn’t out yet, it’s obviously difficult to say when new fans should play it. Still, it’ll more than likely be completely enjoyable standalone. However, with it coming West next year, one has ample time to complete the other entries.
And those are all of the released Science Adventure entries that newcomers should be aware of. There is a multitude of other games such as the Chaos; Love Chu Chu sequels, Linear Bounded Phenogram, and other media, but that’s way too much content that will overwhelm any uninitiated party. We are planning on writing a piece detailing the supplementary material, but that will likely take a good while due to the sheer scope of such a project.
One entry I was unsure about mentioning is Occultic;Nine since its existence is….tenuous at best. Its connective tissue to the rest of the series at large is unclarified. Its visual novel, which is Japanese exclusive, is widely panned. Further, its light novel series is unfinished, leaving the anime as the only avenue for Western fans seeking a complete experience. If you’re interested in giving this title a shot, I recommend checking out the anime. It doesn’t require any knowledge of prior Science Adventure media. However, expect some unconventional directorial and storytelling choices. I’ll likely dedicate an article to Occultic;Nine, detailing its bizarre lifespan.
Now, as for the rest of the games we’ve discussed throughout this article, let me provide my orders for varying crowds. I should note that these following orders are based on the visual novels and no anime adaptions.
The following list is for those seeking to follow the initial release order, a straightforward way to experience the series. This also doubles as my personal preferred play order.
- Chaos;Head Noah
- Steins;Gate 0
- Robotics;Notes DaSH
The following list is for those seeking what I dub the ‘Back-to-Back IP Order,’ which is essentially playing the directly tied series games one after another:
- Chaos;Head Noah
- Steins;Gate 0
- Robotics;Notes DaSH
The following list is for those seeking what I dub the ‘Comfort Order,’ focusing on the least gruesome games first for greater gradual accessibility:
- Robotics;Notes DaSH
- Steins;Gate 0
- Chaos;Head Noah
Let us know your differing opinions for newcomers seeking to get into the series and how it should be done. This franchise is still readily niche when viewing each entry collectively. Hopefully, with every major mainline title being localized soon, that will open up the games to a broader audience.
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