Visual novel fans have been eating so well recently. When Chaos;Head got announced for a western localization, you can ask my wife, brother, and the regular Discord friends I hang out with; I was head over heels with excitement. Of all the scientific adventure series, Chaos;Head is my favorite. While I played the original version released in 2008, I have not had the chance to experience the updated release Chaos;Head Noah released in 2009. This is the version brought over in the CHAOS;HEAD NOAH / CHAOS;CHILD DOUBLE PACK released recently over here in the west by publisher Spike Chunsoft. While I’m very excited that western fans finally have a way to experience Chaos;Head Noah localized, was it the experience I’d hoped it would be? The localization has some questionable decisions that keep it from being a truly remarkable experience.
Chaos; Head Noah opens up with Shibuya in ruins after what I consider to be one of the best opening monologues in any visual novel. Then we meet Takumi, who’s living in a cargo crate on top of a building that his father’s company owns. Mysterious killings start happening all around the city under the nickname “New Generation Madness or “New Gen.” Takumi is more concerned about grinding in his game and watching anime than what is going on, though he constantly feels that he’s being watched. On his way home, he witnesses one of the New Gen murders, and things keep getting more cryptic for Takumi as he gets wrapped up in this web of conspiracy surrounding it. I don’t want to risk spoiling anything of this game because I truly believe the story is one of the best out there. I think everybody needs to experience it full of twists and turns. However, it has pretty heavy subject matters; it’s not sexual by any means, but it is filled with more than your average amount of body horror and gore, given the nature of the killings. One of the more significant aspects that set Chaos;Head apart from other visual novels is its central gameplay mechanic, Takumi’s delusions.
Every so often, given Takumi’s nature, a silhouette of the Shibuya Skyline will surround the screen for a couple of lines of dialogue. The player then will pick if Takumi has either a pleasing delusion, a harmful delusion, or no delusion. Depending on what deception you like at a particular time, the story’s outcome changes, leading to many branching paths. This was changed from the original release of Chaos; Head’; in the original, you knew that delusions could be triggered when two pulse lines appeared on the screen’s side. I missed them my first time playing the original version, so I prefer the way they’re done in Chaos;Head Noah, as it makes them more direct. The only thing I would change is that it doesn’t explain this in-game without you looking at the tips menu. Outside of the delusion mechanic, there are a couple of DLC costumes that you can buy for the characters. Given that there are multiple endings, Chaos; Head Noah has fantastic replay value.
Any visual novel brought over to a western audience lives or died by its localization. While I’m very thankful that Chaos;Head is finally out in the west and that I can eventually own a copy localized in English, I do have to admit that this localization is not sound. It’s not the worst that I’ve seen, but it leaves a lot to be desired for a visual novel that has been highly desired for more than a decade. I understand the challenges that come from localizing a graphic novel. I have a lot of friends who work as translators and localizers, so I hear stories from them about how hard it is. However, some things that I have problems with are the use of American ellipses and Japanese ellipses. They just changed all the time as if they couldn’t figure out which one they wanted to use. Also, they aren’t any traditional name boxes when characters are talking, which makes it a little hard to distinguish which character is speaking. Something absent in this localized version is the use of quotation marks.
In the Japanese version of Chaos; Head Noah uses quotation marks and makes it easy to distinguish who’s talking. Outside of in-game dialogue, I do have to mention the in-game CGs and movies: instead of translating the text of the CGs, they put subtitles right under the lines of Japanese text. This makes the screen very cluttered and sometimes confusing to look at and read. Many examples of poor localization quality keep Chaos;Head from being a perfect experience. Outside of translation errors and questionable decisions, there is a bug that crashes the game near the end, and I’m not sure at the time of writing if it has been patched out. When the game officially came out, there was a patch, and I hoped that it fixed that.
Overall I am incredibly excited that what I consider to be one of the best visual novels is finally out in the west. Chaos;Head Noah is a title that I believe everybody who likes visual novels should experience. However, I do have to warn them that the localization is not the best. It’s a shame because this game deserves much better than we received. For those who have not experienced it before or know the original script, I believe you’ll be able to enjoy your time with the title. However, those more knowledgeable on the subject might be frustrated with the quality we received. I think that Chaos;Head Noah could have used a couple more months of touching up so that it could have been a truly unforgettable experience.
Chaos;Head Noah Review
Chaos;Head Noah is an extraordinary visual vovel. It's a shame that it's held back by a subpar localization.
Story is amazing
Soundtrack is amazing
A lot of replay value
Poor localization could kill the experience for players
Lack of quotation marks (which were found in the original title) make it hard to follow conversations
CGs are not fully translated and just subtitled over leaving CGs with a large amounts of cluttered, hard to read text