There have been a few shared universes in Japan’s anime and manga industry. One of the longest and most successful is the multimedia collaboration between Mages Inc. (formerly 5pb.) and Nitroplus that gave us the Science Adventure series: a collection of science fiction based visual novels that have inspired some well-known adaptations.
The most prominent is Steins;Gate, the series’ most successful title, but Chaos;Child and Robotics;Notes receive some love as well. The Science Adventure series covers a vast storyline with complex plots surrounding scientific discoveries and conspiracies. Here’s a helpful breakdown we hope will be helpful in getting you to check out the many awesome anime media within this intriguing franchise.
What This Guide Covers
- What is the Science Adventure Series?
- Common Themes & Story Devices
- Gameplay Mechanics
- Science Visual Novel Series
- The Future of the Science Adventure Series
What Is the Science Adventure Series?
The Science Adventure video games are a series of loosely connected science fiction visual novels that take place within a shared universe. According to Mages Inc. director Chiyomaru Shikura, he wanted to keep the series grounded in reality while balancing the sci-fi nature and relatability of the video games in real locations like Shibuya. It was important to keep the majority of the storytelling rooted in science fiction with just a hint of fantasy.
Much like how Key’s first three visual novels symbolize different seasons, the visual novels of the Science Adventure series uses imagery based on sound and weather. For example, Chaos;Head represents heavy rain, Steins;Gate draws on a cloudy atmosphere, Robotics;Notes symbolize the clear weather, and Chaos;Child sets a stormy tone. These dark undertones build the emotional storytelling through the use of sound and music.
Common Themes & Story Devices
Besides featuring the semicolon in their titles, the Science Adventure games tend to blur the line between hard science and science fiction. While real-life scientific concepts and theories are sometimes featured, each game and its subsequent anime adaptations still explore the speculative aspect of the genre.
The Steins;Gate series, for instance, explores the consequences of cause and effect, as well as hypothetical concepts like time travel and alternate timelines. Chaos;Head and Chaos;Child delve into ideas of reality, perception, and delusions. Robotics;Notes tackles the real robot dilemma of engineering and constructing a giant robot in real life.
Each game series has its distinct storytelling devices and a crossover every now and then, especially when it comes to conspiracy theories. This is made evident by common antagonists like SERN and the Committee of 300. The latter is thought to be a powerful group of 300 people originating from Britain in the 1700s and have a hand in every aspect of global affairs, like the Illuminati. Their goal is linked with the conspiracy of a New World Order and they’ve been involved heavily in the Steins;Gate series.
The Science Adventure games are mostly visual novels that follow a branching plot line approach to storytelling with limited player interaction. Because of this, a good amount of dialogue text is read by the player in the backdrop of in-game sprites and CG background art.
While some games have singular endings, the majority of the visual novels direct you to multiple endings based on the choices you make. Each game has its unique ways of helping the player make their preferred choice to determine the outcome of the gameplay, as we’ll explain below:
Delusion Trigger (Chaos;Head & Chaos;Child)
In the Chaos:Head and Chaos:Child games, the Delusion Trigger is introduced at multiple points in the story. This feature gives you the choice of whether your character experiences a positive or negative delusion based on the circumstances. You can also choose neither and stay within reality. Each choice changes your character’s worldview throughout the narrative and helps build trust with supporting characters. Such decisions cause the story to branch into multiple endings.
Phone Trigger (Steins;Gate & Steins:Gate 0)
The Phone Trigger is activated whenever the player receives a phone call and is the main character’s point of contact. You can choose to answer or ignore calls and text messages with specific words hyperlinked in blue. Afterwards, you can choose to reply to texts or when to take out the phone and make a call. Depending on their responses to the calls and texts, the plot will change to a certain direction.
Steins;Gate 0 places more emphasis on your decision of answering the phone at specific times. Within the game itself, the player uses a messaging app called RINE on the character’s phone to keep in touch with others. Whenever your character receives a text, the game will show a notification and you can choose to reply with either a message or emoji sticker. These messages also don’t affect the branching of the story.
PhoneDroid Trigger (Robotics;Notes & Robotics;Notes DaSH)
The Robotics;Notes games uses the PhoneDroid Trigger, which operates the Deluoode Map function that serves as the game’s general navigational map. There is also a social media networking application called Twipo which the player can communicate with the supporting characters. Lastly, there’s also an augmented reality image recognition function called Iru-o. The player uses this to examine the environment and information tags on characters or objects.
The first visual novel collaboration between 5pb. and Nitroplus was released on Windows in April 2008. an enhanced remake titled Chaos;Head NoAH was released in 2009.
Set in Shibuya of 2009, the story follows high schooler Takumi Nishijo who is sent disturbing images of a gruesome murder in an alley, experiencing paranoid delusions soon after. The killings are connected to a phenomenon known as the New Generation Madness and Takumi is suspected of being the murderer. As the story progresses, Takumi meets several girls who take an interest in him, including Rimi Sakihata who claims to be his friend despite him having no memory of her.
A 12-episode anime adaptation by MADHOUSE was released in 2008 to middling critical reception. Despite that, you can still check it out on Funimation.
Chaos:Child takes place six years after the events of Chaos;Head and is described as its thematic sequel. The visual novel was released in December 2014 and features an entirely new cast with loose connections to the previous game.
Set in 2015, the story follows high school student Takuru Miyashiro who is president at the Hekiho Academy newspaper club and a survivor of the Shibuya earthquake. He investigates the resurgence of New Generation Madness serial killings happening in his neighborhood. The murderers’ calling card is strange Sumo stickers left at the scene of the crime. As Takuru and his friends investigate, he begins experiencing delusions himself as dark secrets are slowly unraveled.
Chaos;Child received a 12-episode anime from Silver Link in 2017 and a short film follow up titled Silent Sky that wraps up the series. Both are licensed by Funimation.
Chaos;Head Love Chu Chu!
Chaos:Head Love Chu Chu! Is a romantic comedy visual novel that’s a sequel spinoff of the Chaos;Head game. It serves as a more lighthearted entry featuring Takumi and his harem of girls. It was first released in 2010 on the Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 and PS Vita consoles later on. Despite its initial appearance as a traditional gal game, the visual novel is considered the canonical second game in the Science Adventure series.
The plot takes place after the Shibuya earthquake, with Takumi overexerting his psychic powers to create a delusional reality based on a gal game. After wooing the six heroines to his favor, he later learns that in order to escape from this delusion, he must kill his fictional dream girl Seira Orgel.
Chaos;Child Love Chu Chu!!
Chaos:Child Love Chu Chu!! Is another romantic comedy spinoff that is a direct sequel to the ending of the original game. In this story, the return of the New Generation madness is just a series of weird circumstances for Takuru, who chooses to spend more time with the heroines of the game in a series of ordinary activities.
Since it’s a visual novel, your choices affect the outcome of Takuru’s story. The game utilizes a ‘Yes/No’ trigger system in the form of a questionnaire you fill in to make your decision, in addition to the existing Delusion Trigger system in the Chaos:Head and Chaos;Child games. Depending on your choices, the story branches out into different endings, reactions, and scenes.
Arguably the most successful title in the Science Adventure series, Steins:Gate was first released in October 2009 on the Xbox 360 and has since been ported to PC and several Playstation consoles. The success of the visual novel led to a plethora of media mix properties such as a critically acclaimed Steins:Gate anime in 2011 from White Fox, manga adaptation, light novel, drama CD, stage play, and even a proposed live action American TV series.
The creators describe Steins:Gate as a hypothetical science adventure game. Taking place a year after Chaos;Head in the Akihabara district, the story follows self proclaimed eccentric, mad scientist Rintaro Okabe who runs several experiments with his close friends Mayuri Shiina and Itaru ‘Daru’ Hashida. After encountering prodigy Kurisu Makise at a conference, Rintaro discovers that his cell phone-operated microwave oven can send text messages back in time as ‘D-mails.’ A mysterious organization called SERN discovers this and plots to take the device themselves. In the process of stopping them, Rintaro must deal with the consequences of time travel and save Mayuri and Kurisu from danger.
Steins;Gate’s popularity and success led to the development of many spinoffs and a fully animated visual novel remake in 2018 titled Steins;Gate Elite. It reused animated scenes from the 2011 anime with the original game’s interactive features and received rave reviews and high sales. Several sequels and spinoffs were spawned soon after, so it’s safe to say that if your series has inspired a board game and an 8-bit video game, you’re doing something right.
Steins;Gate the Movie: Load Region of Deja Vu
This 2013 theatrical feature length follow up to the Steins;Gate anime series concludes the main storyline set up in episodes 24 and the OVA 25th episode. The film follows Kurisu Makise’s attempts to bring Rintaro back to her timeline after changing multiple timelines. Because of his constant time leaping, he’s slowly disappearing from existence and Kurisu must save him before it’s too late.
The film essentially wraps up the story of Rintaro and friends, but is just one of two possible endings. What do I mean by this? Let’s read the next entry then.
Steins;Gate 0 is a 2015 visual novel follow up to the original Steins;Gate game. It’s set in an alternate timeline where Rintaro is unable to save Kurisu’s life and falls into a deep depression because of it. Having abandoned his eccentric personality, he meets neuroscientist Maho Hiyajo and her colleague Alexis Leskinen a few months later who tell him of an AI system they’re working on called Amadeus. The Amadeus AI uses Kurisu Makise’s memories prior to her death to converse with Rintaro, who becomes a tester for its development.
Steins;Gate 0 received an anime from White Fox in 2018, lasting for 23 episodes with an OVA.
Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace
Similar to the Love Chu! Chu! Games of Chaos;Head and Chaos;Child, Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace is a slice-of-life romantic comedy visual novel where Rintaro establishes romantic relationships with the girl of his choice. It was first released as a fan disc in June 2011 to celebrate Steins;Gate’s success.
Who he ends up with and where the branching storyline goes depends on the choices of Rintaro. The game utilizes the same Phone Trigger system found in the main game. If you want to spend more time with Rintaro and friends, this lighthearted addition has no bad endings and can be played casually.
Steins;Gate: Variant Space Octet
Speaking of that 8-bit game I mentioned before, Steins;Gate: Variant Space Octet is a retro text adventure game released in October 2011 for Windows PC. It features a brand-new story that is considered non-canonical to the series, but takes place after the true ending of the Steins;Gate visual novel. The text adventure game is considered a predecessor to the modern visual novel and fans of that style will definitely enjoy it.
The game follows Rintaro Okabe and friends as he receives another strange text from his future self telling him that the timeline has been shifted again. He’s tasked with finding a dangerous esper named Neidhardt whose actions will cause a calamity far worse than Rintaro has ever experienced.
Similar to other visual novels, Variant Space Octet features a good amount of dialogue text and good/bad endings. The game is unique in its use of prompting type commands such as inputting ‘up,’ ‘left,’ ‘look,’ and ‘talk,’ among others.
Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram
Linear Bounded Phenogram is a visual novel of ten side stories within the Steins;Gate universe set in different universes. It was released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in April 2013. Unlike the other games, this entry doesn’t allow for any interactive experience and you’re meant to only experience the stories straightforwardly. For those who know their computer science, the game’s title is a reference to the linear bounded automation concept based on the mathematical model of the Turing machine.
The side stories feature Rintaro Okabe as the protagonist while others focus on the supporting characters. Examples include Kurisu helping a dejected Rintaro, Faris and Suzuha fighting lizard people, and Daru meeting his future spouse.
Robotics;Notes is the first visual novel developed by 5pb. without the involvement of Nitroplus. It’s still considered part of the Science Adventure series and was released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in June 2012. The main theme focuses on the concept of robots and poses this question: what would happen if you really tried to make a giant robot?
The story takes place in 2019 on the coastal island of Tanegashima and follows fighting game enthusiast Kaito Yashio and his childhood friend, Akiho Senomiya, who is part of their school’s robotics club. She’s inspired to build a real giant robot based on her love of the mecha anime Gunvarrel. As she enlists Kaito and various allies to make her dream a reality, Kaito comes across mysterious documents known as the Kimijima Reports that predict all life on Earth will end because of an impending solar flare. Both Kaito and Akiho are drawn into this mystery, as well as an unfolding conspiracy revolving around Akiho’s older sister, the Gunvarrel anime, and the devious Committee of 300.
Robotics;Notes inspired a 22-episode anime from Production I.G in October 2012. Like its predecessors, the game received an updated, enhanced version in 2014 titled Robotics;Notes Elite that had a reworked script, animated cutscenes, and improved character designs. It’s also notable for including Nae Tennouji, a character from Steins;Gate who now works as an employee at JAXA.
DaSH is the sequel to Robotics;Notes and the first entry to be developed by the rebranded Mages Inc. and Chiyomaru Studios, a new multimedia studio concept developed by Science Adventure veteran Chiyomaru Shikiura. It was released in January 2019 on the PS4 and Nintendo Switch. The game also features the return of Steins;Gate’s Itaru ‘Daru’ Hashida in its story.
DaSH takes place six months after the end of Robotics;Notes in 2020. Kaito has returned to Tanegashima island after spending time overseas to study astronomy. Along the boat ride home, he’s introduced to Daru who is coincidentally meeting Nae while Kaito reunites with his friends from the Robotics clubs. As they show Daru around the island, a looming threat from the deceased Ko Kimijima lingers and it’ll be up to Daru, Kaito, and the Robotics Club to save the day.
Science Visual Novel Series
Now, you might be wondering: Is the Science Adventure series all connected?
Much like how Sony has its own universe different from the MCU, entries in the Science Visual Novel series exist in their own separate world, even if they have the semicolon in the title. Despite the different continuity, these works share similar themes with the Science Adventure visual novels and they even appear as fictional in-universe games.
Occultic;Nine is a light novel series written by Steins;Gate creator Chiyomaru Shikiura and inspired a 12-episode anime from A-1 Pictures in 2018. The light novel was published from 2014 to 2017 for three volumes and draws on the theme of paranormal science and the supernatural. Additionally, the series also received a 2017 video game adaptation from Mages Inc.
The story follows nine unique individuals, starting with high school NEET Yuta Gamon who runs a popular occult blog with his best friend Ryouka Narusawa. Yuta’s blog post regularly disproves supernatural occurrences, but strange events connect him with other people such as a fortune teller, a doujin artist oracle, a black magic expert, an otaku detective, and a reporter. Dangerous situations draw the fateful cast together as they slowly uncover the mysteries shrouding their city and threats of a larger event about to occur.
Anonymous;Code is an upcoming visual novel in collaboration with Mages Inc. and Chiyomaru Studio. It’ll be released sometime later in 2021. Similar to Steins;Gate’s exploration of expanding world lines and time travel, Anonymous;Code will jump into the concept of parallel worlds or ‘world layers’ and involve the use of hacking into these layers.
The story is set in 2037, where just a year prior, computers have destroyed many cities across Earth. A similar event will occur in 2038, so a supercomputer called Gaia is created to simulate an alternate Earth where this situation happens. Humanity was allowed to live in this alternate Earth, but after creating their own Earth simulator system, they began questioning the validity of the original Earth world. Hacker Pollon Takaoka is one of those humans who is able to save and load specific moments and is the protagonist for Anonymous;Code.
The Future of the Science Adventure Series
We’ve taken plenty of time to introduce you to the vast shared universe of the Science Adventure series. In addition to Anonymous;Code, there’s also a new Steins:Gate visual novel on the way, tentatively titled Steins;???, with the main cast reprising their roles. It’s safe to expect many more new entries in this ever expanding shared universe.