For those of you that celebrated your respective traditions, I hope you had a good one and looking forward to the new year. With the ending approaching steadily, I present to you my last review for this year: Nekopara. A cute and frivolous slice-of-life visual novel of catgirls and their daily misadventures. Is it fully voiced? Yes. Can you play in multiple languages? Heck, yeah! Is it on Steam? Do you even need to ask?
Title: Nekopara Vol. 1 (Cat’s Paradise)
Genre: Slice-of-life, Comedy (Kinetic Novel)
Developer: Neko Works (Localized by Sekai Project)
System: PC (Steam Store)
Length: 5-7 Hrs
Developed by the amateur doujin company Neko Work’s, Nekopara is exactly what you might expect of such a visual novel with that nomenclature. Cute nekomimi characters, fluffy endearing moments, and the occasional nuggets of merriment wrapped up in the slice-of-life format. It isn’t much for those wanting more than moe and definitely isn’t a surefire recommendation, but as far as being a pleasant encounter with affable designed archetypes, a unique gimmick, and introduction to a series – it is more or less of an enticing pull into a companies premier work than anything else. As someone who is usually drawn in the by genre in any format, I thought I would enjoy this title, yet knowing how it can be double-edged sword, I can say that I mildly enjoyed Nekopara on a surface level, yet by the same token, a very easily forgettable experience with little to offer.
There is not much of a definitive story other than in some universe, genetically modified catgirls are an acceptable part of society and to humans, everything from lovers to constant companions. Minaduki Kashou leaves home with dreams of becoming a confection artist and even goes as far as opening his own cafe “La Soleil”. However, with getting ready for the grand opening his two catgirl family members Chocola and Vanilla unexpectedly arrive. With the permission of their owner and Kashou’s sister Shigure, the two are allowed to stay and thus begins their fun-filled days. Again, as a slice-of-life title with comedy into the mix, it is only as good as the sum of parts and likening that to the actually writing, “thin” is the only way to say it. Of course, that doesn’t explain a great deal, but considering most of the dialogue boils down to silly banter and Kashou trying to learn more about Chocola and Vanillia – catgirls in general, the overall mood is pleasant, yet not a lot to mull over reading wise. Although, that is not completely a demerit, as most of the vignettes contain some cute moments and the characters themselves are likeable as they are amusing, albeit anime archetypical caricatures across the aboard.
One minor interesting point to note is that behind the cheery facade, there are a few omitted scenes leaving “sexually implied” activity. Yes, the game does an 18+ version and due to Steam’s policy, not allowed making it more of an 15+ release. Again, this is only a minor detail, but for most that consider this a deal breaker (and really shouldn’t, but you know who you are), the 18+ will be available sometime next year around February (as a physical release no less) via Denpasoft.
Unlike most visual novels that use static images and sprites, Nekopara uses something called the “Emote” system that animates the characters as they speak and move. By no means is the system anything new or remotely special as it is the aforementioned gimmick, but it does benefit the characters a great deal and make them seem less artificial by way of personality. It’s an illusion – easy to create and also simple to break, since the written dialogue is somewhat insufferable to a degree than it would be amiable, thus magnifying the somewhat lopsided personalities. All things considered and despite the character faults, it is an appreciative implementation I wish other visual novel/eroge developers would do more often. The game in terms of graphical merit is very well done and the CG illustrations is more than visual proof of that. The musical score is somewhat limited, yet not that bad either – even though I can not single out a certain piece that I am fond of. Like most visual novels, you revisit any of CG or music via the extras at the main menu.
At the end of day there is no denying Nekopara of how cute and technically well-produced it is as a kinetic novel. That is a fact. However, when it comes to selling itself on the slice-of-life/comedy angle, it just isn’t nearly enough nor tackled with enough soul. By no means I’m I expecting the genre to be carried out with gravitas, but just didn’t adequately tick the criteria check-boxes I was hoping it would. Nothing more or less than that. Although, this just the beginning and with room for improvement, I’m looking forward to seeing what future works this group brings, even if it is unrelated to this series. Regardless, Nekopara probably won’t appeal to the greater segment of fans of the format based on content alone, but for those seeking a different novel experience in a more compact fashion and just lacking a few areas, this is a very unique and cute candidate for consideration.
Pros: CG and artwork, live sprites give characters a lot of personality, appropriate length for the narrative, multiple language selection, few humorous exchanges.
Cons: rushed near the end, uninteresting characters, dialogue scripting for most the characters is repetitive, slice-of-life/comedy mix invites too much drama.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by Sekai Project. All images and rights to them belong to Neko Works and for review purposes only.