Please note: Although the Steam version does not show any sexually explicit scenes there is still text with strong implications sexual actions have taken place. Due to them being integrated in the story I will have to bring them up so if you don’t want to read anything relating to this topic you should probably leave now.
NEKOPARA is something I hope starts happening a lot more now. What I mean by that is the developers NEKOWORKs actually worked with Sekai Project to get NEKOPARA out worldwide on the same day. We know visual novels are gaining popularity in the west with the Clannad and Grisaia Kickstarters hitting their goals in less than 24 hours (and surpassing them by a long shot too), other visual novels sell fairly decent, many people mention 999 among the best DS games and don’t even get me started on Ace Attorney or Telltale Games. While I highly doubt it will become the norm anytime soon it is still nice to see at least NEKOWORKs wants to get their stuff over here and allow us to support them! (let’s hope Key sees reason to bring Angel Beats! here less than a year too!) Anyway I’m getting off track, let’s get into the review!
NEKOPARA is a kinetic novel that takes place in a world where science has advanced to the point of turning cats into humans. It only showed cat-girls and only talked about them however I don’t recall anything proving that cat-boys can’t be a thing. Cat-girls keep the personality traits of a cat (as demonstrated by the two main girls, Chocola and Vanilla getting distracted by a cat toy or salivating when they see tuna) while gaining some human intelligence (such as being able to talk and you can even train them to read and write). Cat-girls also don’t have equal rights as humans, as to be out of the house by themselves they need to earn a “bell” which they do so by taking a test proving they can withhold some cat instincts. The story follows a boy named Kashou who moves away from home without telling anyone to start a bakery. His sister, Shigure, is a cat-girl enthusiast and two of her cat-girls, Chocola and Vanilla, snuck into his boxes and he didn’t notice until they arrived. At first he is trying to Shigure to send them back home but before he manages to he ends up befriending the two and once he does contact her, makes them the poster-cats of the bakery and gets them to help out as waitresses.
As NEKOPARA is a kinetic novel there are no choices. This may seem weird as there are 6 cat-girls so you’d think that would be an easy 6 routes but no. Aside from Chocola and Vanilla the cat-girls are all supporting characters and even Shigure is more important to the story. As this is titled “Vol.1 ” I’m hoping we might get more volumes that focus on the others instead as I thought they all seemed interesting but they really weren’t developed very well. That is probably my biggest problem with NEKOPARA, character development. You find out a lot about Kashou, Chocola and Vanilla and a little about Shigure but the rest are kind of forgotten. You do see them and learn personality a little but not too much. For example, you know Chocola and Vanilla are twins that Kashou found on the side of the road abandoned that he and Shigure nursed back to health even though the two cat-girls wouldn’t eat or drink anything they gave them and much more through-out the novel but Coconut for example, is tall, proud, dresses in almost nothing, the the youngest aside from Chocola and Vanilla. That’s pretty much it. If they do plan on releasing future volumes focusing on the other cats I’d have no issue with this one focusing on Chocola and Vanilla. (yes I do know Chocola and Vanilla are mascots for NEKOWORKs and that each character has an introduction video on Sekai Project’s Youtube page but I still want to know more in-game.)
Normally I end the Gameplay section with my list of complaints but I already mentioned my only one that would fit under gameplay so let’s end it on a high-note this time! I have two things to praise the game on! They are really only things I have as a fan of visual novels so if this is your first you wouldn’t even really know. The first is like many VNs the Gallery starts off locked, however, in most to unlock it you need to complete a route (most appear to require it to be a good route but I can’t comment on all), in NEKOPARA however, I had it unlocked my second session. I’m not sure how to unlock it exactly, when I noticed I had at least 1 CG, 1 song and 1 movie which you’ll get all pretty quick so that’s not to worry. The other praise is even though I was playing the all-ages version (you can buy the 18+ from anywhere in the world on NEKOWORKs site) it was quite obvious where the removed sex scenes were. From what I could tell they were actually integrated into the story as Kashou learning about how to take care of cat-girls and one of the major things is dealing with them while they’re “in heat” (basically horny). Could they have had a story without that being there? Yes, but so many visual novels I’ve played or read about have added them for the sake of adding them and sometimes don’t make story sense or even contradict or go way overboard. I praise NEKOWORKs for having a game with humanoid cat girls and not going overboard with sex scenes as well.
The game is pretty special graphically. If all you’ve seen of it are the pictures in this review you might wonder what is so special about it, it’s animated! At first I found it quite weird as I’m used to games like Rewrite having minor animation with fire or something glowing but in this, all the character sprites animated, mouths moved while takling, boobs bounced with walking or moving (there is a “chest bounciness” slider in the options. Not something I thought I’d ever mention in a review) all that. By the end of the game I actually found myself wishing there would be less CGs as those weren’t animated. It’s going to be weird going back to a standard VN. Other than that the graphics looked pretty good. That includes the backgrounds, sprites and, without my bias because of them not being animated, the CGs. My only real issue with the graphics was if you progress the text while someone is moving they’ll teleport which looks weird. It would have been nicer if they just sped up the walking animation to get them where they needed to be then continuing.
The music was quite good. The theme song is probably stuck in my head forever now so be warned it is extremely catchy. I didn’t find the rest of the music to be of as high quality as the main theme but none was bad by any means. All the songs worked well and help set whatever mood the writers wanted. Music is very important in visual novels and while I don’t think NEKOPARA got it perfect it was still pretty good. The voice actors were all great. Each character has a distinct voice and none of them are annoying. Even Chocola and Vanilla, two voices you hear for pretty much the whole 5 hours you’re playing are great and don’t get old. I do wish Kashou had a voice actor though as this clearly wasn’t a visual novel designed to have you insert yourself as there’s no option to change Kashou’s name but that’s not a very big deal and the unvoiced protagonist is a main stay in visual novels.