NEKOPARA Vol. 1 is a first in the world of Japanese visual novels; a game by a doujin circle with a simultaneous release in Japanese, English, and Chinese that was highly anticipated by fans both in Japan and overseas. It’s a vibrant, lively, and polished game that makes up for in moe what it lacks in sense.
Playtime to 100%: 5 hours
Oh, where to start? NEKOPARA has an option where you can set the ‘chest bounciness’ of the characters. And said characters are all catgirls. And they end up wearing maid outfits. It’s like the creators took the moe-est things they could think of, blended them all up together, and baked the result into a pretty cake with a cherry on top.
The ‘plot’, such as it is, is that protagonist Kashou has run away from his traditional Japanese sweet making family to open his own patisserie selling Western desserts. His imouto, Shigure, whose obsession with him crosses way beyond the boundaries of normal sibling affection, owns a whole clan of catgirls back at the family home, two of which she sneaks out to keep her big brother company. When these two catgirls, Chocola and Vanilla, arrive at the brand new patisserie La Soleil, hijinks ensue as Kashou learns to become a proper master to his two charges. While it’s described as a visual novel, the more pedantic would call it a kinetic novel, as it’s a linear story with none of the choices or branches you’d usually expect from a VN.
In this world the existence of genetically modified cat girls is taken for granted. This basic premise makes absolutely no sense, and is actually pretty creepy, since these girls apparently have the cerebral abilities of humans and yet are treated as pets who have owners. There’s a part of the storyline which involves the catgirls taking an exam to prove that they can operate within human society, and those who pass get special bells which allow them to go out without their owner in tow. Again, it really makes no sense, but you’ll probably be too distracted by the bouncing boobies to care. If you can get past the setting then what you’ll find is a short but sweetly enjoyable story of one guy learning to live an independent life with his catgirls.
Volume 1 is predominantly focused on Chocola and Vanilla, with the other nekos making cameos along with imouto Shigure. Personally I didn’t find their characters that interesting; Vanilla is the tsun to Chocola’s dere and they’re basically both just obsessed with pleasing Master. I’m looking forward to getting to know the other catgirls in subsequent volumes, and hopefully there’ll be some variety in their personalities, however the main draw of a catgirl seems to be her doting obsession with her master. If you love the idea of being called goshujin-samaaaaa~ then you really need to buy this game, since I can’t even count how many times the word was squealed, mewled, and whispered at me.
The art is crisp and gorgeous, and animated sprites are fantastic with their blinks, swaying hair, and other movements. They really bring a sense of life to the characters beyond what static sprites can do. There are plenty of vibrant, high quality CGs and chibi images to unlock throughout the course of the game, and all in all it’s a joy to look at. The interface is also unobtrusive and easy to use with all the options you’d expect. You also have the option to play in English, Japanese, or Chinese, although the voices are all in Japanese.
The music is upbeat and complimentary and the girls are all fully voiced with typical high-pitched moe voices. The seiyuu do a great job with all the nyans and cat-talk, although whether or not that gets your heart racing or just annoys you will be down to personal preference.
Some of my comments might sound a bit disparaging, but it’s only because I can’t quite believe how something so ridiculous could be so good. For fans of moe, NEKOPARA is a must-play, however it’s definitely a VN that values style over substance. The art and animations are gorgeous and do an excellent job of bringing the world to life, but you have to take that world with a whole saltshaker of salt. If you’re looking for plot and depth you’re not going to find it here, but you will find catgirls and bouncing boobies, so why would you complain?!
Click here for the review of the 18+ version. [coming soon]