Nekopara is certainly interesting. Despite me generally being a fan of a lot of ecchi titles, Nekopara was the first full blown eroge I have played. For those unaware, eroge is the official term for hentai game. Eroge are not always strictly pornographic though. An eroge, quite simply, is any game that features an uncensored sex scene. However, most of these games will still try to focus on having a storyline or decent gameplay mechanics in addition to erotic content (although Nekopara is a visual novel so gameplay may not really be the right word for it). As such, eroge are not intended solely as masturbation fuel, even if it may be an element of it. The term for something that IS intended solely for pornographic purposes is Nukige. So it should be noted that Nekopara’s storyline can still be enjoyable without its sexual content.
Disclaimer: Some versions of Nekopara Vol.1 are pornographic, and should not be played by anyone under 18 or their countries legal age. Additionally, some images in this review may be considered NSFW.
Before I start talking about the story, I should clarify that Nekopara is a visual novel; a term that is often misused when referring to certain games. A lot of people are generally under the impression that a visual novel is meant to have choices that affect gameplay elements or multiple endings. These, however, are staples of adventure games, not visual novels. A pure visual novel is exactly what it sounds like; a straightforward text novel with visuals, music, and voice acting. The gameplay is made up entirely of reading and scrolling through text. If such a thing sounds like a terrible idea for a game, then one should know that visual novels are not intended to be played; they are intended to be read. As such, it is unwise to hold a visual novel to a gameplay based standard.
Nekopara does offer some convenient features that allow for you to make things easier to play. First of all, you can save at any time and be put back where you started the game out at. Secondly, you have the option to scroll through previous text. You can also disable text boxes in order to gain a view of the entire screen if you feel like screen capping a hentai scene for… research purposes.
In the visual department, Nekopara is fantastic. Despite the game using still backgrounds, the character’s bodies will move slightly when remaining idle. They will also walk on screen based on a plot event as opposed to just showing the character model and a sound effect. The animation in game is very fluid and makes the game much more vibrant. In addition to this, the game has some really great character design, which is a must for an eroge. There is also a chest bounciness meter, enough said.
The game, however, will shift between these character models and still anime images, which is a good decision seeing as how the anime frames just work better for some scenes. The game will also display another window in the middle of the current screen in order to show another occurrence taking place; this being a mechanic that is utilized well during the games hentai sequences.
Sound effect wise, Nekopara is generally effective with one exception; that being that each hentai scene is accompanied by this grating glugging sound that plays during the hentai scenes. The problem is that this sound effect, aside from sound awkward and unsexy, is played on a loop and often times will sound out of sync. There is also the fact that this loop is used in nearly every sexual act despite it not being fitting for most of them. Thankfully, said scenes are still shot very well and still manage to be erotic despite this irritating sound effect.
The Voice acting is decent, for the most part, but I found myself skipping ahead of it while reading most of the time. The reason for this, aside from being in a language I can’t understand, is that a majority of the time, you will be listening to Chocola or Vanilla’s voices. Chocola’s voice, while not acted particularly bad in any way, tends to follow the high pitched anime girl stereotype and can be somewhat grating to listen to extensively. Vanilla’s voice, however, is much more smooth, which also fits her personality as the more laid back of the two.
The music is very catchy and effective at conveying the game’s mood. Songs like “Cat Work” and “Itazura Koneko” are going to be stuck in your head for hours after hearing them. At the same, time, the game is very good at conveying emotional moments with songs like “Tasogare Nyanko” and “Aibyou.” The music is all very lively and effective at bring life and emotion to the game.
The story of Nekopara takes place in the near future where cat girls are now real due to a scientific advancement that allowed actual cats to become human. However, most of these cat girls still retain a few feline qualities and intelligence, but also have the ability to communicate with humans. As such, cat girls still tend to fulfill the role of pets, but the companionship offered is far greater; albeit much more expensive for the average person. Right off the bat, I need to give credit for finding an interesting way to implement cat girls into the game’s world. It also brings up a rather interesting theme of whether or not caring for these cat girls counts as romantic or not. Granted it may be a bit weird to some, but it is still an interesting one regardless.
Our main character starts out the game leaving home unannounced in order to live on his own and start a new life running the La Solei bakery. However, when he finishes moving in, he realizes that two of his family’s six cat girls stowed away while he left because they didn’t want to leave him. He initially plans to send them back home, but later decides to let them stay if they help him work at the bakery instead of lazing around like real cats do. Naturally, they agree because they are very loyal and loving girls.
It should be noted that, while the main storyline doesn’t have an overly exciting premise, our characters are all still enjoyable and fairly well written. Chocola is the overactive and very affectionate type, while Vanilla is the quiet and calm yet still silly type. One subtle observation that any cat owner may have is that the personalities of these two girls seem to match those of a lot of actual cats. I myself am a cat owner and can attest to them being similar to Chocola and Vanilla. I have to give credit to them implementing this in a subtle fashion that allows you to enjoy Chocola and Vanilla as legit human characters while still including their feline tendencies.
The game also manages to handle our emotional character driven moments very well when focusing on our main protagonist. A recurring theme is him trying to handle everything on his own and constantly pushing himself further and further to the edge. During these moments, it always becomes very heartwarming when the cat girls and his sister both do everything in their power to help them. The only complaint I have is that it feels like a lot of climactic events occur off screen and are brushed aside. For example, there is a bit of build up to where Chocola and Vanilla take a test that shows they are capable of controlling some of their instincts and are able to be out on the street unsupervised. Despite it being a major plot event, the test itself is never actually shown.
Lastly, it is time to go into further detail about the part most people will be here for; the sex scenes. Specifically, there are three of them in this game, all three of which are in the latter half of the game. However, you do have a topless shower scene with the girls early on if you are looking for any indication of whether the 18+ patch worked if you decide to go that route. Otherwise, said scene will just have more steam in the all ages version and the sex scenes will be removed entirely.
In terms of how they fit into the plot, they manage to fit in well enough that they don’t feel shoehorned in, and it does lend well to their character’s. The game does a good job at treating sex in a fairly tasteful and legitimately romantic fashion. This is emphasized even further with the beautiful song “aibyou” playing during these sequences. The scenes themselves also manage to be successfully arousing, despite the sound effect mentioned earlier, and they manage to do so without resorting to any niche fetish material (aside from if you look a bit too deeply into the whole cat girl thing). However, given that it is a Japanese game and therefore goes by Japanese censorship laws, all genitalia images are censored.
Conclusion (Neko Paradise)
As an eroge, Nekopara serves as a very highly recommended introductory game for those who are have been interested. It is straightforward and erotic without being overly fetishy or disgusting. There is also not a significantly large amount of emphasis on the sex scenes so it can be enjoyable as a laid back romantic story. The game should take you anywhere from six to ten hours depending on how quickly you read so you will be getting a good amount of content out of this game. Overall, Nekopara Vol.1 is a highly recommended game for all cat girl connoisseurs.
This review was originally posted to GameFAQs July 20th of 2015, and has been re-edited with enhanced presentation.
Nekopara Vol. 1 can be purchased from Steam (here) or from Denpasoft (here). If you choose to purchase the Steam version, a patch to restore the 18+ content is also available for purchase on Denpasoft (here).
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