I was browsing through the Steam store during the last holiday sale when I came across a visual novel that was on sale. For $4.99, I bought my first visual novel on Steam… It has catgirls…. and sex… yeah. Let’s talk about it for a bit.
NEKOPARA Vol. 1 is a visual novel video game developed by Neko Works for the PC. The player takes the role of Kashou Minaduki who decides to open his own confection shop away from the family business. While moving into the building, he notices that two of his family’s catgirls had stowed away in some boxes. These catgirls, Chocola and Vanilla, convince Kashou to employ them in his new shop and the story goes on from there. Let’s unpack a few things before moving on to my analysis. First, a visual novel is a video game where the player clicks through the text of the game in order to advance the story. At certain points, the game will give the player a choice in dialogue or actions that will determine the path and ending the player will get after finishing the game. Now, I know what you are thinking…. What’s a catgirl? A catgirl is a female character with a humanoid body that has cat traits such as cat ears and a tail. With some of the basic terms covered, let’s discuss the game itself.
Like most visual novels, the player clicks through the text to advance the story. Unlike most visual novels though, NEKOPARA has no decisions or alternate paths. The story will be the same for all the players with no replayability value within the game. While I understand that the developer wants to tell a tight and focused story which would be hard to do if there were alternate paths, the game ends up suffering from a lack of interactivity and replayability. I can see people arguing that NEKOPARA Vol. 1 is not a game per se but an experience with minimal interaction from the player. Keep this in mind if you want to buy this game. Since we are in the topic of story, let’s focus on the story of the game for a bit. The story is good because it is able to build the fictional world quite well while also able to breathe life into the characters that appear. While this game focuses mostly on Kashou, Chocola and Vanilla, there are other characters that help flesh out this fictional world including other catgirls from the family and Kashou’s sister(Shigure). I was genuinely surprised how in-depth the game went towards the society within the game world with mentions of tests that catgirls need to pass in order to receive bells that give them more independence in the world. The characterization is also pretty good with emphasis on the NPCs of the game and how they act in the world. Chocola is the hyper, ditsy catgirl while Vanilla is the quiet, stoic catgirl. Some of the characters do go a little into the stereotypes but that doesn’t stop from lifting a smile on your face. The dialogue is also charming and worthy of a couple chuckles from yours truly. Normally, I would end the review about now since its a visual novel and there is not a great amount of gameplay but there are two things I would like to talk about before wrapping up.
First, the game actually has animations unlike other visual novels that have static images. Chocola and Vanilla will both react in full animation (with boob jiggle of course) as you click through the story which gives the game a more dynamic feel and makes the characters feel more lifelike. The last point I want to talk about is … well… the sexual content. Over the course of the game, the relationships in game will change and there will be implied sex scenes between Kashou and other characters. Normally, this would be nothing to write home about (at least in the visual novel scene in Japan) but the game does give mixed signals when it comes to sexuality. Kashou sees the catgirls as part of his family yet they still enter a lovers type relationship (called “catpanions” in game) which is pretty weird. Its almost like the writers couldn’t decided on that specific part of the story. That might be my biggest peeve with the story of the game. So what is the final result you might ask? (Disclaimer: I’m reviewing the Steam version which means the sex scenes were taken out hence why I won’t be talking about them and also because I have no idea how to review a sex scene anyways).
My recommendation for this game would to wait for it to go on sale first before buying. While the game has a charming story and great animations, it’s lack of replayability and interactivity might not be for everyone within the visual novel market. Agree? Disagree? WTF Japan? Comment below and let me know.