Okay dumb jokes aside, this review will cover the clean Steam version of the game. R18 will get its own “review”. Nonetheless let’s begin with Vol.1, where the story actually begins. Focusing on the main character Kashou Minaduki, as he moves away from home to start his own bakery. But upon finishing his unpacking, he discovers to his detriment two of his Nekos (genetically engineered cats to look like humans but still with catears and cattails) snuck themselves into his moving boxes. What follows is a story of pet owner and his cats, as they help him run a bakery. Weird stuff.
It wouldn’t be apt to not compare it to Vol.0 and for the most part, this is a game that shows its “age”. But even then, this game struggles to feel contrived or lacking in any departments. From the clean and incredible attention to detail, from the legibility of the text and its method of making scenes stand out when they need to. An example being a slight blur of the background when characters are speaking and the differences in levels of details to help things pop more. And it’s something like this, that helps Nekopara stand out of the crowd. When compared to some other visual novels, this has many elements that make the game feel more open for the general consumer/gamer.
The writing doesn’t try too hard to overemphasise a moment, or create an artificial scene for amateur dramatics. As a piece of game’s writing, this would be more suited towards being a character drama Anime with the script in itself having the potential to be a short live action aimed at a young teen audience. The main three characters Kashou, Chocola, and Vanilla (they’re “cats” so names get a pass for now, main protagonist is slightly dubious though) all have genuine human elements. Most VNs struggle to replicate this, aiming for some higher piece that they ultimately struggle to ascertain. Whilst criticisms of the characterisation of the Neko’s can be levied, in particular at the flow and the pace of the characters; it would strip away what innocence this story has.
Of course the classic teenage male protagonist of an Anime is present, with some of the writing acknowledging this in some parts. This is a slice of life styled Visual Novel that maintains a steady pace that just makes time fly by. From the subtle hints and music motifs, to the general pacing and character archetypes that help soften some of the moments to be more natural and organic. Whilst there are some moments lost, with some slightly obtrusive time skips that make a weekend seem longer than it should have been. It’s still a story that says ignore the little things and just enjoy the ride.
As noted in the prequels’ review, the timing of the autoplay helped make the overall pacing flow much better. With the autoplay functioning as expected, playing when a voice actor finishes their line and not when the sentence does. This continues the expectation of “why isn’t this an Anime already?”, being an absurdly well animated Visual/Kinetic Novel but slightly lacklustre animated Anime. But then this does show it’s “age” in the sense of the animations not being on par with Vol.0. Whilst not noticeable to point of degrading what Vol.1 has, it still bears mentioning with slight character motifs not being present.
But when compared to Vol.0, this is where you should begin the story/adventure. Welcoming and showing who and what each character does and how they act. This is a heartwarming story that doesn’t reach for the stars, and instead bakes you an apple pie like your classic grandma. Warm and filling, but somehow makes you cry or feel emotional. Even though this is a dumb game featuring humans with cat like qualities.
NEKOPARA Vol. 1 (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Leave me be, I’m only crying because of how much this is dumb fun. Being as well polished as it is, with its writing and content quality. This is Visual/Kinetic Novel that tops Steins;Gate from being the Gold Standard of features.