NEKOPARA (short for Neko Paradise) is set in a world much like our own, but with nekomimi coexisting with humans in everyday life. The novel focuses on Kashou Minaduki’s effort to move away from his family and make a name for himself by running Patisserie La Soleil, his own bakery. It’s not too long though, before star nekomimi duo Chocola and Vanilla (voiced by ヒマリ and 中村あむ, respectively) appear from inside shipping boxes and insist on being live-in assistants, supporting their chosen master and keeping him company.
At its outset, Nekopara started as a doujin written by Sayori for Comic Market 84. Although Sayori had produced earlier doujins with prototype Chocola and Vanilla designs, this time the doujin was renamed Nekopara to be consistent with the kinetic novel in production. Now the all-ages version is available on Steam starting Dec. 29 for $10 USD, along with the R-18 version being sold on Neko Works’ website.
Master really has his hands full.
After the download – currently 1.6 GBs – the visuals present themselves in all their glory. The user interface is intricately detailed and polished, the backgrounds are sharp and attractive, but by far the character sprites and designs are the main selling points. NEKOPARA dispenses with the usual static sprite and instead fluidly animates each minute movement from head bobs, blinking eyes, and so forth (named the E-mote engine) and is further supported by additional emoticons where appropriate. All characters are unique from their varied hair colors and outfits (even the maid uniforms have different color accents), so there is zero chance of mistaking one for another. Of course, there’s also the notorious “Chest Bounciness” slider, which ranges from minimal jiggle physics to copious bouncing at the slightest movement.
Kokoro pyon pyon…?
Not far behind is NEKOPARA’s background soundtrack of fifteen songs, which set each mood admirably well. Most of the soundtrack is light instrumental music, which complements rather than detracts from gameplay. Alongside is full voice acting from everyone except the main protagonist. Volume sliders exist for each character, allowing one to reduce characters’ voices at will.
NEKOPARA functions as a kinetic novel similar to planetarian, requiring no decisions from the player. The autoplay functionality comes in handy for allowing the player to listen to each voice clip akin to watching (heavily subtitled) anime. Eighty save slots are provided, along with the ability to leave a comment on each save. One minor flaw is the lack of a chapter select screen. In the Extras section, the standard CG and music galleries are available along with video playback of the OP and ED sequences.
Purr-fect for getting some language practice in.
Reading time for this volume is approximately five to seven hours. Aside from being readable in English and Japanese, there is also Chinese text provided, and if desired, one can even have two languages display in tandem. The translation (at least in English) seems quality enough except for a few awkward instances. Neko Works has made efforts to smooth these over from the demo, although the example shown could still be improved upon.
Overall NEKOPARA earns a solid recommendation as the visuals are top-notch and the character designs are definitely overdosing on cute, and if you’re a devout nekomimi fan, all the better! It’s substantial enough for a good playthrough and pulls on the heartstrings more than a few times.
In short… NEKOPARA is nyamazing~