"Nekopara, Volume One" is a visual novel available for the PC. This story has you taking the role of a guy named Kashou and he has just moved into his own apartment and getting ready to open up his own café named "Patisserie La Soleil". While at the shop he gets some packages in the mail and he notices something odd about them as the boxes start making noises. Behold, in the boxes are Kashou's pets named "Chocola" and "Vanilla". Chocola and Vanilla aren't your typical house pets as they are two very beautiful Catgirls (half cat, half human) and all they want to do is help out Kashou run his shop. Kashou refuses at first but Chocola and Vanilla manage to change his mind after convincing him that they can help run his café without any problems. Kashou trains them in the fine art of servicing customers and soon after they are ready to go do their job. Will Kashou run a successful café? How will life be for Kashou while living with two Catgirls that look like supermodels? It's two (cat)girls, a guy, and a café in Nekopara Volume One. (Click "Read More" to read the full review).
Story in this game starts off slow and is also mixed in terms of writing quality as some scenes were very interesting while other scenes during the opening act were very dull. The story does pick up and becomes much more interesting thanks to the drama, comedy, and romance becoming stronger. While the story does pick up I'd say that the story becomes decent at best as it's a very simplistic story that doesn't go very deep. Romance in this visual novel was handled well most of the time as it did progress naturally and realistically although due to the way this game was censored (I'll get into that in greater detail later on in the review) it made some scenes feel sleazy.
The reason why I felt that some of the earlier scenes dragged on was due to the main character you are playing doesn't have much of a personality when he is on his own as his character can be summed up as: "A rich young adult that owns his own café". The main character does become more interesting when the Catgirls come along as the chemistry between him and the Catgirls worked together well although not for every scene. One thing I really liked about the story was when they were talking about the Catgirl race themselves as I found the trivia and history to be pretty interesting although a bit predictable but still, giving me ideas to use in my future "Dungeons & Dragons (1974 - Ongoing)" campaigns.
The minor characters in this game were alright and did add more flavor to the story but don't expect them to get much screen time (they are minor characters after all). One thing about the characters is that some of them can say some pretty creepy and questionable things. While "questionable" it won't creep you out but just make you cringe instead as those creepy things just sound cheesy and thank goodness there wasn't much of that weird dialogue. I do want to say why some of the dialogue is questionable but sadly it'll spoil the game and so I won't say it.
Length wise you won't find this visual novel being a long read as it only takes four hours to get through so you can get through this in one to two sittings. This visual novel is also a very easy one to read as well due to the simple story and writing. While this is a basic visual novel I wouldn't recommend this one for people who are looking to get into this genre as the story isn't strong enough to give you a good first impression of this genre. Seasoned visual novel fans would enjoy this one more and makes for a nice breather for after you have read a nice long visual novel.
Since this is the first episode of a series you can expect this visual novel to end with a cliffhanger that teases the next episode. The cliffhanger that happens in this episode does make me question the direction that this series is going as it seems to be going in a very "stereotypical" and "cliche" direction and that's all I'll say about that as I don't want to give it away. Even though I am questioning the direction as I am also looking forward to the next volume and hoping that it proves me wrong.
I am mixed on the artwork in this game as sometimes it can look very good, sometimes it can look awkward, and sometimes it can look downright creepy. The good part of the artwork should be easy to picture (no pun intended) as the backgrounds and characters have a nice strong look to them that's very enjoyable to look at. What makes some artwork awkward looking is due to how most of the time the characters are designed using traditional 2D animation mixed in with 3D computer generated models. The characters have a 2D head and shoulders while their chests/boobs are made up from 3D models and sometimes it does work but what makes it look awkward is due to the animation.
Animation in this visual novel just looks weird as it makes that characters look like puppets made from paper much like a Halloween decoration (like those paper skeletons you can find for 39c at any supermarket). The mouth movement in this game also looks like it was tacked on as it looks like someone controlling a sock puppet. There is voice acting in this game but it is Japanese voice acting only (not that there's anything wrong with that). The voices did match up with the characters although the acting in this visual novel started off very rough but it did get much better and polished after the first chapter.
Seeing as this is the Steam version of the game as you'll find that there has been content cut to make this release appropriate for Steam. I typically don't mind these kinds of games being censored on Steam as long as there is a way for the adults to play the full uncut version. If you go into the forums for this game on Steam you'll see an official patch that will let you play the uncut edition. Another reason why I don't mind visuals novels being released censored on Steam is due to it being that version can reach a broader audience. This is especially good if the censored scenes don't ruin the game at all but sadly this is a game where the censored version isn't the way to go for this one.
The censored scenes are very odd and awkward to watch due to how it was edited and some important stuff happens during the "Love Making" scenes that got cut out completely in this version. The cut content did make some parts of the story hard to follow as it left some big holes in the plot. Another reason why censorship didn't work for this game was that this isn't a visual novel that would reach an all-ages audience anyway and thus makes the censorship pointless.
There's a weird moment with the aspect ratio when videos play as the video bugs out and doesn't play in full screen but rather it moves completely to the left side of the screen with an ugly black vertical bar on the far right of the screen. The quality of the videos are very clean so they are watchable but the vertical black bar is very distracting and needs to be fixed. The video did eventually play normally for me in "full-screen" mode but "windowed" mode is where you'll have the weird bug.
Overall I did enjoy this visual novel and looking forward to seeing the next part of this series. This visual novel also isn't for everybody and (to repeat myself) isn't a good place to start if you are looking forward into getting into visual novels. I do recommend this one to the rest of the visual novel readers though but even then it's still a bit of a hard sell as this still isn't everybody's cup of tea and I'm only recommending it due to that I enjoyed it. Good but not for everyone.
Game: Nekopara Vol.1
Developer: NEKO WORKs
Publisher: Sekai Project
Genre: Visual Novel, Drama, Comedy, Romance
Price: $9.99 (Steam)