NEKOPARA Vol.1 La Soleil is now open! Review

Title: Neko Para Vol.1 Soleil Kaiten Shimashita!
Original title: ネコぱら Vol.1 ソレイユ開店しました!
Alias: NEKOPARA Vol.1 La Soleil is now open!
Release date: 2014-12-29 (Steam Edition)
2014-12-30 (Japanese Release)
2015-02-22 (Western Release)
Developer: Neko Works
English publisher: Sekai Project (Steam Edition)
Denpasoft (Physical Edition)

Nekopara is a short catgirl moege, which wouldn't have probably even blipped anyone's radar, if not for a few distinctive characteristics which separates it from the herd.

The greatest innovation was that the game was published in English, Japanese and Chinese simultaneously (and it was the Japanese developer that took the initiative in this endeavour). Not only that, but the game came out first on Steam in its all-agefied unglory. The ever present these days Sekai Project took care of the Steam publication and the physical editions through its Denpasoft brand. The positive (?) output generated by Steam fanboys was over 9000 and helped spreading the information about this game to the far corners of the Internet. Thus a low budget Japanese visual novel suddenly became one of the most talked about releases of this year (well, technically of last year).
Catgirls by FedEX.
I'm not kidding when I say that this is a low budget indie visual novel. Hell, it's not even a proper visual novel, but rather a kinetic one. There are no choices, and while usually I don't consider it a drawback, in this case the shortness of the game, which doesn't even have any branches, is kind of an issue. Of course, this is only the first volume, with the second one supposedly getting a release this year. And ultimately I'm not a big fan of moeges, thus the short length of the game was a partial boon, as the game was over before it managed to completely piss me off.

The plot (what plot) of this game deals with our protagonist Minazuki Kashou (rendered as Minaduki in the official translation) running away from his family in order to open his own bakery. He just wasn't planning for his two loyal catgirls Vanilla and Chocola (I'm getting Count Chocula wibes here) following him to his new place, and they are not gonna take "no" for an answer when it comes to them living with their Master. Yes, I have just casually dropped the word "catgirls" into the game description. In the game world there are artificially created catgirls, who supplanted cats as pets. And of course those catgirls are almost human enough plus ears and tail, but have some cat behavioural quirks in order to enforce humorous scenes for the player benefit. One moment they just might be helping their Master to make a cake, the next moment they might exhaust themselves playing with a cat toy.
The fly survived, Chocola didn't.
Whenever I see "submissive catgirls who love their Master so much" trope in a visual novel, I always remember the old joke:
Dog thinks: my Master takes care of all my needs - he must be a God.
Cat thinks: my Master takes care of all my needs - I must be a God.
Frankly, the very idea that a cat or a catgirl could be submissive is so very ridiculous to me that it almost breaks the suspension of disbelief. In my opinion, Karurawaturei of Utawarerumono presents the most fitting portrayal of how I think a real life catgirl would behave, but I digress. I have promised you to talk about the plot of this VN and I had to collect myself in order to remember what it even was.

So, the plot is that Kashou's sister Shigure (yes, he has one), who isn't even a catgirl (blasphemy), loves her brother so much, but he left her in order to open his darn bakery. Shigure couldn't live without her bro's... love and followed him hoping to get some... homemade cream. Sadly, it's the two aforementioned catgirls Vanilla and Chocola who lick all the cream and Shigure gets none. She is a sad panda, but creates a devious plan to go and work as a waitress in the bakery. Surely eventually her brother will share some cream with her. And so the first volume ends. Lots of major philosophical life altering questions remain unanswered:
Will Kashou's biggus dikkus eventually plunge into the undiscovered sweet cavern of his little sister?
Will Chocola and Vanilla engage in a lesbian threesome with Shigure?
Will Minazuki family's other catgirls try Kashou's special brand cream?
Will the catgirls extend their services to other paying customers?
Will I take this game seriously?
What's with the coat? Are you gonna flash us, Shigure?
Please don't think that I hated the game. No, I actually quite liked it, especially whenever Shigure appeared on screen (Shigure confirmed for the best girl :-)). The two main catgirls were also pretty cute: Chocola's genki attitude and Vanilla's cold aloofness were endearing. It's just the game pretty much has no plot and relies heavily on melting you down with cuteness overload. Not to mention that Nekopara is supposed to be humorous, but occasionally drops some heavy mood dissonance bombs. Like mentioning that catgirls have the same lifespan as cats (15 years max, for those who don't know) or the fact that catgirls are treated on an even worse level than slaves by the society. Sadly, the VN never expands on those topics and goes right back to the silly antics, when there is so much ripe potential for some quality drama.

Oh, well, we can't haz the whole cheezburger. Let's talk technical shit. Graphically the game looks about average. The art is nothing really special and tends to display JJ Abrams Effect on sprites, which doesn't look very professional. The "paper dolls" suffer heavily from what I can only describe as "lens flares", and it makes them look waxy and lifeless. However, Nekopara has a trump card up its sleeve - animation.
When the men are away, catgirls will play.
The game uses E-Mote system, which animates sprites, who move all across the screen, change positions and lip sync spoken words. The system is not perfect - there are weird jarring jumps between animation frames, especially if you advance the text before the current animation is finished. Some animations look exaggerated, and the sex scenes are just a simple loop. On the other hand, the animation really enlivens the game, and any game which has a Boob Bounce slider gets an additional point from me. Just make sure not to break the "P" key. It makes the sprites jump and their boobs go boink boink boink... Where was I?

Oh, right! Nekopara is obviously an eroge and has three sex scenes (which were removed for the Steam release). Nor that I see why anyone would buy this game on Steam - it, like, defeats the very purpose of the purchase. The scenes are moderately hot and are all threesomes, which is the best kind of sex. Some people might be miffed that all non-Steam versions of the game retain the original Japanese mosaics, but I never particularly cared about that myself.
Cats love fish.
The soundtrack of the game is pretty nice (hell, one track actually reminds me of "The Addams Family" tune). All of the characters, except for the lead, are voiced, and the voice acting is pretty competent (Shigure shines again).

All in all, Nekopara is a mediocre game by my standards. It doesn't entice with any great plot, but has some nice characters, rarely seen animations and the devs must be complimented for actually bringing the game to the West.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site
Official Sekai Project site
Official Denpasoft site (all physical editions are OOP at the moment)
Buy the uncensored download edition on DLsite
Buy the censored download edition on Steam

Final Verdict: 61%


  1. You just forget one big reason why this game was hyped and I don't see her name even one time in your review: Sayori from Neko Works. I must hate moege as much as you but I truly respect some of the artworks she drew and I know that she is well-known and appreciated in the West.

    1. Frankly, I'm not really familiar with Sayori. Thus I decided not to mention something I have no knowledge about.