This August, NekoNeko Soft did the unthinkable: A game about girls with cat ears! Who would have imagined this? Coming from a company named literally as “CatCat Soft”, it was so obvious that, probably, no one did! I even wonder how this took them so long! It seems like they were so ashamed that they created a sister brand just to make this game: Koneko Soft, which means “kitty”…Made a huge difference right there, guys! Ok! This should be enough to give a basic idea about what awaits in this game…
Inagaki Kazuo is a perverted gentleman who loves cute things and breasts of all sizes! He moves to another city to work during a month as cook at the cat café Mashigura. Little did he know that the “cats” in that café actually refers to the numerous cute and sexy waitresses who have real cat tails and ears! Apparently, it’s really normal for girls of this city (and only girls) to have those cat parts during childhood, but those usually fall off when they become teenagers. But, why does this happen? What is the reason behind such a weird phenomenon? Ha! There’s a good reason for this! You see, it’s because of……And that would explain everything! Now that we have this setting making sense, the next important thing to know is that the female uniform used in this café is the shirt of a school uniform and a buruma. Why does the owner, a mature lady, decided upon such lewd get-up? There’s also a good reason for this, and it’s for the sake of……And that summarizes it! Now, you should know that nearly all heroines have a common problem: It’s taking too long for their tails and ears to come off, and that’s why they are working on the Mashigura café, as it turns out, rumors have that those who work there will always lose their “cat properties”. “But, why?” you ask? In this case, I’ll have you know that…Just kidding! There’s actually a proper reason this time! But I will leave that for later…
Kido Isumi has a pride for being known as the “big sister” among her co-workers, thus, she works hard to keep a mature and reliable figure in front of her colleges. However, the truth is that she is a “scared cat” (get it?) who has a passion for cute things, making her a good match for Kazuo. To protect her position, she avoids asking for the help of others, which gives her lots of trouble.Miyamura Chiaki is the (self-proclaimed) poster girl of the café. She is, in fact, an acquaintance of Kazuo from his younger days. Back then, she was bullied for her “cat traits”, until the young Kazuo protected her, but she only developed feelings for him when he became the first person to praise her “cat equipments” as being cute, being the reason why she is so confident about her cuteness, specially when it comes to her cat ears. It’s too bad Kazuo doesn’t remember anything about her…
Momokawa N. Honoka is Kazuo’s half breed childhood friend. Much like most childhood friends, Honoka is all head-over-heels for the protagonist, and she is always declaring her love for him. Unfortunately, Kazuo never takes her seriously, mostly because of Honoka’s childishly behavior. She follows her beloved to his new part-time job and joins the staff as a waitress. Since she is not a local, she has to make her own tails and ears by using one of her many skills.
Kohinata Yuuna is the young daughter of the café’s owner and Mashigura’s mascot. She loves her family business and sees the staff as her own family. Therefore, when Kazuo starts to work with her, she asks for him to become her “big-brother” (which he obviously complies to).
Kaha Hirako is the one in charge for the ingredients used in the café, she also is Isumi’s best friend and has the biggest cup in the game! She falls in love with the new cook working in the café, but since this happened when she was without her glasses on, she didn’t notice this cook’s real identity was Kazuo. And since she was in her casual clothes, Kazuo didn’t notice the girl he felt was way out of his league was, in fact, Hirako, with who he casually talks to, everyday…
Naruse Koharu is an innocent (kind-of-a-dumb) girl who comes to visit the city during the vacation. After eating at the café, she loses her wallet but Kazuo pays the bill for her and she decides to compensate him by treating him to something while taking the chance to conquer her fear of men. When the day of their date comes, Koharu mysteriously develops cat tails and ears, consequently, she also becomes much more energetic and ceases to be shy around men.
Themes and Routes
Remember when I wrote there was a reason for how the waitresses end up losing their “neko-powers” when they work at the café? Here is the pay-off to that: This game’s main theme (aside from cat-girls) is “adulthood”. As it turns out, all main heroines suffers from some kind of immaturity, but thanks to their interactions with their fellow part-timers, they are able to overcome their problems and get one step closer to become adults. It’s only after this that they will finally lose their tail and ears.It’s a good thing that the writers don’t think sex = maturity, so the heroines can only graduate from their cat features when they have a real change to their personalities. I like how the routes are developed. Isumi has to learn how to rely on others, which she thought would be the opposite of a mature demeanor.On the other hand, Yuuna was to give up on the things she is attached to in order to become an adult, but she finds another method to prove her maturity by fighting for the things she loves until the end. I like how there are cases were they go against the pre-determined route when there’s another possible resolution to it!In the end, the tail and ears work as a metaphor to the heroines childhood, to the point where even Honoka – who doesn’t even have real cat-parts – gives her fake ears to Kazuo as a present when her conflicts gets solved in the end of her route…IT’S SYMBOLIC!!But again, it’s not like the story is particularly well-written, additionally, the route developments are the same things that were already done over a million times in other Eroges. It would be up to the characters to make this game become something more, but since all their personalities are just the usual paper-thin Eroge stereotypes, what we end up getting is a mere “charage”.Curiously enough, the routes that go out of the ordinary the most are the short scenarios given for the sub-heroines. I suppose the short length of those stories made it easier for the writers to come up with something different that they wouldn’t need to extend for several hours…To choose a route, all you need to do is to click in one of the buttons in the map screen. Each icon represents a heroine, so choosing the same icon color several times will get you into one of the heroines route. It’s something even a 1st grader would understand at first glance, even though no one at that age should be playing this game. Nevertheless, I find amusing how the developers considered absolutely necessary to give a detailed tutorial on how the map works. They must think we are all idiots!NekoNeko Soft previous game was totally centered around one single joke, but it was a really good joke and it made a very necessary parody with one of the most overused clichés in the Galge world, which made comedy be one of the strongest points in that game.In the opposite side, this game’s comedy can’t even be classified as jokes, since it’s just a bunch of cute and sexy situations that are typical to Galges and are here only to make the player go “aaaawww” or “ooooooh”.This game also establishes the “NekoNeko-verse” which means that many different games from this brand are officially confirmed to exist within the same universe.In the extra scenario, Honoka shows that she studied in the same school from Kiraoto, and not only Hatsushiba Ai from Sorairo makes an appearance, but she also reveals that the uniform used in the café is the sailor fukku used in her school. Well, this would be interesting if those games had more complex stories…
Niwa Kaori Yuwan, Kanora Ikuna Tamon and Asanoha are responsible for most graphics while the properly named Hikaniyan is in charge of the SDs.Different from recent cases of titles with many different artists, you can easily notice a huge difference in style. To be honest, the art is a mess and things like quality, styles, proportions and colors get all over the place.The character designs are nothing out of the ordinary, all the heroines have normal levels of cuteness, but don’t look unique in any way. To make them more appealling, the artists bet high in the Ero, just take a look at some promotional art-work for the heroines, it already looks like they are in the middle of a H-scene!I really don’t appreciate NekoNeko Soft direction for how the tachi-es must be done! They usually use a single body position for each heroine and just change the arms and facial expressions. The result looks really cheap!Just like Kiraoto had some basic animations for some characters, the main heroines get a really simple animation for their “neko mimi”. It’s not particularly well-animated or meaningful, but it’s ok, because it’s cute!
The cast is almost an all-stars party from the Eroge world, counting with some pretty famous seiyuus like Fujimori Yukina (Honoka) and Toono Soyogi (Chiaki). When it’s about doing cute and sexy voices while representing popular fetishes, these women really know what they are doing. However, when you listen to their acting during any serious event, you get why they never made big past the realm of Ero-games. And when there’s huge tear-jerk moment everything falls apart. It’s a good thing that those events don’t take too long.
Kyoko Ide, ebi from SOUND UNION, oku from project light, SOUTEN, SENTIVE and many other composers joined their forces to create a soundtrack that goes from “forgettably average” to “remarkably embarrassing”. Most of the BGMs are the average ones, while all vocal songs are just terrible! With lyrics like: “I want you, Nyantsu no Sora”. It really makes you look back to think: Wow! I spent hours playing a game with a song titled: “Nyan-te Koi no Uta”.
A “charage” has focus on the daily life of a specific character, rather than a convoluted plot involving a huge cast of complex characters. It’s also a covenient definition used to forgive the flaws of games with poor characters and story, because people want to play something simple to relax. And, if a charage is what you’re looking for, Neko Mashigura is a really good one! But since it’s a guilty pleasure, play it at your own risk!