NekoMiko was finally released on steam, but not without some controversy involving Valve guidelines, delaying its release date in a couple of weeks. Qureate eventually made some changes and the game reached the store, with a huge success, remaining a Very Positive game, with pleasant reviews. Developed in cooperation between Qureate and iMel Inc, NekoMiko it’s their first game, but could the initial troubles mean they will keep supporting Steam? Although we can’t surely answer such questions, we can appreciate this very first release from the Japanese studio.
Players take the role of a young man, whose luck has long run out. He tries though, but life just seems to ignore him. Job interviews come out to be loose ends, and after being fired from the last job, his girlfriend broke up with him. With no perspectives whatsoever for his future, our young and hopeless protagonist stumbles upon a shrine, NekoMiko Shrine to be precise. Hidden between the city buildings, the entrance to the shrine barely stands out, but once through it, an old and abandoned wood temple stands, surrounded by all the concrete of the buildings nearby, almost like a lost oasis from other times.
The shrine shows marks of age, but it’s still a religious spot, and our protagonist decides to pray, dropping a coin and completing the ritual by clapping his hands twice. Upon doing so, two mysterious figures appear. It’s the shrine maidens, Ayame and Kaede. Their sudden appearance is no doubt a surprise, but there’s something even more interesting about them, they appear to have… real cat ears… and a tail!
This super duo of cute catgirls are truly the maidens of Shrine NekoMiko, and their job is to push away the bad luck, and bring good fortune upon those who visit the shrine. For our protagonist, this couldn’t be any better, but considering his excessive bad luck, the poor maidens will have to be with him to further push all the negativity away, and so the two girls propose to move in with him. What awaits him, is a complete life changing routine, as these two adorable and amazing cuties will bring luck, but also, a few unpredictable moments, that’ll certainly amuse players!
NekoMiko is a lovely Visual Novel, where players can choose their name, to further connect with the character. A well balanced mix between romance and friendship, with a fragrance of innocence attached to it, where feelings flourish. Both Ayame and Kaede are possible dates, depending on one’s choices throughout the game. There aren’t many decisions, but each one is crucial to reach the desired end. A special Harem ending is included so for those looking, there’s always the possibility to get that purring combo.
The narrative is interesting, with well written elements, but be warned that I personally spotted a few minor misspellings, and errors such as the lack of a space between two words and the wrong use of verb tenses in a couple of sentences. Those were the ones I came across, and it didn’t influence the flow of the dialogues. I’m only mentioning it, since there are some very elitist fans out there, and I wanted to get that out of the way.
The game was translated by a professional team, and it shows an improvement from other games that use simple translation machines. NekoMiko is entirely understandable and perfectly well readable, with a lot of original expressions and content retained from the original Japanese language. The story is somehow short, with around 4 to 5 hours long to finish one route, but it’s pleasant and entertaining.
Both Ayame and Kaede have distinct personalities, thus providing very defined routes and events when dating. Clumsy Ayame is more innocent but at the same time, up-spirited and easily distracted. Kaede however, is more self aware and intuitive. Each route will take players into different type of activities, but mostly, it’s all scripted events to further solidify a friendship, one that becomes somehow of a burden to our hero, after all, how much cuteness can a single man handle?!
Visually, NekoMiko is a surprise to the eyes, with beautiful dynamic, high quality renders for both girls, in a traditional anime artwork approach. Their reactions are automatic with the emotion expressed in the narrative, in a handful of poses and gestures. These follow their personality, maintaining appropriate body language. Special scenes are delivered in classic images, with dedicated artwork and those are exceptionally well designed, worth of any Triple-A title out there. The whole game has a very nice colour palette, from the menus to the dialogue box, delivering a smooth and charming gameplay.
Renders upscale perfectly well to high resolutions such as 1440p and even 4K. those playing under, will have even a better experience. Renders move in a 2D effect, giving away the illusion of 3D, but surely delivering fan service with bouncing gravity. Thanks to the engine, Unity, there are plenty of visual enhancements to enjoy. One of which is the lip-sync. Curiously, character lip-sync isn’t random as in many games, it’s carefully simulating their voices, which is a nice detail. It’s not 100% accurate, but there’s some attention being put, which we can appreciate.
Backgrounds have close ups or directional camera focused moments, to improve current events within the scenarios. These are very well made, with high attention to details, and suit well within the desired anime-themed. Backgrounds are more than enough to make you feel emerged, avoiding repetitive locations.
There is an Uncensored Adult Patch on Qureate's Official Website. The extra content unlocks nudity and it’s obviously aimed at the 18+ audience. This patch removes censoring present in the vanilla version of the game, and thus presenting the original uncut endings, with sexual content. The quality of the game remains throughout the adult assets, and one can truly see they were indeed originally intended for the main Steam version.
NekoMiko is a very enjoyable game, with a nice soundtrack to go with. You can turn it off completely to enjoy the Japanese voices, that are simply graded A+ when comes to acting. Voices suit characters really well, and it’s no wonder, the cast is very professional, including Konoe Yuzuko for Ayame and Ayane Mako for Kaede. If music is definitely your thing, you’ll definitely enjoy the smooth neo-classic themes corresponding the actual mood. Light acoustic guitar chords and some slight upbeats will tune up the momentum, but that’s pretty much it. You can definitely feel the idea is to enlighten the voice-acting, and it’s actually justified!
NekoMiko is a cute and adorable Visual Novel, with simple but important choices in astonishing visuals. A fantastic work from Qureate, delivering a charming game, and some extra appreciation for having to deal with Valve’s inconsistency when comes to understanding adult games.