La Soleil e youkoso!
"Do you know about cats? They have fluffy cute ears, express their feelings with their tail, and walk like humans on two legs. If you like this type of cat, then come visit us at La Soleil!"
Brazenly translate-quoting the beginning of the anime created for the very same franchise, this is how you could describe NekoPara as a whole best. Having come a long way from a small doujin project, well-known and loved artist and creator Sayori turned NekoPara into one of the biggest and best Adult Visual Novel franchises around. Boasting 6 individual games on several platforms, a successfully crowdfunded anime OVA featuring the first and bonus volume in fully animated glory, and an entire 12 episode anime series, as well as a seventh final farewell game currently in the making and a mobile game which - sadly - to this very day is still nothing but an undying myth people like me are waiting for.
It's a Neko Paradise!
The world of NekoPara is the perfect dreamworld for any cat lover. Or rather, catgirl lover. Instead of four-pawed feline fellas, this world is inhabited by what could only be considered the perfect crossover between anime Waifu and cat. Cute, humanoid girls with the added bonus of fluffy ears, a fluffy tail, and very cat-esque personality traits and behaviour tropes. On top of that, catgirls follow the growth rate of a normal cat, growing from a silly little kitten to a full grown adult within a year. And the very best and utopian thing about all this, resembling demi-humans, catgirls have been fully accepted as part of society. A simple licensing test is all it takes for catgirls to get the same, non-pet-like freedom as a human. Following this, it is a common occurance for cagirls to neither be seen nor treated as a pet, but as a family member. If you keep them as your adoptive child, a sibling-in-heart, a household helper or worker, or even as a "catpanion" - no one judges as it is perfectly normal.
The only downside to this perfect utopia? The very scary and never officially answered question of if the catgirls' feline growth rate comes paired with a feline's limited lifespan.
Within this paradise lives Kashou Minaduki, protagonist of the NekoPara franchise. The Minaduki household does not hold only one or two, but a total of six catgirls to their name - Kashou and especially his little sister Shigure just have a sweetspot for catgirls and couldn't leave an abandoned stray to their fate even when their own life depended on it. And so, over time, adopting Azuki, Maple, Cinnamon, Coconut and finally Chocola and Vanilla, the Minaduki household became the big, loving, and cat-centered family they are today.
Until they day Kashou moves out of the house in order to pursue his own dream and start his new life as a patissier.
What's in the box?
All the goods and then some more!
The NekoPara games deliver in terms of quality what you will otherwise scarcely see anywhere else. In fact, the only notable flaw those games have is that all their stunning beauty is limited to 720p source assets until the newest game, Vol.4. The artstyle in general is very detailed and high quality and - altough that is my personal taste - not really rivaled by any other VN I know.
But the artworks aren't even the biggest thing - animation is. Some VNs out there have blinking eyes on the character sprites, or might even feature moving mouths during voiceline playback. NekoPara goes one step beyond, and is fully animated. Fully meaning everything but the CGs, which are still but nonetheless beautiful images. The rest is - instead of character sprites NekoPara utilizes Emote 2D animated character models. During later games you even get the ability to interact with them, but more on that later in detail. And if having the most lively atmosphere a VN could possibly have isn't enough, I know what else you are probably here for - and yes, the H-scenes too are (GIF-loop) animated.
In terms of technical quality and features, every NekoPara game is mostly consistent with later games fixing minor detail bugs of the prior ones - but overall we get a solid higher mid-tier usage of the well known and versatile KiriKiri engine. Silky smooth performance with finetuning in the hidden advanced settings menu, enough save-slots to last you several playthroughs over, averagely comfortable customization options (including a slider for the breast bounciness of the character models) and normal auto, skip mode and backlog jumping options. Everything you need to turn your brain off and enjoy the "DIY diabetes kit" to it's fullest.
The music is great for an average background soundtrack and mostly stays the same throughout all games, plus minus changing opening and ending songs as well as a few additions in later games. The translation too is solid and increasing in quality in later releases.
In the following, separated per game, you can find details on the differences, contents and benefits of each individual game compared to this established average and the prior games. The order listed is the chronological order according to the ingame story, not the order of release or recommended playing order.
A purrfect roundup!
Usually, this would be where the question "Is NekoPara worth it?" would be put. Though obviously, this time around this question is not gonna cut it. After all, we are not talking about the NekoPara game but rather the franchise as a whole, consisting of several games. Of course, in general the answer is "Why yes, yes indeed." NekoPara hasn't become one of the greatest franchises in history for no reason. No matter if you are new to Visual Novels or a veteran expanding their horizon, a fan of cats, or just craving some mind numbing cuteness without a worry in the world - giving those games a try is something to seriously consider.
In detail though, not every game is equally worthy and - as is common with kinetic novels - they are quite expensive. The best option that I can sanely recommend to everyone that has not yet gone over the far end like me, is getting the entire bundle in the next sale. Or if you want to hand-pick your purchases, skipping on Vol.0 and saving the Extra for later, as a backup for when the main games aren't enough anymore, is the best suggestion I can give.
For me, NekoPara has proven to be the perfect cure for a bad mood no matter the circumstances. It's cute, it's lovely and it is mostly carefree and silly. Sure, anyone looking for a compelling and captivating storyline will search in vain - though opposite to other VNs barely trying and failing hard with that, NekoPara doesn't even promise you anything like that. Yet at the same time, for everyone that wants to look beyond the fluff and the cuteness, NekoPara too does actually touch on some rather deep and dark topics that you can ponder about.
Finally, if games are not for you - as mentioned at the beginning, the NekoPara franchise by now includes an anime OVA retelling the (all-ages version of course) story of Vol.1 and the Extra, and more or less building up on that a 12 episode anime telling it's own events while roughly going over Vol.2 and Vol.3 in the process. If you are willing to accept the one greatest sin in the anime world - the anime changed every relevant voice actress - that is a great alternative too.
All used assets for the 2D models are owned by NEKO WORKs
The Emote engine is owned by M2 Co., Ltd.
The Emote Web API is based on works of Project AZUSA and FreeMote by Ulysses
All modifications to either have been done by myself