Sekai Project’s NEKO-NIN exHeart follows in the footsteps of the NEKOPARA series, bringing the extremely popular catgirl element into the Japanese visual novel. Despite not being overwhelmingly impressive as a whole, it does a great job at feeding the target audience, and provides the fans with exactly what they would expect from it – adorable and excessively loyal catgirls.
The game is set from the point of view of the protagonist Haruki, who is tracked down by the catgirls Yura and Tama. The characters are relatively bland, with Haruki fitting into the frame of the typical incredibly average male protagonist that is designed to be easy for the player apply their own personalities into. Yura and Tama’s personalities are also designed for the game’s purposes and for a specific audience, as they don’t display much outside of an incredible amount of love, affection and loyalty to the protagonist. The plot doesn’t include much outside of the development of the relationship between the protagonist and the catgirls, and can seem absurd if you aren’t invested in the fantasy that is presented, as the catgirls seem to be immediately in love with a boy that initially tries to keep them away. The story also heavily teases the 18+ patch that isn’t available in the Steam version of the game by strongly implying the sexual nature of parts of the game that are left out. As a result, a lot of the scenes do seem to end prematurely or abruptly, though it’s fairly obvious what parts of the game have been cut out. The patch costs $5 and is available for purchase on denpasoft’s website.
The impressive constant with Japanese visual novels is the art that comes with it, which the artist has obviously spent a lot of time on. The game also combines a more generally recognisable anime art style with hilarious and adorable chibi cutscenes. The animation of these characters isn’t as impressive as a game like NEKOPARA, which makes their characters seem more alive as the sprites as animated to move, but the game at least does make the cat ears twitch a little and animates expressions for the characters at least. The background designs, however, are boring and generic, though this may be to draw all your attention to the catgirls instead.
The voice acting is also well done in the game, and though I can’t confirm whether it is really that good or not, as I don’t speak Japanese, it sounds good an English speaker and seems to be well done in terms of emphasising emotions to the player. Combined with the nice background music, the game does exude a relaxing atmosphere. The attention to detail in the aesthetic parts of the game isn’t something that is unique to this visual novel, but there still is no reason to criticise how it has been executed, other than perhaps the UI, which can seem a little ugly at times.
Though you would expect that something as simplistic in design as a visual novel would have performance issues, the game does tend to get bad frame lag for seemingly no reason at times. Other than that, gameplay-wise, the game is about what you would expect from a visual novel, which is mostly just clicking and reading, occasionally with a few options. There is also an autoplay mode in this game, which allows the player to just essentially watch the game as a movie with the text scrolling through at the bottom. One other problem that can be found is the fact that the game is set to a 1280×720 window, and trying to play the game in full screen really hurts the quality of it.
At the end of the day, the only real thing to say about this game is that it has a very specific target audience, and if you know that you are part of that, of course you will enjoy this game. However, outside of that, this game fails to be something that can be enjoyed outside of that, as the both the story and characters are fairly underwhelming. If you have also never picked up a visual novel before, the same thing applies, where you will still enjoy this if you are part of the target audience, but if you are not, you will be generally underwhelmed by this game, but do take note that this is not representative of all visual novels. However, I still can’t criticise it too much for not achieving things that it doesn’t attempt to achieve, as it does for the most part do what it intends to, which is provide the player with a cute, fun, lighthearted experience with adorable catgirls.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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