From NEKO WORKs, the studio that brought you the Nekopara series, comes a catboy only spin-off “Nekopara -Catboys Paradise-“. What was originally joked about on one fateful April Fools day in 2019 has become realty on 16th July, 2021, releasing simultaneously worldwide in multiple languages for PC and mobile devices… all for the slim price of $0.00 (basically it was free)
Like many other catboy connoisseurs I dipped my feets in playing this game, so does it live up to the hype?
Platforms: PC (Steam), android + iOS
Voice: Fully voiced Japanese audio only
Supported Languages: Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese
Age Rating: All Ages
Playtime: Short (perhaps 5~10 hours)
Release Date: 16th July, 2021
Developer: NEKO WORKs (Nekopara Series)
Producer: Sayori (illustrator for Nekopara series, owns NEKO WORKs)
Scenario Writer: Yuuki Yoshino (occasional writer for Ensemble Stars events/card stories, assistant/additional scenario writer for Kyoukai no Shirayuki, Nekketsu Inou Bukatsu-tan Trigger Kiss, Snow Bound Land etc.)
Character design & Illustrator: G Yuusuke (Character designer & Illustrator for R18+ VN Dies irae)
Publisher/Localisation: Sekai Project
Nekopara -Catboys Paradise- is set in a world where catboys exist and women have no voice to speak with and can only communicate their thoughts telepathically*. You play as a fresh out of college who becomes a cafe manager after inheriting your late grandfather’s coffee shop. You hire four catboys who are looking for placements in order to graduate from Catboy School (or something like that). Your daily life gets shaken up as each catboy fights for his right to be called your “house cat”.
*This is a joke I’ll explain later on but for real wouldn’t be surprised if that is part of this world’s lore.
You just graduated college and you are now thrusted into becoming a cafe managers as well as living in the same house as your catboy employees.
You seem quite easily flustered around these catboys especially with their strong advances based on their catboy instincts.
You have no mouth and you must scream.
Laurier | CV: Kaito Ishikawa
Laurier is a trouble maker that loves walking over you and having his way. Breed: Khao Manee.
He has excellent customer service but is a complete failure when it comes to cooking food. He dislikes spicy food and seems to have an aversion to sweet foods, but perhaps he has his reasons…?
He loves to sleep a lot, especially in your bed. He has a rivalry with Fennel and is keen to be your only house cat.
Fennel | CV: Wataru Komada
Fennel is a prim and proper perfectionist catboy. Breed: American Burmese.
He has good management skills and is keen to learn all the ropes when it comes to running a cafe to the point that he studies it regularly during his time off.
He is good at cooking but once he smells tuna he loses all composure. Just thinking about it makes him act on his catboy instincts. He has a strange hobby of collecting Haniwa figures (terracotta clay figures used for ritual when burying the dead during the Kofun period).
Sage | CV: Yuichiro Umehara
Sage is a genki oniichan who is a big catboy that forgets he’s a big catboy. Breed: Bengal.
He likes doriyaki, grilled fish and likes to cook too. He would rather wear Japanese styled clothing than Western styled clothing.
He thinks of you as a little sister or a family member but is oblivious to how his actions seem to come across as advances, which makes you flustered around him, but he understands that next time he goes in for a hug he’ll tell you in advance. He is a classic himbo.
Dill | CV: Junya Enoki
Dill is an easy-going, trend setter catboy. Breed: Calico.
He likes buying fashion magazines as well as purchasing all the clothes advertised in its pages. His customer services shines through as he a keen observer of other’s behaviours and needs.
He sometimes second guesses himself and is a hard worker. He hopes that everyone can be your house cats but seems to have a jealousy streak when he sees others get closer to you.
This is where I get into the nitty gritty of things, I’ll try to not write huge spoilers of routes especially when there’s not a lot of content for the game
While it was a short game, it did have it’s cute moments here and there and it managed to highlight all four of the catboys’ charms during that short time. However that’s all the praise I got for the story lol.
It felt like it was lacking in something to truly capture my attention and I have a feeling what that something is… fun and romance.
It’s a kinetic visual novel so that means it doesn’t give you dialogue choices which is okay, some good short visual novels out there are kinetic visual novels like Narcissu. However it feels like not a lot went on with the story during the 5 to 10 or how many hours this visual novel has to offer. Also it doesn’t help that every route after the maybe 1 hour or so common route was about maybe 1 hour and a half worth of content.
The routes always basically ended with this formula: “omg X said we look like a couple haha maybe we are a couple… just kidding…. unless…?” and then it fades to a white background saying “FIN.”
While that’s all fine and dandy, it doesn’t give the player proper closure for the story, in fact when I was playing Sage’s route as my first playthrough and it ends with him hugging the heroine going “Hehe I think we’re going to be best of friends” after obliviously saying he wants to kiss her but also thinks of her as family and then it just faded to white and I was like “WHAT” 😂😂 That was the worst. There is no “explicit” romance just teasing the potential of romance which is NOT what you want to do if you’re giving someone a “self-contained” game because I have a feeling this will be a one off and won’t get sequels (NEKO WORKs prove me wrong challenge 😏).
Also there was not a lot of world building going on, it’s just *hands you catboys* they exist now. I took on the liberty to get to know what the OG Nekopara is like and watched a playthrough on Youtube. From what I’ve seen from snippets of that Nekopara playthrough (i browsed through the video) it seemed to go into heavy in the details of the world of catgirls, showing other NPC catgirls working as assistants in different work environments, how catgirl years and human years are different, and I think at one point they went to a cat shop or something and the catgirls got exhausted from playing with a cat toy or maybe catnip idk I was jumping around all over the place but it was pretty cute and felt like an engaging world.
However with Catboys it felt like they didn’t really play with the opportunity of “what if catboys were real and this was the world they lived in”. It felt like wasted potential for some really cute and creative scenes, though don’t get me wrong there were few but didn’t leave an impact. It really needed to lean in on the catboy concept.
Another thing I found weird about the writing choice is that the heroine doesn’t have written lines… like at all. This is because Sayori, the producer of Catboys and owner of NEKO WORKs, said she wanted it written as if it were a Drama CD so you can put it on auto, close your eyes and enjoy.
Let me be real with you chief… that ain’t fun. I do like silent protagonists as long as you give me dialogue choices (and at least one of those dialogue choices is the “haha outrageous” choice) but not like this. It’s also weird that all the voiced NPCs are all men and even if there was an NPC woman character she didn’t have written or voiced lines either. In Dill’s route there’s a couple on a date and I didn’t realise the NPC man was talking to a woman, so for a short while I thought he was talking to me, the player 😂. That’s where my joke for the story synopsis came from… that all women in Catboy’s Paradise are voiceless and can only communicate telepathically. All the guys just read the heroines mind and say what she’s thinking out loud like a true Drama CD, so that’s my only explanation to the Catboy lore.
My playthrough was Sage -> Dill -> Fennel -> Laurier . I suggest doing Laurier last as his was the best in my opinion.
Sage’s route is for the ones who love big himbos and caring oniichan types who can be a bit oblivious at times. I give his route:
Dill’s route is for the ones who love thoughtful, hardworker types who try their best to cheer you up and for those want a catboy who will give you fashion advice. I give his route:
Fennel’s route is for the ones who love uptight nerds that have a lot of cute gaps contrasting his prim and proper personality. I give his route:
Laurier’s route is for the ones who love overly affectionate catboys who has a hidden cute trait that contrasts his coolly exterior. Basically he’s fit for the title of a Nekopara Catboy equivalent. I give his route:
The art is serviceable and the CGs and colouring really shines through, though the sprites I’ve noticed had a lot of sketchy lines going on and didn’t feel polished. But don’t get me wrong, that kind of sketchy and rough style has it’s charm but it doesn’t seem to be fit for a finished product for a visual novel, the sprites sometimes feel like it was slap-dashed or it’s a placeholder for when the polished sprites are finished.
Then again I may be nit-picking and this is a free game after all so what should I expect.
But then again, Nekopara itself is a huge franchise so mayhaps sparing some more money for the art and presentation wouldn’t hurt. Also I wished the catboys had more noticeable sharp fangs… 🥺😳🙏
Though in terms of the art department there were cute “emotes” that would pop up to express each catboys emotion and your emotion. One of those emotes were the catboy’s ears twitching whenever they get excited over something which was pretty cute.
Also another thing about the sprites is that I think they weren’t properly optimise to be shown “up-close” as they became really blurred like the screenshot above whenever they came up close which makes me believe that they only saved the sprites at a low resolution (maybe at 1080 pixels idk).
Each guy gets 2 CGs each, so 8 CGs in total plus 1 common route CG. Don’t expect any kiss CGs lmao.
It’s a kinetic visual novel so there’s no need to worry about your dialogue choices, getting bad ends or 100%-ing it by clearing every single mundane ending. However it was frustrating to have to finish a route and then I had to go back from the start to get to the route choices at the end of the common route WITHOUT having a skip function. There are no jump-skip or fast-forward buttons.
Also on PC there were only mouse controls, no keyboard controls like space bar to continue dialogue but thankfully you’ve got the trusty AUTO button to click through the game for you… except when it doesn’t work.
There’s this “sparkle effect” as seen above that happens a few times that annuls the auto play unless you use the mouse to click the screen to continue dialogue.
Also shout out to NEKO WORKs for not encrypting their assets properly. If you’re playing on PC, you can go into the game folder and can access all the assets, though they’ve been converted into different file types so you can’t play the voice lines in itunes or anything but all the voice lines, sprites assets are all there. The only few things that haven’t been changed to a different file type are the backgrounds and the event stills/CGs which remained as .jpg files. I was bored during some routes and so I took on the liberty to “mod” my game with some gudakos.
Everyone seemed to do a good job voice acting each catboy. I was surprised with Dill’s character because I thought he would be one of those annoying brat types but Junya’s soft but friendly voice plus the writing made him really likeable. With a more high pitched or cutesy voice it may have ruined Dill’s character for me lol. Kaito Ishikawa still steals the show with his voice acting especially when you go to his route and find out his “dirty little secret”. Jk I’m just pretty biased with Ishikawa.
I wish there were more meows and purrs, those were used pretty sparingly meanwhile OG Nekopara got nyaas for days.
Though overall, I feel like everyone was casted well and fit their characters.
Music was pretty chill. Nothing offensively bad and really set the mood. I know I don’t have much to say when it comes to music but I still like scoring and commenting about it.
Localisation was air tight. Lots of cat puns which I love (even though in the OG dialogue it sounded like there wasn’t a lot of cat puns but I appreciate it). Though there were a few “outdated” word choices in my opinion that induced a bit of cringe with me (this is a me problem, don’t worry), some words like “for realsies”, “shook”, “hella”, “jelly” and a couple of dudes/man were said with a straight face/tone 😂 Sorry, I know I’m nit-picking again so ignore this.
But overall thanks, Sekai Project, for localising your first “otome game”. Took y’all how long? Even though it feels like it was an obligation considering they also handled the OG Nekopara.
Nekopara vs Catboys
Okay this has to be addressed before I go into my final thoughts, but I think we need to address how polar opposite these two games are. Though heed of warning I am basing my thoughts on Nekopara based on the quick 30 or 10 minutes I spent browsing through a 5 hour Full Gameplay of Nekopara Vol 1, so my knowledge may be limited.
So let’s pit two kings together and see what’s so different and what’s similar.
|Visual Novel Type||Kinetic (no dialogue choices)||Kinetic (no dialogue choices)|
|Protagonist Voice?||Not voiced but has dialogue lines and first person narrative||Not voiced, no dialogue, no perspective narrative|
|Age Rating||All ages (R18+ Patch for PC)||All ages|
|Main Cast||6 Catgirls (plus one incest sis)|
All have confectionary ingredients as name motifs
All have herbs and spices as KFC name motifs (Laurier is actually Bay Leaf in English)
|Character Sprites||E-mote Sprites (animated) with boob jiggles||2D Sprites (that becomes blurry when close up)|
|Average playtime||5~10 hours per volume|
(Each volume focuses on romancing two catgirls)
|5~10 hours for all routes|
|Fanservice?||Spicy (bath scenes, lewd jokes, R18 patch, boob jiggles, etc)||Non-existent to mild (holding hands, sleeping in same bed, hugging)|
|Romance?||You get to kiss, date, be gf and bf plus pump and dump in catgirls (part of Nekopara lore is that catgirls can’t get pregnant ^_^ so no need to worry about paying child support /sarcasm)||Idk maybe. I think in Dill’s route, the two of them suddenly acknowledged that they were dating after knowing each other for maybe 2 or 3 days before the white FIN void engulfed them|
|Platforms||PC/Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4||PC/Steam, mobile devices (android, iOS)|
|Price||USD$9.99 per volume on Steam||Free|
As mentioned before, yes there is romance in Nekopara. After all how else are you gonna pump and dump in your catgirl if you don’t wine and dine her first.
Let’s get things straight, both these games have similar runtimes. However it feels like Nekopara Vol.1 fits in more story, interaction, romance and world-building into it than Catboys. The reason behind that is because each Nekopara volume it focuses mainly on two catgirls so there’s more time to flesh things out. The full playthrough I watched was nearing about 6 hours on auto but still creates a good arc for a story. While the boys in Catboys had to share the run time between the 4 of them plus the common route and each route kind of felt like they went for maybe 1.5 hours I’m not sure I didn’t time it.
Nekopara really goes deep into it’s world building and lore and goes into some weird territory too, but it was also pretty comedic at times, something I felt was lacking in Catboys.
Nekopara was bright, cute, leans heavy on the catgirl element, fanservicey, fun and pretty comedic. Some of these elements I felt Catboys was lacking heavily on… though I thank god Catboys didn’t have some weird incest sister lol.
Another thing that has been bothering me, they’ve described the catboys as “carnivorous cats” when marketing the game, which is a trope in Japanese visual novels for characters. ‘Carnivorous’ (肉食系) meaning ‘aggressive’ in terms of advances/flirtations and being proactive when it comes to flirting and on the opposite end ‘Herbivore’ (草食系) type characters are those who aren’t proactive in the relationship, would rather be left alone or won’t approach women/men for potential partners.
In the OG Nekopara it was one of the selling points of the game that the catgirls were just as proactive as much as the male protagonist and then some, however in Catboys it doesn’t really feel like all four of these catboys are proactive, only Laurier fits the bill. Fennel really holds himself back and Sage is more oblivious of his actions than actively being ‘aggressive’ in his advances. I’m not sure about Dill either lol he seems pretty natural with his interactions with the heroine.
Also it was interesting to see the divide is the choice of platforms for each game. You don’t see Nekopara on a mobile device (probably because it’s just too spicy for those platforms) but Catboys is available only on PC and mobile devices. Not even an attempt to put it for free on the Switch, at the very least.
Maybe it’s still a stigma that girls don’t own consoles? Or is it really that expensive to make a port of a free game on the Switch?
Actually why is Catboys even a free game, anyway? Which brings us to my final thoughts…
When NEKO WORKs announced they were making Catboys “into a reality”, I honestly had high expectations as it is coming from the same devs as that Nekopara. That same Nekopara that just goes wild with the concept of catgirls. Instead I got something so toned down and disappointing.
It just doesn’t even seem to have the same energy and spirit as Nekopara.
The lack of explicit romance and the “open ended” ending is also a cop out for those expecting this to be an “otome game” as advertised. The choice to write “Catboys” as if you’re listening to a “Drama CD” does not work for me. If you want to make a drama CD, make a drama CD not a visual novel.
Anyway what I’m getting at is that I’m pretty disappointed. While it had it’s cute points like when the heroine pats the catboys heads which was so cute, it just felt… like it was missing something to bring that spark out. But that might be a me problem as I had high expectations for a catboy version of Nekopara that’s fanservicey and fun to play. Laurier was the only catboy that seemed to capture the spirit of Nekopara, which is why I liked his the most.
I’m sure others will enjoy this and I don’t want to be a wet blanket but this is just how I felt about it.
Overall if this had been released as an April Fools game to be played on April Fools I would have forgiven it’s shortcomings and think of it like a little bonus and not a “This is it, our answer for catboy lovers out there…. Catboys. Okay bye”.
Though I do feel like this was supposed to be an April Fools game that they held back to be released 3-4 months later so they can get the localisation done which is why this game is for free. Either that or maybe this is just a demo/teaser for things to come (haha listen to me be in denial that this is the one and only Catboys game by NEKO WORKs to be released).
After all they made a “PR Twitter Account” just for this one game? Nah hard to believe they would only release one game and be done with it… right? Yeah I’m just kidding myself at this point lol.
Anyway I’m just salty I didn’t get the Catboys game I made up in my head that’s full of fanservice and has a bunch of cute scenes that cleanses my soul. So just ignore me.
(Me to NEKO WORKs)
Overall my rating for the game:
I truly hope other people have truly enjoyed playing this game. For those who want to try it, please do try it and I wish that my review hasn’t dampened your excitement for the game. It does have some cute catboys for you to get to know and experience a slice of life with them, so maybe that experience in itself is enjoyable.
If you played it I would like to hear your thoughts, so I can confirm that maybe this is just a me problem lol.
Make sure to vaccinate and microchip your catboys and thanks for reading.