Fans of adorable cat girls have been spoiled for choice lately with the likes of the NekoPara series Neko Works and Sakura Shrine Girls by Winged Cloud. As if this wasn’t enough fans can now add the tongue twisting NEKO-NIN exHeart from developer Whirlpool to this ever growing list. The game is available as a squeaky clean all-ages version on Steam or players can opt for the 18+ version that features some additional h-content.
NEKO-NIN exHeart opens with our protagonist, an ordinary high-school student named Haruki, finding himself accosted by two demi cat sisters. The pair claims to have come from a placed called the Fuuma Village with the purpose of fulfilling an ancient contract. Haruki is surprised to learn that he is the new master of Yura and Tama, the two ninja catgirls. As he has no idea why he would need the services of two ninja Haruki is rather reluctant to accept this new responsibility. In addition, he is still living at home with his father and permanently absent mother, so the thought of having to provide two girls with food and shelter is not an appealing one. Unfortunately for Haruki, it doesn’t take long for the girls to completely charm him and he soon finds himself going out of his way to take care of them. The story never really goes anywhere deep or meaningful and instead focuses on the upheaval caused by the catgirls barging into Haruki’s life. This also means that it is a rather short title, but at least there is plenty of comedy and there is an interesting twist or two in the tale.
The best thing about NEKO-NIN exHeart is definitely the visuals and this is no surprise as the art was done by Takano Yuki, who is also known for her work on the Da Capo series. All the characters look great and in addition to Yua and Tama there are also a few other adorable demi-humans who show up towards the end of the story. The game doesn’t have much in the way of animation, but fans of catgirls will be delighted to hear that the girls have ears that move. This is obviously a step back from the beautifully animated characters in the NekoPara series, which is probably the best catgirl focused visual novel series currently on the market. We know that most visual novels stick to static sprites for characters, but we’ve definitely been spoiled by the NekoPara titles in this regard. The game has got quite a few CGs, which is surprising given its short runtime. Although we played through the Steam version, which doesn’t have any h-scenes, we do know that the 18+ version has no mosaics. Players can either purchase the full 18+ version from Denpasoft at a slightly higher price than the Steam version or purchase the 18+ patch for a small fee. In terms of visual settings, the game can be played in windowed or full screen mode, but we recommend the former as the native resolution appears to be 1280×720. This means the graphics can look a little fuzzy on high resolution displays in fullscreen mode. NEKO-NIN exHeart also allows you to choose between 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio.
The audio is another highlight as all of the characters, apart from Haruki, are fully voiced in Japanese. The voice acting sounds good and the actresses definitely embraced their roles. The two cat girls can be quite hyper at times and the actresses does an admirable job of conveying this in a believable manner. The music is a little less memorable, but still good, while sound effects consist of the standard range of stuff. Thankfully the game does allow you to adjust the volume of the music, sound effects and even individual voices separately. As far as the controls are concerned the game plays like a standard visual novel, so you can either left-click or press “Enter” to advance the text. Strangely enough, the Steam overlay isn’t compatible with the engine used by this game and we also encountered some issues with the framerate mysteriously dropping after playing for a few hours. In total, it should take most players between two and four hours to complete the game. It’s not quite a kinetic novel as there are two choices to make, but these only lead to a couple of different scenes and not any additional endings.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of NEKO-NIN exHeart will depend on how much you like cat girls and comedy as the game doesn’t have much beyond that, at least for the all ages version. It is a lighthearted game with an interesting but forgettable story and while the characters are cute there isn’t really anything beyond their twitching ears to make them more memorable. We recommend downloading the free demo from Steam and trying out the game yourself to see if it appeals to you or not.