In summary, visual novel plotlines often seem wildly absurd. Muv Luv begins with a protagonist discovering a beautiful young woman in his bed one morning. In the later half, events that are just as improbable occur, as he awakens again, this time in an alternative universe. The woman is gone, replaced by a war between an invading alien force and mecha. Likewise, Nekopara’s premise of a confectionary run by buxom cat-girls is wonderfully irrational. But like Muv Luv, if you’re able to suspend reality at the onset, the subsequent journey can be amazingly enjoyable.
A similar leap of faith is required by the recent release of The Princess, the Stray Cat, and Matters of Heart. Like Muv Luv’s Takeru Shirogane and Nekopara’s Kashou Minaduki, protagonist Nora Handa is the embodiment of visual novel normalcy. As a second-year at of Sakuragabuchi Academy, Nora spends his days tutoring kids and with friends like Michi Kuroki, who’s all too eager to crack down of any romantic relationships at the school. There’s also Yuuki Asuhara, a freshman who attempts to balances a several part-time jobs.
But alongside the conventional circle of companions, there’s a wealth of eccentricity. Like many visual novel protagonists, Nora is exceedingly mesmeric, earning the attractions of four different women, fueling the novel’s forty-hour playtime. Right from the start, his adopted little sister Shachi even shows amorousness, straddling his legs and encouraging Nora to provide a massage for her aching shoulders.
Things get even weirder when Nora meets Patricia. As the daughter of the matriarch of the netherworld, she’s sent to earth to punish humanity’s impetuousness, with a plan to kill off the populace as a reminder of their power. But her arrival is stained by illness. After Nora takes care of Patricia, the underworld offspring develops feelings for him. A kiss mysteriously turns the protagonist into a cat, adding complication to the charmingly preposterous premise.
Pleasingly, Matters of Heart is more than a run-of-the-mill harem frolic, extending some a wealth of amusing interchanges between cast members. But the novel truly draw distinction in sporadic moments of contemplativeness. During the game’s prologue, we learn that Nora’s mother was exceedingly kind, taking in stray cats without hesitation. Her imperturbability was also tested when Shachi was playing with a firework, accidently burning the family home down.
Self-sacrifice emerges when Sakuragabuchi’s townsfolk offer to rebuild the house without repayment. Seeing these qualities in Nora and observing compassion spread to those around him is surprisingly heartwarming, endowing Matters of Heart with more tenderness than most comedic romps. Given this warmth, Patricia is forced to reassess her perspective on humanity, permitting the title to study a contagion of kindness.
But the novel’s localization won’t sit well with everyone, especially those expecting eroge. Developer/publisher Harukaze incorporated a number of sex scenes into Matters of Heart. Those have been removed from the Steam iteration, leaving behind several instances where dialog alludes to amorousness that’s never depicted. The removal wasn’t handled very smoothly either, causing disruptions of continuity that blemishes the game. It’s one matter to remove lascivious content, but it’s a completely different one to not try to repair things.
For some, the removal of content is going to be a sticking point. But ideally, more forgiving readers will be able to look past the censorship to focus on Matters of Heart’s merits. Undeniably, the novel’s artwork, especially the multitude CGs are gorgeous, each exhibiting a sumptuous amount of detail. Voice acting is persistently proficient, adeptly underscoring comical moments and poignant interludes. The user interface is exceedingly effectual, offering the ability to review earlier dialog and promptly pick up the game where you left off without having to review title screens. Certainly, Frognation’s localization is one of the better efforts in recent memory, evidenced though the option for Japanese text.
The Princess, the Stray Cat, and Matters of Heart was played
on PC with review code provided by the publisher.