Preview: Neko Tomo is filled with purrsonality

There is good news for Nintendo Switch owners who love cute animals. Bandai Namco is preparing a Teddy Together sequel called Neko Tomo. The game is headed to both the Nintendo 3DS and Switch, which is great for anyone interested a sweet simulation. But what can we expect? Well, the demo has been released in Japan, and it is a rather enlightening experience.

Neko Tomo begins in a rather predictable way. You are chilling out in your house when you hear a cat in your garden. It is not the run of the mill stray, though. This is a kitten that can speak and has a weird clock around its neck. After spending a bit of time teaching it the word for thank you, your name and giving it a name, a second kitten comes around. Similarly, it also has a watch around its neck and is need of both a home and a name. Within moments, you have two new friends-slash-pets in your house.

The whole point of Neko Tomo is to act as both a caretaker and teacher. These two kittens are blank slates. This is best exemplified by their constant thirst for knowledge. First, they want to know your name and their own names. Then, they want to know what to say when they are thankful or hungry. They might want to know where you shop. Almost every time you talk to one, they are asking for you to help them learn more about their world. You can then build their vocabulary by providing a word or by asking the game to give you a suggestion. Either way, they will soak it up and use it in future conversations. They will understand English words too and say them properly.

This means Neko Tomo is not an easy import. The demo illustrates how dependant it is on communication. Helping these cats learn more about the world is the whole point, and the demo drives that home. Taking care of them and interacting with them is all secondary. You can do it and it will help build up the bond you have with the animal, but the real point is to help them develop as characters and educate them.

It does give people an idea of what to expect from other activities, though. While these cats are not like some Tamagotchi, where ignoring them will result in their doom, you do need to offer a certain standard of care so you can keep teaching them and improving your relationship. Part of this means cooking up recipes to keep the two fed, which leads to button-pressing minigames. Tending a garden lets you grow plants that can be sold for money. Said money can fund their wardrobe and allow you to get treats. Eventually, other minigames open up and you can event decorate, dress the cats or leave the house, but the game starts small and focuses on improving both the cats and your relationship with them, before increasing the scope.

Neko Tomo’s demo makes it clear that this is a game about bonding. It is not challenging or demanding. Rather, the goal is to relax with two kittens and hope you are making a difference in their lives. Growth can be subtle, with brief conversations, meals and garden tending leading to improvements that eventually allow you to teach the cats more advanced vocabulary, venture into new areas of the game and perhaps even allow them greater access to your heart.

Neko Tomo will come to the Nintendo Switch in Japan on November 1, 2018, with the Nintendo 3DS version coming in Winter 2018.

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