Review by Ecchifan

"Controversial Implementation of Anti-Piracy Protection"

In Let's Meow Meow!, the English translated version of the adult PC game "Minna de Nyan Nyan," created by Yamitsu Communications and distributed by G-Collections.com, you are Ibuki Takao, a botany student at Kaibara University. Since you love cats, you often feed strays in the park and take sick cats to the vet for treatment. Impressed by your love and devotion to cats, one day the Cat God appeared and granted your wish for a cat girl. The arrival of Mikan, the cat girl promised by the Cat God, marked the beginning of a new life for you.

The story sounded weak and flimsy at first. The notion of a god granting your wish for a companion is certainly not original. For example, the anime series "Ah! My Goddess" had the same idea; a lonely college kid is granted his wish for a female companion in the form of a goddess. In this game, the variation involved a cat girl. Eventually, other animal gals are soon thrown into the story, and your apartment is turned into one big happy household. But all good things must come to an end, and how this is resolved will lead to different endings.

The characters in this game are a good mix. There is Mikan, the cat girl promised by the Cat God, who serves you as a hardworking maid. Next comes Hanabi, the wily and mischievous bunny girl, and her young servant Futaba. Following them are the reserved police officer and dog girl Shinju, the clumsy and child-like android soldier Koboshi, and the elegant cat shrine maiden Kohaku. And the one stable presence in your life is Nanami Aoba, your childhood friend and daughter of your landlord. Shinju is after Hanabi for stealing back in the animal world, and they're always fighting. Koboshi serves as a comedy piece with her clumsy ways. Nanami is always ready to discipline you whenever your behavior toward the girls steps over the line.

The character designs are different than other G-Collections.com titles, because Let's Meow Meow! is produced by a different company. The eye sockets are lined quite heavily, in a nod to more traditional anime character design. The colors, particularly for the clothing, are on the darker side. The coloring of the hair is very basic with one lighter and one darker shade of the color. Interestingly, the graphic artists chose to put in pubic hair ; most bishojo games translated and released for the English market don't have pubic hair in the graphics. The skin tone color is also on the darker side. Another interesting point is the fact that Nanami's skin has bikini lines. The areas of her skin, normally covered with a tank top and panties, are much lighter when Nanami is naked. This is very unusual for a bishojo game released in the English market.

The music soundtrack is fairly good. The background music are generally light hearted and easy on the ears. The sound effects are excellent. Voice acting is generally good, but not particularly noteworthy.

Let's Meow Meow! uses the same setup as that in G-Collections.com's Idols Galore! During the game you click on menu to save, load, skip previously read text messages, use the hands-free auto function, and options. The options menu allow you to adjust the speed of the graphics display and text messages display. You could also adjust the volume of the voice acting, background music and sound effects. You could turn off voices by specific character. There are 50 save slots provided. One little bug I noticed is that when you start the program anew and load a previously save game, the text message display speed is always set back to default. Even if you had previously saved the game with customized settings in the options menu, the text display speed always return to default whenever you start up the program.

The game has an ending with every girl except Kohaku. And there is also an excellent harem route path that is worth the time replaying. You could finish the entire game within five hours or so, but you may want to slow down and enjoy the graphics.

Starting with this game, all future G-Collections.com releases will require online authentication in order to play the games. This is achieved through the use of a separate program called Virtual-Mate, created by Interlex, Inc. This program requires you to create an account with Virtual-Mate with a username and password, and a valid email address. During the registration process you will be required to enter the unique registration code for your copy of Let's Meow Meow! Once the registration process is completed and the Virtual-Mate Launcher program, installed on your computer, has saved your username and password information, this program will launch and connect to the internet whenever you run the game. The program will connect to the Virtual-Mate server and verify your information and your computer with their database. If the information doesn't match, the game won't start.

Virtual-Mate system is controversial for a number of reasons. First, the program requires the user to have internet access in order to play. Without internet connection on the computer, the program would not be able to connect to the Virtual-Mate server and authenticate your copy of the game. Second, there are a few privacy issues that arise with the use of this system. You are required to provide a valid email address. Your IP address, along with the time you play and how often you play, are logged. Virtual-Mate allows for installation on three different computers, and records hardware settings for each one to keep track. It should also be noted that the instructions manual for Virtual-Mate contain a legal disclaimer for privacy violation by third parties that provide server maintenance work for Interlex, Inc. Finally, Interlex, Inc. has a patch that disables this authentication, but won't release it until G-Collections.com decide to do so. G-Collections.com has yet to provide a set date for such release.

Looking at the way Virtual-Mate is set up, it is obvious that this program's main purpose is to stop piracy of G-Collections.com's products. The product registration ensures that only one copy of the game is registered; duplicate registration will fail. A cracked copy of the game cd would still be useless without a cracked product registration key. Even if a pirate manages to accomplish both tasks, there is always a risk that the pirate will be traced back through the IP logs maintained by the server. Second, the three installations limit for each copy prevents pass-it-along situations where a user lends out his copy of the game to another friend who then passes it on to another person, and the chain continues. After three installations, the Virtual-Mate system would not allow the game to start for further installations. This also prohibits reselling of Virtual-Mate linked products unless the original user only installed once or twice, and is willing to share the Virtual-Mate account username and password with the used game buyer.

Some gamers are upset with G-Collections.com's implementation of Virtual-Mate, and it's not hard to understand why. But G-Collections.com apparently thinks this is an effective way to stop piracy of its products, and they can't be faulted for that. What does it mean for players like you and me? Virtual-Mate represents an additional set of terms and conditions to play future products from G-Collections.com, and if you don't agree to these terms and conditions, you should not buy their Virtual-Mate linked products.

At the same time, it is unfortunate that G-Collections.com chose to start the implementation of Virtual-Mate with the release of Let's Meow Meow! There are plenty of reasons to buy it--catgirls, bunny girl, dog girl, and lolicon with some excellent scenes and decent plots involving these characters. Consumers who decide to skip Virtual-Mate linked titles will miss out on this decent bishojo product.

Story: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Music: 8/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Replayability:7/10

Overall: 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/08/04


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