As you go about your regular business today, do not be alarmed if you hear people talking about treat towers, fairy umbrellas, and kitty bums. The hit game / app Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector recently updated, and cat fans are understandably excited about it.
Even if you've never indulged in Neko Atsume yourself, you might be familiar with the sight of its eponymous neko. The cats populating Hit-Point's app have become iconic to the point that their dreamy kitty-smiles and simple but expressive dot-eyes are everywhere in social media.
For a while, Neko Atsume was only available on the Japanese App Store. The game still found a faithful English fanbase thanks to a well-written FAQ that walked us through the adoption process. Enough people started playing the game that Hit-Point, surprised by Neko Atsume's success outside its native Japan, officially translated the app (with the help of localization team 8-4) and uploaded it to American markets.
For all its addictive qualities, Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector is easy to get into. Everything you need to know about the app is in its name: You collect cats. You set out food and toys, then sit back and watch the magic happen.
The cats invariably arrive to eat and play. When they're done, they gift you with little fishies, which can be used to buy more food, more toys, and even house expansions that allow for more cats to visit you at once (a smart purchase, in other words).
Your role in Neko Atsume is incredibly passive, yet the app manages to get you seriously involved with these cats, their likes, and their dislikes. The title's core appeal goes far beyond the cats simply looking adorable, even though they're arguably the cutest cartoon cats you'll ever set eyes on. Each cat has their own preferences, personality, and fandom. Check out the Neko Atsume hashtag on Twitter or the Neko Atsume subreddit to see people chatting excitedly about how the hyper-elusive Peaches finally showed up in their yard -- or, alternatively, cursing because the voracious Tubbs wiped out their food supply in one fell swoop.
"Rare" cats offer you even more incentive to check in on the app several times a day. These kitties are usually attracted by very specific items that cater to their themes. A baseball will bring Joe DeMeowgio to your yard, while a royal cushion will please His Majesty King Xerxes IX. The "cat café" toy encourages Sassy Fran to show up and serve her furry brethren, and the pyramid-patterned cat cave meets the approval of the royal sphynx cat Ramses the Great.
Incidentally, 8-4 deserves a bit of applause for its localization job. Most of the rare cats are fashioned around Japanese culture and legends, and they received suitable English-language counterparts. For instance, the cat tree-loving "Yamaneko" is based on the endangered Japanese mountain cat, so 8-4 anglicized him as "Bob the Cat."
The best thing about Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector is that you can return to it guilt-free even after months of not playing. Your neglected yard doesn't fall to pieces. The cats don't wind up hating you. As soon as you fill the food dishes again, it's business as usual.
It makes sense. After all, there's no point making an app about cats if said cats aren't able to take care of themselves when you're not around.