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When designing a role-playing video game, there’s a tricky balance designers have to maintain. Many of today’s gamers aren’t interested in scouring the world map and non-essential dungeons to recruit new party members, but giving the player too few characters to play with makes the game feel dull and lacking in scale.

So the question is, how do you make the process of searching for new companions fun? If you’re mobile developer GeePlus, you let them take photos of cats on their smartphones, then turn those cute snapshots into in-game warriors.

GeePlus’ upcoming free-to-play Android and iOS title is called Nekomimi Survivor (“Cat-Eared Survivor”). Aimed squarely at supporters of the first camp in the cats vs. dogs debate, the player takes command of a team of anime-style catgirls.

▼ Why yes, some of them do wear schoolgirl outfits.

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A Japanese-made RPG where you develop the skills of a team of cute girls isn’t really anything that unusual. Nekomimi Survivor’s story is just about as thin as its heroines, too. The Nyanko, a race of cat-eared beings, were living in peace until the evil dog-eared Wanko declared war.

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Badly outnumbered, the Nekomimi develop a technique to transform ordinary cats into combat-ready catgirls, and that’s where the game gets unique. Downloading the Nekomimi Survivor app gives you access to the Nyanko Camera. Using the on-screen outline, snap a picture of a real-life kitty, and the game will convert it into a new party member.

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Different photos produce characters with different stats, so if you’re really looking to get ahead in the game, you won’t want to limit yourself to just your own pet. Once your catgirl brigade enters battle, petting them will make them attack their Wanko adversaries.

▼ Sinister Dracula-style capes or not, the enemies shown in GeePlus’ video just look like normal dogs, though, so we’re not entirely sure if sending out five armed humanoids to beat them up is really fair.

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The Android version of Nekomimi Survivor launches in mid-November, although reserving the game here now will net you five in-game fish that you can use to power up your party. iOS users will have to wait until mid-December to get their hands on all those animal ears, but that just gives them more time to build up a reserve of cat pics on their iPhones.

Related: Nekomimi Survivor official website
Source: Dengeki Online
Top image: Dengeki Online
Insert images: YouTube