Remember Harvest Moon? What if I told you that the creator of Harvest Moon, Yasuhiro Wada, has just released a brand new original game and it is a twist on more of the same elements that made Harvest Moon work so well in the first place. The result is Little Dragons Café which tries to emulate the charms of harvesting for resources while managing a café. It is neither a farming sim nor a café managing sim, instead, it tries to take elements from both and mixes it with a narrative that places emphasis on a quest based design.
Little Dragons Café story deals with the struggles of a pair of twins whose mother mysteriously gets sick. They own a café that falls in their hand to manage in her absence and you later learn that her sickness has to do with the fact that she is half dragon and half human. To get her to recover quickly, you will have to help raise a dragon while also managing your café. During this time, you will also get to learn about the customers that visit your café and help solve their issues with your cooking skills.
You can take control of only one of the sibling while the other will become a helper or assistant for the café, running the business while you go around managing other things like finding the necessary items for the recipes to cook and quests to solve. Later in the game, it is possible to get more helpers for the café and each new characters comes with their own personality. Despite getting new staff, I don’t think it helps you in managing the café any better, and instead, you can often find them blocking your path when running inside the café.
Cooking recipes comes with its own mini-game. It is like rhythmic games where you input a set of commands at the perfect time to get the best score. Depending on how you input the command, it is possible to get a better-cooked dish. It is not the most sophisticated way to cook but it gets the job done. Each cooked item has a certain quality ranking that determines your café’s reputation and can get you more customers. Recipes are usually located by exploring outside or can also be learned by talking to specific people.
There are traditional old customers that will visit your café but sometimes you also get a special visit from someone who has a story to tell about them. These characters that the café will get often in each chapter has to deal with their own inner struggles. You can help in resolving them and get to learn something new from the experience. It is a good progression system that helps keep the pacing for the story a little better because, without it, the game is awfully slow and can start to become a chore.
The most interesting part of the gameplay is your pet dragon. As a newly hatched baby, this dragon will be incredibly useful right from the beginning helping you gather valuable resources. As time passes, the dragon will grow and even start to fly giving you the ability to discover new areas. The main character himself is unfortunately terrible to control so you will have to struggle a lot with the sluggish controls in the beginning, but once you are over the first struggles and get the ability to fly on the dragon, you can easily move from one place to the next helping you harvest resources faster. This also helps fix some of the pacing issues with the game. You can also change the color of the dragon by feeding him if you don’t like his default one.
Visually, this is a great looking game and part of the reason is Igusa Matsuyama has worked on the art. He, along with Yosuhiro Wada, previously collaborated on the Harvest Moon series so this is their first major project in many years. The visual style used here evokes the feeling of a children’s storybook which is the theme that is a major part of the game. It feels like a children’s fantasy story brought to life but it is also pretty nonsensical due to this exact reason. The characters are all nicely modeled even though the animation work for them is a little underwhelming, it doesn’t really feel like a big issue.
My biggest criticism with Little Dragons Café on the Nintendo Switch is the load time. There are so many loading screens that occur after almost every cutscene that you face in the game. The cycle goes like this: cutscene -> loading > cutscene > loading -> gameplay -> loading -> cutscenes and it all works like a loop that repeats. This is extremely annoying and it honestly completely disrupts the flow of the game. The gameplay part where you control the characters adds even more hurdles by making you suffer through the loading each time you decide to head to a new area.
Technically, it is also a bit of a mess with a frame rate that feels like it is stuttering especially if you explore outside the café, visual glitches that can have an effect on the presentation and generally poor controls for the main character. Still, I had my fair share of enjoyment with the game especially dealing with the dragon companion. It is a fun game if you can get over the dated nature of the controls and presentation.
Little Dragons Café Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Little Dragons Café is a video game developed by Aksys Games. The game launched on August 24, 2018, for the Nintendo Switch and August 28, 2018, for the PlayStation 4.
Final Score - 6.5/106.5/10
A charming game with gorgeous visuals that suffers from technical hurdles and pacing issues. Keeping a pet dragon companion is the saving grace for Little Dragons Café,