Title: Little Dragon’s Cafe
Developer: Toybox, Inc.
Publisher: Aksys Games
Genre: Life Simulation Game
Available On: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Official Site: https://www.littledragonscafe.com/
Release Date: August 24, 2018
One of the most popular genres for video games nowadays is the “life simulator”; encompassing games like Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, Story of Seasons, and Stardew Valley. With how crowded the market is for such games, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. Yasuhiro Wada, the designer for the original Harvest Moon series, took another stab at a life simulator game with Little Dragon’s Cafe, but does it hold up when compared to other games in the genre?
Little Dragon’s Cafe sets you as the brother or sister in a pair of twins, who are being taught how to run a small but cozy cafe in the mountains. But when your mother goes ill, it’s up to you and your sibling to take over the cafe and work with a strange old man and a baby dragon to help find the cure to whatever illness your mother has contracted. Part of running the cafe is gathering and farming the ingredients that you would use in your dishes, which means heading out into the world while your sibling takes care of the cafe. While the gameplay in the world revolves around gathering ingredients, there are enemy encounters in the field that mostly involve dodging and finding the enemy’s weakness. For example, there’s a boar early on in the game that you defeat by making it angry, and dodging just in time so it runs into rocks. Once defeated, you can collect the meat to take back to your cafe to use as an ingredient. In the world, you’ll also find pieces of recipes; collect all 4 pieces and you’ll get the recipe for a new dish that you can create inside the cafe.
In the cafe, you’ll be able to wait on customers who come to eat, as well as cooking dishes to add to a menu. To create those menus, you’ll select a recipe, select different qualities of eligible ingredients, and then do a small rhythm game to finish cooking the dish. In order to keep the cafe running, you’ll need to cook a handful of dishes to keep in stock for customers to buy. The more dishes you have, the happier the customers will be. The better ingredients you have, the better the quality of dishes you can create. It’s a fun and engaging system and makes you feel involved with the growth of the cafe.
Little Dragon’s Cafe has a lot of charm. The visuals evoke a whimsy that sets the laid-back tone for the entire game; and the music- while overall pretty unremarkable- helps keep the game’s tension low and allows for a relaxing, stress-free experience. The gameplay loop is equally as chill. You’re allowed to take care of each day in your own way, whether you want to work in the cafe or head out into the world to gather ingredients and meet people. As you watch your cafe grow and watch the story progress, Little Dragon’s Cafe starts to give off the feeling of being home- you’ll grow quite attached to the cafe and the characters, and that’s a fantastic feeling; one that’s not normally seen in video games.
With that said though, Little Dragon’s Cafe isn’t perfect. The game’s pace feels a bit off, with events being very front-loaded and progression seeming to be very slow. With the way that events and new elements are introduced during the first two hours of the game, you would expect that pace to continue, but the next six hours of the game seem to drag on and on with very little interesting happening, and the cycle repeats until the end of the game. The characters introduced as the story develops, while likable, are shallow and one-dimensional; with very little character growth and evolution as the game progresses.
One of the bright spots in the game is the eponymous little dragon, by default named Draco. The dragon will evolve and change colors based on how you feed him, and he’ll share new powers with you as well. Draco is a great companion and one of the highlights of the game, and seeing him evolve and grow up is a wonderful feeling.
When all is said and done, Little Dragon’s Cafe is a fun game but doesn’t live up to its pedigree. It’s a charming game to play through though, and well worth your time, but still leaves a little to be desired. The storyline, intentionally left vague here to avoid spoilers, is shallow but cute; and the restaurant management is almost worth the price of admission alone, but the game doesn’t feel totally cohesive.
Verdict: If you’re itching for a more casual experience and willing to forgive a few shortcomings, Little Dragon’s Cafe is well worth your time; but it’s definitely not a perfect game.
- Adorable art style
- Fun gameplay flow
- Raising Draco is fun
- Poor pacing at times
- Characters are sometimes shallow
- Translation seems shaky
Question Block Gaming is a Youtube channel hosted by Maple, that covers all sorts of video games and culture. He’s been a gamer since 1985 and shows no signs of stopping yet.