Yasuhiro Wada is best known for the Harvest Moon series, but Little Dragons Cafe is this creator’s attempt to start something fresh. In this new title, farming is still a large part of the experience, but it’s paired with running a cafe and raising a dragon in your spare time.
The entire game has a more relaxed feel as well, encouraging you to go at your own pace and absorb all the wacky characters the world has to offer. Having spent plenty of time running my own cafe, it’s time to find out if this dragon breathes fire, or if this cafe is doomed to obscurity.
A Simple and Serene Loop, Peppered With Memorable Characters
From the moment I reached the main menu of Little Dragons Cafe, I felt relaxed. Whether it’s the vibrant graphics or the soothing soundtrack, this game is not here to stress you out or test your skill, and that’s totally fine with me.
The storyline involves two children (one of whom you play as), and their mother. Together, the family runs a little cafe on a island region. One day, the mother falls into a coma of sorts and a wizard suddenly appears to help the children figure out what’s going on.
We soon find out that the children’s mother is half dragon, and the only way to save her is to raise a dragon of our own. This propels the children into a life of running the cafe, nurturing a dragon, and expanding the world around them.
Little Dragons Cafe features an eclectic cast of characters that possess a lot of expression and a surprising amount of depth as you get to know them. Whether it’s the chef who hates being called a goblin (he’s an orc, thank you very much), or the young warrior who struggles to match the legacy of his village’s hero, the characters here are the star of the show.
Despite a lack of voice acting, the text is well written and the animations provide some hilarious and expressive moments during each cutscene, even if they are simplistic by modern standards. While the story comes at a consistent pace, the majority of your time will be spent in a gameplay loop that spans across several mechanics.
Your dragon, for example, will follow you everywhere you go. You’ll need to feed it to keep its energy up, and in return it will assist you with breaking obstacles and harvesting ingredients as it grows older. Just in case you’re wondering, yes, it can also fly when full grown.
The dragon’s manure, which is conveniently found in its bed each morning (did my dog train this dragon?), also acts as a fertilizer for your crops outside the cafe. Gathering ingredients is done through this garden, and by harvesting from various areas around the world.
You won’t need to worry about watering anything or managing your time. Even the cafe runs itself to a certain extent while you’re gone. That being said, workers will slack off and you’ll get a message to come back and assist if this is the case.
Thankfully, the game offers a fast travel option to return back to the cafe at any point. While you’re out gathering ingredients, you’ll find eggs from your local birds, fish to catch down by the ocean, and plants that offer everything from onions and carrots, to flour and sugar, sometimes from the same bush.
Your dragon will assist in various ways as it gets older too. In some cases, it will crawl into small caves to grab an ingredient, or cut down some grass with its tail. Among this exploration and progression, you’ll receive recipe fragments that allow you to return to the cafe and cook up dishes to add to your menu.
The cooking minigame is a rhythm-based affair that works fine, but it lacks any real depth. You can adjust your ingredients and shoot for high scores to increase the quality of your dishes, but once you’ve become accustomed to the loop, things will start to feel the same.
More of the world opens up as time goes on, but Little Dragons Cafe could have done with faster pacing and progression. There are long stretches of time without story or new recipes to keep you engaged. It’s in these moments that the serene gameplay can start to drag on.
Despite this, I always had a smile on my face while playing Little Dragons Cafe. Yes, the mechanics could be deeper, and the pacing could be tighter, but the game’s infinite charm always made it a nice palette cleanser between more stressful experiences in my game library.
A Bright and Vibrant Style
The storybook style of Little Dragons Cafe is both endearing and wonderful to witness. Combine this with a catchy and fun soundtrack, and you have a game that will warm even the coldest of hearts.
Repetition will most certainly set in after some time, but those looking for something relaxing and fun to play will find a lot to love about Little Dragons Cafe. I would love to see the mechanics fleshed out more in a future sequel, but as a concept, I really enjoyed running a cafe and raising my dragon.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of Little Dragons Cafe was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 11/9/18