E3 2018 IMPRESSIONS: Little Dragon’s Cafe

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

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Little Dragon's Cafe | Logo

From the mind behind Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons and Birthday’s the Beginning.

Little Dragon’s Café is the latest offering from Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of the SNES classic Harvest Moon, and it really shows. If you’re familiar with Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons, then you’ll feel right at home with this brightly colored and artistic-looking game. Though, if you’re in the dark about the premise of Little Dragon’s Café then let me take a moment to bring you up to speed.

Little Dragon's Cafe | Mother

The siblings and their mother.

You play as one of two siblings whose mother has become comatose. Thankfully, an old man arrives at your café with a way to save your mother. Just raise the dragon he’s brought with him to adulthood and harvest some dragon blood. Simple task, right? Except, raising a dragon is going to take some time, so you need to keep a roof over your head and food in everyone’s belly. The solution? Managing a café.

Little Dragon's Cafe | Dragon Egg

Yes, instead of running a farm, you’ll be managing a café. Still, don’t assume that running a café is going to be any less interactive than running a farm or that it’s going to be boring. There’s quite a lot to do. For one, you’ll need to come up with dishes using ingredients you find. In addition, you’ll also need to work on improving those dishes. Thankfully, the game has an interactive way to make the cooking fun.

Cooking utilizes a rhythm minigame. The minigame itself is very simple. Just press the buttons in time with the prompts to cook. The dish I cooked during the demo was very easy to clear. However, the development team thought ahead in this case and once you master a dish you won’t need to repeatedly play the minigame to cook the dish. This is certainly a welcome addition since by the time you get to the complex dishes I’m sure you’ll want to focus on mastering them instead. Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about cooking every dish though, you’ll have some help.

Little Dragon's Cafe | Cooking

No one person can run a café, so the game provides you with some help. There is, of course, the sibling you choose not to play as, but you’ll also have three other companions who will give you a hand. There’s Ipanema who is a bit of a café otkau, though she often tends to make a mess of things while trying to help. There’s Billy who seems to be a bit of a slacker and is often the source of Ipanema’s ire. Then there’s the guy who will be the café’s chef. All four of these characters will help run things while you’re away, though you’ll still need to keep an eye on things, so you don’t overwork them. The game, though, will alert you if your staff is having troubles while you’re out and about. But, why would you leave your café in the first place? Well to explore of course!

Little Dragon's Cafe | Ipanema

Ipanema, the cafe enthusiast who sometimes lets her passion get a little out of control.

Exploration is another staple of Harvest Moon and things are no different here. You’ll need to scavenge the land for ingredients for your recipes as well as the recipes themselves. While sometimes you can find ingredients lying around, you’ll have to do a little hunting to get others. But how does one hunt wildlife in a game with no combat? Well, you’ll need to be quick on your feet and trick the various wildlife into defeating themselves.

Let’s say you want to defeat a wild boar for its meat. Instead of hunting it with say a bow and arrow or a sword, you’ll need to trick the animal into charging into various objects until it knocks itself out. This is both clever, and a little unintuitive. I do like the idea because it keeps with the spirit of many of Yasuhiro Wada’s projects. That is, trying to create a game with no combat. The problem here is that it’s not very apparent to the player if what you’re doing is effective or not.

Little Dragon's Cafe | Adventuring

The outside world not only extremely beautiful but pretty expansive.

The main problem I had here is that I wasn’t seeing a visual indicator that the boar was damaging itself. There’s no number that pops up above its head, no health bar, and no animation to indicate harm. So, for me, the fact that my actions were working wasn’t being communicated to me. However, this could also be just an issue with the build I was playing. Which I think we should talk about for a moment.

The build of Little Dragon’s Café was a debug build. Which is perfectly fine. A build like this is a great sign that the development of the build is going smoothly. In fact, if I wasn’t told this was a debug build I may not have noticed it except for one major thing, the loading.

Little Dragon's Cafe | Tiny Dragon

This is, basically, how I feel about the demo. It’s small, focused, and short. But, it’s just so imaginative and adorable that I want to see more.

There is a lot of loading in Little Dragon’s Café. The main reason for this seems to be the art style the development team chose. While it is a beautiful aesthetic, the game does seem to need some time to load assets when you change locations. So, going from the first floor to the second floor of the café requires a load and going outside to explore requires a much longer loading screen. While it’s not as bad as Corpse Party: Blood Drive, the number of loading screens is noticeable. The good news is that loading times should be reduced from the debug build.

Remember, that a debug build is not optimized. Its purpose is to allow the developers to find and fix bugs that arise. While optimization is part of this process, you need to make sure the game is working properly before you start focusing on performance. As such, I’m willing to give Aksys Games and TOYBOX the benefit of the doubt here regarding the loading times. Still, I certainly hope they do get the loading times down. While I didn’t time anything, it sometimes felt like loading could take 10-20 seconds. Still, in the grand scope of things, this is small potatoes. And I’d rather use those potatoes to make a delicious dish for this café.

Little Dragon's Cafe | Dragon Hatching

August 24th can’t come fast enough for me. I think Little Dragon’s Cafe is shaping up to be an interesting title for fans of Wada-san’s work.

This was my first experience with Little Dragon’s Café and I must admit I’m very interested. I’ve loved the Harvest Moon games and I think this one could be something I indeed fall in love with as well.

Little Dragon’s Cafe will be arriving on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on August 24, 2018

Little Dragon's Cafe | LE Contents

The contents of the Little Dragon’s Cafe Limited Edition.

About Benny Carrillo

A gamer since the days of the NES, this professional otaku adores Mega Man, Super Robot Wars, Yuri, Visual Novels, the Slice of Life anime genre, and of course Hyperdimension Neptunia. His mission on oprainfall is to help deliver the news straight to you.