Little Dragons Cafe (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Brandon (Michael) Howard 16.01.2019 1

Review for Little Dragons Cafe on Nintendo Switch

Little Dragons Café is the newest game from Yasuhiro Wada, a man probably best known for his role in creating and developing the Harvest Moon series. It's got some aesthetic similarities to the widely popular farming sim, but it trades in the deep mechanics for a more sharpened focus on characters and plot, similar to his last game, Hometown Story. This stylistic departure makes for a very different experience, and one that doesn't do this many favours.

Little Dragons Café opens up with a pair of twins Rin and Ren, waking up to their mother preparing breakfast. After a quick tutorial that teaches the basics of gathering ingredients from the outside world, the twins' mother promptly falls into a coma. A mysterious wizard comes by and gifts the twins a dragon egg, saying that feeding and raising the fledgling dragon is the only way to cure her. What follows is almost a sitcom-like series of encounters that outfits their small home with a rather haphazard staff of characters, all helping the protagonists run the café their mother owned, while they seek out ingredients from the field. Between helping out at the café during the busy hours and gathering items outside, there's always something to do.

Screenshot for Little Dragons Cafe on Nintendo Switch

Unfortunately, there's not really a lot to this adventure other than that. The café management is extremely simplistic. Choosing which recipes to keep on the menu is pretty much just a matter of going by what is currently in the storeroom, and the game gives Rin and Ren plenty of time per day to go out and collect ingredients. Some of the more complicated recipes used for the few available quests may require going a little further afield, but it's still pretty straightforward.

Annoyingly, even traveling outside is kind of a chore. Going into the world area from the café takes upwards of ten seconds each time, and going back requires the same time investment. Little Dragons Café has some serious optimization issues, and the framerate frequently stutters and drops. The player characters often get stuck on level geometry, and the limited platforming is so imprecise, it's comically easy to get stuck trying to jump off of a small stepping stone.

Screenshot for Little Dragons Cafe on Nintendo Switch

These issues don't stop outside, either. The short rhythm minigame used to prepare dishes to put on your menu also frequently falls victim to large stutters, throwing off your rhythm, and costing you a note or two. This is a huge problem when making a perfect dish for the menu requires perfect scores on every single note in the song. They are pretty short to complete, but it's definitely a huge waste of time having to remake a dish when the game essentially fails it for you.

Story progression is the only real goal in here, unlike the rather abstract goals of Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley. Customers happy and satisfied with the café experience will slowly raise a progression bar, unlocking the next section of the story, prompting a special guest to stay at the café for a short period of time, before leaving to make room for the next one. These guests have pretty non-specific goals, outside of preparing dishes with flavours that they like. Their stories do provide some insight to the world in the game, but they don't really stick around long enough to develop their characters fully.

Screenshot for Little Dragons Cafe on Nintendo Switch

It all kind of boils down to a routine that's pretty much set in stone after a few in-game days. Wake up, feed the dragon, gather items from the garden, help the café for the lunch rush, go farther out for ingredients, help the café at dinner, feed the dragon, bed. That cycle goes on and on, and there's never really a point where it feels good to stop and put the game down. The cycle is so frantic that every minute not used in pursuit of supplies feels wasted, and the rewards really just aren't worth it. The characters are pretty bland, so unlocking more of their story isn't a compelling reason to waste hours and hours away doing the same two tasks fifty thousand times.

Screenshot for Little Dragons Cafe on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Little Dragons Café is an extremely tedious exercise in repetition. There's kind of an initial thrill to the idea of managing a café and picking out the recipes that it'll use, but eventually you realize that you don't do much to help out other than providing the basic ingredients and occasionally bussing tables. The only real reward for slogging it out day-to-day is a handful of character focused cutscenes that don't really feel like a meaningful accomplishment. Add in some truly awful field controls and a constantly skipping framerate, and you've got a true recipe for disaster.

Developer

Aksys Games

Publisher

Aksys

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Stoned Krows (guest) 24.01.2019#1

I feel this is kind of a soulless review.

No appreciation of the characters or narrative, no joy in the prospect of raising or exploring with a dragon? I'd say that this game is one that was designed for introverts/autistic folks like myself from the ground up. The daydreamers who'd appreciate an upbeat world with fleshed out characters that don't need to embody an edginess that would put Cloud Strife's hair to shame.

I think that -- looking at the game from a shallow perspective -- there's not much there. The thing is though is that it's about playing it casually, soaking up the setting, looking forwar to the next bit of story, and spending time with that diverse cast of characters. No mention of how you get to aid a werewolf by feeding him hot milk, or how your chef is a fashionable fashionista.

I think some people are just dead inside. And this game isn't for them.

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