It has been over twenty years since the original Harvest Moon title was released and yet elements from that title and franchise continue to illustrate the popularity of the experience from gamers of all ages. The latest from Aksys Games and Yasuhiro Wada, creator of Harvest Moon, brings us Little Dragons Café which offers up a new rhythm-based adventure while focusing less on the simulation element.
The main story of Little Dragons Café focuses on a brother and sister, both are playable, who help their mother run a café until a sudden illness befalls her and places her into an endless slumber. It is at this point a mysterious man appears and informs you that your mother is half dragon and presents you with a dragon egg. He states that the cure to your mother’s current predicament lies within the task of raising the dragon. To make matters worse, he also places the stress of running the café on your shoulders in her absence. Unsure of how to maintain the café’s reputation with only two helping hands, prayers are quickly answered as three guests arrive willing to lend a helping hand, where one is looking to make his mark on the world while the other two are simply excited at the prospect of working at a café.
Some of the best features of Little Dragons Café are showcased through the charming art style it presents alongside soothing music. These elements working together creates the charming and rewarding experience that they initially set out to make.
Your time spent within Little Dragons Café will be divided into either maintaining the café or exploring the outside area of the island with the hopes of acquiring new recipe fragments and ingredients to increase the menu variety.
The maintenance of the café involves cooking recipes in the kitchen, assembling a menu for the customers based on their preference and available ingredients, and assisting the customers as they arrive. The cooking process follows an on-screen rhythm prompt where continual perfectly timed prompts will create more popular and delicious meals. The soundtracks presented while creating dishes presented the only real difficulty within Little Dragons Café as each melody warranted different prompt patterns. A quick way to increase your café’s reputation is to speak with the guests as they will state if they prefer dishes that are either sweet, salty, or spicy. You can then adjust the recipes to cater to specific requests. Even though you have several staff members to overlook the daily tasks of running a café, your assistance is required due to the multitude of clients that arrive daily. You will engage in taking orders, delivering meals, and even removing the dirty dishes from the table and into the kitchen sink. Helping with these repetitive daily tasks is necessary to increase the café’s reputation which will progress the story towards the next chapter.
The main activities outside the café feature fishing, harvesting ingredients from the farm or fishery, shaking fruit bearing trees, and scavenging various bushes for ingredients. Recipe fragments are also scattered throughout the area and acts as a reward to continual exploration of the island. Upon locating four fragments of a single recipe, they must be brought to the old man who will identify them into a complete recipe in order to be utilized in the kitchen to appease the culinary requests of the customers. There is no in depth crop management system featured within Little Dragons Café, so you will not find an experience similar to Harvest Moon. Little Dragons Café focuses on delivering a story driven experience that removes the hassle of maintaining your crops and animals while providing you with the companionship of a dragon named Draco.
Draco’s companionship begins as he hatches from his egg and follows your every move around the island and helps acquire ingredients hidden within small caves. As he grows larger, he will be able to clear mounds of debris to grant you access to new areas and you will be able to ride him as he soars through the sky looking for hard-to-find ingredients and recipes fragments that are scattered across the island. Make sure to always travel with some dishes in your rucksack as Draco’s stamina will need to be replenished over time as he exerts himself on your adventures. You are also granted minimal customization of Draco as eating specific dishes will result in his colour changing.
Each chapter has a new guest arriving at the café who is dealing with their own internal struggles such as battling with the pains of bulling and not fitting in with society, a girl who has run away as she deals with the aftermath of her mother passing away, a ghost who suffers from being lonely, and even a werewolf, to name only a few. Each individual story will give you information about their backstory to uncover a specific recipe that will alter their mindset to a more peaceful outlook and get them back on the right track. I was impressed how each new guest brought issues to the table that players can relate to and present them with solutions on how to combat such topics through the game’s dialogue.
The controls pose no real difficulty to players of any age and the ability to return to the café at any point by pressing down on the directional pad came in very handy as certain locations required the majority of the day travelling, so spending the same amount of time to return to the café would have been detrimental to the overall experience. My only concern dealt with jumping onto elevated surfaces as your character would get stuck alongside the terrain at times causing brief moments of frustration.
Little Dragons Café features a great art style and a soothing soundtrack that quickly sets the tone for the overall relaxing experience that it delivers. While there remains to be no real difficulty, players will be able to explore the island to acquire ingredients and recipe fragments alongside a trusted dragon companion named Draco. Little Dragons Café is recommended for players who are looking for a relaxing and fun experience that pulls from the creative mind of Harvest Moon creator Ysuhsiro Wada.