Title: Café Enchanté
Developer: Idea Factory
Release Date: November 5, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Aksys is continuing to publish Otomate titles in the west, which have commonly shared dark and edgier themes. Now, this isn’t inherently bad, but sometimes you don’t want to wait until the obligatory fan-disc to see a softer side of the romance. I mean, sometimes, you want to date cute anime boys without sprawling overarching narratives. For instance, there are an ungodly amount of bishōjo games without them; why should shōjo games be any different? In the newest Idea Factory-developed otome, Cafe Enchante, we get something that could be that, but then it isn’t. Dammit, we were so close.
In Cafe Enchante, you play as Kotone Awaki, a young woman who has just received the keys to her grandfather’s old coffee shop and wants to revive it. However, upon discovering a back room, she encounters a series of doors that lead to other worlds. Yes, it turns out that our coffeeshop is an inter-universe hotspot.
Once Kotone flips the closed sign to open, she is met by our five romance options. We’ve got Canus, the headless knight (more specifically a Dullahan), Il (I-L, because that spelling doesn’t get confusing at all), the fallen angel otaku who has bad taste (He ships Cardia and Lupin, when Cardia and Victor is clearly the best Code:Realize pairing, like come on).
The remaining characters include a tsundere beast-boy named Ignis, from a world called Bestia, and a man who works for the “Government Paranormal Measures,” which supervises otherworldly occurrences and makes sure they don’t threaten the world. Last but not least is Misyr, a demon king who holds the obligatory “closest to canon route” that can only be unlocked after every other route.
Cafe Enchante’s visual style is impeccable. Aside from a highly detailed collection of portraits, poses, and outfits for each of the characters, it’s also got an incredibly impressive UI. There’s a restaurant-menu styling for our primary and extras menu, but the rest of them have a striking visual flair. There’s also an option to display the heroine portraits or turn them off (but why would you ever do that) and a detailed chapter select menu to make replays a bit easier.
This works because the common route is very, very, long. Bafflingly long. It spends the first three chapters, approximately 5 hours, setting up its narrative before moving onto multiversal monster world adventures. This ended up leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, if only because I wanted the story to go in a different direction.
Still, it’s all quite fun, making for the slowest story we’ve actually gotten out of Aksys to translate thus far. Unfortunately, it feels like the game has decided to throw a new exposition wave at you, which really drags it down. Kotone is a fantastic protagonist, who is intelligent and relishes in it. This makes it fun to watch how she reacts to each situation, which is integral to achieving a happy ending.
As the character routes follow the same formula as other Idea Factory titles, you can see pretty much every reveal coming from a mile away. This wouldn’t matter if the story didn’t like treating these reveals like big dramatic twists. Amusingly, this seems to serve the purpose of subduing the more character-focused reveals, which leads to them feeling like they have more weight. The story beats between the action sell the more pivotal moments, but the story can get rather wordy at times.
These dramatic twists are highly specific and purpose-built to inject a large dose of tragic and dark backstory into each character. Luckily, even when the story focuses on them, it never loses track of its coffee shop origin point. There are cute and fun shenanigans to be had in every route, especially Kaoru’s. I was a bit concerned about the relatively blatant age gap that Kotone and Kaoru have. Still, they ended up being my favorite due to a good mix of memorable scenes and cute character interactions. It also helps that Junichi Suwabe voices him, and while yes, all the VAs are good, it’s Suwabe.
Cafe Enchante is one of the slower experiences of an otome romance. On the one hand, it should have used its themes to differentiate itself from other titles, but it doesn’t. Even with this slow burn, fans can still enjoy the familiar beats with a new cast of pretty boys, but I wouldn’t mind some more sparkles and butterflies.
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