Title: Miracle Snack Shop
Release Date: December 2, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Visual Novel Sim
Everyone knows about the Isekai genre, in which your main character is sent to another world. It’s an oversaturated market, and they just keep pumping out more of them. And now I present to you the reverse Isekai.
This innovative genre that has actually existed for a long time takes a character from another world and brings them to you. Developed by the South Korean group TALESshop, and published on the Nintendo Switch by CFK, Miracle Snack Shop will use this genre to provide you with a waifu that will help you run a storefront.
Miracle Snack Shop stars Seolhwa, a young man who took out a loan with a friend without having first seen Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor to own a small shaved ice dessert business. Surprising to no one who has seen Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor, this friend has betrayed our protagonist and left him high and dry and with a debt to pay off. At least he can try making shaved ice to get out of debt.
Rumors that this location was haunted, while bad for business, have turned out to be founded, leading to the discovery of a dimensional rift upstairs, bringing forth Philia Salis, a 17-year-old queen from another world who will assist our protagonist in his journey. Along the way, they’ll also meet Mira Joo, a terrifyingly realistic vlogger who becomes interested in the store.
This visual novel takes place in an almost episodic style, using simulation game mechanics to serve as chapter breaks. You have access to a menu that contains several status screens, where you can check your relationship status, open the store to make money, and then use that money to learn shaved ice recipes, promote your store or use on ‘available character actions,’ which will progress the main narrative as well as the ‘favorability’ gauges.
These sim mechanics feel very light, and they don’t add anything in the way of actual challenge, but they serve as an excellent way of breaking up the story segments. This is quite good because while the art is nice, there’s very little in terms of visual flair. The characters are limited in poses, and the outfits they wear are baffling (my first example has me looking at you, Philia’s skin-tight armor plate that has a belly button).
The backgrounds are few and far between, with the budget put into a few locations that look nice but are visited maybe once or twice at most; instead of being put into alterations to shake up places, you’ll see the whole title. Finally, the cast isn’t extensive with just the two voiced characters who don’t really interact. There is the secret third character, former shaved ice store owner, but neither he nor minor unnamed NPCs have portraits, so it just feels empty.
The UI is quite nice, and a few more things to do during the sim aspects could have really added to this game. When concocting new flavors or talking to customers, some skits would have been appreciated to breathe some extra life into the cafe. The lack of visual personality means that the game gets boring quickly. However, it wouldn’t get the way if the writing was at least somewhat competent, but it really isn’t there. The basic and depthless sim mechanics are the most interesting part of this ten-hour game. Until you get to the post-game in which you unlock a pretty cute petting minigame.
When you open up shop, the customer responses often feel like actual things people would tell you, which is a neat touch. The menus have an extra font option and a toggle between Japanese and Korean voices. A few standard options are strangely missing, such as window opacity and whether you want to skip only previously read text. My favorite CFK feature also returns; pressing the minus button causes the controller to just outright disconnect. It doesn’t impact anything with the experience; it’s just funny.
While I do enjoy a good romance, the lack of visual flair combined with Miracle Snack Shop’s inability to pull out any sort of immersive writing had me bouncing off this title hard. I’m sure some people would like it for its low-stress setup and waifu elements, but ultimately, I never felt like it had the writing chops to get people invested in its cast or narrative.
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