Little Dragons Café is a café management simulation with a light dusting of farming and RPG like qualities. Aksys Games published Little Dragons Café in 2018 and Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of the Harvest Moon series, wrote it. If you like farming sims in general or are a fan of the Harvest Moon series it’s very possible that you will enjoy this game. LDC is extremely cute with a wonderful art style and adorable character design. It’s easy to sit back and relax to the simple, upbeat soundtrack while hunting for recipe ingredients.
Children Raising a Child
The plot of the game is quite cute, but lacking. It begins with a small tutorial of your mother teaching the basics of running the family’s café which can be broken into two categories: activities inside the café, and outside the café. Afterward, your mother sends you off to bed. You awaken the next day to find your mother comatose. Suddenly a wizard pops into existence and tells you your mother is part dragon and the only way to wake her up is by taking care of a dragon’s egg and raising it to maturity all the while encouraging you to manage your mother’s café.
What’s the Deal with Dragons?
The narrative is chapter-based with new characters in every chapter. Since this game places importance on progression through narrative, it makes growth impossible unless certain narrative goals have been met. While meeting characters, learning their stories, and soothing their sorrows through kindness and well-made food is entertaining, there are only so many hours you can repetitively do that.
The first chapter introduces the premise of the game and three characters that will stay on as employees of the café. Every chapter afterward contains a new guest and you must patiently help them solve their own personal problems while going out every day to gather ingredients, manage your employees, feed your dragon, and take care of your café. A lot of work for a kid.
One of the best things in LDC is the art style. Not only is it incredibly cute, but the stylization and the sketchy textures also lend a lovely storybook aspect. The food portraits are also incredibly appetizing, it’s hard to not get hungry while playing. Character design is highly varied with no two personalities or characters looking similar to each other, making each one memorable in their own way. There are also a variety of small mini-games that add a bit of variance to ingredient gathering. The fishing mini-game is very simplified, only requiring a well-timed click to reel in your catch, which is more relaxing than trying to wrestle a fish to shore like in other games of this genre.
My main problem with the game is how slowly the narrative plods along. Even though the characters are fun and vibrant after the sixth guest, which had taken about forty hours to get to that point, I was ready to close shop. Unlike most sims, this game places importance on progression through narrative. This makes upgrades impossible unless certain narrative goals have been met.
My frustration wasn’t only due to the slow, repetitive nature of the storytelling but the difficult mobility across the already small map. Your character’s movement while not being able to ride your dragon is poor, it consists of a slow jog and a small jump that, more often than not, causes you to miss your jump. The problem with the bad jump is that there is quite a bit of verticality on the map which requires you to jump on top of stones, ledges, etc. Not being able to consistently make those jumps hampers your ability to gather ingredients quickly and efficiently, and therefore progressing through the game is much more difficult than necessary.
There is no ability to run, leaving you with a slow jogging character to gather ingredients until you raise your dragon to the age in which you can ride it, which takes about thirty hours to get to. By that time, business has picked up at the café and you’ll find yourself constantly getting notifications of your staff slacking on the job. After taking what little ingredients you’ve gathered back to your café to berate and help your employees catch up on their various duties, you’ll quickly find yourself running out of ingredients. By mid-late game, you get into a frustrating rut of not being able to move quickly to the parts of the map where you need to get higher quality ingredients to keep your business doing well.
While cute, this game does a great job of forcing you to slow down to enjoy it. However, the slow plodding nature of the narrative forces you to slow down to the point where it eventually becomes frustrating. Annoying problems with movement adds to the frustration of not being able to fulfill necessary tasks in a timely manner, making gameplay even more of a slog. I love farming sims and I don’t mind slowing down to enjoy them, hence my 200-hour save on Stardew Valley. However, the mechanics of this game do not make it conducive to relaxation. I wouldn’t recommend this to people looking for a sim experience but to fans of slow-burn, low-stress RPGs.
Featured image credit: Aksys Games/Toybox Inc.