Little Dragons Cafe on Switch
It’s another bright and early morning as my character wakes up for another busy day at the cafe. As I head downstairs, my dragon follows happily in tow, ready for another adventure in the valley. Taking another look at the menu, I set out in search for new ingredients and recipes that I can cook and serve later for my guests. Despite the simplicity of it all, Little Dragons Cafe is packed with just enough charm that makes it hard to put down.
While Little Dragons Cafe might seem like another Harvest Moon spin-off at first glance, this game is actually far from it. There’s hardly any farming going on, and you’ll be spending plenty of time collecting resources and managing the restaurant. The game kicks off fairly quickly, with your character’s mom contracting some sort of mysterious illness. Moments later, an old man suddenly pops into view, offering you and your twin a dragon egg and promising that the cure for your mother lies with your new draconic pet. The egg hatches, leaving you with an adorable dragon to care for.
However, since your family also runs a cafe out in some valley, it’s up to you to keep things running smoothly until your mom is finally cured in Little Dragons Cafe. Luckily, you aren’t alone in this as a few characters will eventually join your team as staff members, so you have just enough hands onboard to keep the cafe up and running while you go out and look for ingredients.
Since you’ll obviously need recipes for your establishment, you’ll be heading out of the house and collecting different ingredients and recipes scattered around the area. There are various collection points you can visit each day that provide the resources you need for your meals. You’ll start out with a rather meager collection of vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish, but as the story progresses, you’ll unlock more varieties and high-quality items for better dishes in Little Dragons Cafe.
Similarly, you need to also collect recipes that come in the form of fragments. To create a new dish for your cafe, you need to gather four of these fragments together and bring them to the old man, who will combine them together and then put the meal on your menu. Speaking to staff members will also yield new fragments and sometimes even fully-fledged recipes, so it’s always worth checking up on your crew from time to time.
Your dragon will also join you when you’re out in the field, and he’ll help out by gathering items or hunting animals. Since there’s no combat in Little Dragons Cafe, you’ll be relying on your dragon a lot to take care of any creatures that might be chasing you. There have been instances when I’d need to give orders twice because my dragon was unresponsive or simply doing something else, such as collecting meat from another animal.
These dragon actions do take up stamina, and you’ll need to feed it food to gain some of its strength back. It’s also important to feed your dragon plenty of meals so you can get Dragon Manure, which can be used on collection nodes to yield better items. Giving your dragon food will also change its color, depending on the specific colored dye that the dish has. If you’ve always wanted a blue or green dragon, you’ll want to cook meals that have that specific dye.
When you’re not busy exploring in Little Dragons Cafe, you’re usually back in the cafe helping staff or making meals. When you’re busy in the kitchen, you can create any recipes you’ve learned so far. Needless to say, each dish requires different ingredients, and as your chef continues to cook the same meal, you can unlock new combinations and add more ingredients for better quality or a different variant. Food can range from sweet, bitter, salty, or spicy depending on which ingredients you use to make it. When it comes down to actually making meals, there’s a simple rhythm mini-game in which you have to tap directional buttons according to the music.
Any meals you have cooked can be placed on the menu, and you can have up to 10 dishes in your cafe. Once customers start pouring in, you can help out by taking orders, serving meals, and cleaning dishes. While your staff can handle most of the work, they will slack off from time to time. During these cases, you can simply talk to them to make them work or you can just do things yourself. It’s important to note that customers will not leave any money since there’s no real currency in Little Dragons Cafe. Instead, they’ll leave some feedback on your dishes, giving you a good idea of what food they like and what should stay on or off the menu.
My favorite parts in Little Dragon Cafe were helping around the restaurant, although it can get pretty crowded, especially when everyone is busy taking orders or serving dishes. You’ll have to weave around your staff since you can’t walk past them, and it can get a bit annoying when the customer you need to serve is right in front of you but someone is blocking your way.
Little Dragons Cafe also comes with a story you need to follow, although it’s easily forgettable. Most of the characters are very one-dimensional and don’t really stand out apart from the occasional tropes you’d find in any other similar game. It’s cute, sure, but definitely not something you’d be focusing on in Little Dragons Cafe. There are a handful of cutscenes that delve into your staff and the other customers, but it’s usually just about one scene or so per day.
At the end of each day, the game will pull up a progress menu with the cafe’s reputation at the bottom. Depending on your work in the cafe and customer satisfaction, your reputation will rise. Once it reaches a certain point, the story will move forward, granting you access to new locations and better recipe nodes. More importantly, however, your dragon will grow as you progress and gain new skills that will help you explore new and different areas in Little Dragons Cafe.
On another note, Little Dragons Cafe tends to suffer from some long loading times. These take about three seconds to load and usually occur whenever there’s a cutscene inbound, when you’re leaving or entering the cafe, or when you get in and out of bed. The map outside the cafe doesn’t have any loading times, although there are some rocky framerate issues in handheld mode on the Switch. Moreover, Little Dragons Cafe suffers from some bad draw distance and shading hiccups here and there. Another issue I had with the game is when it came to jumping over ledges or stones. The jumps would feel delayed or I wouldn’t land where I wanted to, which did feel slightly annoying at times, particularly because jumping plays a big part in exploration.
Technical issues aside, I personally adore the art style they used for Little Dragons Cafe. The colors are warm and vibrant, while the pencil shading effect gave off the feeling like I was actually playing a classic children’s book. The music, on the other hand, is pleasant and relaxing, which is perfect when you’re off exploring. The music mini-game also offered different tracks, which were all pretty easy to follow along and get into.
From exploring different areas to serving customers, there’s always something to do in Little Dragons Cafe. The Nintendo Switch is also the perfect platform for the game, letting you pick up and play after a long day. While it definitely isn’t Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, Little Dragons Cafe manages to stand on its own and offer a simple, charming experience that’s easy to love in spite of the technical issues.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair
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