Cafe Enchante thoughts

I finished playing Cafe Enchante for Switch a while ago, but my sister-in-law just blitzed through it. Also I found this article half-written and thought I’d better just force something out.

First note: Aksys advertises this as “the Hallmark movie of otome games.” Someone on a Discord server, I can’t remember who, said this was only true if in the Hallmark movie the Christmas trees ate people. The advertising and the trailer are happy lighthearted things, and due to other VNs, readers are conditioned to think of cafes as places of deep navel gazing and inner truths.

And there is some of that here, but there’s also far more action than I was anticipating. Also tragedy. I went through a lot of tissues reading this, and I didn’t even get to any bad endings. I’ll put the marketing miscalculation on both Aksys and Otomate- the opening movie is far too cute.

the box art

The good news for those who enjoyed Code: Realize is that this game has the same writer and narrative structure. There’s a long common route with lots of clues in it (eight chapters), and each character route has 4-6 chapters. I’ll let you read synopses elsewhere. If you don’t like long common routes, this may not be for you. Each route has a good ending and one or more bad endings, and the bad endings don’t add anything to the story. So I would skip them, you’ll get plenty of sadness anyway.

Unfortunately, the translation is not good. There are typos everywhere. If that bothers you but you want a similar experience, I’d play Code: Realize instead.

What stood out to me in this game is the heroine, Kotone. She’s feminine, with a quiet but unshakeable strength, which is something I don’t see a ton of in otome. She understands her shortcomings and the role she can play in each story. She doesn’t go rushing into danger. If you’re looking for an action girl, she is not it. But she pulls off something in the common route that is every office drone’s fantasy, and she does some brave emotional deeds for her love in each route.

The love interests are all good men, and I do adore that. The side characters all get to be plenty involved. I do wish there was more than one other female character Kotone really got to talk to. It felt a bit harem-y otherwise. There is also Vennia, who Kotone calls he but is nonbinary. I would have liked it if the team had stuck with “they” pronouns. Also, we have adorable mascot critters: a narwhal demon beast thing, and a clay doll.

shady assistant
I am sure there is nothing shady going on with this side character.

I loved all the routes. They managed to make a tsun I liked. Rindo’s route emotionally affected me in a way that VNs rarely do, because I have asked a lot of the same questions of my future as he did. The final route goes places I did not expect. The story in general goes some pretty dark places. No sexual assault or anything like that. But there’s plenty of existential despair, loneliness, and real danger for those who like to have their heart stomped on by their VNs. The final ending was not strictly happy. The couple ends up together, but the circumstances are not convenient for them. They have to pay for their happy ending.

these side characters, on the other hand, are probably the real heroes of the story

For me, the game was a fantasy that was just real enough that it holds a special place in my heart. I hear this game can feel slow-paced to some readers, especially with its long common route. If that’s usually a concern from you, I might pass. There’s also nothing too spicy that will make your grandmother clutch her pearls here, besides a tongue-kiss CG. If that doesn’t dissuade you, then I’d recommend Cafe Enchante.

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