Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of games like Harvest Moon and Happy Birthdays, is currently working on a new title called Little Dragons Café. While the game is skewed at a slightly younger audience, it is still balancing an interesting mix of restaurant management, exploring an open archipelago, and raising a dragon.
This year at E3 2018, I had the chance to try out the opening portion of Little Dragons Café on PS4 for myself, and found it absolutely adorable, though there are definitely going to be a lot of gameplay systems under the surface.
As my demo began, two children named Ren and Rin are helping their mother run a quaint café. Outside, players can pick vegetables on certain objects and scavenge for ingredients before going back inside and helping their mother cook. Cooking happens via a rhythm-based minigame, which apparently will only get tougher as recipes get more complex.
Every day, new customers will come in and order something unique, which players will have to make for them. How players perform in the cooking minigame determines how good the dish is when it comes out, and whether or not customers will like it. The first customer in my demo just wanted an egg — which was easy to make — and the cafe then closed up shop after he left.
Unfortunately, when Ren and Rin woke up, their mother was in bad shape. Just when it was looking like there was nothing they could do, an old wizard showed up and explained that their mother was actually half-human and half-dragon. In order to help cure her, the kids must raise a dragon who quickly hatches from an egg that the wizard gives them.
Along with cooking, taking care of this dragon is a major part of the game. Its starting color is determined by a dialogue choice early on in the game, but its color can also be changed depending on what it is fed. In addition to cooking for customers, players will have to pay constant attention to this dragon by playing and cooking for it so it can grow.
In order to improve what the café can produce, players will need to explore the world. Little Dragons Café features no combat, but does have a large area for players to slowly make their way through, finding new ingredients, recipe fragments, and more. Players also have to constantly grow their own crops and take fish from hatcheries, so there a lot of smaller things to look over and micromanage during the adventure.
The dragon can even tag along on this adventure and help out in a variety of different ways as it grows. When it’s small, the dragon is able to fit itself into small little crevices, bringing back whatever is inside. Once the dragon reaches a big enough size, players will be able to ride it. I got a brief glimpse at this in the late game, and exploring the world atop a dragon’s back looked very majestic.
One great thing about Little Dragons Café that I haven’t even mentioned yet is the game’s gorgeous art style. It has a very hand-drawn or painted storybook look to it, and is super colorful: the characters’ designs are simple, but charming and memorable. This storybook style helps add to the game’s overall relaxing and comforting nature that is nothing but inviting.
By concept alone, I was already interested in Little Dragons Café, as its premise sounds like something that would be right up my alley. After getting the chance to play it for a bit, I can firmly say it developed. The early part of Little Dragons Café is slow and pretty linear, but as the title expands, it looks like it will evolve into something wholly unique that will please fans of both management and adventure games. And on top of all of that, what I played of the game is just an overall adorable and delightful experience.