Café Enchanté Review: Serving up an enthralling tale

Café Enchanté released on the 5th of this month, exclusive to the Switch as of now. It easily beats Aksys’ previous otome release of Piofiore: Fated Memories as the better title, with its rich world-building and lore, increasingly engaging story and lovable cast from the love interests (LI’s) to the side characters. Let’s get into the details!

The appealing premise, attractive heroine, and enchanting story

The plot follows Kotone Awaki, the granddaughter of Café Enchanté’s original owner Souan Awaki, who sends a written letter to Kotone before his passing, inviting her to take over the cafe. Kotone, who is currently struggling with an unforgiving and unappealing work place accepts the position, and quickly learns that the cafe is more magical than she first expected. Through meeting non-human customers and discovering these other worlds they each call their own homelands, she finds fulfillment in learning the intricacies of running a small café business and starts to enjoy life once more.

Kotone’s situation is relatable and you already begin to feel connected to her through her understandable hardships, be it from her grandfather’s passing to her uncomfortable work environment. Speaking briefly on her character in fact, it’s worth pointing out how impressive and enjoyable Kotone is as the heroine of the title, being one of the best I’ve seen in the genre. She’s grounded, realistic, assertive and has a strong sense of self. No matter what dialogue options are provided, she takes initiative in expressing her thoughts or feelings which was an especially lovely surprise during Kaoru’s route in particular (flustering the mature and experienced older man was a feast for the eyes in itself), and even in the common route when she confronts her boss. She continuously makes understandable choices throughout each and every route. She was a joy to see on screen at every given moment and it truly feels like we are put in the shoes of Kotone.

Back on the story front there is a lot more to the initial cute and cosy set up after sinking in a few hours. From the humorous adventures into the LI’s own worlds during the prologue that subtly sets up and suggests deeper and darker events to come, the game juggles romance, angst and humour wonderfully. This comes as no surprise when you learn that the main scenario writer is Nakayama Satomi, the scenario writer of Code: Realize! With a promising premise that leads to even greater world-building and lore once experiencing the latter routes of Il and Misyr, Café Enchanté is immersive and greatly appealing for its story alone. In fact its story builds up so brilliantly that it is a worthwhile plot to commit to even for those less interested in a romance story, since Café Enchanté provides far more than it needed in substance. But what makes an already impressive plot even more attractive? Let’s get into the glorious LI’s next.

Those beautiful boys

Café Enchanté locks only one route who happens to be its poster boy, Misyr. Its four other LI’s have to be pursued with their good endings met to open up his route. In this section I’ll be describing each boy, what you can expect from their route, and general thoughts on them. The LI’s should also be played as followed to best avoid early spoilers:

Canus Espada

Yuichiro Umehara (Demento from Period Cube, Renji Kamiki from Gakuen Club, Shingen Takeda from Ikemen Sengoku) provides the gentlemanly voice of Canus. He is the headless Knight whose dark and looming appearance is juxtaposed with his soft and gentle personality whose home is the fairy realm, Medio. And for the LI with no head, I found him the most romantic! From the very first scene they share together once on his route to the very end, the emotions shared between the two are hard hitting, heartfelt and absolutely adorable. It effectively establishes the hardships the romantic pairings in the game will always face; the relationship between a human and non-human.

I also found it an endearing touch that Canus in other routes is the source of logic and consideration to everyone’s feelings, yet when paired with Kotone he handles their major issue with uncertainty due to his never before felt romantic harboring towards his significant other. It can be agitating being on the other screen at this moment since Canus falls in the boyfriend category of thinking that his actions are the right call, but I enjoyed the subtle differences of Canus’ newfound romantic feelings for Kotone that sways his way of thinking so much so that the impact of Kotone being with him is extremely noticeable and clearly developed realistically and naturally. It’s super adorable and wholesome, with their journey’s ending being so well deserved and rewarding (the CG is gorgeous).

Ignis Carbunculus

Yuuki Ono (Yuzuru Saeki from Collar x Malice, Hamelin from Ozmafia!, Josuke Higashikata from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Taiga Kagami from Kuroko’s Basketball) fits impeccably as the voice for the hot headed humanoid beast Ignis. As the strongest beast from his homeland Bestia, he’s got a huge appetite to keep him at his best fighting form. And of course as you’d expect from his type, his temper hides his emotions and consideration for others. From immediately becoming the source of affectionate headbutts from a fellow, adorable sea beast in Kororo from his homeland, to his initial coldness towards Kotone due to not accepting the death of Souan who he held in high regard, Ignis’ care and affection for others is often not stated or indicated – but when it is, it’s the most impressionable and considerate of the bunch due to its rarity.

His route’s story happens to be my favourite, and is in a way a stepping stone to indicate what we can expect with the heavy angst the further in the story we come to with the upcoming routes. He also happens to be the closest in age to Kotone (don’t ask me about the specific mathematics, but in terms of God years, he’s young!), making them have the same kind of endearing and genuine connection like Collar x Malice’s Ichika and Mineo. I also love the more steamy edge his route ends on considering his straightforwardness and boisterous confidence. Their love is passionate indeed! And considering these characteristics, his few moments of feeling embarrassed and blushing sets my heart ablaze. Good job, Kotone.

Kaoru Rindo

Junichi Suwabe (Kimimaro Urabe from Sweet Fuse, Abradam Van Helsing from Code: Realize, Higa from Bad Apple Wars, Archer from Fate/Stay Night) is the voice of the mature, older LI Kaoru. He invigilates the cafe and the non-humans as he works for the Government’s Paranormal Measures bureau who observes and researches the conditions of the other worlds. He happens to be the only voice I immediately recognized, and it proved fatal in noticing since he was so deliciously distracting. As the flirtatious LI, compliments and sultry comments would slip out throughout the common route. I could not help him receiving my full attention each time he was on screen, but thankfully I managed to put him off until the third route which was well worth the wait.

As the only human of the LI’s, his route takes a surprising turn, and is the first indication of an extraordinary amount of surprises and twists that have yet to be revealed in the overall story. Kaoru is sure to fuel a lot of player’s thirsts for older men (it can’t just be me, right?) as he is downright endearing, with him trying to maintain a youthful appearance and attitude (such as his attempts at keeping up with the non-humans’ supernatural appeals and banter, and when we first see him dressed casually outside of work!) and has wonderful character development and relationship building with Kotone. I wish the route was just a bit longer since I crave spending more time with him, so while Ignis stays as my favourite route, my favourite LI is most definitely Kaoru. Could I beg the Gods for a fandisk just to hear more Kaoru?

Il Fado de Rie

Kaio Ishikawa (Hikage from Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, Dante from Piofiore, Louis from Code Vein and Dimitri from Fire Emblem: Three Houses) puts on a delicate and lighter voice than usual as he plays the fallen angel Il. I’m certain he’ll be the majority of player’s most anticipated route to play, but with such a story heavy route, it’s worth being patient and keeping him for the fourth play through.

Speaking of which I’m sure he’ll also be high on many player’s favourite LI rankings. Il will already be turning eyes not just from the in-game girls, but his favourite hobby being locked up indoors to play otome games is sure to be a plus for all of us! Alongside his unusually elegant features and appearance, he’s often crowded by onlookers, much to his comrades’ concerns. He’s babied by the group for his lack of social skills, and this innocence is further fueled by his sweet perception of people’s intentions and romance in itself. For someone so well versed in romantic video games, his realisation of his feelings towards Kotone during his route is one of my favourite scenes in the entire game. And it only gets heavier from here in the emotional department.

Misyr Rex

And finally, the poster boy of Café Enchanté, portrayed by Kenji Akabane (Zaav from Oninaki, Kaminsky from Sakura Wars: The Animation)! Having never heard of his VA before, Akabane does an outstanding job at bringing the many layers of Misyr to life and I look forward to seeing him be in the spotlight again, be it in an anime or another otome title. The mystery and intrigue of Misyr is noticeable from the get-go; he’s the only non-human to not rent a room in the cafe, he is outwardly envious of other suitors and protective of Kotone as soon as they meet, and is dismissive of any and all information regarding his Demon World. He stays as an enigma until you finally get to his route.

There’s not much I can mention here without spoilers, so I want to take the time instead to reassure players of this route being well worth the journey in arriving to. As the final route, it ties up all the loose ends and questions the previous routes were unable to disclose. For all of the plot relevant revelations to happen in one route, Misyr’s happens to be the one exception from the 4 chapter rule, with 6 overall. While I may be quite saddened with this fact due to my greed in wanting the same treatment for my favourite LI’s, I accept the situation considering how gripping the story gets in Misyr’s route. You won’t be disappointed after such an effective build-up throughout the other routes and the climax reaching an impressive high by the latter chapters in Misyr’s route.

The presentation

The sound design in BGM tracks is provided by Love Solfege who also worked on the Taisho x Alice otome title. Each track reinforces the specific emotion the scene is going for, from the more intense or suspicious moments (“Lurking in the Darkness”), to the laid-back cafe scenes (“Coffee to Wake You Up”) and the ethereal tracks once entering another world (“Alternative World: The Holy Decree”). With how many times you’ll be hearing many of the same tracks playing throughout the title, the soundtrack is easily re-playable even when you’re not playing the game. The art designs provided by Yuuya, best known in the West for the character designs of Dandy Shot, and even the recent reveal of the very attractive looking Cupid Parasite are also worth complimenting, adding further polish to the title with their artistic talent. Character designs look enchanting in their own right, with many expressive and detailed sprites being scattered across the game to emphasise certain emotional lines and events. And don’t get me started on those stunning CG’s. Beautiful!

The UI is clean and always cafe themed, with gorgeous illustrations fitting the overall warm and cosy vibe of the title from the home “menu” screen to the earthy, brown color palette in the options screen. If I did have a complaint on the system however, I personally cannot recall an otome that does not indicate when a selection increases the LI’s level of interest/relationship progression. For example, Hakuoki and Sweet Fuse show an icon after selecting responses to indicate a positive reaction in the LI. But by merely autosaving before selecting choices in Café Enchanté, the responses gained from your selections are often telling enough to indicate if it was the best option to choose. Furthermore, Café Enchanté can be played blind without a need for a walk-through unlike many other visual novel titles since achieving the good endings are a breeze. On top of this you do not have to experience the bad endings to complete the CG gallery or music collection, reinforcing how laid-back you can be in the comfort of Café Enchanté.

The nitpicks

But Café Enchanté also has one of the most bothersome common routes to trudge through after experiencing even once since events are exactly the same until you get to the character routes which feels woefully shorter for the majority of the wonderful LI’s. This brings in one nitpick of mine with the skip function. It was far more bearable in Piofiore due to the common route being so short, but with Café Enchanté having such a lengthy common route to select the right options to advance onto a different character’s route it can take up to half an hour to do so. You can skip into the story once you have completed the route, but with no CG’s available for the bad endings it feels quite redundant in having such a function available at all.

Worst yet is the reoccurring issue with Aksys’ translation errors. It is required to re-read certain lines of dialogue to get a better understanding of what is being said, where the errors are that awkward to read at a natural speed such as letters being mistakenly added or the wrong tense being used. Unfortunately, it does seem to be more of a consistent problem than Piofiore’s case, as I noticed such small typos and bizarre text formatting throughout the common route and each character route.

The pacing

The length of finishing the title can take up to 50 hours depending on your reading speed, with the common route being the longest section. The structure of the game goes through the prologue, common route, character route, and route ending (good/bad) after the credits. It is worth highlighting that the common route is a whopping 8 chapters compared to the character routes often involving 3 chapters and the final chapter (4) for the majority of the LI’s, and 6 for Misyr as previously mentioned. And despite how much I adore spending time with the LI’s, the story’s pace is aided by this decision as no route ever feels unnecessarily slow paced or weaker than other ones.

Furthermore, I want to point out how each other world and events exclusive to the character routes are fully realised and felt so detailed to the point where learning more of these other worlds was a highlight in itself. And for how much I adore the cast, it is also worth mentioning how each LI are different enough from one another to be attractive to many player’s preferences, yet each guy is so brilliant you’ll have a hard time figuring out who your favourite is. What it comes down to is that I’m hungry for even more from Café Enchanté and I wish the journey never ended.

Cafe Enchante Review Verdict

Overall, the title has an immersive story and impressive world-building, making it an easy suggestion for those who are new to the otome genre who may or may not be the targeted demographic. It’s simply that good. With a story rich in detail and the especially exciting moments of exploring the “Isekai” side of the game, it’s filled with unexpected twists and turns by the latter part of its story. Café Enchanté is in the higher tier of otome titles to me, with a plot that exceeds expectations and is equipped with one of the most endearing and delightful otome casts within the genre. It sits comfortably up there with the likes of Collar x Malice and Code: Realize.

Verdict: 4.5/5

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Lilia Hellal
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