Kotone Awaki is ready for a sea change. After leaving her soul sucking job to inherit her grandfather’s cafe, she can’t wait for the relaxing days ahead filled with the aroma of coffee. But her idyllic dreams definitely didn’t include beings from other worlds. When an angel, demon king, fire beast, government agent and headless knight are the first patrons to her new cafe, her world will never be the same. As Kotone bonds with her new regular patrons she also learns the unique and sometimes terrifying truths of their worlds and discovers her own strength in facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Welcome to Café Enchanté, the latest otome release by Aksys Games. Now, let’s look at what made it such an enchanting experience!
Café Enchanté Quick Info
Platform: Available on the Nintendo Switch (you can check where to buy physical copies at the Aksys website)
Number of Romance Options: 5 guys
My play through order: Canus –> Il —> Rondo —> Ignis —> Misyr (order doesn’t really matter but Mysir’s route only unlocks after completing the others, and there’s a single line in Ignis’ route that makes a bit more sense if you play Il’s route beforehand)
First play-through time: ~10 hours
Total Play Time: ~ 30 – 35 hours (after the first play through I skipped through the ‘common route’)
Game Set Up: Prologue + 8 chapter main route + 4 chapters per individuals route (Misyr’s route has 6 chapters in his individual route) + short epilogue after the ‘end credits’
Content Warning: In all the routes, the MC is usually placed in some kind of danger. But, specifically in Ignis’ route (third & final chapter), there’s a few scenes of her getting physically attacked (she’s kicked, bitten and thrown around).
Café Enchanté Review – A Whirlwind Romantic Adventure
When I first started playing Café Enchanté I have to admit, I didn’t know what I was getting into. But much like Alice going down the rabbit hole, I was quickly sucked into a new, strange world. But unlike Alice, I was desperate to stay. The game starts as a heartwarming and endearing tale before diving into a rather intense and dark story. I wouldn’t say that this thematic change gave me whiplash, but it certainly kept me on my toes! In each route there’s a ‘big bad’ to face and the easy going days of the common route are replaced by a tantalising dive into the other worlds, their history and often the resolution of character’s past trauma.
There’s a tension that permeates every scene, and you can never quite guess what happens next. I often played routes all in one go, staying up until 2 or 3am, unable to put the story down. I absolutely had to see what development came next and was only satisfied once I had achieved the character’s ‘happily ever after’. While I say ‘happily ever after’, there’s a bitter sweet bite to some endings that one could say is reminiscent of coffee. Like I said, it’s a game that keeps you on your toes.
Of course such an interesting tale is only as good as the characters that populate them. And as I played through Café Enchanté, I was struck by how they continued to surprise me. I played through Canus’ route first because I wasn’t sure how much I could connect to a love interest without a face. But as I progressed through his route, I had become so completely enamoured by the awkward yet tragic knight that the mystery I had conjured in my mind of what he looked like didn’t matter at all. Rather, I went on an emotional journey as the game went through his struggles within his pre-determined role and ultimate redemption. In each route, the game did a fantastic job of creating these intriguing, wondrous characters and their horrifying struggles. And at the centre of it all, is Kotone.
As has been discussed in reviews of other games, otome heroines tend to be quite hit or miss, but Kotone was quite a remarkable heroine. She understood her own physical limitations, and who could blame her, sometimes the characters were literally facing god. But instead of fighting, she did everything she could to be an emotional support to the others. She provided them with love and a safe space for them to be themselves. In a game such as this it’s easy for a ‘regular’ human main character to get lost in the magic, but Kotone shone through in everyday moments. One of my favourite scenes of her is very earlier on in the game when she stands up to her ex-boss. It’s a scenario that I’m sure many of us have faced, and seeing her tackle it after gaining so much confidence in herself was just as magical a moment as visiting all those other worlds.
My only complaint with the story is the very long common route. In my first play through, I didn’t mind it so much as it gave ample opportunity not only to be introduced to the characters but to see their interactions with the MC and bonds with each other. The common route really built the Café Enchanté regulars into a family. And yet, in later playthroughs I found skipping text very tedious, especially if I got onto a route I had already played and had to start skipping from the beginning again. This issue could have been easily elevated by a ‘skip to next choice’ option, which is a must have for games with long common routes.
But, and far more pertinent, is that I found the long common route came at the expense of developing some of the character routes. This was particularly felt in Rindo’s route, where his first two chapters were my favourite in the game but the final climax and “resolution” of his plot fell short. An extra chapter or two to this route could have made all the difference in ensuring the story had the proper room to develop rather than head to a rushed ending.
Accompanying the story is some truly splendid art. For the main characters, it was exciting to see how their character designs reflected parts of their worlds and themselves (especially in human form). I honestly had the biggest grin on my face whenever Ignis came on screen wearing his bright ‘NYAN’ shirt. But when it comes to art, of course we have to talk about the CGs. The CGs were, in a word – stunning. Each and every one was so beautiful, and took full advantage of whatever scene was occurring to really tug at the heartstrings. I would be reading a scene completely dry eyed and then a CG would pop up (with that music!) and I would be in tears!
One of my concerns when I first heard of the long common route in this game was that there wouldn’t be many CGs in the individual routes, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The individual routes are full of CGs, for example Rindo has four CGs in the common route and nine in his route. Although, I wouldn’t mind one or two more of him – I would never say no to more Rindo.
In terms of graphics, the only issue I came up with is in Misyr’s route there is some dark brown text that appears in the middle of the screen. I found that this text was often difficult to read and ended up having to click past it and refer to the log to decipher it. But just a very minor issue in a graphically gorgeous game.
My biggest impression of Café Enchanté is that it is truly a game made with love. You don’t have to look far from the game’s interface, which while gorgeous also navigates like a cafe menu. And as corny as that sounds, as you play through you can really tell the amount of time and detail that goes into each and every scene. Backgrounds bring not only fantastical worlds to life but immerse us in the everyday lives of Kotone and the patrons. In Il’s route, I adored having a little easter egg hunt trying to see what otome characters would pop up in his room, and various places he visits. And in Canus’ route I was lost in the gorgeous scenery that defined his world of Medio, compared to the bitter isolation of Ignis’ Beastia.
Nothing was spared in creating the characters that populate these worlds. From their designs to personalities, they only added to the rich experience that Café Enchanté provided. Although, I am a little salty that some side characters didn’t get individual routes. I could play an entire otome games just about romancing the angels (fan disc please!). Ultimately, world building is central to Café Enchanté , and with such an ambitious and expansive story it could have felt very lacking. But the time taken to develop the worlds and their lore has truly paid off.
In terms of mechanics, Café Enchanté is just like any other visual novel. As you play through the route your journey and ultimately the ending you achieve is dictated by your dialogue and action choices. Each route has a ‘best’ ending, and a ‘bad’ ending but there are also some immediate bad endings you can get just from selecting the wrong choice. I actually enjoyed going back to try and find these ‘bad ends’, ultimately seeing what could have occurred had I chosen differently. As you play through the game, you also uncover various dictionary terms. To be honest, in previous visual novels I’ve played, I tend to ignore this mechanism. But here, I actually had a lot of fun learning about coffee making and also found it a good tool that summarised plot/ character developments.
On a final note, I will say that the translations could benefit from some TLC. I noticed spelling and grammar mistakes as well as a lot of awkward phrasing and spacing. I found this was particularly prevalent in the first two routes I played – Canus and Il. There were a few times I had to re-read lines to really get them and sometimes ended up mentally substituting words to make sense. In the examples below, the first screenshot just didn’t make any sense in the context of the scene and in the second ‘untrusted’ should be ‘entrusted’. I didn’t feel that these translation issues ruined my experience with the game at all, but they did make it a bit harder to full immerse into it. However, I can definitely see how for some this could potentially turn them off the game, and just as a patch for Collar x Malice Unlimited was released I do hope Aksys considers one for Café Enchanté.
Café Enchanté Final Thoughts
I didn’t mention it in the core of the review but Café Enchanté was a game that I played at exactly the right moment of my life. Burnt out from my stressful job, and recovering from a small surgery at home I surged through the story and completely fell under its spell. I explored unimaginable worlds and became enamoured with wonderful characters, and when the journey ended all I could think was that I wanted more. I almost felt an ache upon completion as I missed the characters and world of Café Enchanté that I had become so familiar with and fond of. However, the game was not without some faults. The translations really do need additional QA and the very long common route made some characters routes feel lacking in comparison. But overall, my time spent at Café Enchanté has left a lasting impression on me, and it’s a story I won’t soon forget.
Thank you for checking out my Café Enchanté Review and a big thank you to Aksys Games for providing me a copy of the game for review.