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  1. #1

    [NSW/PS4] Little Dragons Café

    First impressions based on the unpatched US Switch version. I didn't really wanted to wait for the day-one patch to download so I started right away.

    Little Dragons Café (it should be Little Dragon's, but grammar is dead) is the next game of Yasuhiro Wada, best known for Harvest Moon. After selecting your character between boy and girl, you start helping your sibling and mother in a rural café. Tragedy strikes and your mom doesn't wake up the day after because her human blood isn't synching with her dragon blood, or so a wizard with a wooden poop on his staff tells you. He also unloads a dragon egg unto you forcing you to take care of it while running the café. According to the guy this will wake your mother up.
    The dragon egg hatches and the cutest little red dragon is now your pet. Within a couple of hours two waiters and one chef join (rather forcefully) the cafe and the usual routine of exploring the overworld, gathering ingredients, collecting new recipes, and serving people in the café.

    I've only play only one Harvest Moon, on the GBA, and LDC feels exactly like it. Wake up, do your rounds around the café to collect ingredients, go back to help everyone during lunchtime, explore more of the overworld, dinner time, and then go to bed to wake up the next day and repeat the whole thing.
    The routine is made more enjoyable on how fast new characters and the story progress (at least in the first two or so hours), and that the little dragon is cuteness incarnate.
    You cook recipes through a short rhythm minigame and like the Atelier series you can create better recipes by using rarer ingredients.

    On the Switch loading times could be better, but the game looks lovely and runs smooth, with the exception of the camera. It's a rather strange thing. The camera rotates smoothly around your character when stationary, but if he moves it's like the camera moves in steps: it's something a bit hard to explain by words, but imagine the camera must move from 180 degrees to 181 degrees, and it doesn't smoothly goes through 180.1, 180.2, 180.3, and so on, but jumps from 180 to 181 in one go. This happens when the camera has to follow your character around, but it's not as evident. However moving while rotating the camera makes this "effect" even more evident.
    This is the only technical snag I've found so far, and it's a very strange one, not to mention something incredibly evident that really brings down the colourful graphics.

  2. #2
    One morning the little dragon was engulfed by a bright light and it grew into something already bigger than my character. It might not tower over him but from head to tail, the dragon's taller. And he's starting to get frustrated if you don't pet him when he wants to, even when I'm in the café serving people. To avoid risking being eaten by the dragon when it'll grow even bigger, I pet him as soon as it's angry. I don't know if the dragon has a personality you can influence through actions or food, but you can influence its skin colour with different food. It starts out red and I've tried changing its skin to purple and blue, but I don't quite like it in those colours, so I've turned it back to red with an overabundance of meat.
    Meaning that it'll find my character, helpers, and customers even more tasty when it'll grow up. Maybe I'll switch to veganism.

    I must admit the game is starting to get a bit boring: after the last helper arrived I spent a few days following a daily routine of gathering ingredients, help in the café, sleep. New areas open at certain junctions and until the café reputation was high enough for the first story character to appear I was stuck with in the same smallish area, with the same ingredients, with the same recipes, serving the only three customers kind enough to visit the shop.
    After the first story character showed up the routine was shaken up...for a cutscene, after that I was back to the usual routine of ingredients and serving until the reputation was once again high enough to progress to the next story event, which unlocked the a new area to explore.
    A rather large aream truth to be told, but I explored it in three or so in-game days, and after that you guessed it, back to the routine of improving the café reputation by doing the same thing over and over.

    Rigth after I've completed the first storyline a new character appeared but it doesn't look it'll be any different than before, which is a real shame as I'm really liking the characters the game introduces every now and then.
    On the other hand controls are starting to get on my nerves. The camera, even after the day-one patch continues to be "snappy" and I don't think I'll ever get used to it. There's a lot of pop-up that also affects terrain and shadow casting, and seeing shadows magically being cast by ridges while you walk around is jarring.
    The jump is a bit unresponsive, it's like you need to hold down B to jump rather than simply pressing it (not to mention that jumping with B on a Nintendo console is an abomination), resulting in a slight delay. If you're too close to a ledge and hold forward to jump forward, your character gets stuck, requiring to jump and then hold forward. It's not a terrible jump overall, but when Little Dragons Café asks you to jump over smallish rocks to climb ledges it gets annoying. I don't think you can die by falling off cliffs (the game has invisible walls all around cliffs too high) and this is not a platforming game, but those are things you tend to notice and dwell during exploration segments.
    Hitboxes are also very generous and it's easy to get stuck in corners or around objects. Again, not terrible but it can get annoying. Especially during café segments, where everything has an hitbox and everyone will be able to push you around while you can't. I think this is the worst part of controlling your character, you want to get somewhere to get an order, deliver a meal, or simply walk somewhere, and everyone gets in the way forcing you to get the longer route or wait for them to get out of the way for you to reach active areas where you can do stuff. A couple of times I was boxed in by two characters, and if I'm not mistaken how fast you get orders and deliver meals affect the café rating, in addition on how good meals are.

    Little Dragons Café is exactly how I remember Harvest Moon: an endearing concept that has to be lived through a lot of repetition and some glaring pitfalls in interface and/or control design. I'm still playing it and I'll continue to do so until Valkyria Chronicles 4 arrives, kinda enjoying it, but most probably boredom due to repetition will kick in soon enough.

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