[Spoiler free until specified section]
For the first time since 2019, I am the proud owner of new otome! I’d been wanting a few new titles released this year for quite some time, but I couldn’t justify purchasing them for myself without reason; happily, I was fortunate enough to be gifted them for Christmas. As I’ve completed the first of three games I plan to review, we’ll open it up this commentary with a light-hearted, catchy tag line! Welcome to enchantment! ❤
Awaki Kotone, a young woman just starting to make her way in the world, is troubled. Her job, working customer service for an MLM, makes her feel meaningless—if the work didn’t do it, her abusive boss’s constant, screaming put-downs would be enough. The world is crushing her as it does so many when she receives the letter from her beloved grandfather. Not long after, Awaki Souen passes, leaving control of his coffee shop–Enchante–in Kotone’s care.
Kotone once lived at Enchante as a young child. Her parents, busy with work, left her in Souen’s care, and he took said care of his loving granddaughter seriously. As the letter he sent her suggests, the cafe and welcoming his regular customers helped him find meaning, but he wants to make sure that Kotone knows she’s perfectly free to sell the cafe and make new meaning for herself. More than anything, he wants her to be happy.
Our game begins when Kotone arrives at the cafe. She hasn’t seen the interior since childhood, and in her inspection, she discovers a back room housing a mysterious, ornate door. Was the fairly mercurial Souan planning to replace his front entry? On a whim, she turns the sign plate from “closed” to “open,” and is immediately enveloped in the arms of a man in… demon cosplay?
So the adventure of her lifetime begins as Kotone learns to brew coffee and take orders, but also about finding meaning, welcoming and accepting others, and realizing her own strength of will. If a little (or a lot!) of supernatural romance occurs along the way, well then…
This is Cafe Enchante!
Rumors—the anonymous societal “they”—told me that Cafe Enchante was a light-hearted, cute title! I believed them! And, to be fair, there were a lot of cute, light-hearted moments in the common route (Kororo the sea beast has my heart now, guys), but as soon as we dove anywhere near the character routes, I was taken firmly aback (but, of course–as I love deep themes and angst–in the best way). If these themes are light, I shudder at what my upcoming play-through of “Piofiore” will bring. (The anonymous, societal “they” told me that Piofiore, in contast to Cafe Enchante, was DARK.)
Unlike Code Realize or Collar x Malice wherein a central theme is explored through various routes that all tell their own stories but contribute to an thematic whole, Cafe Enchante takes care of a lot of its central discussions in the common route. Instead of tackling a central premise like Code Realize’s “God in the Machine,” each character route explores wildly different questions with…middling results. The only commentary they really have in common occurs in passing: humanity likes to take up space where it isn’t necessarily welcome to do so and creates disaster, with or without intention.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Cafe Enchante, because I very much did! However, before we get into the meat of this review–further commentary on themes and character routes, let’s discuss a few more superficial things that made Cafe Enchante a joy to play. (We’ll also touch on a few that are annoying.)
I saw a few screenshots on Reddit earlier this year (from Il’s route, in fact), and at that time, I wasn’t convinced that the art style of Cafe Enchante would end up bein my favorite. In fact, I held onto this mindset until I actually started playing. Now, it’s rather grown on me, and as a comparison point, I prefer it to the particular uniqueness of Code Realize. The light-dappled backgrounds are lovely, and while we’re on the subject of backgrounds, one of the character routes features an otome-loving character, so many vaguely blurred still images in the form of posters, merchandise, and banners appear in his route, which made me excited each time I could pick out their real-world counterparts.
This game had a lot of current references: everything from 2020’s Tiger King to how out-of-stock the Switch has been this year! It was a light-hearted sort of amusement that went a surprisingly long way even though the references weren’t major plot points or anything. It also had some hilarious lines that, while I won’t mention them all here, are available to peruse in the Twitter moment at the end of this commentary.
Getting back to the visuals, the cafe themed menu and ornate, semi-transparent UI were adorable!
The music astounded me. This game has some of the best media music I’ve ever heard. The casual, intense, triumphant, and tragic tracks blew me out of the water and created perfect ambiance, conveying incredible emotion. I’m not normally one for buying game soundtracks, but I would buy this one. I have a feeling it would be brilliant for writing. Additionally, the opening and ending are such bops!
I’m not sure why the common route had so fewer spelling, grammar, and formatting mistakes in comparison to the character routes, but it did. The notable degree of difference had me wondering why in the world they didn’t pay even a single, English-speaking person to play through the whole game and proofread. Anyone could have done it—degree in English or no.
Another annoyance that more deeply impacted my gameplay was the lack of a progress/relationship stats indicator. Unlike Hakuouki Edo Blossoms/Kyoto Winds, there is no beakon of progress to let you know if your choices are working you toward the route you want. You’re basically flying blind without a walkthrough! This is made especially annoying when some of the choices you make only immediately change the story by two or three text frames, which is in an of itself another annoyance.
Before we move further into review, please note; the recommended play-through order for Cafe Enchante is as follows: Canus -> Ignis -> Rindo -> Il -> Misyr
Route Commentary: — Spoilers in this Section (to skip, click here)
I showed my friend, Chronic, the Cafe Enchante OP, and without any sort of prompting, he said, “Dullahan is clearly best boy.” I, too—as early as the opening video/song—was taken with Camus. I kept shouting around my house (quite literally) about how he doesn’t have a head, and that that alone would have been enough to peak my interest, but his PERSONALITY! That perfectly gentlemanly…well, knightly…type that I just adore! As I told my further told my friend while gushing about him, “He’s the Harada of this game, and I love him for that.”
The Fairie of Death’s route is the most wholesome of the bunch, with Kotone working to break into Canus’ lonely existence while making him understand that—although Enchante will always be a welcoming haven for him and all her other customers—she and her grandfather are different people, and her method of running the show will be different than his. Further, the feelings she has for him transcend that of a simple customer or even friend, and he doesn’t need to push her away when she discovers the awful truth of his world. I cried in Canus’ route for his pain and loneliness, but I also injured myself in joy at his unexpected end-of-game proposal.
I didn’t expect something quite so sinister to lie at the heart of the fairie world, Medio, but it really set the stage for what would come next. It was also the first route in which I noticed that any time Kotone is injured, she gets well almost unnaturally quickly (though, to be fair, basically all the routes are like this). If your body and soul is nearly consumed by a giant tree, you shouldn’t be up walking around like 10 minutes later!
As a side note, Vennia’s “they/their” pronouns (which eventually turned to “he/him” pronouns) were an interesting touch and perfectly in line with the androgyny of some fairie life. When Kotone just came right out and asked them about their pronouns, I was surprised. It isn’t something I’ve ever seen in a game like this, and that made it worth noting.
This route also established in passing the de-facto moral/theme of the overarching story: people mess everything up. In this case, they invaded the fairie world and planted the tree, Yggdrasil, which grew to enormous size and consumed everything standing between it and proper sustenance.
“This is a game about a coffee shop. This is a game about a coffee shop. This is a game about a coffee shop!” As I drew closer and closer to the end of Ignis’ route, I found myself repeating this mantra aloud as though it would suddenly sound less oddly hysterical passing my lips. Events occurring and revelations introduced left me flabbergasted and using humor to express my incredulity. From the beginning, Ignis in all his tsundere glory spoke to me. What can I say? Between the gentlemanly protector and the tsuntsun with a mashed potato heart, I clearly have a type or two, and Cafe Enchanté knows how to cater.
Ignis’ storyline—like Canus’—drew us far away from the coffee shop, but there was a removal even Canus’ route—diving into the fairie world, Medio—lacked; while Canus’ struggles with his isolation and duty were nothing to scoff at, I had a very visceral and highly uncomfortable reaction to Ignis’ desire to consume other creatures, including his impulse to EAT the woman he loves. Normally I’d completely and intentionally ignore the double entendre, but I really do feel the need to specify that he wants to devour her, and not (just) in a sexual way.
My mouth dropped open more than once, I’m sure. While I didn’t injure myself fangirl-ing over any sort of adorable marriage proposal, I did gasp a slightly hysterical “His tongue is in her mouth!” at the end there. Generally, his route rotated my feelings between charmed, faintly flabbergasted using humor to cope, and back again. I enjoyed so much the feeling of lingering discomfort and introspection I felt after playing.
Canus wanted to hold on to Enchanté the way it was under Souan’s ownership because it was a safe and welcoming haven from his murderous existence. Even loving Kotone, he didn’t want to lose the cafe haven, and Kotone’s role as its owner was more focal to his route. In contrast, Ignis just wanted Kotone, and the cafe was an extension of his dream of life with her that he would willingly lose if it meant holding on to her, but to do so, he had to fight his very nature.
I didn’t want to like Rindo Kaoru as much as I did. The 20+ year age gap between him and Kotone was a lot for me to overlook, all things considered. Yet, even in the common route chapters, I found myself… charmed. Even though I don’t self-insert and would not date someone two decades my senior in my own life, something about his charisma, confidence, and concern for Kariya spoke to me. I grew fond of Kaoru, if in a different way than Canus or Ignis.
Then, if we’re being honest, when I saw Kaoru in street clothes, it was over for me. The man is ATTRACTIVE. Yeah, he’s a lot older than myself and Kotone both, but hey… what can I say? It’s just the truth, and I thought that how the game actually spoke about and tackled that age gap was interesting.
I thought Kaoru’s route would be the human route—the “let’s settle down, meet your parents, get married, and have a baby” route, but I was soundly wrong, and I’m not super torn up about it. Things didn’t go fully sideways right away, but when they did, it was a complete deviation from my expectation; I didn’t—couldn’t!!—fully anticipate the twists his route would take even if some of my tweets on the subject did turn out to be fairly prolific.
The themes that got to me were the sorrow and pain of losing someone you care for, loving them no matter what happens in the future, and living in the moment rather than only for the future. Again, humans are corrupt, and they ruin things.
Before I talk about Il, a little about Solitus:
I just wanted good things for Solitus. The side character who won my heart—I wanted to love him and give him hugs and friendly relationships. How could anyone not want good things for my main man, Solitus? I wanted Il to care about him more, honestly. In the end, he and EpHOWDOYOUSPELLIT are friends, and I’m so glad that he has that relationship, but Il never prioritized him in anyway, and even though he was a “bad guy,” he was totally brainwashed by “God!” I fully get that Il was created with very little autonomy, but he did not try to reach out while Solitus openly and vocally saw Il has his other wing–almost a brother or platonic soulmate–throughout the course of their very long lives. ❤ When Il fell, he did not try to make Solitus see his way of thinking (or should I say feeling?). I know that Il was still in shock and was far too emotionally immature/incomplete himself to recognize any feelings he had for Solitus at the time, but if only it were possible that he could’ve reached out sooner, I believe that would’ve made all the difference. Solitus is my bias now. What’s done is done.
Getting back to the route proper, the themes explored in ll’s route are primarily “God in the Machine” and the nature of personhood. Angels as mathematical, logical, and science-based beings is a fantastic take on their inhumanity and falls in line with the order and logic involved in creation within our own real world. I thought it was a fantastic touch.
When I first suspected that Il drew from an otome man to form a personality, I was shocked and then completely unsurprised. I ADORED the little hints regarding Il’s nature that only made sense in retrospect. Il himself isn’t my personal romantic type, but I thought the route was incredibly interesting. I cried at the end. Further, Il’s route–as previously stated–attempted a Code Realize-esque take on deus ex machina/”God in the Machine.” It’s take-aways in that specific regard weren’t as concrete, but that’s because it had divided priorities.
Moving in from that, the big bro little bro relationship between Misyr and Il is worth noting, and this route took it farther than any up until this point. That Misyr was the one to help mold him into himself was a strong relationship foundation and helps explain his protective nature toward the angel.
Naturally, as Il is an angelic being designed with Judeo-Christian influence in mind, I was naturally fascinated by the way Cafe Enchante chose to incorporate various biblical terms and figures. I am always fascinated by things like that. As a side note, I fangirl-ed hard about the otome within ototme that seemed to pop up perpetually in Il’s route (see what I did there? In perpetuity?).
While there were a lot of plot lines left dangling in Il’s route (souls?? fragments?? anyone??), at the end, he got his happiness not only through Kotome, but through being FREE. ❤
The demon-angel face off between Il and Misyr made both characters look that much more bad ass. Honestly, Misyr got a whole lot more attractive in Il’s route, I think both because he displayed such power and such concern for Il.
In Misyr’s route, everyone except Kotone and Misyr get their happy ending. I say this because—while the two do end up together, their “together” is truly bittersweet. When Misyr changed forms, I expected that THIS would be the route I mistook for Karou’s: meet the parents, get married, have a baby route. Again, I was wrong, and this time it really did break my heart.
Misyr’s route, being the true route only unlockable after the completion of all others, wraps up the mythos of the story in a nice little bow. It ties up the major loose ends and provides some sort of closure for everyone involved. (It even gives a happy ending to my bias, Solitus!) There are large chunks of his route that don’t require any decision making at all, but I couldn’t bring myself to mind as I watched events unfold. Still, I find myself saddened at the ending rather than jubilant. Maybe it’s just where I am in my life right now, but the imminent and eternal loneliness Kotone will feel after Misyr’s death is a lot to process.
The route played with my emotions. Like I said, when Misyr turned human again, I thought–yes! this is it! someone to spend her natural life with who she won’t have to leave behind! I guess I was right, but in the end, she’ll be the one left alone, and…
I’m going to leave the commentary there on that. Short and sweet.
The use of various mythos to create a compelling narrative worked out well! As a Christian, I’m always fascinated when I see biblical themes used in unique ways, and this game did so fascinatingly. In Misyr’s route, we see the tenacity and selfishness of man. We also come to understand how the beings of all worlds are interconnected and descended from a single human source–Genesis, if you will. The sinful nature of humanity is explored through Noah’s fate and the fate of the worlds discovered by man.
Yes, humans planted the tree, fed the demon beast, sought to play God with their own genetics, and created “God” in the heavenly realm, Caelm. There are so many places the lore of this game could go that it frankly just doesn’t have time for, but a fandisc would not be amiss in my opinion.
Further making my heart hurt was the relationship (or lack thereof) between Noah and Misyr. The whole route just has me drowning in this vague sorrow that I can’t help but carry with me. Really, you have to play the route to fully comprehend the depths of my odd melancholy, so furthering my commentary won’t have much purpose. ❤
All in all, I had a great time with Cafe Enchante. I played it almost obsessively for several days, and the game provided enough content to keep me entertained for hours—well worth the $50 price tag, in my opinion. It turned out to be a game about more than a coffee shop. Though the coffee shop setting did facilitate a lot of the heroine’s personal growth in the common route, everything was also building to the exploration and intersection of worlds in such a unique way.
Kariya’s inclusion was such a bonus; he’s a great side-character that we get to watch coming into his own. He was used to further the plot, yes—especially to show some of Kaoru’s best nature—but he wasn’t written off, and his inclusion in the cast definitely improved the game as a whole! (Plus, if you make him blonde, he’s Yurio from Yuri!!! On Ice. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it.)
Lastly, the game actually taught me how to make pour-over coffee! I’d tried my hand at doing so with a jerry-rigged set-up with subpar results, but I have been gifted a true Hario set-up I’ll be using in the future. Even with my cobbled together work-arounds, the advice it gave for brewing helped me create a much better cup!
Cafe Enchante is available on Amazon, from Gamestop, etc. for the aforementioned $50. You can buy it virtually (although I personally prefer physical copies) at that same price from the Nintendo eshop.
If you’ve played Cafe Enchante, let me know what you thought! What were your favorite parts? Who were your favorite characters? Did the routes give you the same impressions that they gave me? Let me know in the comments below, and as always…
Stay home when you can, wear a mask when you can’t; wash your hands, and stay safe! ❤
Welcome to 2021!
⚡️ “Shoujo Plays Cafe Enchante ☕✨”