Hey Blerdy Tribe, so I finally managed to finish an otome game in the same year it was released—miracles do happen! This is a huge accomplishment for me since I have a bad habit of buying games on launch day and NOT playing them until months if not years later. To put things in perspective, Code Realize came out in 2014 and I’ve still not finished it. So finishing Café Enchanté just a month after its release is a personal best for me.
Aksys Games unleashed Piofiore Fated Memories and Café Enchanté on us, just a few months apart from each other and not gonna lie when I’m confronted with the choice between Hot Mafia boys and hot supernatural beings… I’m going to pick the hotties that bite each and every time… besides didn’t Poni-Pachet have the whole mafia boys thing covered boys back in 2013. So, I put a pin in Piofiore and dove headfirst into the world of angels, demons, and secret agents… oh my!
As it is with all otome releases, in Café Enchanté you take on the role of Kotone Awari an absolutely normal young Japanese woman who is at a bit if a crossroads in her life. She’s working a thankless and emotionally draining office job and to top things off her beloved grandfather, Souan recently passed. Still grieving her loss, Kotone learns that gramps left her his café in his will. Despite having no clue how to run a coffee shop, Kotone quits here crappy job and heads to Tokyo to fulfill her grandpappy’s wish of taking over the family business. She soon discovers that the shop is hiding more secrets than she could ever imagined. Café Enchanté caters to a very exclusive clientele—non-human beings from parallel worlds! And so begins her coffee fueled journey of magic, adventure, and romance~
So, everything about the promotional material for this game will have you thinking that Café Enchanté is a sweet wholesome slice-of-life otome game. But, when you really get into it, this game is just like every other Otomate localization to make its way stateside—story heavy otome games. And, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a smidge disappointed at being deprived of a cute fluff filled otome game… But, it looks like Aksys is keeping with their trend of bringing over otome games that are more likely to have better mass appeal. I personally like games with bit more going for them than just romance, but every now and again I like to break up the angst with something a bit more lighthearted and as it stands Japanese otome releases just aren’t filling that void. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the Café Enchanté, but some of the routes definitely favor drama over romance.
On top of that, the common route is especially long, spanning a whopping eight chapters, and while I usually find this absolutely frustrating, but in this case, having a much longer common route actually works in the game’s favor. Café Enchanté is set in a world where non-humans and humans coexist, blending folklore and mythologies from several different cultures and that can be a bit daunting. So the common route serves as a means to ease you into the world of the game without you having to worry about missing out on important plot points or character revelations.
The first three chapters focus on Kotone and how she adjusts to being the new owner of Enchanté. She literally drops everything to take over the shop, quitting her job and leaving her entire life behind for a fresh start. This is a huge undertaking that is made that much more nerve-wracking when she discovers that the café is frequented by several non-human patrons. As otome fans it’s not hard to extend our suspension of disbelief and move on, but Kotone is completely blindsided by this news—on top of learning to run a café, she now has to accept that not only do supernatural beings and parallel worlds exist.
It’s a lot to take in and I like that the common route takes the time to show Kotone adjusting to her new normal—she asks questions and puts in the effort to consider the feelings of the non-human patrons as she decides how she wants to run the café. She learns just how much of an impact her grandfather had on the café regulars, serving as a mentor, friend, and in some cases a father figure to each of the LIs. This isn’t just her loss, but their collective loss and it was nice to see them bond over their shared memories of Souan. Of course, this causes a bit of conflict, because Kotone is not her grandfather and while she wants to continue his legacy by running Enchanté, she also wants to do it her own way.
However, Kotone has ZERO experience running a café so she has to learn how to make coffee and essentially goes through training to become a functional café manager. Not many otome games strive for that level of realism… and as someone who had to go through barista training I could really relate to Kotone’s efforts. Making a good cup of coffee is not easy. But, we also get a chance to see Kotone learning about different types of coffee beans and even shopping for supplies so she can feed her hungry patrons. It doesn’t come easy to Kotone, but the LIs are always there to lend a helping hand, whether it’s Misyr teaching her how to brew coffee or Canus and Ignis helping with the shopping—it’s a group effort and it creates some really nice bonding moments.
The common route introduces us to the guys and their respective worlds. Each of the LIs get their own special chapter where Kotone gets to spend time getting to know them better and in the case of Canus and Ignis actually explore their home worlds and interact with other non-humans outside of the main cast. It gives us some much needed exposure to the world of non-humans while also giving us a small taste of what we should expect to see in the individual routes. But these chapters also serve as some much needed relationship building moments since you really get a chance to spend some great one on one time with each of the boys before deciding which one you want to pursue.
After you get through the common route the story branches off into the individual character paths. Each route focuses on a different conflict, with varying degrees of drama, but if you want to ease your way up to the heavier stuff, I recommend playing in the following order: Canus ⇒ Ignis ⇒ Rindo ⇒ Il ⇒ Misyr. While the first two routes can be played in any order, I think Rindo’s route is a perfect midway point for players before diving into the more plot heavy routes. Also, Misyr’s route can only be unlocked after you complete the first four routes.
Of all the bachelors, Canus was the character I was most looking forward to pursuing. Let’s be real how many chances are you going to get to romance a headless hottie? I mean there was that one time, but this was my first time in a Japanese otome game, so I was excited to see how Canus’s route turned out and… it was okay.
Canus is a headless knight who serves the Queen of the fairy court in Medio. I kind of thought the lack of a head would make it hard to get into the romance, since all the emotion is usually in their facial expressions. But the game gets around this by having the flames that come out of his neck change color to reflect his emotions and I’m not gonna lie, it was super cute seeing his flames turn pink knowing he was most likely blushing. While the other guys switch to their human forms when outside of the café or in Misyr’s case just uses magic to alter other people’s perceptions—Canus takes the low budget method and just wears a knight’s helmet… I know subtle.
But despite his imposing appearance, Canus is surprisingly really sweet. He takes care of the cafe’s garden and helps Kotone with the heavy lifting when they go out shopping. While he can be a bit bashful, he’s surprisingly personable and is on friendly terms with a lot of the folks around town. But, deep down, Canus is really quite lonely. Back in his home world, the queen of the fairies, Titania and her attendant Vennia are the only fairies that don’t run at the sight of him, so he mostly socializes with Kotone and the other café regulars. He has a bit of a tragic background so while he is polite to everyone, he tends to keep his distance so it takes a bit of work to get him to let down his defenses. But, when you do he is perfectly sweet!
Canus is definitely the best route to pick if you want to ease into the game, since his story has fewer stakes and the conflict is relatively light compared with the other guys’ routes. His route explores quite a bit about the Fairy World, which borrows elements from real world fae folklore and Norse mythology—the entirety of Medio exists within the branches of Yggdrasil (the world tree). His route also introduces a handful of fae side characters, but it doesn’t delve too deeply into fae lore; which considering how diverse fairies are is a blessing in disguise, because that could be overwhelming. The romance in this route was really sweet, and since there is less “drama” in this route, you really get a chance to see the relationship between Canus and Kotone blossom. Though, I was a bit disappointed at how subtle Canus was with his affection, but I suppose that is more fitting given his more reserved personality.
Ignis’s route caught me by surprise, it starts off like a cute slice-of-life romance and then BAM here comes an unending wave of heartbreak and suffering. It was jarring considering how light Canus’s route was and there was absolutely NO warning before the story took a turn for the dark. There were a few tense moments where I seriously worried I had landed the Bad Ending, but no, when things start falling apart, that’s when you know you’re headed in the right direction. Which I suppose is fitting, seeing as the Demon World, Bestia where Ignis is from is harsh ice covered tundra where it is literally kill or be killed. There’s a strength based social hierarchy where the strongest are at the top and the weak do everything they can to just survive.
I felt like this route gave a much more immersive look at the Demon World and the different types of demon beasts that live there, we aren’t just TOLD about Bestia, we actually get to see with our own eyes just how things work there, and I think that’s because Bestia plays a much bigger role in defining Ignis as a character/person. In Canus’s route, Media is less a part of who he is and more a place where he lives, his main conflict is much more personal, so delving into the world of Media isn’t really necessary to further the plot. But, in Ignis’s route who he is directly connected to Bestia.
Ignis can be a bit aggressive and straightforward, but he really is quite sweet when you get to know him and he has a strong sense of duty. He is known as the strongest beast, lesser beasts cower in fear when he’s around and stronger beasts are constantly challenging him to fights. He’s confident in his abilities, because he has proven his strength more times than he can count, but unlike other beasts who have no problem killing their opponents. However unlike his fellow beasts, Ignis has vowed to never kill and this more than anything else sets him apart from the other beasts. That and his enormous appetite… homeboy can EAT!
He is the youngest of the Enchanté crew, so that puts him much closer in age to Kotone, so their romantic relationship feels much more natural than it does in the other routes. While the other guys are inherently otherworldly in either their appearance or mannerisms, Ignis acts like a normal guy, so it was easy to imagine that if circumstances had been different Kotone and Ignis still might have ended up falling in love with each other. Also, being the awkward tsun bun that he is, Ignis is much easier to read than Canus was, so I could pick up on his romantic gestures better.
I am going to say this now, but I wasn’t actually looking forward to Rindo’s route all that much—compared with the other guys he just seems so mundane. Sure, he’s a special agent with games equivalent of the Men in Black, but if you didn’t know that, he just kinda looks like a 40 year old dude macking on a 20 year old girl…His first date with Kotone is at his apartment, and while it was super sweet, I can’t believe a grown man tried to Netflix and chill a gal on the first date… But, a lot of otome folks I know have been singing his praises so I went in with an open mind, and you guys… and he still didn’t do it for me—but, I will admit that his route had the more interesting conflict and Kotone was most definitely at her best here.
So, the obvious difference between Rindo and the other LIs is that he isn’t a non-human, so his conflict isn’t tied into one of the non-human worlds. Everything, at least in the beginning, is very much tied to the Human world and Rindo’s perceptions of non-humans. Despite being one of the more liberal members of the GPM, Rindo likes to keep a bit of distance between him and the non-human beings, even going so far as to encouraging Kotone not to get too wrapped up in non-human affairs and focus on living a “normal” life. His route explores the differences between humans and non-humans, even touching on something that I thought was missing from Canus and Ignis’s routes… the difference in LIFESPAN between humans and non-humans.
I liked that this route, more so than the others, really shows how Kotone is straddling the line between the Human world and the non-human world. As the new owner of Enchanté, there is always going to be this part of her life that she can’t share with friends and family and while she doesn’t see it as a problem now, it might be in the future—I mean look at Rindo, he’s pretty much Agent K from Men in Black—he gave up everything for his job and the only people he interacts with are his coworkers and the folks at Enchanté . There’s a lot of emphasis being put on living a normal life and finding happiness as a human, so they were pretty much hitting us over the head with the foreshadowing in this route. But, that didn’t make the finally whammy any less heartbreaking.
The romance in this route was sweet, but I couldn’t help but see Rindo as more of a mentor/father figure to Kotone and not an actual love interest. He’s much older than Kotone (physically) and even though he spends time with her, his actions had a much more platonic vibe to them than being overtly romantic. He just felt like a nice uncle looking out for his niece, even in the CGs Kotone looks so much younger than him, it was hard to see him as love interest. I felt the same way about Yanagi in Collar x Malice.
After Ignis’s and Rindo’s route I was under no delusion that Café Enchanté was a cute slice-of-life otome game, I mean come on Il is a fallen angel—there was no way this route was going to be sunshine and rainbows. And I was not disappointed in the slightest. At first Il comes off as a bit of an airhead, when he isn’t playing otome games he’s a bit oblivious to how his actions effect other people
Angels are very different from the other non-human beings we’ve met so far—angels are essentially created a puppets whose only purpose is to uphold the word of God…and if you’ve seen Steven Universe, you’ll see a lot of parallels between the Angels here and the Gems from Steven Universe. Because of that Il has a much harder time grasping human concepts than the other Enchanté regulars, but rather than taking the time to actually teach him, the other guys coddle him; treating him like a pampered prince. Ignis is the ONLY person in the group that calls Il out when he does something “wrong”, but given his less than delicate personality, his “constructive criticism” can be a bit on the harsher side… Misyr is also overly protective of Il in a way that doesn’t go unnoticed by the others and I like that this route carves out a bit of time to explore their relationship. It is revealed that he is the one that introduces Il to otome games as a way to help him better understand human emotions and mannerisms.
I have to say it is extremely meta to have an in game love interest who actually plays otome games. And he isn’t just a casual fan otome—his room is full of limited edition merch and games, he actively goes to otome themed cafes and events, and in the common route he wants to visit a nearby café because a scene from one of his favorite games took place there. But, none of the other Enchanté regulars show much interest, so he spends most of his time shut up in his room or in a quiet corner of the café playing games. There were moments when he would excitedly explain some aspect of one of the games he was playing and the other guys would just give a polite nod, but otherwise wouldn’t offer much in the way of conversation. The only person who seems genuinely interested in talking about otome games with Il is Kotone and it was super cute to see him going to her for her “feminine opinion” on how best to respond to certain dialogue options in his games. He even manages to convert her into becoming an otome fan. I love the progression of their relationship, it’s just so sweet.
But, man did this route hit me in the feels…HARD! Il’s route is definitely one of the more emotional stories, and there were times towards the end where I came very close to shedding a few tears. This is my favorite route in the game, the romance was perfect and the climax didn’t hold back its punches. Which made the best ending all the more satisfying because trust me when I say that Il’s route makes you work for your happy ending!
Misyr is the shipper on deck in every route in the game, offering not just sage wisdom as Kotone pursues her chosen love interest, but also providing opportunities for her to get closer with each of the Café Enchanté patrons. But, though he seems supportive in the other routes, you really get the sense that he might be harboring his own feelings for Kotone. His first words to her in the prologue are along the lines of “I finally found you” and while the other routes make it clear that Kotone has in fact met all the regulars when she was younger, the way Misyr acts around when he sees her for the first time implies that their shared past is much more meaningful than it is with the others.
Even though Misyr is a major player in all of the previous routes he is the most mysterious member of the Enchanté posse. But, as the “The Guy on the Box”, Misyr’s route is considered the “canon route”. In the past, I’ve not really been a fan of the canon LIs. The writers spend a LOT of time building them up over the course of the story, but they never seem to live up to expectations—and in most cases they tend to be pretty underwhelming. So, going into this route curious, but not expecting too much and I am happy to say Misyr’s route was WORTH the wait!
Unlike the other guys, not much is known about Misyr or the Demon World, Asmodia; even the information about them at the GPM is just first hand accounts provided by Misyr. Whenever someone asks him for details about himself or his world, he either gives a vague answer or redirects the conversation. Everything about him is a mystery. He claims to be a tyrannical demon king with immense destructive powers—and while they are great—he almost seems to go out of his way to give off the appearance that he’s just a really nice guy. He’s friendly with the café regulars and he takes care to help Kotone whenever she needs a brew tester and he acts like a protective older brother to Il… he’s damn near perfect. But, if I learned anything from the other four routes, it’s that there is always another shoe that’s going to drop and boy is this route a doosy. This route will break your heart, so make sure you grab a couple of tissues.
They pulled the ol’ bait and switch on us with Café Enchanté. If you only saw the opening trailer and read the game bio on Aksys’s website, you would think Cafe Enchanté was a sweet coffee filled slice-of-life romance—and if that is what you’re looking for, it’s probably best that you don’t play further than the common route. After that it’s all aboard the angst train. Each route starts off pretty sweet, Kotone spends time getting to know each of the LIs and learns more about their respective cultures and worlds and then BAM, the story takes a turn down heartbreak lane. And believe me some of these routes get DARK. In Ignis’s route especially, I was convinced I was on my way towards the bad ending. But, that’s part of the problem. There are times when it felt like the game didn’t know if it wanted to be a cute slice-of-life romance game about a café that caters to magical beings or a dark supernatural drama, there just isn’t enough balance. The common route did a much better job of establishing the dangers of associating with non-humans while still keeping a lighthearted tone and that was the story I thought I was getting.
Honeybee’s Ayakashi Gohan has a similar premise to Café Enchanté—both focus on a normal human girl living in a place where the humans and non-human beings coexist. Of course, relations between humans and non-humans are pretty touch and go; conflicts do arise between humans and non-humans, but for the most part in Ayakashi the tone is much more slice-of-life in nature. In contrast, Café Enchanté tries to split the difference attempting to deliver a feel good romance with a thrilling second and third act for folks looking for a bit more spice with their otome and in most routes it works. While I’m not really a fan of the guy, Rindo’s route had the best balance; establishing a relationship that felt natural and then introducing a conflict that both tied in with the existing worldbuilding from the other routes AND felt like a very organic progression for the character. This route had real consequences that don’t just get magically fixed by the end of the game. Then you have Ignis’s route where despite the descent into heartbreak we get, everything is seemingly “fixed” by the time the credits roll. While all of the routes tell a pretty self contained story, I feel like some of the routes could do with a bit more expanding through a fan disc… maybe? I wasn’t completely sold on the romance in some routes and part of that was because there really wasn’t that much time to fully flesh out the relationships before the plot came bulldozing onto the scene.
In comparison the family dynamic between the café regulars was absolutely perfect, I really got the sense that they each cared about one another and at least for me the moments when they were just hanging out in the shop together were among some of my favorites in the game. Even Rindo, who is technically an outsider fits right in with their lighthearted banter to the point that I forget that he’s human just like Kotone. Then there are characters like Canus who really shine when they aren’t in the spotlight. He’s usually the voice of reason in the group always stepping in to put things in perspective. But, the same can be said for the others too and I suppose that says a lot about how versatile they are as characters—they can exist both as leads in their own stories and as supporting cast members.
But, the real star of the show is Kotone, I guess I’m going to have to redo my top otome game heroines list because she is one of my new favorites. THIS IS HOW YOU DO OTOME HEROINES! I am loving the shift away from self insert heroines, because it really gives us a sense that we have some agency in the way the events in the story play out and it helps us relate to the heroine more. She’s the most underpowered person in the main cast and while that puts her at a disadvantage when compared to the LIs she still manages to hold her own in the story. She is allowed to be vulnerable but instead of that being a weakness it’s one of her strengths. Her ability to empathize with those around her and see things from their perspective and that what ingratiates her to all of the other characters. The tagline of the game is ‘Je t’aime juste comme tu es’ which means ‘I love you just the way you are’ and that is at the core of who Kotone is as a character. Her capacity for love and acceptance is what makes the café such a warm and inviting place to everyone, whether they are human or non-human. Even when she encounters a situation that is seemingly impossible, she faces it head on.
Rounding out the cast are a handful of side characters and while most of them are exclusive to specific routes, there is a bit of cross over. Kariya plays a more prominent role in the common route, but even after his conflict is resolved he stays on as an assistant café worker at Enchanté. Then there’s Kororo, a young demon beast Ignis finds alone in Bestia, he mostly serves as the cafe’s unofficial mascot. But for others, it’s kind of weird seeing a side character in other routes when they were the main antagonist in others. And some of the side characters like Epilogi and Asmodeus were a little too good looking to just be background characters…
I’ve said this before, but I AM A SUCKER for worldbuilding and with a game like this that blends together lore from not one but several different cultures, let’s just say I was in heaven!! But, what I really enjoyed about Café Enchanté is that the writers take existing lore and build on it to create something new. Canus, is a Dullahan, a type of fae that has it’s roots in Irish folklore, but the fairy world of Medio exists within the branches of Yggdrasil, a tree from Norse mythology that connects the nine worlds, then there’s the queen of the faries, Titania who is a reference to the fairy queen in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There are all these really neat references and it was fun seeing how it all fits together in the context of the world of the game.
In terms of appearance, Café Enchanté is a really pretty game. The character designs are unique to each character and even when they are in their human forms there are neat little details that giveaway their otherworldliness. Granted some characters like Canus aren’t really able to “blend in” all that well, but that’s part of what makes this game so unique. That and the gorgeous UI which carries over the game’s café theme, with menus modeled after café menus. Café Enchanté a very robust soundtrack with unique tracks for each of the various parallel world and still more to fit in with more emotional moments in the story. The opening theme song ‘precious places, precious faces’ is one of my favorites, and it’s upbeat lyrics and music put you in the mind of a relaxing lighthearted experience. The ending theme ‘eternal’ is just beautiful!!
I took four semesters of Japanese in undergrad and all I have to show for my efforts are a few cheap pick up lines and some basic conversational greetings. So, I am nowhere near an expert on Japanese to English translation (so take this with a grain of salt). But, as far as localized otome games go, Aksys did an alright job with Café Enchanté… nothing is as bad as the pre-patch version of Collar x Malice: Unlimited.
But, that’s not to say that the translation was perfect. There were a few typos here and there, but I want to stress that it’s not enough to really detract from my enjoyment of the games as a whole. Though, in the common route the translators switch from Venir to Vennia midway through and honestly that’s something the QC team should have caught early. And there was this weird thing going on with the spacing—sometimes there would be too much spacing between the words and there were times when the text would be bunched up in a corner without utilizing the full text box.
Aksys tends to go with more by the book translations, so there isn’t much in the way of meme-speak or any lines that’ll probably be dated in a few years. I kind of prefer this since overusing jokes can be a bit distracting and I really just want to enjoy the story.
Heck yeah! I really loved this game and I’m glad I chose to play it before Piofiore. While it isn’t the fluff filled otome romance we’ve been clamoring for, Café Enchanté is chocked full of warm feel good vibes that are bound to melt even the most jaded of otome fans. Like the titular café, Kotone and the rest of the regulars are sure to offer a fun and inviting experience for folks looking for a short respite in these trying times. So grab a warm cup of coffee (or in my case tea), settle down in your favorite chair, and lose yourself in this delightfully charming otome game.