There’s something magical about being the owner and barista of my own chill coffee shop. No, I’m not talking about the customers, who consist of elves, orcs, vampires, and werewolves, among others. I’m not talking about the mundane, nonhuman, everyday problems they bring into the shop, either. I’m talking about being behind the bar making drinks, hearing the stories, and watching these people grow in more ways than one. It’s even better that the coffee shop is one that opens during the late hours till dawn, mimicking my own sleep cycle.
I’ve been wanting to play Coffee Talk for a while, so when I saw it on sale for the Nintendo Switch, I jumped at the chance. Nowadays, video game pixel art has really stepped it up a notch. But what really left a lasting impression was the story the devs at Toge Productions wove together. Though of course, like with any well-crafted three-dimensional characters, there will always be flaws in good work.
I'll Have The Usual
One thing that Coffee Talk has going for it is the unique fantasy world that houses all sorts of races. Not “races” in terms of the skin shades we humans separate ourselves with, but whole different beings with distinct forms of magic, culture, and stigmas.
I know some people look to games as a way to escape from the real world but sometimes, games can also serve as a commentary on the very life we live. Coffee Talk is one of these games, using strong storytelling techniques to provide an entertaining and enrapturing dialogue on contemporary issues.
The beauty in every story the customer brings with them is that it could be anyone with the same experiences. Sure, maybe real life isn’t riddled with elf politics or orc discrimination, but the stories have threads of reality woven through them. These truths are just molded to fit the world of Coffee Talk’s alternate-reality-Seattle. The best thing about these stories is that they’re crafted with love and care, so every character has a voice.
Behind the everyday woes, there’s the kind of humor that could only arise from living through the trivialities of life. The game doesn’t take these mundane problems seriously, just in stride like the course of the setting sun.
It's Not That Simple!
I usually have a tough time pointing out which character is my favorite when it comes to games, but Coffee Talk is filled with personality. I was completely taken with Freya and Hyde, one being a human journalist and writer, the latter being a centuries-old vampire model. That’s not to say I didn’t like the rest of the cast either: Aqua was incredibly adorable with her shy reactions, and I enjoyed Gala’s sturdy personality. Meanwhile Myrtle’s solitude was relatable, and Neil’s social awkwardness was endearing. It was incredibly fun to see the entire cast interact with each other as the days passed by, and it was even more satisfying to see the loose ends all wrapped up. But man, I was thirsting for more! There’s just so many paths this story can take, especially with its contemporary writing.
However, I thought the ending was a little too quick to resolve everything—which isn’t to say the ending is bad. I just wish the writers took a little more time with some of the characters, especially since there were relationship dynamics that changed offscreen and didn’t get a chance to be shown. Of course, being a coffee shop game that spans only a few days of the month, I would imagine that premonitions and aftermaths would play out in the shop rather than during the journey. I understand that the devs are also banking on the gamer being a little more attentive, like a reader—I mean, it is a visual novel, after all.
Coffee Talk seems to be set up well for expansions. Though their Twitter mentions exploring other stories, it promises nothing—which is just as well. Devs, don’t get my hopes up, but if you’re reading this, I’d love to see some more backstory on Neil, Freya, and our lovely barista.
What If We Had Never Met?
Despite my minor complaints, I enjoyed Coffee Talk immensely. The only lasting regret I have is that the game isn’t longer. I find myself going back through the in-game days to relive some of the great dialogue and banter between characters. Coffee Talk also warrants a second playthrough, just so you can see the hints and foreshadowing the writers dropped along the way—it was satisfying to know the they didn’t pull any unwanted surprises, so long as you picked up the hints they left for you.
If you want a game with a narrative that'll keep you ruminating on the perspective of contemporary life, Coffee Talk will sate your cravings. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your stay.