Last week, Gematsu sat down with Little Dragons Cafe creator Yasuhiro Wada and Aksys Games founder Akibo Shieh to discuss the upcoming dragon-raising, cafe-running simulation game.
Get the full interview below.
Before we start, can you give us a quick overview of the game’s story?
Wada: “In a general word, Little Dragons Cafe is an adventure game. Last year, when we released Birthdays the Beginning, that was a complete simulation game. With Birthdays, I created the system first, versus with Little Dragons Cafe, where I created the characters, story, and universe first. After that, I focused on how to apply the game elements to that story. At the beginning of the game, there are three main characters—the mother, the boy, and the girl—who are running a peaceful cafe, but one day the mother falls into a deep sleep. The story is based on trying to save the mother.”
What inspired the island setting of Little Dragons Cafe?
Wada: “I like to make games that are based not in the city, but away from that lifestyle. Rather than the busy and bustling city, I prefer the quiet and lonely countryside life.”
Finding recipes and ingredients to cook is a major component of Little Dragons Cafe. What role does cooking play in terms of advancing the story?
Wada: “As you know, the kids are trying to run the cafe. As far as how the ingredients and the recipes play a part in the game—obviously you have to feed your dragon, and by adding recipes and dishes to the cafe’s menu, you’ll be able to gather more customers. At the beginning, all you have is a single recipe for sunny-side up eggs. The mother obviously knows how to make many more dishes, but because she has fallen into that deep sleep, all the kids are able to make are those sunny-side up eggs. As the kids explore the island, you’ll be able to find ingredients, as well as recipe fragments. When you collect four fragments, you can create one big main dish—one recipe. As you increase your menu, you can feed more foods to your dragon, as well as attract more customers. As more customers come in, they will have issues that the player will help resolve to expand the story. And in order to resolve these issues, the key is the recipes and dishes served to that customer.”
Can you talk more about how the dragon affects the game?
Wada: “The dragon will get hungry, so you’ll need to feed it to keep it happy. You need the dragon as your partner at all times, as there are areas that you cannot access without your dragon. So the obstacles you’ll face will require the help of your dragon to get through it, slide over it, and the like. There will be creatures around the entire island that you won’t be able to do anything against other than run away from, but your dragon may be able to attain ingredients from them. That’s why you need to feed your dragon, so he can help you.”
On the subject of these creatures that appear in the wild, does the player not fight them directly? How do battles work exactly?
Wada: “There technically aren’t any battles in the game. In order for the dragon to get the ingredients from these creatures, he’ll just bump or tackle them. There isn’t any blood or gore or anything. The player—the boy or the girl—can’t do anything against these creatures. All you can do is run away from them. So if you’re in the right location with the dragon, the dragon can either tackle or bump that creature to obtain their ingredient.”
Is there some sort of strength system? Is the dragon unable to defeat certain creatures without being a certain size?
Wada: “The dragon has different stages, which you will develop through the game. When the dragon is still a pup, he can’t go against the bigger creatures on the island. But because the pup is small, it can crawl into spaces that you as a human can’t, like little holes. As your dragon becomes bigger, it gets stronger, then you can start breaking obstacles and that kind of stuff. There may be obstacles such as not being able to reach certain ledges, so your dragon may be able to move certain rocks and boulders for you to step on to reach those ledges. Basically, your dragon will help you explore more areas on the island. By exploring these new areas, you’ll be able to obtain different ingredients.”
We know that weather plays an important role in Little Dragons Cafe in terms of customer traffic. Does weather affect any other areas of the game?
Wada: “Technically, not really. Maybe small things like your stamina might not be as good on bad weather days. There is no big effect to the game itself.”
How about the day and night cycle?
Wada: “The ingredients that you can collect during the day and night can differ. This is something I discussed with the artist, but as far as gameplay goes, [the day and night cycle] doesn’t affect the game negatively, what I really wanted to show was the scenic differences such as the sunset and the beauty of the island. I really wanted the player to see the various aspects of color usage.”
Little Dragons Cafe has quite the batch of whimsical characters. Which one is your favorite?
Wada: “The dragon. (Laughs.) I have three cats at home. If you asked me which cat is my favorite, I wouldn’t be able to answer that. I treat my characters like my kids. I made a big effort to create each character, and they each have their own personality, so it’s very difficult to compare each one… I do have one that I feel very fond of, but I can’t say who quite yet.”
Aww, why’s that?
Wada: “I’m not sure which characters have been revealed so far.”
Pretty much all of them have been revealed except for two, I believe. I covered a lot of the Japanese updates, so I’m pretty sure about that. (Editor’s Note: As of press time, all characters have been revealed.)
Wada: “I like the idol cat. From a personality standpoint, I like Morris. I feel like he’s a character that would never show up in any other game… He’s very unique, kind of weird.”
If I remember right, he’s the mischievous ghost?
Wada: “He’s just not very intelligent. (Laughs.) Simply said, he’s just stupid. But he’s a lovable character.”
Will Little Dragons Cafe have any romance elements?
Wada: “Please enjoy that sort of thing in Bokujou Monogatari. (Laughs.)”
So not even another dragon for your dragon to fall in love with?
Wada: “This time, there isn’t. (Laughs.) If Little Dragons Cafe is successful and there is a sequel, then there is plenty of story to tell. We have a big world and Little Dragons Cafe is only a small part of it.”
How involved is Aksys Games in the development process?
Shieh: “Mr. Wada and I go back quite a few years. Actually, Mr. Wada has been my friend for over a decade. I have been Mr. Wada’s friend for less than a decade. (Laughs.) He doesn’t remember us exchanging business cards 12 or 13 years ago. But I met him again after that and we reconnected and talked about making various types of games before settling on this. This is a concept that he already had. I said, ‘Wow that sounds great,’ and we just started working on it. As far as co-development goes, I’d say that, funding, yes, Aksys Games provided, but because we have a lot of trust in Mr. Wada’s ideas, we gave him a lot of freedom. And we would give him feedback as he built the game up—we would tell him we think this should be that color, that should be this color, this shape, that kind of stuff—but we gave him a lot of freedom to create this game, so I have to give him credit for the end product.”
One thing I noticed in the videos Marvelous published on the Japanese website is that there is quite a bit of pop-in in the outdoor environments. Is this something that the development team is aware of?
Wada: “Pop-in as in graphics seen from afar?”
Yeah, that’s what I mean.
Wada: “Ah, clipping. I’m guessing that you’re seeing video of the Switch version. As we were developing the game and deciding upon the range of how far you can see, we wanted to maximize that, and with the specs of the Switch, there is a certain point where you can see that clipping. I didn’t want to make that smaller because I wanted to show the expansiveness of the island… Basically I want to maximize what we can show, and that’s where the clipping comes from.”
Will there be a demo for Little Dragons Cafe?
Wada: “Right now there are no plans for a demo.”
Shieh: “We’re going to release the game on August 24, so the release is not too far off right now.”
One thing I personally enjoy seeing in games that get simultaneous releases in Japan and the west is the ability to switch between English and Japanese text. Is that an option in this game?
Wada: “That is not an option. This is more sort of the business side of things, but because we have different publishers for each territory, as far as the IP goes, Aksys Games and Toybox owns the IP, but we did sub-license it to Rising Star Games for Europe and Marvelous for Japan. So in order for there not to be any conflict, we stuck to our own languages for each territory.”
Ah, so it’s a matter of not jeopardizing sales for each region?
Shieh: “Correct, we didn’t want to sabotage sales. It was a business decision.”
Are you planning any post-launch downloadable content?
Wada: “If it becomes a series. For now, no. But if it becomes a series, there is definitely a possibility. There are a lot of things I want to do for this franchise. Little Dragons Cafe is a brand new IP and a big risk we’re taking, and we did our best to make the best game with our budget and want to see it succeed. If it succeeds, then what successful game doesn’t have a sequel? I have a lot of ideas, and it’s very difficult to implement everything into this first game. If Little Dragons Cafe is successful and people are willing to see more, then in the sequel we’ll be able to take more of a risk and implement more things that the fans are asking for.”
What inspired the creation of Bokujou Monogatari? What made you want to make a game about farming?
Wada: “I wanted to make a game that had no competition, as well as a game that nobody else had ever made. Currently, there are a lot of farming sims, but at the time there was pretty much nothing similar to that. There was no Animal Crossing or any other farm simulations. No dating sims, no marriage sims. I wanted to make a game of life simulation.”
I know you don’t really have favorites in terms of characters, but maybe that’s different in terms of the Bokujou Monogatari games you’ve created. Which one is your favorite?
Wada: “Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. Do you know which one I’m talking about?”
Yeah, it came out on PS2, I think.
But didn’t it come out on PS2, as well?
Wada: “It did, but I don’t like the PS2 version because it’s slower.”
Do you have an all-time favorite bachelor / bachelorette from the Bokujou Monogatari games, or from A Wonderful Life?
Wada: “Nami. She’s probably my favorite.”
You’re working with Marvelous in Japan to release Little Dragons Cafe. Would you ever collaborate with them on an entirely new creation in the future?
Wada: “Little Dragons Cafe is the first project I’m working on with Marvelous ever since I left. So in the future, anything can happen. The possibility is there, but right now there are no plans.”
Would you extend that possibility to a new Bokujou Monogatari or Rune Factory game?
Wada: “(Laughs.) I don’t know right now.”
Since Little Dragons Cafe is coming out on PlayStation 4 and Switch, can you share your thoughts on each platform?
Wada: “In regards to Birthdays the Beginning, it was originally developed for PlayStation 4 and Steam, so in order to port it to Switch, we did have to downgrade the specs. But we did a bit of rearranging to make gameplay upgraded in order to compensate. In regards to Little Dragon’s Cafe, the plan from the beginning was to make it for PlayStation 4 and Switch. We used Unity as our base engine to build the game, which should make the game about the same quality wise.”
Have you played Stardew Valley?
Wada: “Last year, I had a discussion with Eric of Stardew Valley. From some time around noon until the evening, we both played Stardew Valley and Birthdays the Beginning alternatively. Stardew Valley is very well made. Eric told me he spent four years making that game by himself. I was very surprised and impressed.”
What are your plans after the launch of Little Dragons Cafe?
Wada: “Right now, I’m already at work on another project. But I also want to watch the success of Little Dragons Cafe so I can possibly start working on a sequel. Our goal for Little Dragons Cafe was a worldwide simultaneous release, so we took a lot of time with the localization. As far as my part on the development side, most of the work was pretty much done by the end of last year. I started the new project earlier this year, but was still simultaneously working on Little Dragon’s Cafe to help with localization and implementing all the different languages, as well as helping promote the game.”
Finally, can you please share a message for our readers?
Wada: “I really want everyone to enjoy this game. It would make me really happy if as many people as possible can play this game.”
Thank you for your time.
Little Dragons Cafe is due out for PlayStation 4 and Switch on August 24 in North America and August 30 in Japan. In Europe, it will launch this summer, but a specific release date has yet to be announced.