When it comes to dating sim visual novels, a category many localized otome games fall into, there tends to be shared element among them. They tend to offer common routes. This can be a storyline where, instead of romancing a certain character and focusing on their route, you see interactions with the group as a whole and perhaps a possible “true end” for the plotline. Cafe Enchante is no exception, though its common route is handled in a rather brilliant way. It’s used to make a player feel comfortable with the setting and provide reasonably explanations for why everything is happening.
Cafe Enchante has a rather out-there premise. Which isn’t too unusual for Idea Factory’s Otomate line. (We have had essentially vampire Shinsengumi and superpowered teenagers.) But in this case, people are expected to accept parallel worlds, bachelors that belong to a multitude of different species and a woman who abandons her job and life to become a barista and somehow could fall in love with one of these otherworldly dudes. There are multiple hurdles and, before you can even start to consider a specific character route, the game sends you through a multi-chapter and lengthy “main” route.
Which is great, because it tackles issues people might have had one-by-one. It layers on details to help you accept and understand. First, it deals with the obvious. The heroine, Kotone, has to accept that supernatural people exist, aren’t a threat and just want to have Cafe Enchante be a peaceful haven for them. So, we have a prologue and about a chapter with her adjusting to that and committing to wanting to keep this respite safe. It even deals with the idea of, “Hey, wouldn’t governments realize these sorts of beings exist, even though the ones connected to this coffee shop are basically under a demon lord’s protection?”
Then, we deal with the idea of Kotone becoming a functional barista and cafe manager. The Cafe Enchante common route deals with that too! We see her learning to make coffee, keep things running and handle supply issues. It even connects this to the concern about “how can you fall in love with people you don’t know so fast” by having basically designated hang out days with each of the bachelor candidates. In many cases, they’re even helping her as she learns or runs errands, providing ways to see how they interact in situations or deal with people around them. It’s enlightening.
Finally, it provides background for the character routes. Spoilers aside, the specific routes for the guys can involve visiting their home realms. But in the case of some characters, like Canus and Ignis, you’re already getting an idea of what to expect from the people and situations there. The main route provides information you would need, perhaps even if you don’t want to see that character’s storyline, that can help make Cafe Enchante stronger as a whole by virtue of having that extra exposure to new situations.
It helps provide a sense of purpose. Plus, I’d say it redeems the idea of common routes as a whole. I’m typically not a fan of them, especially if they last for over two or three chapters, because I know I’m going in to see specific stories. But even though Cafe Enchante’s main route is over three chapters long, it’s structured in such a way that it doesn’t feel like it. It’s so much fun and useful that instead, it’s a helpful bonus for the stories you’ve yet to see.
Cafe Enchante is available for the Nintendo Switch.