Before anything continues, I will state that this is a bittersweet reunion. 2020’s Coffee Talk from Indonesian developers Toge Productions was a surprise hit, blending a linear well-written narrative, with a small, but nonetheless deep coffee-making system. With hopes high, work on Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly was tragically cut short after the untimely death of Coffee Talk creator and writer, Mohammad Fahmi.
There’s not enough that can be said about the challenge facing Toge Productions in regard to continuing to build upon the world of Coffee Talk, but the welcoming familiarity is a great start. Taking place 3 years after the original, you’re still the barista operating a late-night cafe in present-day downtown Seattle, in an alternate universe where mythical beings are commonplace among regular humans. Lending an unwavering ear, you play privy to their problems, while also deciphering what they truly want, not just from coffee, but a hot drink in general.
Yes, it’s not just Coffee Talk, but Tea Talk, Mint Talk, and even Honey Milk Talk. Armed with a fat handful of ingredients, you’ve got an ingredient combination system that can provide more than just a robust menu of varied drinks. When a regular arrives, maybe their usual order of coffee, honey, and milk won’t be enough, but a special combination of green tea, lemon, and ginger. Who knows, maybe their day has affected them in a way that their preferred blend won’t satiate them, and you will know if that’s the case — you’re a late-night barista, after all.
From the get-go, stories are given their bases. Returning favorites collide with new arrivals, and all the while their issues encompass a larger world-view, heavily opinionated like before, but with a wider range. What was once a mature commentary and discussion of race, discrimination, and stereotypes, has now burgeoned into a mature commentary of business, growth, and simply being human. Throughout all of this, the game retains the sharp and seemingly neutral stance it did before, while still proving a point towards a side to take.
On top of the returning “Latte Art” mechanic, an awkward to learn but satisfying art tool, “Endless” mode also makes a comeback, which sees you tested under increasingly cryptic demands. It’s a fun gauntlet of endurance and touches on clues and tricks, and the new ingredients are fun monkey wrenches to throw in the gears of customer requests. It’s still the same mini-game from the original Coffee Talk, and that’s the important thing to know here.
If you’ve played the original Coffee Talk, it should be stressed that not much has changed superficially in 3 years. Look deeper, and you’ll see an attempt has been made to up the camaraderie and relationship Toge Productions have crafted not just with the characters, but the players themselves. With that said, know that the naming of “Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly” is rather literal; a note that this is a continuation, not strictly a full-on upgrade.
Don’t be fooled though, there are small touches you’ll notice almost immediately when you return to the coffee shop, one of which being small visual improvements made throughout. Character portraits have a little bit more oomph, and more clarity when showcasing emotions and reactions, and the general visual design has softer lines in a lot of areas, tying in with the general improvement of direction in scenes. It’s sharper in tone, both aesthetically and narratively.
Another interesting choice was to omit the hand extending out to hand customers their orders, instead replacing it with a tray. While the tray is a useful addition to account for the implementation of key items to be handed to customers alongside their orders, it’s also a potentially intentional trick to provide projection for the player. After all, you’re a voice of reason, a portrait for yourself isn’t necessary, especially if on the off-chance, the skin color of the hand shown in the original Coffee Talk doesn’t match yours.
The fake social network “Tomodachi” has also seen an addition in the form of stories: Status updates not unlike other real social networks that give you a glimpse into the backgrounds of customers you’ll befriend. It feels like a quality-of-life improvement made to retain a relationship with regular customers, even if you’re unable to level up your friendship with them over the course of the game.
All in all, it’s weird how 3 years past is both a drop in the bucket for the game, and for a player in general. It’s like you never left, even after all these years, the homeliness, the welcoming nature of a simple smile — even when a struggle is presented, it is without unnecessary hatred, something the original Coffee Talk mastered brilliantly. In a way, it’s a comforting feeling to know that Coffee Talk continues to be aware of the stunning variety of which humanity can be expounded in this format.
For the 90 minutes I experienced, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly has seemingly managed to retain what was exciting and lovable about the original while pointing resources in the right direction to retain freshness. It shows focus, it shows vision and care, and most importantly, it feels like a continuation of what Mohammad Fahmi originally created alongside Toge Productions. So far, this isn’t just a tribute, but business as usual, which could be the best possible outcome.
TechRaptor previewed Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly on PC, using a preview code provided by the publisher. The game is scheduled to release on April 20th, 2023, on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.