2020’s Coffee Talk was a cozy visual novel about an alternate reality Seattle, chronicling the lives of the titular cafe’s patrons. It was chill, thought provoking and, despite lacking traditional choices, had quite a lot of variance in how the story could play out. Now in 2023 we’re getting an unexpected follow up: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly. I adore the original, so of course I lept at the chance to play the sequel’s first four days early.
Episode 2 picks up a little over two years after the first. Freya, now an established author, is on a research trip so our “main character” this time around is a Banshee named Riona. Of course you’ll see plenty of returning faces too, like Lua, the succubus business developer, Myrtle, the orc game developer, and Jorji, the human police officer. The game doesn’t miss a beat in putting you right back in the wonderfully realized urban fantasy setting, in a way that new players will easily be able to pick up each character’s deal without playing the first game.
While their arcs may have concluded in the original, life continues to throw new problems at our characters, such as Aqua and Myrtle’s opposing perspectives on a sketchy publishing deal or Rachel’s new solo career. As a barista, it’s not your job to solve their problems; just listen to them and serve them the drinks they need.
Serving drinks is the main way you affect the story in Coffee Talk, and you’ve got two new ingredients this time around: Hibiscus and Butterfly Pea (or Blue Pea for short). To make a drink, you choose a base such as coffee beans, tea, chocolate, and the like. Then you need to pick primary and secondary ingredients from a selection of lemon, ginger, honey, mint, cinnamon, and milk. Different combinations will yield different drinks, so you’ll want to get the flavor just right for each situation. What you serve a customer can generally yield one of three outcomes. Ideally you serve them the exact drink they need, but getting in the ballpark will still have a good result. Worst case scenario, you get their order completely wrong and they might get mad or stop visiting entirely.
If a drink has milk in it, you can once again draw some latte art if you’re feeling it but Episode 2 also introduces a new mechanic: giving items along with drinks. Sometimes, characters will forget or leave you with items like an old lighter, a business card, a message for another customer, or a… fidget spinner. You can place one of these items on your serving tray to deliver it to a character, offering another layer of choice on how characters’ stories play out. While it wasn’t used much in the first four days of our preview – I could give Riona either the business card or fidget spinner (which is also a business card) as an apology of sorts from Lucas – but I expect it’ll come into play later.
The phone menu returns as well, with a few new features too. You can access four main apps: Tomodachill, Brewpad, The Evening Whisperss, and Shuffld. Brewpad will keep track of recipes for every drink you’ve made, Shuffld lets you change the background music (which is super nice and chill), and The Evening Whisperss presents a short story for each day. The short stories are less interesting this time around unfortunately, with Freya no longer writing them, and it feels more like a blog. Tomodachill still shows you social media profiles of your customers, with more information unlocked as you become closer, but each day you can also view their posts. I’m not sure it does anything outside for fleshing them out just that little bit more, but it’s a great feature; you can even like their posts if you want.
The writing of Coffee Talk remains incredibly strong, and is perhaps even better than the original. All the characters are instantly likable and easy to empathize with. I’m especially interested in where Riona’s story goes. She’s been trying to become an opera singer for several years but hasn’t had any luck, possibly due to prejudice from her being a Banshee. I’ve been trying to find a job outside of Gaming Trend for about five years now, also with no luck, so I really relate to that. The game also dives into the revelations from the original’s twist ending pretty quickly (which I won’t spoil here), but I’m super excited to see how that plays out.
As a final note, while I played the original on Switch, I’m playing the sequel on PC. While the game often fails to see the resolution of my primary monitor and defaults to the secondary, this is pre-release code so hopefully that will be cleaned up by release. On Steam Deck though the game feels perfect. While it’s obviously much more difficult for a pixel art game to fill non-16:9 aspect ratios, Coffee Talk has a classy solution with natural break points outside of that standard ratio but allowing the UI to half sit on the black parts of the image. It’s a really neat effect, and I’ll probably play the rest of the game on Deck because of it.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly releases for all consoles and PC on April 20th. Look for our review of the full game around then and for all things gaming stay tuned to Gaming Trend.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.