In the rainy city of Seattle, there’s a cafe that only opens late at night. Coffee Talk is a place where all walks of life can relax, feel safe, and enjoy a good cuppa. Patrons from all over the city have made this place a regular part of their lives, these are their stories.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly 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. Without spoiling the original story, you will want to be familiar with some of the twists and turns that game took – particularly regarding your character. You’ll still be able to enjoy this episode regardless, but there may be some moments of confusion.
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. It starts out obvious what you need to give to whom and when, but to get every character’s best ending you will need to remember who knows who so they can pass on the message. For example, you may receive an invitation for an event that’s fast approaching, and the intended recipient doesn’t show up for you to hand it to them. Instead, you can give a close friend of theirs the invitation and they’ll in turn give it to whoever it was actually for. It’s a well used and explored mechanic that adds just a tad more depth to how stories can play out. There are even achievements for forgetting to give characters items.
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. I said in my preview that the short stories feel more like a blog, but actually they all come together to create a really interesting piece of fiction written from two perspectives. 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 of 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. Riona connects to most other characters’ stories, and she’s super relatable. 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. As she opens up, there’s some very human twists and turns to her story, making her a great focal point for the game.
Most characters feel sufficiently fleshed out and continue on their resolutions from the original, with the exception of Aqua and Myrtle. This was very disappointing to me as I really like them. Here, however, they show up exactly twice – once to introduce their new problems and a second time for their epilogue. While their conflict was relatively simple compared to others, I do feel it really should have been expanded upon. Like, Rachel’s life is going great, and she gets way more screen time than those two.
Outside of that, every character arc feels well thought out and complex. With how many characters their are, I’m surprised at how the game can almost effortlessly juggle them, moving you from one story beat to the next. Seeing several of them connect feels natural and satisfying, especially when you know you’re the one who made it happen. That’s not to say the characters lack agency this time around, it’s because you as the player have more.
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 regularly swapped back and forth between the two platforms.
Of course, the pixel art itself remains excellent. Character portraits are mostly just poses, but what animations there are look great. Some of the drinks look incredibly appetizing as well, despite being made of pixels. Actually making the drinks can be a bit finicky still, with some recipes requiring you to use ingredients in a very specific order, rather than a combination of the three resulting in what you want. I also still struggle to find certain recipes patrons request. Some orders are very vague and require trial and error. Make sure to save before every order if you want to go for the good endings, because the meters showing how bitter or sweet a drink will be basically feel meaningless.
While Episode 2 will only take you a few hours to finish, there’s still a lot more to discover here. There are achievements, new plot elements in New Game Plus, and of course the side modes Endless Free Brew and Challenge Mode. Free Brew is exactly what it sounds like (with discovered recipes being saved to your app too) while Challenge Mode tasks you with fulfilling as many orders as possible within a time limit. Under extras you’ll also find all the artwork you’ve seen in the game, including Tomodachill posts and ending screens, as well as a list of achievements. You may be satisfied with a single playthrough of the story, but there’s still quite a lot to see and do in this visual novel.
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.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is a wonderful followup to a chill and touching story that retains the charm of the original while not feeling bound by it. The character arcs feel even more human and relatable within a fascinating world and branching story.