Legacies are somewhat tricky, as they parallel the empty nature humanity weighs itself with. It’s easy for you to consider your life less than a footnote after a few years when in reality memory is aeternus. Whatever happens, existing by default is imperishable, an achievement, even in the face of time, and if everything were to dispel? The mere fact that she persevered is natural, not a miracle. It’s something that Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly teaches by far, that’s for sure.
This is the latest title from Indonesian developers Toge Productions, fresh off the release of A space for the unleashedand continuing the world of the hit visual novel/barista sim of the 2020s coffee talk. Things seemed uncertain as a result of coffee talk the untimely passing of creator and writer Mohammad Fahmi Hasni in March 2022, but all things considered? Regardless of the result and its quality, they did the humblest job they could, both in respect and design.
Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly continues into warm, familiar territory. 3 years after the events of the first game, you are still the owner and barista of “Coffee Talk”, a late-night coffee shop in the heart of Seattle. Set in an alternate world where mythical beings and creations occupy the Earth alongside normal humans, you play the kid-friendly craft bartender serving espressos with a touch of truth and wisdom, while being a fly on the wall for the kids. customer problems and ills.
Before I get to your woes and problems, though, you’re here to make coffee first and foremost, and the commands can range from simple to misleading. Sometimes your regular customers will know what they want, but other times, the events of the day may inspire them to be bold and adventurous in new flavors, or you may need to assuage their doubts. If you supply them with the correct drink, then you have the potential to improve your friendship with them, both through dialogue and through the game’s social network, “Tomodachill.”
If you read our preview of coffee talk episode 2, then you would know that the use of the word “episode” seems very deliberate for the story being told. These are continuations of the mechanics established in the previous game, but despite this, enough new content is placed alongside what you know, and actually syncs with it, to give it a rigorous shakeup. Not that it was necessary in the first place, but it reveals a consistent design desire and ethos throughout.
For example, the gameplay, while still using the same 3-ingredient coffee maker as before, the new ingredients and item giveaway mechanics reinforce variety and interactivity, respectively. The titular hibiscus plants and butterfly peas are not only a new challenge in the flavors they deliver, but are also home to unique artistic assets for the most special drinks with original names. It feels like a reward to create a drink like “Sweetheart Latte” or “Dreamin’ Blue” for the beautiful art that goes with it.
That’s not to say you can’t create a coffee with your own special twist, which is why the latte art mechanics of the above coffee talk returns. It can still be a bit tricky to understand the nature of creating latte art, a true easy-to-learn, hard-to-master skill, but creating something inventive almost feels incidental rather than intentional. In fact, unless the client specifically requests it, I personally decided not to bother with the latte, if only because I don’t want my impostor syndrome to spill over into the game as well.
As for the item gifting mechanic, customers can gift you items to give to others, or their clumsiness can cause you to keep them until they return. In either case, it helps create a feeling of connection between these characters, further expanding and solidifying the space you inhabit, even as a faceless barista who only speaks wisely. Even then, it’s not so much about what you provide to the customers, but what these customers provide to the player, and that’s humanity.
However, if you just wanted to make coffee, you’ll be happy to know that “Endless” mode is still available in Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly, with a small change made relative to difficulty. In the previous coffee talk, recipes can always be checked through the in-game “BrewPad” app, but whether intentionally or not, that option isn’t available here. I think it’s a great readjustment, if not for the difficulty, then at least to keep you on your toes in this much more rigorous format.
However, at the end of the day, the main event is the story, and reassuringly, everything to do with the narrative has been polished to a mirror shine. The world-building is reversed, underhanded, adept at providing context and dimension only when necessary and tactfully. It’s always fascinating to hear how elven culture is interpreted in the context of modern humanity, how vampires deal with immortality in the inanely paradoxical nature of the human condition. They are simple elements that have been given new life behind this backdrop, bringing a new complexity with it.
Is it saccharin? Yes, but it’s not forced, and I think that’s the etiquette. While it’s fairly linear in its structure as a visual novel, every moment is earned and earnest, and the plot’s appropriateness is overshadowed by a sincerity rarely seen in these fairytale landscapes. The modernist revisionism of the mythical creatures in this setting lends itself to much more prosperous thematization and opportunity, even when the issues faced are rooted in relatively drab dilemmas.
Things like dubious contracts, wedding plans gone wrong, prejudice, and mortality; everything is given ample scope to bring to life candid discussion and commentary from new angles and voices. While the end results are not necessarily original, it is the perspective from which they are told that makes them so refreshing. The connection you create through these characters, whether linear progression or not, helps convey these messages much more easily.
I realize I haven’t gotten into much of a discussion about specific times to show these feelings, but for what it’s worth, Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly has a lot to offer. Whether it’s new character RIona’s struggles to be accepted, vampire Hyde’s battle against immortality that bores him, or the haphazard adventures of everyone’s favorite officer Jorji, it’s all succinct. With each of the characters the game offers, all of them are engaging, fascinating, and provide stellar clarity.
There is no better way to say it: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly It is exceptional, both in what it proposes and in what it represents. The storytelling is seamless, the game elements are enhanced and given more air to breathe, and the home it provides is warm. Toge Productions has outdone itself here by providing a place that you can recognize yourself and be involved in, and whether or not this world continues, the fact that you can be a part of coffee talk at all is an eternal gift that makes me eternally grateful.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly it was reviewed on PC, using a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 8 hours of gameplay; all screenshots were taken during the review process.