By Ronald Gordon
Once again, Coffee Talk has shown me that a simple conversation over a hot drink can lead to many friendships and many revelations. I never would’ve thought that watching fantastical creatures interact with each other would make me as excited as it does, but here I am gushing over fictional characters again.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is a relaxing, pixel art indie game developed and published by Toge Productions. As night falls once again in a world of humans and fantasy creatures, there’s only one place folks can go when they’re looking for something to warm not only their stomachs, but also their hearts. The Coffee Talk Cafe, which is only open late at night, always brings a welcoming energy and a good vibe. Yet something’s different this time around; the air of the cafe is fresher, the regulars who stop by have changed, and unfamiliar faces have begun to emerge, with new stories to tell as they stare into their mugs of warm drink.
Hibiscus & Butterfly doesn’t change the original Coffee Talk formula, but it adds new flavors to experiment with and new beverages to savor. Pair the right drink with the right scenario, and you’ll get to listen in on conversations you’d never thought you’d hear – from the wedding plans of an Elf and a Succubus to an Immortal Vampire looking for a new line of work to replace modeling. In keeping the homey feeling of Coffee Talk alive, Hibiscus & Butterfly does not disappoint. Which isn’t normally something that someone would be giddy over, but I could hardly stop myself from smiling as I played through.
When it was first announced, I instantly put Hibiscus & Butterfly on my Steam Wishlist. 2020 was when I discovered the first Coffee Talk, where my love of the simple yet powerful moments you can have with a person first came about. Since then I’ve been yearning for more moments since the first offering. I wanted it more than any other game, and I hoped and prayed it wouldn’t get delayed until later in the year because that would break my heart. Now I find myself sitting in the dark, listening to its lovely lo-fi music, watching as a boisterous Satyr named Lucas and a reclusive Banshee named Riona debate hate comments on the internet and related topics. I couldn’t be any higher on Cloud 9.
The way that Coffee Talk handles its characters and its issues feels more real than it ought to, and it opens my eyes to a sad fact of life. Namely, I can’t relate its scenarios to similar ones in the real world without feeling saddened that a Mermaid and an Ogre can understand each other more deeply than two human beings seemingly ever could. Such a reality is sobering to me, as I strive for a human-human connection in all aspects of life but am often met with silence and apathy.
What pulls me out of this dreary headspace every time is Coffee Talk’s beautiful music. When I played the first game, lo-fi jazz was a niche genre that I didn’t really appreciate. Now I listen to hours upon hours of this serene music, allowing the warming aura of the Coffee Talk Cafe to permeate my day to day. The art style helps as well. Despite it being pixel art, the visuals convey more emotion and personality than I would have thought possible. Each character has a unique look, from their silhouettes to the way their eyes move, so no two bodies you find at your counter are alike.
There was never any doubt that Hibiscus & Butterfly wouldn’t hit home for me, and I knew from the moment I played the demo that I’d be happily stuck with this game even after I finished it. There are so many secrets to discover, like hidden bits of dialogue and a whole underlying narrative behind the player character’s origins. So, I’ll be gushing over Coffee Talk for a while, and I’m content with this fact, because playing this tender game makes the myriad cups of tea I drink throughout the day taste all the sweeter. Everyone and anyone should play Coffee Talk for the feelings it can convey, and the way it challenges you to see both sides of any given situation before you begin to relate too heavily to one side or the other. It’s only then that you can truly find the source of any given issue, and how uncomplicated the solution might’ve been all along.
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle Member & Mentor. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.