Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
Caffeine: Victoria's Legacy Review Xbox Series X Cover

I’ve never really been into visual novels as a genre, but it’s something I’m trying to explore more. I think they have a lot of potential, and it’s just about me reframing my thoughts around them. I’m used to games with more, well, gameplay, and so I sometimes struggle to appreciate the beauty of a well-written visual novel. However, if I look at them from the perspective of an interactive TV show/ film rather than a game, then I tend to enjoy them more. So I wait till I’m in the right mindset for a relaxed storytelling experience rather than the action I’d typically expect from a game. This was the attitude I held when I approached this Caffeine: Victoria’s Legacy review for Xbox Series X.

This isn’t my first time reviewing a title from Ratalaika Games, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But with this one, I was struck by the high production value. Absolutely not a criticism, but the Ratalaika Games titles often feel cheaper or rushed. I’ve never judged them too harshly for that, as I feel you know what you’re getting with them. But Caffeine: Victoria’s Legacy doesn’t feel like that at all, and is certainly an outlier in that regard. I’d never have guessed that it was published by Ratalaika Games if not for the proud logo on the starting credits. As this is so story-driven, there won’t be any spoilers in this review. But is the game actually worth playing? Let’s dive into it!

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

I love how surreal the concept of this game is. A world that revolves around caffeine. I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker myself, but I imagine someone like Lorelai Gilmore would be in heaven if she found herself in Victoria. That’s the titular city in Caffeine: Victoria’s Legacy, and the lore is beautifully interwoven with the main storyline. I must say, the characters go into weirdly specific detail about how they make coffee. They’ll talk about the quality of the beans, the water, even the soil the beans are grown in. On paper, it should be boring, but it somehow isn’t. The game hypes the theme up so much, that it feels genuinely interesting.

Caffeine: Victoria's Legacy Review Xbox Series X, Coffee

In Victoria, caffeine possesses mystical properties that sets it apart from the coffee found in our world. The coffee is infused with qualities by the very soil that it’s grown in. There’s an invisible link between the drink and the drinker, and the powers are partly determined by the coffee itself, but also by the focus and imagination of the one drinking it. You have to really envisage the caffeine working, think deeply about the contents of your cup. The sweetness, the bitterness, the strength, etc. All the aspects of the coffee play a role in determining how it will affect you. It can be used to heal, to throw fireballs, even to teleport. It’s a fascinating concept.

As caffeine is so special in this world, it takes a special person to be able to brew coffee to perfection. Baristas train for years, and are treated like A-list celebrities. Baristas are household names, and having a well-known barista can be make or break for a coffee shop. I adore the differences between this world and our world, it’s so powerfully unique.

Coffee duel

An Intriguing Personal Journey

Of course, there’s more to the game than just coffee. You play as the protagonist, Taka Knight, who’s on a mission to find his mother who disappeared when he was just a young boy. After receiving a mysterious letter indicating that his mother was alive and well, he sets off on a flight, but the plane crashes mid-air, and when he awakes, he finds himself in a place like no other. But although the city and its customs are foreign to him, the coffee shop is all-too-familiar. The Taka Coffee House is just like he remembers it from when he was a child, as it was the shop that his parents ran. But everything else is different, the surroundings, the people, all of it. The game does an excellent job of building the confusion so that the player feels the same emotions as Taka does.

As the game evolves, so too does the story, and we get to learn more and more about Taka’s personal journey. He’s a complex character, and he’s definitely written in a way that the player can empathise with him. I also really enjoy his dynamic with Alice, the enigmatic and adorable owner of the coffee house. They have a wonderful connection with each other, and help one another grow to their full potential. The story takes quite a sinister turn relatively early on, and so it’s great to have someone as warm and bubbly as Alice to be by Taka’s side as they figure out the best way to proceed.

Caffeine: Victoria's Legacy Review Xbox Series X, Taka Coffee House

A Peculiar Setting

I was regularly impressed with the depth of the lore-building, and Victoria was really developed over the course of the game. We learned so much about the city’s customs and history, as well as the key players in the day-to-day running. I appreciate the effort that the developers went to when setting the scene, as they could’ve focused solely on the story. By providing so much backstory, they crafted a more immersive and therefore much more enjoyable story.

I loved the parallels between our world and theirs. It seemed to be the case that the physical land is the same, just that the borders were drawn differently. The United States didn’t exist, and there’s a very amusing scene where Alice has never heard of the ‘USA’ and struggles to pronounce it, calling it the ‘Yooessay’. Interestingly, though, Hawaii still exists, as does Mauna Loa, making me believe it must be an alternate universe. I find it funny how they get around copyright issues by slightly changing brand names. For example, ‘Starbucks’ became ‘Sparducks’. It made me grin every time.

Moriya Coffee House

The same resources seem to exist as in our world, but society evolved differently. The general aesthetic is rather steampunk in nature, and it suits the story well. The characters wear clothes that are unfamiliar to us as a player, and therefore also confusing to Taka. They also primarily use steam and gas, although electricity does exist in Victoria. Electricity is rare and only used by the particularly fancy establishments, so it’s interesting to see how that affects the architecture of the city. Overall I really appreciate this strange world that the game has created.

Am I Even Necessary?

This isn’t necessarily a criticism, more of an observation, but it really doesn’t feel like the player needs to do very much. I don’t have too much experience with visual novels, but this one feels even less interactive than others I played. When I played Cupid Parasite, I could make choices that directly affected my progression, and Coffee Talk allows you to make different cups of coffee. With Caffeine: Victoria’s Legacy, I got the feeling that my choices were pretty arbitrary. The story seemed to go its natural course, and I don’t think any of my occasional choices could have derailed it much.

Caffeine: Victoria's Legacy Review Xbox Series X, Choices

You don’t even need to interact with the game at all, apart from to make a choice of comment, which happens about once or twice per chapter. Other than that, you can turn on the auto reader, so you’re not even necessary to click through the dialogue. I’m very glad this feature exists as it saves my fingers having to constantly click, but it does make it feel like less of a game. Much as I do enjoy the experience, I maintain that it would have worked well as an anime instead. However, I think that’s a potential criticism of most visual novels, and is just a demonstration of my unfamiliarity with the genre, rather than a flaw in this specific game.

Still, I would’ve liked to have seen more opportunities to feel like I was affecting the story. Perhaps frequent minigames, or choosing which route of the story to explore next. Essentially, I felt that it was too linear and too static.

Accessible menu options

Solid Visuals with a Soundtrack to Match

As visual novels rely purely on story rather than gameplay, it’s important to illustrate it just right. Excellent graphics and audio aren’t just a bonus, but a necessity. Fortunately, Caffeine: Victoria’s Legacy steps up to the plate really nicely. Before I get on to the soundtrack and the art, I want to give a shout out to the user interface. The font chosen is perfect, and it’s so smooth to read. The colours are captivating without being too stimulating, and the reading experience is excellent. The menu is easy to navigate as well, and looks professional.

The visuals in this game are simplistic, but pleasant. The art style is what you’d expect to find in a mainstream anime, and works well for the theme. I find the animations most interesting. The game uses still pictures, but zooms in and out to create movement. It also animates small movements such as blinking. It’s a cost-effective way to produce beautiful art for the story without having to create fully animated scenes. One downside is that because they reuse backgrounds, sometimes it doesn’t match the story. For example, one time it said that the coffee shop was packed, but the background was still of an empty shop.

Caffeine: Victoria's Legacy Review Xbox Series X, Anime art style

The music is divine, and so relaxing. It’s beautiful and atmospheric, and is mainly composed of piano notes. There are occasional vocals, and the music changes depending on the scene. I really love the intense battle music that Caffeine: Victoria’s Legacy plays during coffee duels. There are some sound effects, but they’re not really noticeable. For the most part, dialogue isn’t spoken, but in the few key scenes where they do use voice actors, it’s done pretty well. However, there are a couple of characters where the voice doesn’t match the tone of the words.

Other Aspects of Note

There are a few other points I want to make about the game, both good and bad, so this section is more of a quickfire round.

  • Caters to all reading speeds – A fantastic feature, this one. On the settings menu, you can change the speed of the auto-reader. I’m not a patient person, and the default speed was way too slow for me. However, I was able to go in and make it a lot faster, as there are loads of different speed settings. You can change not only the pace that it moves from one line to another, but also how fast the text appears on screen.
  • Mostly well-written – There are very few grammar errors or typos. I’ve got a keen eye for detail, so this is something I’m always on the lookout for. It wasn’t perfect, but typos were few and far between. The general writing was of high quality, but I did notice something interesting. Whilst not necessarily wrong, several of the sentences had an odd structure. The grammar technically made sense, but it was used in a way that a native English speaker wouldn’t do. This makes me think it was written by someone fluent in English, but who had it as a second language.
Oddly structured sentences
  • Intriguing side story – I think it’s really cool how several stories happen alongside each other. We have the main story, which is Taka trying to find his mum, but also lots of other things going on. I enjoy how they’re introduced, as it captures the player’s attention. One example I enjoyed was that the barista position at the Taka Coffee House was supposedly cursed, as nobody could hold the role for more than a few months. It reminded me of the Defence Against the Dark Arts position in Harry Potter.

Verdict

Overall, I’d say my experience was a positive one. Caffeine: Victoria’s Legacy surprised me both in the level of quality, and how much I enjoyed it. The story is well-written, the characters have unique personalities, and the setting is developed beautifully. I won’t lie, this still isn’t a genre I see myself growing particularly fond of, but I’m still glad I played it. As I mentioned earlier, it’s great for when I just want to relax for a while. There’s much more I could’ve said about the story, but I wanted to avoid spoilers, so I’ll end with this. If you’re looking for something intense and exciting, this isn’t it. But if you want a fun story experience that you feel some vestige of control over, it’s worth checking out. It’s certainly a must-play for fans of visual novels.

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Caffeine: Victoria's Legacy

£14.99
8.4

Verdict

8.4/10

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Beautiful art and music with a great user interface
  • Moving and well-written story
  • Decent accessibility options

Cons

  • Sentences were oddly structured at times
  • Choices felt like they didn't make much of an impact

By Screen Hype

Hi! I'm Melika Jeddi, a content writer and aspiring author. I've created Screen Hype to share my unique brand of entertaining articles with the world, and to create a fun space that everyone can feel a part of :)