Cafe 0 isn’t a normal cafe that most people can enjoy a cup of coffee and relax for a moment. In the middle of nowhere, its only patrons are ghosts that unknowingly wander and are hosted by its rather peculiar staff because something keeps them from moving into the afterlife. Thus, enter Marin Umino — its most recent guest.
In reliving her last seven days, Marin must discover how her best friend, ex-boyfriend, and the school’s doctor are related to her and her death? However, the true question: will Marin truly be able to find peace by the end of it all?
★ ☆ ✰ Rating: 8/10
Coming into the older Roseverte games from playing HTTOYM first made it a bit harder to get used to the characters’ designs. They aren’t the best, but the player eventually gets used to them and everything else generally makes up for it. Before getting into the details of the story and characters, it should be noted that the voice actors do a really job in acting as their characters and add an extra level to the characters and whatever they might be hiding. The changes in how they are seen by Marin and how they act towards her, after certain discoveries are made, are really displayed in how they talked. The GUI design is rather simple but its animation of Sui is cute, while it does give an extra hand to someone who has never played a visual novel before. At the same time, the music does a good job in setting the mood, though there are some odd choices here and there. However, the characters and the mysteries that unfold throughout the story leave an impression on the player.
Marin Umino, the name is changeable, is a teenager that has recently died but something from her life is keeping her from moving into the afterlife, which leads her ghost into finding Café 0. The rather crass waiter, Sui, explains to her that she will keep reliving the last 7 days of her life to see what is keeping her from moving on. From that point, both her and to a less extent Sui, live the last week of her life where she meets three people that are supposed to be the closest to her: Ami (her best friend), Tooru (her ex-boyfriend), and Shou (the school doctor and family friend). Depending on the choices made, Marin is able to see a certain side of the character that she decides to place her focus on and it does the change her own perspective on how she sees herself. However, because of this and her lost memories, Marin is an extremely unreliable narrator in how she sees herself and the person that she focuses on. While, Marin might seem might seem like a sweet and naïve girl, there is something much darker to her than that and just like with everyone else in the story, it makes a rather complex character to figure out and whether she lead to her own destruction or whether she was just a victim of circumstance.
Unlike her relationships with the other three characters, Marin’s interactions with Sui never really change through the game. As the waiter of Café 0, Sui has to serve as a guide for Marin in order for her to move on to the afterlife, but he doesn’t really seem to be very dedicated to his job nor does he beat around the bush when talking to Marin – he is polite but in a rather mean way, but he does his job well and does help Marin a lot during the true ending of the game. Though Marin doesn’t treat him kindly either, they have a good set of sassy interactions and Sui is genuinely pleased when she finally moves on. It might be said that her brief camaraderie with the waiter might be the most straightforward relationship in the entire game. All the characters in the related the death, including Marin, seem to have a hidden side to them and that isn’t shown until playing the true ending, which makes it a great mystery in the long.
The three characters that are at the center of Marin’s death, all seem to care about her as told by the roles to hold in her life: Ami is her best friend, Shou is an old family friend and seems to be something else, and Tooru is her ex-boyfriend. Even, Marin has her own innocent backstory before she died – the all-star and popular member of the swimming team that everyone seemed to love until a certain accident happened. However, without giving too much away, the writing that hides their actual personalities and how they all have a hand in Marin’s death is really well done. No one person is left with the title of “innocent” by the end of the game and it is great how realistic the ending connects all their choices. There is a bit of sympathy for Marin because she was the only victim in the beginning, but everyone does get the punishment they seem to deserve for “drowning” in their desires that they couldn’t seem to control. Due to all the endings leaning a certain way, Marin and the player only see a certain version of the character and are almost completed blinded to the truth until every end, though there are hints here and there. Personally, after going through all character endings, the true ending came out of left field for me and it really shook me how everyone was involved and how all of them pay on relation to the water-theme of the game.
The mechanics of the game might be reparative to some, but they do play off when completely the whole game in learning the truth behind Marin’s death. There are also clear explanations as to why Shou and Tooru go down the paths that they do, and while not everything is explained in regards to Ami, Sui during the mini game does a good explanation as to why Ami’s full intentions are never fully told in game. Personally, I really enjoyed everything surrounding Sui because his demeanor is so contradictory to his occupation, but that doesn’t stop him from doing his job and there are also a lot of mysteries to his character. I didn’t start playing them game with the highest expectation, especially coming into it after playing HTTOYM, but I was really surprised and I grew extremely fond of it – it might even be my second favorite Roseverte game after the East Tower series.
While, it is not your typical otome game and though it has its minor drawbacks, Café 0 has a lot of other great things to offer. If you enjoy mystery and complex characters, you should consider checking it out and look forward to its sequel, Café 0 ~The Sleeping Beast~.