If you are a fan of Square Enix’s games, especially Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, then you need to visit Artnia at Higashi-Shinjuku Hillside (and be prepared to spend some serious cash).
For a café based on games, it is located in a surprisingly classy (read: expensive) building, although theoretically, Artnia is a stand-alone white dome outside the mall’s building proper. Minimalist is the approach the designers have gone with the café and it works well for them. Red, whites and blacks never goes wrong, and really, with the many strange colored soft-toys of game characters filling up the place, simplicity is the only way to go.
From the outside, you would assume that the café is quite big, and although it is not all that small, as they had to fit in a retail area, a gallery-esque area and a dining area in one establishment, the place does feel a bit cramped and there are pathetically few tables in contrast to the number of visitors.
So this is how it goes. You enter the café, write your name down on the waiting list and wait for your name to be called. Depending on when you visit, the wait can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 2 hours. To be honest, the food is not delicious enough to make standing around simply waiting for 2 hours worth the effort, however if you chose to visit the place, then taste is likely not high on your priority list anyways. Indeed, looking at the slime shaped pancakes, complete with an in-game battle menu made out of chocolate and the Red Materia cocktail, you realize that the quirkiness of it all justifies all the time spent waiting. Price wise, Artnia’s prices are pretty similar to the standard cafe.
However, if the Slime Pancake and Buster Sword Parfait cannot tempt you into dining at the café, then at least enjoy the vast collection of Square Enix character goods. Near the dining area are most of the more affordable (and adorable) products, such as plush toys, key chains and chocolates. Deeper into the shop, where a small fountain lay and the entire room is made out of black granite is a gallery of high-quality figurines and intricate jewelry based on in-game objects. Of course, if the sudden change of décor have not clued you in yet, the jump in prices between outside and inside the gallery is considerable. However if you are a dedicated fan or someone looking for unique and beautiful accessories, these should fit the bill nicely. Even if you do not buy anything, being surrounded by the games’ characters and goods really do trigger a good bout of nostalgia. If you do visit, you will constantly find other visitors, especially locals, gasp and gush about how the Slime plush toy brings back memories.
In conclusion, perhaps unless you are a serious fan, Artnia is not worth the effort of solely visiting it, however if you happen to be in Higashi-Shinjuku then there certainly is no harm dropping by and entertaining yourself with a Chocobo pancake. And if all else fails, you could still spend the rest of your day out enjoying the Higashi Shinjuku Hillside mall and its architecture.