Necrobarista: Final Pour – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: Route 59 Games
Published By: Coconut Island Games
Category: Narrative Adventure, Visual Novel
Release Date: August 11, 2021
Life is a journey, and the world we are just passing through. Once you’ve finished your journey you may end up in an Australian coffee shop full of anime characters.
Necrobarista: Final Pour is a visual novel from Australian developers Route 59 and Chinese publisher Coconut Games set in Carlton, Melbourne in Australia in the year 3053. You begin walking down a dark alleyway at night, with the rain atmospherically beating down. You arrive outside a coffee shop which is the main hub for this adventure. Before walking in you can view your first memory which also triggers a tonal shift in the music, adding to the intrigue with a combination of piano and synth reminiscent of the excellent tv show Mr Robot. This first memory introduces you to the rules of the coffee shop, which are a combination of expected (wi-fi) and unexpected (living and dead patrons are welcome).
Once you walk through the front door you are introduced to Maddy, The Terminal’s feisty barista and soon after Kishan, a customer who is bewildered to discover that he is no longer part of the living. As the story progresses you are introduced to the remaining core of characters, most of whom work at The Terminal, with Kishan’s storyline serving as the world seen through the eyes of someone who is stopping by before being on their way to heaven (or hell).
Story chapters play out in a series of static frames, like panels from a visual novel but with camera pans and minor animations. Scenes play out line by line with occasional keywords highlighted providing cliff notes containing additional backstory or word definitions which may be helpful for some non-Australian or non-British players. Other times it expands upon and builds on the dialogue, such as additional details about the characters.
The scenes themselves pop with colour and life thanks to the visually appealing art direction, with a combination of warm pastel colours and moody neon drenching the 3D environments, and stylish anime characters full of charm and personality. However environments can at times feel a bit empty, particularly in the coffee shop when the existence of other customers are inferred but not shown.
In between the chapters you can explore the coffee shop in first person and interact with certain objects which trigger a memory featuring main characters or previous guests at the coffee shop, which play out like short stories. These segments could do with minor quality of life improvements, such as having a progress bar to show how far through you are at any given time. And when the story segment finishes there’s no indication you’ve reached the end.
Music plays a vital part in shifting the tone and engrossing the player (soundtrack available on Spotify, Nostalgia Trip in particular is a highlight). Often turns in the story will trigger a tonal shift in the music, which can add to the emotional impact of the story unravelling on screen. However some of the music tracks are overused, and a few more could help avoid repetition.
The story deals with many of the issues associated with death. We see this through the lens of one of the cafe patrons who as the game progresses struggles with the realisation that he has died. But there are additional story threads throughout to keep things interesting and varied, with main characters each getting their own story arc which all reach a satisfying conclusion. Issues covered also include the finality and certainty of death, the one way nature of such a journey and not being able to see loved ones again which are all very rational human fears and Necrobarista tackles these in a compelling and sensitive way across some quite touching scenes. The writing is witty and contemporary with a drollness that runs throughout, which feels right when trying to find humour in something so difficult.
Necrobarista: Final Pour on Switch includes all the DLC released on Steam as well as some new modes. Two new stories are included which are separate to the main story, featuring new characters and are very much worth your time. Doodle mode is a passing optional extra where you can draw on to the faces of the Ashlings, which are the coffee shop’s resident robots. Studio mode is another optional extra mode which could be more of a time sink that allows you to create your own in game scenes. You start with a limited choice of actors and props for your scene, but as you progress you can unlock more which you can add in. It’s fairly comprehensive with lots of options to tweak the camera, animations and dialogue in your scenes. While it works with a gamepad, it’s a bit clunky and clear to see it was designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind.
Necrobarista: Final Pour has a story to tell about death which will challenge many preconceived notions, and there is an importance to tell infrequently told stories. Mortality is difficult for many of us to rationalise and discuss, and the way Route 59 treats this is with care, heart and humour which is a winning blend. There are some rough edges in Route 59’s world but the script and the overall writing is excellent and helps you get to know it’s characters and care. Visual novels have yet to break the mainstream and with this not being a mainstream friendly subject matter it may not be the one to make the breakthrough. But for the curious or for genre fans it is well worth a visit to The Terminal.