I do appreciate a good coffee, though I’m not a big drinker of the black gold, and I also do love a good, original tale. Luckily, Necrobarista from Melbourne based Route 59 is here to tell a rich story full of coffee drinkers, necromancy and a loveable cast that suits both my tastes, in its debut on the Nintendo Switch.
Necrobarista: Final Pour is a freshly roasted edition of the original visual novel that landed on Steam just over a year ago, telling the story of the Terminal, a dedicated coffee shop in an unknown back-alley somewhere in Melbourne’s future. Here, fresh souls spend their final moments among the living before departing for the afterlife, drinking their cares away and reflecting on the lives they lived. One such soul is Kishan, who spends his final 24 hours questioning everything he knows and discovering the curious residents of the Terminal.
Unlike the majority of visual novels that focus on simple 2D animations and static backgrounds, Necrobarista presents itself as a fully realised 3D environments that allow for dynamic character movements, cinematic camera angles and inventive dialogue placements across the screen. As we delve deeper into the story of shop owner Maddy and her necromancy ways to aid her friend and former shop owner Chay, along with crazed young inventor Ashley and a host of diverse characters who visit along the way, we’re presented with a place in time that thoughtfully brings to light some of my own worst fears (the unknown beyond death and the feeling of loneliness and uncertainty) within a game engine that could have just as easily been an animated movie.
The Special Brew…
✔️Perfectly written story and dialogue with an engaging cast.
✔️Relative themes that hit home.
✔️Ashley. Everything Ashley..
❌A few minor technical issues on Switch.
❌Some side content can be rough.
The Terminal feels like a living, breathing place that would be welcoming to visit in life or near death, a warm and inviting space full of coffee lovers and characters who are there to help ease the doubts and fears. Kishan struggles at first to understand the situation he’s in, leaving behind his life and husband doesn’t seem like something he’s ready for, until his chance encounters with Maddy and Ashley convince him that it isn’t all that bad. Souls only have a brief window of opportunity to rest and refresh themselves before passing on, though as Kishan discovers, there’s ways of twisting the rules and remaining within the Terminal for much, much longer (no thanks to Ned, a clever take on the infamous Australian outlaw, Ned Kelly, helmet and all.)
Route 59 has done a wonderful job of bringing the world of Necrobarista to life, its cast a collection of the kooky and mysterious but wholly loveable despite their own personal flaws that creep in and out of the story, a nicely paced tale of sacrifice, bending the rules of necromancy and, of course, a good drink or two. But it’s the witty dialogue that really sets this game apart from the rest of the pack, sharp and full of creativity that feels real instead of forced and absolutely Australian in tone. It had me laughing more than once, relative and refreshing in its adult language compared to just about every other visual novel on the market.
Necrobarista should also be praised for its diverse assortment of characters, created because they are, not because of a marketing tool or a need to ‘fill the quote’ to appease the masses. Ashley is my personal favourite, a sort of Borderlands’ Tiny Tina if she were a real teenager gifted with a talent for technology and a love for the good stuff, but to be fair there’s no single character I didn’t appreciate or love in some way or form, which is a testament to how well they are written and visually presented.
A Pleasant Aroma...
The transition from PC to the Switch system does present a few minor problems in the process. Load times are a bit of a common issue between chapters, some of the extra content such as Studio Mode (where you can create your own little comic strips) are difficult to control and largely forgotten amongst the much better main story. At one point, presented with the opportunity to explore the 3D environments freely outside of the story itself, I fell through the floor into the void beyond which genuinely took me by surprise. These issues are minor, however, as the plot and presentation is so well crafted otherwise, coupled with an anime opening title sequence and a musical score that hums to life with nightclub beats at times and gently accompanies the more intimate character moments elsewhere.
Necrobarista is engaging from start to finish, a well brewed tale that seeks to evolve the visual novel genre and does a more than admirable job in doing so. Despite a few technical issues and some minor side activities that don’t really land, the story within and around the Terminal is a true star with an enjoyable, engaging and importantly relative cast. Route 59 could have just as easily produced a traditional 2D animated tale here and perhaps could have been just as successful, but the ambitious animations and cinematic presentation on show really do lend the game an original look and feel, something that’s getting so much harder to do in an era of video game creation where just about every original idea has already been used and mined more than once.
If you’re looking for a fresh new story, you can’t go wrong with Necrobarista: Final Pour. I enjoyed my time within the Terminal (Ashley must be protected at all costs), and it’s 6 or so hour run time feels just right for the genre. Truth be told I’d love the opportunity to visit here again, maybe in a grander, voice cast driven setting one day, but for now I’m just glad I got to meet them all.
Necrobarista is a 2020 visual novel game developed by Australian development studio Route 59. The player follows a cast of characters around a Melbourne back-alley coffeehouse staffed by necromancers, named the ‘Terminal’.