Title: Necrobarista: Final Pour
Developer: Route 59
Release Date: August 11, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Coconut Island Games
Genre: Visual Novel
There are at least two ways you can open up a review about Necrobarista: Final Pour. The first method is to use a thematic hook. Death is an omnipresent force, as old as time immemorial, and yet there are always unique ways creators find to approach the topic. The second is to use its location. Most visual novelesque games are set in Japan. That’s just the way it goes.
Necrobarista, on the other hand, is set at a backstreet cafe in Melbourne, the second most populated city in Australia, of all places. Unfortunately, I’m indecisive and have chosen both, like a terrible, haphazard, and probably a bad blend of coffee, to mark Route 59’s updated rerelease on the Nintendo Switch, Necrobarista: Final Pour.
Necrobarista: Final Pour introduces the very recently deceased Kishan, who enters a cafe with no clear reason for how he got there. He’s greeted by Maddy, the current cafe boss, who gives him important details like “he’s dead” and a drink. This is the Terminal, formerly run by Maddy’s Mentor, Chay (who you’ll see around), and frequently besieged by the robotic creations of 13yr old tech monster Ashley. The cafe takes both living and dead patrons, but the dead have 24 hours, no more, no less, before they have to pass on. Or at least, that’s the rule.
The cafe is in a bit of soul debt from letting too many patrons stay over that 24-hour limit. It’s gotten to the point where the council of the dead sent over an enforcer, Ned Kelly, to make sure they pay up. (Fun Fact for all you non-Australians, Ned Kelly is a famed outlaw who robbed banks and killed police officers, he fulfills a comparable role to a cop in this story. The irony isn’t lost on the character.)
There’s a good reason I’ve thrown all these names down. Whilst much of the driving plot elements rely on Maddy, Kishan is simply our viewpoint character to immerse us in the Terminal; neither of them could really be the lead protagonist. Even Chay is worth considering, and if you really want to be thematic, death itself.
Whatever the case, the story is told in a very linear but also creative fashion. With everything rendered in 3D, scenes are displayed cinematically, each line of text positioned alongside a rigged scene allowing for incredibly dynamic scenes. There are some majestic shots and emotionally charged pieces that simply would not excel in the way they do in any other mode of presentation.
The dialogue isn’t voiced, but the sound design is the perfect blend of coffee shop ambiance and Lo-fi beats that keeps you hooked in. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be half tempted to read the lines aloud.
There’s no narration, but you won’t miss it; you’ll always know exactly who’s speaking at all times. In fact, the lack of narration can also benefit. It helps keep a level of vagueness between you and the cast. Not knowing exactly how everyone else thinks or feels allows you to relate to everyone who is just as unaware as you. Thanks to this, as well as the fact the story is about dealing with death, it can be quite confronting.
The characters are fantastic, and there are absolutely no holds barred with the topic because it’s delivered in a very friend-to-friend way. There are rather memetic words and phrases slung into the script, but I don’t think they’ll date it. The TIPs don’t explain these words in favor of really making gags and jokes that are well written. The humor does help give some very well-wanted brevity to the subject matter, which is handled with the utmost care, feeling oppressive and upsetting over ‘dark’ or ‘edgy.’
Between chapters, you can roam ‘The Terminal,’ where the story plays out. The original used a word pool mechanic to allow you access to certain short stories; this has been scrapped. On the Switch, you can press a button to highlight these stories, and you can run over to them and read them. You can also doodle on Ashley’s bots or make your own sequences using the built-in scene editor.
As you progress, more areas open up, with new text-based side stories to read. They’re surprisingly gripping despite being things like emails, goofy robot design notes, or two people playing pool. There are also two new extra chapters. These chapters are relatively short but star some other cast members who venture into the cafe and wow. I completely lost track of time reading through them. They’re just that good.
You unlock both midways through the main story, but I’m unsure where the best point to read them is. I think they’re just a bit large to read in the middle since the game isn’t very long. Maybe read them afterward and then replay the entire game.
Necrobarista: Final Pour is a compelling and, I don’t use this lightly, thought-provoking tale about dealing with what comes after, told in a unique way with a cast of incredibly relatable characters. It’s like hanging out with a group of friends at a coffee shop and considering the state of things as this review is being written. So you might just need that.
(This is a joke aimed at the fact Australia is half in lockdown, and you can’t go for coffee with friends; that’s the joke. If you’re Australian, you need to get this game.)
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