For a story about moving on, I sure was sad to see Necrobarista: Final Pour go after the credits had rolled.
Its style and incredible writing perfectly fuse to make it one of the more unique visual novels on the market. Australian developer Route 59 took inspiration from anime, creating a 3D cinematic experience that plays out like a TV show more than a book. Technical hiccups and odd design choices are present, but these minor flaws don’t take too much away from its mystical exploration of life after death.
Necrobarista: Final Pour is out now on Nintendo Switch for your regional pricing.
Story – Heartfelt with Humor
Maddy is a barista / necromancer who has recently been handed ownership of The Terminal. This mystical building is a Melbourne Cafe that just so happens to house as many dead customers as it serves living, breathing hipsters. Other characters include Chay, Maddy’s centuries-old mentor; Ashley, a teenage terror with a knack for all things mechanical; and Kishan, who recently died and found his way into The Terminal.
Set over the course of a few days, Necrobarista: Final Pour manages to expertly convey old and new relationships alike. It uses witty humour to really make the scenes memorable. This comedy manages to flip from being wholesome to vulgar, avoiding tonal whiplash by being genuinely clever and true-to-character throughout the dialogue exchanges.
The main story was like playing on a see-saw. One second I was up in the air smiling at the snark, the next I was crashing down into sadness. Not long after that I was flying high with another round of verbal jousting, and so the see-saw continued. Although this sounds tedious, it feels right for a tale that explores silliness and seriousness in equal measure.
The only major downside to the main plot is that it takes a few episodes to get going. While the dialogue stays great throughout, the first three episodes contained unnecessary padding and explanations about how The Terminal and its residents operated.
There are also two side story DLCs that were added to the original version after launch. “Walking to the Sky” follows Tuan and Hannah, two teenagers who have a chance meeting at the cafe. It continues addressing the themes of death found throughout the main story with a continuing snarky style. “Devil’s Den” follows the backstory of cafe patron Samantha. It takes the biggest plot departure from the main story, and as a result its setting doesn’t really fit with the rest of the game’s low-key style. It’s not horrible, it just doesn’t gel well with the rest of the content.
Gameplay – Press A to Continue
The Terminal is explorable between episodes, but it doesn’t really amount to much. The performance during these short outings is also quite janky. Movement is slow, frames drop, and I even fell through the environment once. It’s not unplayable, but isn’t exactly an enjoyable experience.
During these unstable walks, bonus journal-like stories can be read. The quality of their contents vary, but when they’re good, they help provide great additional insight into the lives of the staff and patrons of The Terminal. However, the worst of them go into far too much detail, making it a slog to read.
A cute addition to the Final Pour version is Doodle Mode, which adds the ability to draw faces for each of Ashley’s robots. These “Ashlings” are sentient machines that talk amongst themselves between episodes. Getting to create a unique face for all three of them was a small, yet fun, slice of content.
Another addition is Studio Mode, which lets players create their own scenes using the game’s assets. It’s an incredible inclusion for an indie, basically offering the game engine for players to experiment with. It’s a shame then that navigating the controls on the Switch is a nightmare. I really wanted to take advantage of the incredible tool more, but ended up getting lost in menus. Including even a small tutorial could have helped with this.
Graphics & Audio – Bespoke Design
One of the best features in Necrobarista: Final Pour is the cinematography. Every scene is crafted to match the game’s tone perfectly, with simple shots reserved for the more emotionally-intense moments. This lets the story speak for itself, while comedy and mystical elements are framed by using camera tilts, off-centre positioning, and atmospheric lighting. It’s about ten steps ahead of any other visual novel I’ve ever experienced. It may not reach the dramatic heights of the anime the developers are inspired by, but for their melancholic story, it works.
It’s really, really annoying then, that after all of the work put in to make these scenes so good, that the brightness of the text makes the words unreadable during key moments. On three separate occasions in the main story (including the ending) I could not read the dialogue. The white text clashed with bright backgrounds, and I had no idea what the characters were saying to each other. It seems odd that this wouldn’t be fixed for the Switch release.
As there is no voice acting, the music plays a big part in injecting scenes with the right tone and personality. It’s a testament to the quality of the score that despite the same themes being reused throughout the indie title, I didn’t get bored of the music. The repetition might irk some, but like the visuals, it helps convey the emotions of a scene, serving as an audio cue for when a conversation is about to shift in tone.
The late title card at the end of Episode 3 is a great example of the way Necrobarista: Final Pour combines art and music. Overlaying the song Nothing by Soft Science, while showcasing an over-the-top anime-inspired opening is an audio-visual treat that was over far too soon.
Necrobarista: Final Pour was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a review key provided by Stride PR.