Necrobarista – Final Pour Review (Switch)
Release Date: August 11, 2021
File Size: 3.4GB
Publisher: Coconut Island Games
Developer: Route 59
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.0.6
Nintendo’s latest Indie Direct was filled to the brim with great titles (at least, in my case). Along with several new games to keep an eye out for, several more shadowdropped on the eShop that day – Necrobarista being one of them. This was a title that I had stumbled across sometime last year while looking for any news of upcoming Switch titles. With the disappointing ‘TBD’ status for this game’s release, I wasn’t even beginning to hold my breath when it came to hearing about this game on the Switch.
And yet, here comes Necrobarista, like a cup of strong coffee hitting you right in the face! As the visual novel fanatic on staff, I knew I had to download it and play it immediately. But how does Necrobarista hold up on the Switch? Let’s dig a little deeper and find out.
Necrobarista takes place in Melbourne, Australia, at a quaint coffee place known as the Terminal. It exists as a place where both the living and the dead can interact. However, the caveat of the Terminal is that you can’t ask whether someone is alive or dead, and that those who are dead must leave the premises after 24 hours have passed. There are a few other tiny rules sprinkled throughout, but these two are the main ones that drive the story forward.
As you progress through the story, you will be introduced to a cast of characters: Maddy (the new owner of the Terminal), Chay (the old owner of the Terminal), Ashley (the resident troublemaker kid), Ned (the resident play-by-the-rules guy), and Kishan (who has recently departed). There are also some side characters who appear as well, and who have their own dedicated side stories tied to them.
Necrobarista is primarily a kinetic novel. By that, I mean that there aren’t any choices that you can make to affect the story, how characters feel about you, and so forth. You will go through each episode and watch as the story unfolds, with intermissions in-between each episode to explore around the Terminal and read other side stories concerning customers and the world of Necrobarista/the Terminal. These side stories mainly exist to build more of the world of Necrobarista, as well as unlocking some concept art that can be viewed from the main menu.
When it comes to the actual story of Necrobarista, it is a bit of a slowburn. Characters and relationships are built up for the majority of the game, with the final few chapters hitting a lot harder and faster than expected. I did find myself a bit sad at the end, as it felt almost a bit abrupt. But given the nature of the ending and the themes of the sudden nature of death, perhaps that was on purpose.
As Necrobarista is a kinetic novel, that means that you don’t have to worry about making any bad choices that could result in a game over. Of course, that also means there aren’t any “good” choices either. On the eShop, the game is marked as an RPG. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t really classify it as such. Again, it’s a kinetic visual novel with some exploration parts sprinkled in-between chapters.
There is a first-person mode during intermissions that allow you to explore around and view stories tied to the Terminal, but that’s about the only sort of “gameplay” that exists within the game. While exploring around, if you view specific objects, they will glow and words will float around the object, letting you know that there is a story related to that object that can be read. Just hold the A button and you will unlock that story to read. New areas become available with every episode finished, which both expands the Terminal and the types of stories you can find.
There are other modes that exist as well, such as Studio Mode and Doodle Mode. Studio Mode allows for you to play around with the assets of the game and create or edit scenes within the game’s engine. Doodle Mode allows for you to draw on the “faces” of Ashley’s creations. Anything that you draw and save will appear on the faces of these creations at the end of every chapter.
The style of Necrobarista is one that I think is both its strong and weak point. I have never seen a game (that I know of, anyway) that looked quite like Necrobarista. It’s very distinct and stands out very well from some of the other games on the Switch. However, whether you actually like the style of the game comes down to personal preference. For me, there were moments where I was fine with it, and others that were very jarring.
A stylistic choice that the Necrobarista makes is that the player progresses the scene of the game, much like you would a visual novel. However, doing that works in a visual novel because you are dealing with 2D sprites. With Necrobarista, however, everytime you go to the next sentence, the scene will change. Whether it’s to focus on another character, change the camera, update expressions, or anything along those lines, placing that progress in the hands of the player leaves some pacing and animation issues that didn’t sit quite well for me. Perhaps if the camera changes were kept to a minimum and the scenes were animated as though it was a cutscene rather than almost storyboarded, it may have flowed better.
For example, one scene will show the characters moving before they come to an abrupt stop, waiting for the player to progress. Only after the player hits the A button will the models continue to move along. Sometimes, it works out fine. Other times, not so much.
Another issue for me was the text. Necrobarista is a game where the text is displayed on multiple parts of the screen, depending on scene layout, rather than just appearing at the bottom. And while stylistically, I can understand going this route, I think it sometimes comes at the cost of readability. That, along with not having something backing the text so that it doesn’t blend into light colored backgrounds, and you’re just asking for slight irritation. There is an option to increase the black bar around the words to make things easier to read, which did help somewhat though.
Necrobarista is an experience that I would say would only appeal to a very niche crowd. And while that’s the case with visual novels already, I think that may be especially the case here. The style choices of Necrobarista at times are questionable, but overall work for the tone of the game. The writing can be a bit heavy handed sometimes when it comes to being “quirky”, although that comes down to personal preference.
The stories laid out in Necrobarista are fairly good, though. The game works well with what it has, although it is a quick ride. For me, I clocked over 5 hours (darn you Nintendo for not letting us see accurate game time metrics). And outside of trying to find every story blurb tied to an object, you’ll get through a majority of the content in that time.
I will say the game did leave me a bit wanting (as mentioned earlier, the ending kind of hit suddenly for me), but I was otherwise pleased with what was shown. If you like/don’t mind kinetic novels and don’t mind the style presented in Necrobarista, definitely check this game out!