With a name as exciting as Necrobarista, I expected a lot. Does it involve a barista that makes coffee and raises the dead? Perhaps there's a lot of fantasy elements, and heck, maybe zombies. Necrobarista is indeed a visual novel that involves magic, coffee, and the dead, but it isn't quite so rousing as you might think. This visual novel waxes poetic about death and moving on, yet it never hooked me as I expected it would. And while Necrobarista is not a long game, the duration of its playtime felt way longer than it should have been.
Necrobarista - Final Pour's Drawn-out Narrative
You follow the story of a coffee shop that serves as a resting stop for souls; essentially, it's somewhere the dead can visit before they move on to the other side, be it Heaven or perhaps even Hell. There are several key characters: Maddy, the barista and necromancer; Chay, the owner of the coffee shop, who just happens to be a soul lingering about for hundreds of years; and Ashley, a teenager that tinkers on robots. I found Maddy to be excessively unlikable. While she was someone who went through some stressful events in the story, I didn't find her sarcastic, almost rude nature to be appealing or warranted.
While there are several more characters at play, I wasn't gripped by the rest of them, either. The narrative lacked any sort of punch for me. These spirits that visit the cafe generally have 24 hours before they have to pass on. The story has the potential to be enthralling and emotionally charged. Instead, most of the episodes (of which there is nine total, with two side stories) beat around the bush. There's oodles of meaningless dialogue that failed to offer any sort of excitement or elicit a broad range of emotions.
Characters talk a lot in Necrobarista, and you are but a passive observer. You don't play as a character, so there isn't any dialogue prompts. It isn't outlandish for a visual novel to be this way, but the lack of interactivity combined with a story that takes far too long to convey its message makes for a boring time. The last two episodes of Necrobarista picked up the pace a bit, but the beginning and middle felt far too slow. The finale, while a bit more emotionally charged and most definitely bittersweet, cannot make up for the unsubstantial other half.
I can give credit where credit is due, the dialogue is witty and exceptionally well-written. Certainly, these characters portrayed in Necrobarista are humanized and feel like real, living beings. I felt this especially so with the side story involving two teenagers named Tuan and Hannah. Sprinkled throughout are vignettes you can read from interacting with various objects in the cafe in between chapters. These are also fine.
Yet, something about it just didn't resonate with me; the main story, the optional side content, and these aforementioned vignettes.
Perhaps, then, I am not Necrobarista's target audience. I went in with an open mind and found some compelling pieces of background lore that, if expanded upon, would be really exciting. There's this group called The Council that seems to act like a strict government entity, managing souls and assuring they move on when they are supposed to. There's mention of a succubus, and plenty of magic is involved in this ethereal version of Melbourne. Had Necrobarista explored these themes more, I would have found this narrative more to my taste.
Necrobarista - Final Pour is a Pretty Game Hindered by Hardware
The graphical look of Necrobarista isn't for everyone—it is heavily influenced by anime—but I found it to be one of the most engrossing parts of the experience. The character designs are unique and the cafe itself has a lot of personality and life to it. Temper your expectations a bit, though, because Necrobarista's look is almost low-poly at times. It's unique, for sure, but also stylish.
Indeed, Necrobarista is a pretty game to look at. With cinematic bars and some excellent storyboarding, the lacking narrative is almost saved with the scenes that play out. And it's good that there aren't a lot of animations playing out in each scene—a lot of shots are static—because the Switch doesn't really run this visual novel very well. There are certain points in between chapters where you can wander around the cafe. In these instances, the frame rate isn't great at all. I'd be surprised if it was a true 30 FPS in handheld, which was my method of play. Of the more movement-heavy scenes in Necrobarista, such as during one of the bonus episodes, you could notice the subpar frame rate.
Load times in Necrobarista are equally disappointing. It's not a game that is necessarily dependent on load times. Nor is Necrobarista a game with many loading screens. Of the loading screens there are, though, they can be a bit lengthy. Over 10 seconds, for sure, which for a game like this is somewhat disappointing.
A tacked-on bonus feature exclusive to the Final Pour version of Necrobarista is a Studio Mode, where you can create your own cutscenes. This is a very impressive feature that allows for an insane amount of customization, but it's nearly unplayable on the Switch. The process of editing characters, adding expressions, and the like is so slow on the Switch. I don't think it's necessarily a performance problem; rather, it definitely appears as though the PC was the priority in this new mode, so it is severely lacking accessibility.
Necrobarista - Final Pour | Final Thoughts
To end on a happier note, the soundtrack for Necrobarista - Final Pour is excellent. I would not expect less from composer Kevin Penkin. Although Penkin is no stranger to video game soundtracks, I know him mostly for the excellent scores behind anime such as "Made in Abyss" and "Tower of God." Here, Kevin Penkin's signature sound is definitely present, with calm piano in some areas and electronic jams in others. These themes fit well for a cafe setting, and it might even elicit a little emotion from you, too.
I hoped for an exciting drama filled with death, magic, and the supernatural. You do get that in Necrobarista - Final Pour, but it is extremely subdued. I didn't find this visual novel exciting or very gripping, though it is at times pretty to look at and listen to. I could see the appeal for those more interested in thought-provoking narratives driven by characters. For me, it just didn't hit right, and that's OK. Necrobarista - Final Pour isn't a bad game, and there are some problems with it, but someone out there is sure to get more out of it than me.
TechRaptor reviewed Necrobarista - Final Pour on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher. The base version is also available on PlayStation 4, Steam, and Apple Arcade.
- Appealing Graphical Style
- Kevin Penkin's Excellent Soundtrack
- Dialogue Feels Natural
- Narrative Fails to be Compelling
- Intruiging Lore's Potential Never Fully Reached
- Switch Performance is Disappointing