Necrobarista: Final Pour Review (Nintendo Switch)

The perfect place to visit when you’re dying for a coffee.

What’s your go-to place to meet up with friends, work colleagues, or family? I’m willing to guess that for many of you there’s probably a local café you’ve been a regular of at some point. Maybe it’s the cosy atmosphere, the brilliant beverages, or even the friendly people who run the establishment that keep you coming back every week. Even videogames fantatise the quaint setting of a café as a place to meet fascinating characters – games like Persona 5 with the Phantom Thieves’ hideout Café LeBlanc, a cosy place to relax in Animal Crossing’s The Roost, or even Café Alps in the Yakuza series if Kiryu wants to take a break from busting skulls.

There’s no doubt that cafes play an integral role for many of us, even if it’s just to get a quick caffeine fix, and that couldn’t be more important than in a particular Australian city known for its café culture: Melbourne. So how about a videogame set in a Melbourne café? That’s exactly the concept of Necrobarista, a narrative-driven indie game from Melbourne-based developers Route 59 Games. This relaxing and classy establishment known as The Terminal is tucked away in the back alleys of Melbourne, beckoning visitors with the enticing scent of a fine coffee blend wafting through the air. The only catch? Most of its customers are dead.

So grab a coffee, take a sip, and enjoy our review for this uniquely Australian visual novel.

necrobarista final pour switch henry lawson quote

Story

This is no normal café, and no normal story either. Necrobarista is a wild ride surrounding a humble café that just so happens to be the hub for those passing onto the afterlife: The Terminal. Patrons who visit The Terminal are living (or dying) on borrowed time, with only 24 hours to come to terms with their deaths before passing onto the afterlife permanently. For some, this brief visit to the café allows them to accept their fate, but for others it’s a harrowing and emotional experience full of grief and denial.

necrobarista final pour switch the terminal
So this is where you go when you die!

The Terminal has recently changed hands – its previous owner, Chay, now hundreds of years old has passed the rights onto a young woman named Maddy Xiao, whose cheeky attitude is as flavoursome and bold as the coffee she brews. She effortlessly bonds with every new customer that walks through the door, exchanging conversation, friendly banter, and even profound life advice over a satisfying drink.

necrobarista final pour switch funny maddy
Maddy really has a way with words.

However, Maddy is not all she seems on the surface, as this budding barista just so happens to be a part-time necromancer, making deals with the dead and manipulating the few hours they have left. This proves to be troublesome for the Council, who oversee the cafe and ensure patrons are not overstaying their welcome to keep the balance. And the council worker assigned to the Terminal? Well, that would be none other than infamous bush-ranger, Ned Kelly. As the story unravels throughout 10 gripping chapters, players will discover there is far more to the Terminal and its patrons than meets the eye.

Gameplay

While the story of Necrobarista takes the spotlight, front and centre, the gameplay aspect is far more subtle, requiring very little interaction from the player and seeking instead to emphasise the narrative. Being a visual novel, gameplay consists almost solely through character interactions, dialogue, and internal monologues; it’s basically like reading through an interactive book. Really all you have to do is press A – it’s as simple as that. Each chapter, of which there are 12 in total, last approximately 20 – 40 minutes, which is just enough to deliver an engaging narrative without ever overstaying its welcome.

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Be sure to have some tissues at the ready.

Between the chapters, players are free to explore every nook and cranny of The Terminal, which contains numerous secrets and hidden flashbacks. These side stories are as valuable to the player as the main narrative, as they provide deeper insight into each character, their motivations and their quirks. Most are quite light-hearted and comedic, but occasionally the game throws in an emotional interaction and does an incredible job of tugging the heartstrings when it needs to.

necrobarista final pour switch ned kelly
Yep, that’s Ned Kelly offering you a durry. No kidding.

Where Necrobarista truly shines is through its writing, characters, and dialogue. Every character interaction is an amalgam of raw human emotion, brilliant comedy, and packed to the rafters with Australian mannerisms and references. Despite being full of dead people, The Terminal is not all doom and gloom, as most characters won’t hesitate to launch into some cheeky banter with each other. There’s no doubt that the writing of Necrobarista will be able to make you smile, laugh, and even have you the verge of tears all within the span of a single chapter.

Visuals

The best cafes are often stylish and comfortable, with filtered light, welcoming interiors, and plenty of clutter. This is exactly what to expect from Necrobarista as you journey through the Terminal and into the afterlife. Despite being developed in Australia, the game adopts an anime-like cel-shaded appearance in its characters and environments, creating a comfy aesthetic to immerse the player. Though it may not be significantly detailed or graphically impressive, the game manages to deliver a visual style that at times is truly gorgeous, particularly through its use of light and dark.

necrobarista final pour switch visuals

Most of the game plays out as a series of still frames, with the camera slowly panning to create a sense of movement in each scene. Although animations are few and far between, characters are still highly emotive and exaggerated, keeping each scene entertaining and accompanying the equally-entertaining dialogue.

necrobarista final pour switch funny dialogue gif

There are, unfortunately, some drawbacks to playing on Switch. Certain areas run very poorly, with significant drops in framerate, which seem especially jarring when playing through emotive segments. Aside from these occasional scenes, the game looks attractive in both handheld mode and on the big screen.

Audio

There’s one thing you’ll immediately notice upon booting up Necrobarista: there’s no voiced dialogue! Well, unless you’re playing in Chinese, that is. This initially took some getting used to, having been spoiled by previous VNs with full voice-acting. Though after a few chapters I found myself growing used to the lack of voices as one would reading a regular book, instead hearing the character’s lines as they appeared on the screen. There’s a saving grace though, as the lack of dialogue means you get to focus on one of the best aspects of the game: its music.

The track “Confluence” really sets the mood in The Terminal.

Composed by Kevin Penkin (a rising star among videogame musicians responsible for the music to Florence), the soundtrack of Necrobarista is as stylish as its setting. Many of the tracks are relaxed, slow, and perfectly suited to the pace of the gameplay. Soft piano and synthesiser resonate throughout The Terminal as its patrons discuss the fragility of life and contemplate their inevitable end. It’s a beautiful score that I’ve already listened to by itself on numerous occasions and is worth playing Necrobarista even for this alone. Enjoy one of my favourite tracks from the game below:

“The Bittersweet Taste of Death” plays during a particularly emotional moment.

Extras

Outside of the main 10 chapters, there are a few added bonuses that are certainly worth your time. As mentioned earlier, there are memories scattered throughout the terminal, each of which unlocks concept art that can be viewed at any time. Additionally, two optional side-stories explore the origins and relationships of other customers at the Terminal – an awkward and edgy teen romance, and tense moments between an attractive woman and her devious Yakuza associate. Both of these extra stories should not be skipped and have vastly different tones from the main narrative.

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The side stories offer brief insight into a customer’s past.

The final bonus is the inclusion of a scene creator, where players can build their own settings and interactions between characters of their choice. While it may seem intriguing, this does not seem optimised for the Switch, as the interface runs very slowly and is prone to crashing (as it did several times as I was attempting to use it). Hopefully this is patched in future updates, as I’d avoid it in its current state.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for the perfect game to play while sitting in your favourite café enjoying that signature blend, look no further. Although its gameplay is minimal, Necrobarista offers up a bold story, served with deep emotions, and memorable characters. Alongside an attractive aesthetic and a perfectly-matched soundtrack, this proves to be a visual novel that is likely to impress most fans of the genre. Those who enjoy engaging narratives will be left satisfied upon leaving the Terminal, especially thanks to the uniquely Australian writing and humour of each of its patrons. This hidden gem nestled in a Melbourne alleyway will certainly have players dying to come back for another drink.

So, why should you play it?

  • A creative, engaging, and emotional narrative.
  • Entertaining writing and character dialogue.
  • Many Australian references will appeal to an Aussie audience.
  • Slick and stylish presentation.
  • Soundtrack as smooth as its coffee.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Complete lack of voiced audio – if you’re not fond of reading, this isn’t for you.
  • Some slight performance issues on Switch.

A review code was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Altdeus: Beyond Chronos Review – PSVR

The most visual of visual novels.

Have you ever read a book? You know, those compilations of physical pages that you have to manually read and turn in order to experience a linear plot? I’m going to assume you probably have.

Now, have you ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book? A book that gives you the option to make choices that dramatically affect the course of the plot. Usually it will require you to flip to a particular page where your choice causes the story to branch off in a different direction. Goosebumps books were some of the most popular. It was exhilarating to know the choices I made could make such an impact (even if it mostly resulting in my character dying).

A visual novel (VN) is the evolution of this concept – a digital version of a choose-your-own-adventure book. The visual novel is a staple of modern gaming in Japan and often features intricate plot, strong character development, and branching narratives. The genre emerged in the early ’90s thanks to the advances in computer graphics and continued to increase in popularity well into the early 2000s. Some notable titles in the genre include the tear-jerking Clannad, time-travelling banana scientist in Steins;Gate, and internet favourite dating simulator, Katawa Shojo. As a well-established genre, there are even some visual novels about dating pigeons, or ones I’ve played that I probably shouldn’t mention in public.

Above: Clannad, Steins;Gate, Katawa Shoujo.

Thanks to VR game developer studio MyDearest, who have created VR novels and manga, the visual novel has now moved one step closer to reality. In 2019 their first game Tokyo Chronos became one of the first VNs to enter VR, and was successful enough to justify a sequel. Released initially for the Oculus Quest in 2020, ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos garnered multiple awards and received critical acclaim. Now available for the PSVR, how does this version hold up? And is it good enough that it’ll make you want to throw out all your physical novels?

Plot

The year is 2280. The world has been ravaged by interdimensional aliens called Meteroa, which obliterate all life on the surface with weaponised sound waves. Humanity has been forced to withdraw underground into their last bastion, establishing a digital Tokyo with all of its citizens connected to a server. In attempts to retaliate, a group known as Prometheus recruits pilots for its Evangelion-sized mecha. You play as Chloe, an artificial human designed for the sole purpose of operating the Makhia and defending the remnants of Tokyo from complete annihilation.

Altdeus Beyond Chronos PS4 PS5 PSVR Makhia
Remember folks, if you ever need to pilot a giant robot, be sure to bring an idol with you.

Alongside Chloe at all times is the artificial-intelligence companion, AARC Noa, a part-time pilot, part-time idol, full-time sass machine, modelled off the consciousness of her recently deceased best friend: Coco Coconoe. Though Coco has been gone for 2 years after being devoured by a Meteroa, Chloe has frequent flashbacks of their time spent together, having learned the intricacies of human emotion from their many interactions. At times it feels as if Chloe can still feel her deep connection to Coco, hearing her voice whispering from beyond. Then, only hours into your journey, a fateful encounter with a mysterious Meteroa changes everything that Chloe has been led to believe…

Altdeus Beyond Chronos PS4 PS5 PSVR  Coco
The deep bond formed between Chloe (player) and Coco (pictured) becomes highly emotive.

Arguably the most important aspect of any visual novel is its plot, and ALTDEUS delivers one that is gripping, emotional, and has heavy themes of human connection despite the game’s many artificial characters. Featuring eight separate endings, choices made during character interaction and battle sequences bear significant weight and will drastically change your outcome.

Gameplay

If you’re playing a VN for its gameplay, you’re probably doing it wrong. As I discussed at the beginning of this article, this genre is akin to an interactive story where choices influence the plot. As such, gameplay in ALTDEUS is minimal and consists mostly of dialogue, character interaction, occasional use of the Move Controllers and the odd battle sequence. It’s fairly basic gameplay and completely approachable even to complete newcomers to VR – as most of the game is static, you’re very unlikely to experience any motion-sickness at all.

Altdeus Beyond Chronos PS4 PS5 PSVR Choices
Your choices influence the story. Just like real life!

Scattered throughout the game are sequences in which you pilot the Makhia: a giant robot controlled by a “Neural Link” (your VR headset) and “Mikani Links” (your Move controllers). In connecting with the Makhia, you work alongside idol/AI Noa performing various actions to form shields, analyse the opponent, or charge and launch your rail cannon. Though each of these actions is incredibly simple to perform, your choice and timing will decide how the battle plays out. Initially I was blown away by these sequences, which feel as if you really are in the cockpit of a giant robot, but by the end of the game I had seen the same thing so many times that the novelty had worn off almost completely.

Altdeus Beyond Chronos PS4 PS5 PSVR VR
Get in the robot, S̶h̶i̶n̶j̶i̶ Chloe.

Visuals

A virtual reality game set in a virtual Tokyo should look like a virtual Tokyo, right? Right. During the game you’ll get to stand in the centre of Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya Scramble Crossing which is quite surreal; I found myself pausing momentarily to admire my surroundings in 360 degrees despite the low-resolution textures. Most other environments appear quite bland with little detail, though the clean character models with their distinct anime design will draw your attention away from this.

Sadly the game’s visuals are somewhat hindered and result in low-detail, blurry textures due to the limitations of the PSVR, as can be seen below:

Left: PSVR, Right: PC.

There are however a couple of redeeming features to the game’s visuals. Sequences inside of the giant Makhia robots are impressive and look just as anime has led you to imagine: surrounded by with HUDs, screens and warning symbols. I was also blown away by the 360 degree concerts performed by Noa throughout the game, which transport you to a virtual concert space where you are truly immersed in the visuals during her performance as she sings and dances around you. It’s hard to fully describe and must be experienced first-hand.

Altdeus Beyond Chronos PS4 PS5 PSVR 360 Idol Concert
The 360 degree idol concerts are a visual spectacle.

Audio/Soundtrack

If you’re going to read through text for 15 – 20 hours, you may as well do so accompanied by some brilliant music. ALTDEUS’ soundtrack is a collaboration between multiple musicians:
– In-house composer Yosuke Kori.
– J-pop/electro musician kz(livetune) who has composed many anime openings.
– Kunuyuki Takahashi (MONACA), who arranged tracks for NieR and NieR:Automata.
– R!N who is well-known for her powerful voice in Attack on Titan’s vocal tracks.

Many of the background tracks convey a calm, wistful, and sometimes melancholic feeling, which is often reflected in the music that plays during the game’s frequent flashbacks. I’d relate this to the music in other emotional visual novels, think Clannad. This is juxtaposed by the high-tempo, upbeat idol-style songs that are scattered throughout the game’s virtual idol performances. I was most-impressed by the incredibly immersive, 360 degree anime opening that plays in the first hour of the game, which I imagine would be similar to attending a vocaloid concert.

It’s worth noting that the vocal tracks are some of the best I’ve heard in a game and are of such quality that they deserve their own standalone album. Below are a couple of my favourite tracks from the game:

An intense battle theme during the first Meteroa fight:

One of the catchy, upbeat idol tracks that Noa sings:

While I sing the soundtrack’s praises, it’s important that the voice acting too is up to scratch, as for the vast majority of the game you’ll be listening to character dialogue. You’re given the choice between an English and Japanese dub, and me being the weeb I am, I chose the latter. Not once did I tire of hearing any of the voice-acting, which has clear delivery, believable acting and even some serious emotional weight behind it during some of the more touching moments in the game. At times it felt just as if I was watching a quality anime production thanks to the voice acting of the game.

Conclusion

Having never previously played a virtual visual novel, ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos is a PSVR game unlike any other I’ve encountered, and one I would highly recommend for those looking for a unique VR experience. Fans of anime too are also likely to get a kick out of ALTDEUS, as it clearly draws inspiration from series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Macross.

Altdeus Beyond Chronos PS4 PS5 PSVR Makhia
Yeah, I’d definitely skip a meeting to go see a giant robot too.

With 8 separate endings, a branching narrative, and a gripping plot, it will take you approximately 20 hours to reach the true ending which is well-worth it for those willing to commit. Admittedly some choices can be obscure and frustrating, requiring trial and error likely to put off many players. Though it could have simply been made as a normal 2D visual novel, being completely surrounded by the game enhances immersion dramatically, especially during the game’s battles and emotional interactions.

While this may be my first VR VN, having enjoyed ALTDEUS as much as I did, I highly doubt this will be my last. And it could be your first too!

So, should you play it?

  • You’re looking for a game with a gripping, emotional plot.
  • Piloting a mecha has always been your dream.
  • Are you an anime fan with a PSVR gathering dust? Time to dust it off.
  • A necessary game for fans of J-pop and idol music.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Not a big fan of long dialogue sequences or cutscenes? Stay away from VNs as a whole.
  • Playing through the same sequences may frustrate those with little patience.

A PSVR review code (played on PlayStation 5) was provided for the purpose of this review.