Posted on 11 Sep 2017 by Kyle Johnson

PAX West: Necrobarista

The Defence

Developer: Route 59
Publisher: Route 59
Genre: Adventure, Indie
Platform: Consoles, Mac, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: No data.

Melbourne’s cafe scene is hiding a dark secret. Underneath all the bar stools and chattering patrons, dark magic is at work. Magic that brings together witches, spirits of the undead, and yes, necromancers.

This is the world that Necrobarista asks you to step into. A kinetic novel set within the urban fantasy arena of Melbourne’s cafe scene, Necrobarista sports a cel-shaded graphical style, a wide cast of characters and some full 3D exploration, as well. Not your traditional visual novel, I had a chance to chat with Justin Kuiper, the writer behind Route 59’s Necrobarista, at PAX West.

Visually, Necrobarista immediately sets itself apart with its floating text boxes and cel-shaded graphics. By making the game in Unity, this freed the team to move from traditional 2D space into 3D, offering for a more directed experience. For starters, during dialogue, the camera will cut from one character to another, not unlike in anime, or movies.

Justin explained that this meant the team could draw attention to things they couldn’t otherwise, or display scenes in a more deliberate way. It was certainly effective, with lines of text wrapping around a knife as it bounced between fingers during a game of five-finger fillet. The entire demo this scene took place and ran no more than 10 minutes, yet it too had a myriad of cuts and camera angles.

Another feature unique to Necrobarista is the inclusion of 3D exploration scenes. The demo placed one after the main crisis had resolved itself, and by clicking on objects in the environment, I could get different perspectives on the game of five-finger fillet, or background about the world itself. It’s a neat addition and also a way to add some entirely optional story snippets as well.

Interrogation or casual conversation? Time will tell.

The decision to move from a visual novel (one with choices) to a kinetic novel (one with no choices) also happened early on in development. By acting as an impartial observer, the team at Route 59 will be free to tell their story in a more consistent way. That’s not to say there will be an enforced playing order, rather, you will have the option of choosing which scene/vignette you’d like to see next. Some of these vignettes will overlap, offering different perspectives for the same scene.

When I asked about voice acting, Justin was adamant about the decision to not include VA work for Necrobarista. The reasoning behind this was that sometimes, players will read ahead of where the lines are voiced, leaving them to either wait until the audio catches up, or skip to the next line and break immersion. It may prove to be a divisive choice later, but I can certainly understand the thought process behind it.

One thing the team at Route 59 is well aware of is the comparisons to Sukeban’s VA-11 Hall-A. Though the two may be somewhat related in subject matter, the core gameplay varies quite a bit. With Necrobarista focusing more on the kinetic novel and the impartial observer aspects, VA-11 Hall-A is more about mixing drinks and taking an active role in the plot.

With the first of many vignettes coming in October, Route 59 certainly have a unique take on visual novels with Necrobarista. We’ll see if the rest of the vignettes are as interesting as the demo was, but for now, for anime fans, Necrobarista is worth paying attention to.

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