I don’t know how anyone familiar with visual novels isn’t excited for Route 59’s Necrobarista. Everything we’ve seen of the title oozes with style and a unique awareness of presentation and direction. The developers hopped onto the console train before anyone else realized it was a train at all and have, to my knowledge anyway, conducted their business in an open and honest way. Hopefully the story is also good, because if it is, we’ll have a tentpole of the medium coming again from Australia and it’ll give me more excuses to go and visit…despite their killer trees, flies, water, kangeroos, birds and beer.
However, in re-watching the recently released second trailer, I have noticed some complaints about it being more of a teaser. According to some, it doesn’t tell the viewer what’s going on in the game. While we don’t get a narrator spelling out exactly what’s going on in Necrobarista, the trailer actually hints at everything you need to know through its visuals. And while some of it is admittedly theoretical, that also fits into what a trailer is supposed to do: give you enough information to get your interests, while leaving enough mystery to want you to buy the product.
However, I know both theory and interpretation are going to fly over some folks heads. So, in What’s In An OP style, I’m going to break the trailer down and give you my best interpretation about the story of Necrobarista. Let’s jam.
The trailer starts off with a countdown of sorts featuring several types of clocks. We can tell its a countdown because the clocks slow down the close we get to the protagonist Maddy. It touches simultaneously on what will more than likely be an overarching theme in this game: time. The Terminal, the coffee shop this game is taking place in, is sort of a last stop for those who’ve died. It’s a place where time exists outside of the normal order for itself: slowing down to a crawl in the fast-pace world. It could be a vital on a thematic level or be a straightforward commodity: making it vital in this particular realm.
It also shows different styles of clocking going from what I’m admittedly assuming is the General Post Office clock tower in Melbourne to the modern digital clock at Maddy’s bedside. This could well be a hint about the protagonist herself: being far older than she actually appears like most necromancers in fiction. Tied to what appears to be her living in solitude and one can imagine she has been at this job a very, very long time.
Not for lack of enjoyment however as we cut to the next scene –
of Maddy opening the gateway for the Terminal. If you are an anime fan, the first thing this scene will evoke for you is probably going to be Fullmetal Alchemist. From the circle on their ground, to what is possibly a Philosopher’s Stone getting a shout out there, it puts the source of Maddy’s powers closes to alchemy, or rather magical science than just inherent magical power and visually evokes the first scene of alchemist power from the show: when Ed and Al transmute their mother.
This is an important not just as a nod for fans of FMA, but also to cloud our opinion of Maddy before we ever play the game. We do not know why she’s operating the Terminal or using her knowledge/powers in this way and the one time we’ve seen her use her powers so far, she does so in a way that reminds some people of something very bad. Until we get a clear answer, we cannot assume she’s being altruistic.
After the explosion of power from Maddy, we get a quick run down of all of the important players in this game. While the audience cannot figure out who are the living and who are the dead yet, from how they’re framed we can still gleam a few bits of information. Watching this character fall from the sky, we can assume she’s DOA. But we can also assume she’s somewhat important and ‘good’ insomuch as whatever moral alignments mean to the plot. This is literally the shtick of ‘an angel falling out of Heaven’, after all. Considering who goes in and out of the Terminal, defining good and evil will be important for figuring out why Maddy does what she does. For now though, we must move on.
Following up on our angel we have another hero bursting onto the scenes. This is literally every visual trope you would associate with a heroic character from their jacket tied in such a way it looks like a cape to how they’re leaping through the air like the freakin’ Batman. From what we’ll see later in the trailer, it looks like this person is infiltrating the Terminal from the top down. This again puts Maddy’s morality into question while thematically setting up the reveal of the game’s darker characters. Depending on which way our protagonist’s morally aligns he could be a friend or a problem. But by that point he’ll have bigger problems than just Maddy.
From their we get two decidedly threatening shots from what will probably be two of the game’s darker character. The last guy shown we’ve seen with Maddy and I believe his name is Kishan. But, his role is still somewhat ill-defined. He could be as an assistant to her or as someone keeping an eye on her either for the first guy we see in this cut or someone we’ll see later. The knife, in the traditional Australian ‘THIS is a KNIFE’ sense, is something he regularly does with the patrons and Maddy: Five-Finger Fillet. We know that from gameplay video from last year.
Going back to the first guy, you will cannot frame much more of a threatening shot than him. Literally everything about him screams menace and his role in the Terminal, while undefined, can probably be put on the opposite side of the two characters we’ve seen before. Either he’s another necromancer or, more interestingly, he’s one of the gangsters that have been hinted at being involved in the Terminal. And considering this is a coffee shop for both the dead and the living, I imagine there are a few investments the criminal underworld could make in a place like that.
From two of the most threatening characters of the game, we cut to two of what will probably be the most tragic. The first characters is a woman and strictly from how her frames were shot, she is either dead and waiting to meet with the people she’s left behind or alive and was left behind by someone she loves. That particular shot is always used to frame that type of plotline so you can expect it her as well.
Also we have a surgeon gearing up in the Terminal. Odds are high that he’s not there to say goodbye to anyone in particular, but rather to try and bring back as many people on the brink of death as he can. There is literally no other reason for him to be in a place like this and it probably won’t work out for him in the end. A story like this couldn’t work without a strong dose of tragedy, however. So the potential involvement from these two could bring a level of complexity to Maddy’s decidedly grey character.
This shot is pretty bad, but its the only cut I could get of Don Buckethead here and it’s important to note. Let’s start with the fact that the dude has a bucket for a head. Moving on, while he isn’t quite as ominous as Kishan and the other gentlemen, his framing is just as sinister: just more subtle. Every cast member is framed at a certain level of the Terminal. We started with the girl falling through the sky at the highest level to Buckethead here at the lowest level.
So if our theories so far are on the money, then Don Buckethead is (or somewhat aligned to) the big bad of the game strictly based on where he is in relations to everyone else. We do know that he is definitely a gangster from previous promotional material where he was (somehow) getting drunk off his ass. Where that goes remains to be seen: especially with the involvement of the other characters and Maddy’s choices throughout.
The final supporting character shown is The Kid. I never saw anything related to her name, but from previous promotional material she works with Kishan and Maddy as the group tech guru. The creatures around her in this shot are actually mechanical and they are clearly following her order to prepare the shop to open. This could hint that she does live with Maddy or, at the bare minimum, lives somewhere within the Terminal. It could also hint that she is one of the few people legitimately close to the protagonist as she is operating independently within the Terminal.
That’s…honestly it for now. I find her character, at least as presented so far, very similar to Ed in Cowboy Bebop. She feels there to keep the mood from getting too dark and, depending on her plotline, could be much more. We’ll have to wait and see.
This is my favorite shot in the entire trailer as it brilliant depicts not only the world of Necrobarista but also Maddy’s life and journey. The walk through the levels of the Terminal shows the cyclical nature of her routine while reinforcing the sense of solitude we got from the earlier shots. The angle gives it a nightmarish as it looks like Maddy is moving forward beyond her control towards the end of the metaphorical tunnel. If we’re right about Maddy’s immortality, this would reflect her desire to stop the cycle: to die. But for reasons unknown to us, she’s unable to; at least when we first meet her.
All of these pieces and threads together hints at a much darker game than just ‘coffeehouse for the living and dead’. The meaning of time, what people will do to survive, the lines between good and evil, and, Hell; what does it mean to live? Mix in the supernatural entities, and promised hipsters, gangsters and other underworld denizens and you have a strong setup for a very, very dark game.
As you can probably tell, I’m hyped for this one. It’s a shame we have to wait until 2019, but it should be well worth it. You can check out the trailer for yourselves here and give Route 59 a follow on their twitter here! JP3: OUT!