[Review] VA-11 Hall-A (PS Vita)

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo  Official Site

Platform: Playstation Vita
Developer: Sukeban Games
Release: Nov 14, 2017 (for PS Vita)
Price: $15 USD

VA-11 Hall-A is a cyberpunk visual novel with bartender simulation elements. Originally developed as a demo for a game jam in 2014, it was expanded as a full game and first released for PC in 2016. This review is for the Vita version which is the version I originally played this game on. 

Plot: You play as Jill, a bartender in futuristic dystopian Glitch City. As you do your daily job, you meet various characters that reside in the city that range from Dorothy, an android sex worker to Sei, a law enforcement officer that protects the city from danger. There are multiple character routes for the game depending on how well you mix the drinks for certain characters.  

You can read the news and decorate Jill’s home

Gameplay: This is a part visual novel, part bartender simulator, so other than reading text, the other main gameplay element is mixing drinks for customers. There are various drink recipes that you have to remember, and also specific orders for certain customers. There are 5 basic ingredients for a drink, which can be mixed in various quantities and can be optionally iced or aged. Instead of dialogue options, you can change their responses and certain storylines by mixing them different drinks, optionally adding alcohol to a drink, talking to them instead etc thus this game contains a fair bit more interactivity than the typical visual novel.
There is also Jill’s home, where you can read the news and buy things to display in her home.

Characters: 

Dana and Gillian, Jill’s boss and coworker at the bar

-Jill: Jill is the main character in the game, she’s the bartender at VA-11 Hall-A of Glitch City, is fairly jaded about her life and her job and serves as an outlet for the various citizens of Glitch City to rant to. 

-Dana: Jill’s boss and the proprietor of the VA-11 Hall-A bar, a reasonably chill person as far as bosses go and is pretty much a cyborg, as she has super strength and a mechanical left arm. 

-Alma: A professional hacker, Jill’s friend, and a regular at the bar

-Gillian: Jill’s fellow bartender at the bar and a butt of a lot of her jokes

-Dorothy: An android sex worker and a regular at the bar

-Stella: A catgirl who is a regular at the bar

-Sei: A “Knight” (law enforcement officer) that is also a regular at the bar

-Donovan: CEO at the augmented eye (the main newspaper of Glitch City) and a regular at the bar

-Ingram: A strong tempered man who is also a regular at the bar

-Streaming-chan: A girl who streams her life 24/7 and is also a regular 

-Kira Miki: An android idol pop star who also shows up to the bar on occasion

The game’s graphics is reminiscent of a 90s Japanese bishoujo game

Graphics: VA11-Hall-A is inspired by retro 90s PC-98 style graphics, which I love. This pixelated style of graphics has been making a comeback on a lot of indie games, but for this game it projects a retro-futuristic vibe.

Music: The music in this game is gorgeous. Ambient synth tracks dominate, and is user-selectable. I love all of the background tracks here, great for those who enjoy ambient vaporwave / synth-pop styles.

Conclusion: 10/10. This is one of my favorite visual novels. I love cyberpunk, and this game’s cyberpunk world is revealed gradually through talking to customers at a dive bar, which is a very interesting and unique concept (a similar concept happens in Coffee Talk another indie visual novel that was developed after this game). I love PC-98 style graphics and this game brings a nostalgic 90s Japanese vibe with those retro style graphics. The music is amazing, I could sink into the ambience of that gorgeous vaporwave/synth pop. And the stories that Jill hears everyday from the various patrons kept me engrossed in the world and intrigued and eagerly awaiting the next day when Jill goes to work again. The gameplay itself might get repetitive as the drinks don’t have any penalty for being badly mixed, except for changing the route for certain characters. But having multiple routes adds replay value as well. Overall, I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s a stellar cyberpunk themed visual novel with bartending interactive elements. Also, it’s on Switch now so there’s no reason to get the Vita version anymore for on the go play.


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