Review: VA-11 Hall-A (PSV/PSTV)

Review: VA-11 Hall-A (PSV/PSTV)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation Vita
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
Title: VA-11 Hall-A
Format: PSN (562 MB)
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Publisher: Wolfgame
Developer: Wolfgame
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: TBD
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
VA-11 Hall-A, or Valhalla to save myself some typing, has one of the most interesting premises I’ve seen in a while. You play as a bartender at the titular bar in a futuristic, steampunk place called Glitch City. The basic gameplay is a visual novel, but rather than picking dialogue options to shape the game, you serve drinks to customers in the bar.

Deciding how much alcohol to put in certain drinks, picking a drink when a customer only asks for a type of drink, even ignoring a request and giving someone something they didn’t ask for, all of these things can subtly influence the conversations you have with customers.

And the game is really a game about conversations. There are some running plot lines that fill out the background of the bar and city but the real draw to the game is the conversations themselves. As the player character Jill notes, drunk people often open up to their bartender, which makes it easy for her to get into deep and/or weird conversations with bar patrons. Emphasis on the weird when patrons include a brain in a jar and a robot sex worker.

I think what I really like about the conversations is that most of the characters are just really interesting. Even the ones who are jerks or generally unlikable are still interesting but a large number of the patrons are fun and likable. The bar’s other bartender and the owner also pop into conversations, providing a nice foil to Jill.

There are a few other minor parts to the game. For example how Jill spends her mornings before going to work and how she spends her money. For the most part, these are just filler but can occasionally help flesh out the world and Jill’s character.

Visuals:
Upon starting VA-11 Hall-A, one might assume the game is a port from an older system and not a PC game from 2016. Being mostly a visual novel, it doesn’t have to have very high-end graphics and it draws inspiration from older adventure games, especially those on the PC-98.

The visuals are fantastic though, with beautiful retro sprites and imaginative designs. The aforementioned diverse clientele of the bar are all unique, each with a distinctive style that shows off their personalities and quirks. Reactions to Jill’s questions elicit different facial expressions as characters talk, though my one complaint in this department is that I wish characters had a few more expressions.

Audio:
There’s no voice acting in the game, again because of its retro inspired roots. What it has instead is a very nice soundtrack with a wide range of cyberpunk and futuristic tracks. At the start of each shift, you pick the songs that will play in the bar for that day and those serve as the soundtrack for the game. A nice touch is that you music choices have in-game implications.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
It goes without saying that this game isn’t for everyone. Lots of reading, a focus on smaller personal stories, and relatively little gameplay won’t appeal to the high octane gamers. But for those who love visual novels and adventure games with story and heart, VA-11 Hall-A is fantastic.

I grew to love so many characters and their quirks thanks to the bonds Jill forms with them over the course of their visits. If you’re looking for that kind of experience (and want to get people drunk enough to pass out), look no further. VA-11 Hall-A is in a class of its own when it comes to waifu bartender-ing in a cyberpunk setting. As Jill says at the start of her days, “It’s time to mix drinks and change lives.”

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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