VA-11 HALL-A: (pronounced Valhalla) Cyberpunk Bartender Action is a visual novel game that has been around for a bit now. It first released on PC back in 2016 and then released on the PlayStation Vita in late 2017. Perhaps you missed out on it on those two platforms though and wished you could play it on a console? I did too and now we all can as the game is now available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. I recently got my hands on the PlayStation 4 version for the purpose of this review and if you like visual novels this is one you shouldn’t miss.
Developed by Sukeban Games out of Venezuela, VA-11 HALL-A is a visual novel where you play as a bartender in a cyberpunk city. Taking place in Glitch City, you take control of Jill Stingray and do your best serving drinks to a vast array of characters who wander into the Valhalla bar. The gameplay consists not only of having conversations with the other characters but also fulfilling your duty as a bartender and mixing up drinks for them over the course of 19 in game days.
Here you have choices you can make such as what and how much of something to mix into a drink, how long you mix the drink for, giving customers something they didn’t ask for, or even ignoring customer’s requests. When a customer requests a particular kind of drink you can pull up a handbook that tells you how to make it. Over time though I started to remember how to mix certain kinds of drinks and didn’t even need to pull the handbook up anymore. That really made me feel all the more like a real bartender. Playing with the Dualshock 4, the menu navigation had a bit of a learning curve but I got used to it. Now depending on what kind of drinks you choose to serve people, conversations can play out in different ways.
Those conversations are what is really so great about this visual novel. Pretty much all of the the characters in the game and the things they talk about were interesting to me. The game features topics that you find in other cyberpunk media but also topics such as abuse, sexuality, suicide and more and all of them are done in a well done manner which is very important when discussing such things. It isn’t all serious though as there are certainly moments of laughter and light heartening moments as well. The game has several different endings and different scenes and the choices you make determine which ones you get to see in your playthrough.
The game also features some parts outside of the bar such as Jill’s apartment. This is where the game begins every morning when Jill wakes up. Here you can spend time talking to Jill’s cat Fore, browse and read news, and decorate Jill’s room with items you buy with the money you make at work. Of course you can also engage in everyone’s favorite activity in life here which is paying the bills. Choosing to not pay them will lead you to getting a bad ending so make sure you send those bill collectors your money. My first time through clocked in around 9 hours but I quickly dove back in via New Game+ to discover some of the narrative beats that I missed out on. New Game+ also allows you to carry over items you purchased your first time through.
The visuals in VA-11 HALL-A are really good with it featuring a great retro sprite art style. Each character has a unique look to them helping them stand out from the next and they feature quite a few different facial expressions depending on what gets said in conversations. The soundtrack in the game by Michael ‘Garoad’ Kelly features electronic music that fits perfectly with the futuristic setting of this game. The music plays into the gameplay as well as when you start your shift at work you can pick songs that will play in the bar that day. The music will even affect things in the game which I thought was really cool. The game is just written text though with no voice acting sadly. The trophy list in the game consists of 34 trophies with a Platinum. You’ll have to make different choices, get different endings, and unlock all the songs to get them all.
VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action really impressed me with just how interesting its colorful cast of characters and topics were. Getting to step into Jill’s shoes at the bar and getting to know the customers personally really helped me feel that bond that she built with them. It goes without saying that visual novels aren’t for everyone but if you are a fan of the genre or adventure style games then VA-11 HALL-A stands tall with the best of them.
*VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is out now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action$14.99
- Outstanding Story that Discusses Some Important Topics While Handling them with Respect
- Great Cast of Unique Characters that are all Interesting to Get to Know
- Catchy Electronic Soundtrack
- Mixing Drinks Gameplay Helps Differentiate this from Other Visual Novels
- Old School Retro Art Style Looks Great
- Menu Navigation has a Minor Learning Curve