It’s the year 207X A.D. and corporations rule Glitch City. A city that shouldn’t exist. A tax haven where corporations and criminal empires reign supreme. Word is the mayor of Glitch City is just a puppet ruler with no real power, having been set up by Zaibatsu Corp. to avert attention from whatever underhanded dealings they have at the moment. But this review isn’t about that. VA-11 Hall-A (pronounced Valhalla) is a visual novel mixed with a bartending simulator. Initially released in North America in 2017 on the PlayStation Vita, VA-11 Hall-A transports you to a cyberpunk world with a cast of unforgettable characters, great storytelling, and a chill experience. You play as Jill who is a bartender at VA-11 Hall-A who always tried to give her best effort at work. She talks with her clients and is always nice even with the most annoying people. She always starts her job saying “Time to mix drinks and change lives.”
The action in Cyberpunk Bartender Action comes from the time you spend in the bar. While at the bar you are focus on making drinks based on the instructions given to you by patrons of the bar. There isn’t a time limit for creating drinks and if you make a mistake then you can just reset the order and start again. All drinks can be found in the B.T.C. recipe book so don’t feel like you have to memorize each drinks ingredients to proceed. To create a drink, there a five different ingredients you can mix together. If the patron asks for a “big” drink then that means just double the amount of ingredients the drink has.
At the start of each day Jill may want an item from the shop. Using tip money Jill receives from making flawless drinks at VA-11 Hall-A she can purchase items to keep her focused during work and display in her room. Keeping Jill focused means that when a patron at the bar asks for a drink she will remember what drink was requested and mention it in the dialogue box. This is handy when you are serving more than one person and they ask for separate drinks.
A Festivus For The Rest Of Us!
Speaking of Jill’s room this is where you spend your time while not working at the bar. She lives in a small apartment with her cat Fore, talks to him, and gives him a voice. While in Jill’s apartment you can read news articles and blogs on Jill’s tablet. There are a couple bills you have to pay and if you fail to make payments then you will get the “bad ending.” Personally, I failed to pay rent once which caused Jill to become distracted and I saw the bad ending on my playthrough. VA-11 Hall-A is only about 10 hours and has a New Game+ feature which allows you to keep all the items and decorations you purchased during your first playthrough. I’d recommend purchasing the PC-9X and assorted cartridges for a cool minigame you can play. It’s in the lower right hand corner of Jill’s room once you buy it.
As I’m writing this review I can’t get over how great the soundtrack is. It was composed by Michael “Garoad” Kelly who was inspired by the Shin Megami Tensei games and grew up playing PlayStation classics like Snatcher and Policenauts. It’s a soundtrack that you’ll want to listen to while studying or maybe even writing a review. As of right now this is my favorite soundtrack of 2019. Moving to the graphics, Sukeban Games took a page out of the 1990s to give you this retro style with major Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner vibes. You get a few glimpses of Glitch City from Jill’s apartment and the intro to the game. I wish there was more to see in this game. I want more images of Glitch City and the places people mention in the game. You built this world through conversations, now show me.
I loved my time with VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action. It’s one of the best visual novels I have played in years and one of the best stories in games this decade. It’s a funny, tragic, stunning adventure unlike anything I’ve played recently. It treats the player with respect by not insulting your intelligence as well as empowering its characters to be confident, scared, sexual, and at times a piece of garbage. VA-11 Hall-A is the visual novel that you must play even if you aren’t typically a fan of the genre.
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.