VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

released on Jun 21, 2016

Learn about daily life in a cyberpunk dystopia.

A branching storyline where your decisions do not depend on traditional choices, but through the drinks you prepare.

Visuals inspired by old japanese adventure games for the PC-98, with a modern touch for an other-wordly experience.

A beatiful soundtrack composed entirely by Garoad.

Get to know your clients, their tastes, and prepare the drink that will change their lives.

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Re-review time! TL;DR - VA-11 Hall-A is comfy enough to be a good game, but too comfy to be good cyberpunk.
It's alright. The art is all pretty great, the music is just as lovely as I remember it being, and the characters are all super appealing. Characters are written in a surprisingly genuine way, and their interactions with each other are the highlight of the game for me. Dialogue is consistently entertaining and charming, and is more than enough to get me all the way through the game without losing interest. So, overall, I think it's a success of a game. It does what it intends to, and it's an alright time.
I've got some quibbles, though, or I'd be rating it higher than three stars. My main issue is that I think this is one of the most surface-level and complacent depictions of a cyberpunk dystopia I've ever seen. The worldbuilding's pretty generic for the genre, which isn't a problem in and of itself, but god damn, there's zero bite to any of it. Even Cyberpunk 2077, a game that's frequently derided as "not cyberpunk," is a much, much deeper cut of society than this is. Characters in VA-11 Hall-A suffer at the hands of their society, yes, but it's almost untouched as subject matter. Characters seem unwilling to discuss the state of society, and when they do, they're shockingly complacent! The protagonist, at one point, declares that she believes the corporate stranglehold of her city-state is essentially morally neutral, because while they're choking the life out of the city's underclass and building a panopticon of a surveillance state, they're bringing positive changes too, such as... better medical technology? That she admits the poor can't possibly afford? It's puzzling.
Broadly, the game only engages with the "cyberpunk" part of its title in the most aesthetic, surface-level ways. I'm not sure if this is the result of some bizarre attempt at being apolitical, the writers' lack of interest in exploring further, or something else, but this all feels like a wasted opportunity.
The game's also persistently horny - not a bad thing at all, mind you, but the horniness feels juvenile in a way I can't put my finger on. Weirded me out from time to time.
So, in general, this is an entertaining little game that I like, but I cannot help but feel it to be largely a waste of its setting, genre, and potential themes. I did not come away from VA-11 Hall-A thinking anything about its setting or what it might have to say about real life, as good cyberpunk media should. I just came away thinking Dana is best girl, and not much else.

Might finish this game some time, but from what remember is how lame the current cyberpunk genre is. Please someone make a law where future cyberpunk writers need to watch Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Ghost in the shell before writing anything cyberpunk.

this game is the definition of chill

Stella please let me serve you one more drink