VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

released on Jun 21, 2016

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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Excellent characters, excellent music, excellent vibes.

I listen to the music to this game almost daily. I think about this game...not a lot, but enough. I started it in 2016, and I finished it...last year I think?

This game means a lot to me. Obviously I love the art and the characters and the music- like, obviously. The whole idea resonates with me, and honestly I don't really have much to say about it because it's just. If there were ever a Visual Novel for me, this would be it. And I hope it's that for someone else.

Time to mix drinks and change lives

This is how to make your very own VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, right from the comfort of your own home! 🍸✨

Here’s what you’ll need:
- 5 parts Blorbo-Bicon Extraordinaire
- 3 parts Purified Heart-warm
- 3 parts Feelings That I Still Don’t Know How to Process
- 2 parts Banger OST
- 2 parts Fucking Funny Shit
- 1 part Nanomachines
- 1 part Girl 4chan
- 1 part Mega Christmas
- 1 part Bad Touch pffts
- 1 part Dorothinquisition (your ass was not expecting this shit)

1. Start by smiling a little, maybe throwing in some laughs if you’re feeling adventurous (note: you are feeling adventurous).
2. Feel every emotion under the sun.

And you’re done !~

i’m always wary of any usage of the word “waifu”, but this game is simply delightful. admittedly, i have only had any amount of interest in the visual novel genre for less than a year at this point, but this game has already earned a spot in my top 5 favorites. it’s literally so fucking sweet i don’t know what to do with myself??? almost every character radiates such warmth and authenticity that i can’t help but smile. even when a character’s kinda a piece of shit, i still just feel so damn charmed by the whole presentation and atmosphere that it’s virtually impossible* to have a client interaction i dislike. it is clear that there was a lot of thought put into the backgrounds of many of the characters; not only do you get to experience storied friendships between your clientele, but you also get to forge your own relationships with them. character development WIN!! it’s so fucking fantastic to watch characters change over the course of the game. one thing i find incredibly well-done about this game is just how involved our main character is with the entire narrative. in Coffee Talk (2020), a game that came out after this (but one I played before), the barista player character repeatedly says things to the effect of “just being an observer.” in VA-11 Hall-A, however, Jill is front and center, albeit often off-screen. yes, you do get to act as an observer sometimes when a group of people come in talking to each other, but the vast majority of the time, our girlie is integral to the conversation. quite literally, this motherfucker is out here changing lives. the B.T.C. should make a fun little catchphrase based on that notion and pay me e-royalties (in the future they call them e-royalties).

so,, how the fuck does Jill even change lives? she mixes drinks, silly! this is where the Bartender portion of the Cyberpunk Bartender Action comes into play. a goofy individual—a creature, if you will (unless you won’t)—will come into the bar and either directly ask for a Bad Touch smirk emoji, some other specific drink, or give you some constraints for what they want. the game’s interface then lets you sort through the modest selection of possible drinks by name, flavor, or type to allow you to discern what could be a good option. you drag set amounts of the 5 ingredients into the mixer, select to add ice/age the drink, then mix for a specified amount of time. it’s not too complex, but offers just enough interaction to really make you feel like you’re Cyberpunk Bartending Action. sometimes a client will speak in riddles or ask for “the usual” like haha did you remember what Joe Barbeque always orders? no??? what are you a fucking idiot or something??

while there is a plot in this game, i think it would definitely be classified more as character-driven versus a story-driven narrative. this is ABSOLUTELY not a bad thing. i love me some characters! they’re often far more important to me than any sort of story beats. the game starts with a narrative hook, but it kinda just disappears by the end of the game. it’s mentioned semi-frequently, but there’s just not really any resolution to that thread. gone. there’s some pretty significant in-world events that occur over the course of the story that tie into some of the characters’ arcs, which is pretty cool. there’s even a TV in the bar that you can change the channel on, and different channels become available depending on the point in the story you’re at. really though, i’m not here for the happenings in Glitch City. there’s some honestly pretty good social/ political commentary for the most part, and the game leverages its cyberpunk setting to talk about the consequences of technological advancement, like any good piece of cyberpunk media should, but i’m here for the critters on my screen ordering they goddamn drinks. fucking hell, i think Jill’s arc might be one of my favorite character arcs in any piece of media ever now. i genuinely cannot think of any nugget of character development i like more than her’s. even ‘unimportant’ side characters get to grow, and it’s just really fucking awesome. fantastic characters and writing overall. extremely funny, too.

speaking of characters: gang, we need to talk about Dorothy (good song btw). to start off, i will say that from a pure personality standpoint, Dorothy is probably one of my favorite characters in this game. she’s fun, has an infectious energy to her, and can even end up being pretty serious and philosophical when she feels like it. i probably enjoyed every single time she showed up at Valhalla looking for a drink and a chat. now, i do not know any backstory behind the motivations of the writing behind this character, so anything i say will be my own interpretation of solely what can be gleaned from the game. however, from what i understand about the writer of this game, they seem to be excessively horny and i would not be surprised if they hold some unsavory views on women and potentially even worse things. but again, i am locking in on what can be understood from the game. while i 100% think there is merit to be had in taking the author behind a piece of work into account, i’m personally here on this website to review VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, not some horny twitter user.

Dorothy is a sex-worker Lilim (a robot, of sorts), who is mentally about 24, but has the body of 13-year-old. the game feeds you some background along the lines of “oh like Lilim are just kinda created looking like kids cuz we’re tryin’ to mimic humans as much as possible or whatever and most ‘upgrade’ to look more adult later,” but this alone can obviously not explain its inclusion. at one point, Dorothy says something to the effect of not wanting to get said upgrade because her young appearance helps her immensely in her line of work. some people hire her for pedophilic reasons, and others hire her for non-sexual reasons, such as asking her to pretend to be their late daughter. isn’t that just kinda fucked up? like, that’s so clearly fucked. willingly choosing to look like a child for the expressed purpose of elevating sex-work is absolutely a terrible reality. yet, in that same vain, i feel like the reasons this is fucked is more because of what it makes me feel about society. pedophiles do exist, and if such an individual like Dorothy existed in our world, i can guarantee there would be similar occurrences. the problem here is that i don’t feel like this whole concept was given the care it needs. in my opinion, if you’re going to attempt a scathing critique of society’s sexual obsessions with underaged individuals blended in with cyberpunk-based worries about integration of self-aware artificial intelligence and body modifications, you better fucking make it SCATHING. yes, i can see media literacy, she’s that cutie sitting over at the corner of the bar, but i wish i was fucking talking to her too!!! (that one doesn’t really make sense, i just wanted to say it, sorry.) seriously, though, i feel like there’s some topics that you can kinda dance around with when you’re trying to get across a message in a piece of media, but sometimes being explicit is completely warranted, and in this case i think it is. it’s a little difficult to try to tackle a dicey topic such as this, but then also try to make that same character be a silly little goofball. like, yeah, i love silly little goofballs, but maybe we shoulda divorced the two concepts if we’re gonna attempt this at all. i’m glad they gave her some more depth than ‘just’ being a sex-worker, but i don’t think the overall depiction was all that fantastic. i don’t think it’s a complete failure, though i do still wish it was handled with a little more grace and tact than it was given. i one-hundred percent understand if the inclusion of this character in the way it was done is off-putting to the point of ruining the entire experience of the game, as unfortunate as that may be.

i don’t wanna end this review on a sour note after talking about all that jazz, so i’m gonna end by talking just a little bit about the music in this game. it’s good! like, really good! i like to listen to it?? at the start of each day and after each break, you get to select 12 songs to play on the jukebox, which is nice, cuz you get to listen to the bangers you bang to, and not just the bangers you don’t. there’s a seriously great soundtrack here, and i enjoyed pretty much all of the songs i had access to during my playthrough. there’s a shuffle feature you can use, but it’s like that ‘shitty’ shuffle where it doesn’t care if it plays the same song it just played. it’s a little annoying, but really nothing all that terrible, seeing as you can just press skip song anyways. some of my favorites (non-exhaustive) were:
Nighttime Maneuvers
Digital Drive
Through the Storm, We Will Find a Way

despite my critiques, i really loved this game. i can see why it is loved by many, and now i get to be excited for the sequel. sigh, add it to the pile,,,

all booze and no firecrackers makes mae a dull girl.