VA-11 Hall-A it is certainly a fairly well-known indie from the software house Sukeban, despite the fact that there are much more famous and popular exponents. However, since its launch in 2016, it has enjoyed several releases on different platforms, making it increasingly accessible to a wider pool of users.
Now it's the turn of Nintendo Switch, which presents itself as an ideal platform for such a title. The title was also released on PlayStation Vita, complete with trophies, but we are very pleased to be able to try it on a Nintendo device as well.
At the same time as the Nintendo Switch release, the PlayStation 4 version is also available. However, this review is based on the Nintendo version, although there are no noteworthy changes with the Sony version.
L'atmosfera cyberpunk in Glitch City
The story is set in the futuristic city of Glitch City, a tax haven ruled by large corporations and where evil reigns supreme. Given these premises, the protagonist Jill, a bartender by profession, will take care of serving drinks to the bizarre customers who from time to time visit VA-11 Hall-A, that is the bar where he works.
From the initial screen we will notice all the expressive power of this title, which follows the lines of the games PC 98, also combining an enviable sound sector. In the first moments of the game, we will be explained how to prepare a drink and serve it to the customer, a fairly basic task but which will make up almost the entirety of the game.
One of the most important aspects is precisely thestrongly cyberpunk atmosphere that transpires in every single moment, which further characterizes this beautiful indie.
The narrative is not always explicit, in fact, many details on the setting will be understandable by reading some extra elements present in Jill's smartphone. We agree with this choice, since in normal dialogues adding some details would have gone out of tune with the fluidity of the conversations.
Let's drink on it!
The bartender activity will totally influence the story and the endings we will get, as we will not be able to answer questions with multiple choices. Instead, by offering the most suitable drinks for the context, we will be able to increase not only the money earned at the end of the day, but also to have access to extra scenes or certain endings!
Consequently, the characterization of the characters takes place on the other side of the counter, thus using alcohol, or rather, the much-famous bar chatter as a method to socialize and find out more about people's lives. The clients are quite unique and it will be difficult to forget, even thanks to their rather eccentric looks.
From time to time we will have to satisfy their requests, discovering more information from time to time and experiencing a normal daily slice of nightlife in a dystopian city. As can be guessed, there will be no lack of sexual or vulgar references, given the setting and above all the style of the game, which will certainly not lack humor at the same time.
IVA-11 Hall-A gameplay is definitely not that of a pure visual novelindeed, it would be more accurate to define it as a hybrid, given the total inspiration for PC-98 games. On the Switch, it's quite comfortable to use touch functions, even if they're not that basic after all.
We also remember that during the game we will have to take into account not only the bills to pay or the rent, but even Jill's wishes. In fact, if your head is on a particular object, it will be better to buy it to prevent it from getting distracted in the workplace!
Despite its hybrid nature, we believe it is a title suitable for anyone and can be a springboard for longer titles.
A soundtrack valued as it should be
Undoubtedly one of the most successful things about VA11-Hall-A is the soundtrack composed by Michael “Garoad” Kelly. The home screen will surely amaze you, starting powerfully with a very evocative and strong song.
Even the music in Jill's room is very (but very) catchy and you certainly can't help but immerse yourself in that feeling of carefree and comfort that can offer a break from an intense day of work (even if virtual).
As if that were not enough, before starting the shift or after a break it will be possible to insert 12 songs on our portable jukebox you can listen to while we serve the drinks. It goes without saying that this choice greatly enhances a soundtrack that certainly has nothing to envy compared to that of other titles.
As for the genres, it can be said that all the songs reflect the cyberpunk atmosphere that the title wants to highlight, even if there are several sub-genres within the soundtrack.
The timeless pixellated style that always fascinates
Many indies abuse the pixel style and, for this reason, it is sometimes snubbed or overlooked. In this case, the contrast between futuristic setting and old style creates a pleasant and effective antithesis.
In fact, the story takes place in the not too distant future, but which is represented with an obsolete and opposite style compared to what the setting is. We liked this feeling of nostalgia enough, and it fits perfectly with the speeches that certain characters make.
The sense of moral bewilderment and the unpredictability of the narrative are undoubtedly elements that give depth to the plot.
We confess that the desire to play the old PC-98 titles is quite strong after VA-11 Hall-A, and it is also for this reason that it fascinates us.
The end of a dystopia
VA-11 Hall-A is definitely one of those indie titles that you must try at least once in your life. It is not really a visual novel in the true sense of the word, but in large part it can be linked to that genre.
The sublime setting and the even more sublime music are the strengths of a very attractive title, which performs quite well on Nintendo Switch.
We are sorry that there are still some errors in the text and no additional content for the Nintendo version, as they would have been rather welcome additions.
Whether you are a fan of this type of games or not, we advise you to give it a chance, given the rather low price. It will be a short but very incisive and reflective adventure ...