Review of VA-11 Hall-A
|By||Vote: 9kraines on 2022-01-14|
|Review||I decide how good a game is based on how much I'm left wanting more of it, and if I am, if it's a satisfying feeling or not. Put simply, I am wanting more, much more, but the story ended just fine and I can't be upset over it.|
The setting sucks you in, and I can't emphasize that point enough. The striking visual design grabs you by the eyes and doesn't let go. It's not only just pretty to look at it, there are little details everywhere that add to the experience. You can be several hours in and notice something new at the bar you simply didn't see before, a tidbit about a character that adds to their charm, or something simply in the background that feels like a charming Easter egg. The soundtrack is phenomenal, as it just puts out that perfect vibe. I find that this can be a bit of a strange thing to say, as you, the player, get to choose the songs playing for the majority of the game, but they all just fit. The songs you don't choose also just slide in very well to their scenes, and it all adds up to creating the very futuristic, dystopian world that it sets out to be.
The characters themselves just pop too. They're almost like fighting game characters in their design, the way on first glance you can more or tell what they're about, something about their personality, and what kind of conversation you'll get with them. The fun part too is that they all fit somewhat of a trope yet for whatever reason it doesn't feel forced or old. The characters play their part and it fits nicely because of it.
On the topic of things feeling forced, it all feels sort of natural. The following could be considered spoilers, but they're minor at best: Several characters being gay, bisexual, or what have you just seems like a natural occurrence in a world like Glitch City, a place on the cutting edge of all things. On this topic, the Lilim, essentially sentient robotic beings, all fit in without a hitch as well. The sex worker Lilim, Dorothy, who appears to be in the 10-13 age range, may be off putting to some, but I quickly just accepted it as a fact of the world and didn't think anything of it. Other ideas, like the city being a futuristic dystopia, are just as easy to swallow. Within minutes of beginning the game you're asked to make a Beer, and if you read the description of the drink, you'll find Beer has largely disappeared as a real, brewed beverage and has been mostly replaced by the chemicals you're mixing now. It's very simple to just accept this as reality, especially in today's environment and its strained supply chains.
The main story line of the game also just feels like one of the many side stories that the bar regulars present you with. You get to be immersed not only in what's on the protagonist's mind but also pretty much every character you interact with. The developers could easily take any of the other characters in this game and make a new one revolving around them and it would very likely be just as interesting and engaging.
And that brings me to my only real gripe about the game. While you're not exactly railroaded into a singular ending, you're more or less stuck on one path with only a fork at the very end. You do have some variety in choices, as the drinks you serve do open up different side stories (with some interesting happenings if you choose to get some clients drunk). However, it's not that far off from being a kinetic novel. At the end of the day, though, this is a minor gripe. The game didn't seem to set out for you to have 10+ different routes to explore, and it doesn't do that. The problem is that a few alternate routes, namely the secret characters, are basically impossible to find without just googling how or having played another of their games where the hint is given. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if the games were in the same series, but it just seems like a bit much to look for. Ultimately it doesn't matter, as this doesn't affect the story or the gameplay, just a thing that bothered me.
Of also minor complaint is the character Anna, who is a non-factor nearly the entire game until later on when she suddenly makes what feel like a lot of appearances. This kind of matches her character, though, so it's not a major detractor.
After completing the game you also get to do a few prologue days and one epilogue, which are nice and help add some depth to some characters while tying up a few plot points a bit tighter. They don't take very long and serve as just a bit more when you're fiending for more Glitch City.
All in all, fantastic. I loved it, and I would specifically only go through a few days in a sitting just to let the story digest a bit more and sink in. I recommend it to everyone.